Moa brewery in Blenheim is the work of Josh Scott, son of winemaker Allan Scott. And it really does have a significant “wanky side-project of spoilt rich kid” air about the whole thing. The beers are particularly expensive, nobbishly marketed — and unforgivably naff all too often. I suppose when you’re charging an arse and a head for your beer, you have to make sure it’s mild enough that people won’t hate it. Really, it’s a clever corner of the market to go for, too; wealthier people with pretensions of boutique beer-ery, but who are still Heineken drinkers at heart.
All that said, ‘Saint Jo.’ is pretty much the exception to the rule. It’s a nice little Tripel, and is very-definitely the pick of the bunch.
Afterthoughts, February 2011: Heh, there’s your ‘balance’. “Ranty-ranty-rant — but this is okay.” But it’s sincerely meant, still, even after Moa have expanded their range with a few more properly-worthy offerings like some genuinely-interesting barrel-aged beers. Aspects of the marketing are massively annoying; I’ve been considering using their stuff for a whole post of Please Don’t Do This points about beer branding. And the ‘First Three’ (the ‘Original’ lager, the ‘Blanc’ wheat, and the ‘Noir’) are terribly bland for their price — and what isn’t ‘bland’ about them is a worryingly-distinct Moa Funk that it takes their heavier beers to cover up / avoid / compensate-for.
Though there are some exceptions, the Moa Beers are — in general, and so far — a depressing triumph of brandwank over substance.
We were out for a surprise birthday dinner for Robyn’s 30th, where I got to play beer nerd / consultant, and couldn’t resist another La Rossa — especially since they had the cute little glass.
Afterthoughts, February 2011: This was a great little night out, and one of the unexpected benefits was meeting Jessie and Simon, two friends who have since hooked me up with several good beer recommendations and joined me for some enjoyable Rambling Time. Jessie’s from California, within “crawling distance” (as she puts it) of the Sierra Nevada brewery. So I’m going to run a bit of a Local Stuff Beer Tasting for her family (including her apparently-formidably Beer Nerdy father) when they’re in town later this month.
The lesson is this: you do meet good people when you let yourself geek out. Be not afraid to let your nerdlight shine, fellow nerds.
I’d wandered into work on a day off mostly taken up by mooching around town running various errands. Just as I plonked myself in my usual spot at the bar, Scotty opened one of these by mistake, the customer apparently actually wanting its ‘Blonde’ sibling but not managing to properly articulate their decision — so I had this as a freebie to try, in the spirit of not letting something pointlessly go to waste.
It’s a Belgian strong golden ale, but not one I can really recommend. For the price tag, it just seemed a bit… naff — so I’m extra-glad the price tag didn’t apply, in my case. Have a Tuatara Ardennes, or a Moa St. Joseph if you’d like something local and similar, or hell, just have a Duvel if you’d like the real deal. It’s just better, somehow. The Brugge Tripel just seems a bit, thin — like they’ve candy-sugared it up too much. It does — at 8.2% — pack a sly boozy punch, though, I can tell you that.
Afterthoughts, February 2011: Just about the only thing I can give this beer credit for, now, is inspiring me to rewatch In Bruges. Pretty limp praise-by-assocation is the best I can manage; this beer was a real let-down from what I was hoping for, and against what I’ve liked in other examples of its style.
This made for a nice finish to a civilised and therapeutic afternoon / evening of good beers and good books, and is still my front-runner for Beer of the Summer ’08/’09.
Afterthoughts, February 2011: I really do love this beer to bits. It’s in the Diaries a fewtimes, and the arrival of several kegs of it at work this weekend considerably helped my Calm in the face of the impending nonsense of the Rugby Sevens. Though it’s easily the daftest few days of the year here in the City, if you ask me, we somehow dodged a bullet this time round and had a surprisingly manageable few days. Only one person was ejected from the bar all weekend, which is astonishing for a bog-standard Friday or Saturday, nevermind ones as busy as these were — it was our busiest weekend ever on Courtenay Place — with their oodles of costumed weirdos flooding into town.
Myself, I’m putting it down to the civilising power of all that Three Boys Golden Ale we had stacked up out the back. This could quickly turn me into a superstitious oddball, but I can’t think of anything I’d rather have as my own peculiar rabbit’s foot.
Verbatim:Another beer from the island that gives me my beloved Highland Park whisky. This was a Christmas present to myself, and enjoyed on the occasion of a big family barbeque when my Aunt and Uncle were over from Canada. It’s bordering on midstrength / sessionable at 4.0%, and is a very appealing bright ambery gold with nice fine bubbles that make for an enduring smooth head. It’s only very subtly hopped on the nose and has a wonderfully fresh malt body to it. Loveliness, really.
Afterthoughts, November 2010: No proper Diary entry here, and even the photo was taken on a borrowed camera. Unaccountably, I hadn’t taken my bag with me out to the parents’ house. Habits are often very useful; it takes some doing to find a workaround when you don’t follow them, sometimes.
Verbatim: Emerson’s ‘Bookbinder’. Again. The previously-promised photo in “proper” glassware. Actually, I cheated a bit and upgraded my after-work glass to the ever-so-slightly-bigger version than what I was strictly-speaking supposed to. All in pursuit of a wee bit more Bookbinder, so totally justified. The Booky-book — or Wookie-book, if you’re Amelia — is always worth another visit, and has long-since had a place on the All Time Favourites list.
Afterthoughts, November 2010: A year later, it was one of two beers I wrote about for the Malthouse blog, and so it was still happily on that Favourites List. And now, a year after that, it still is. We need some kind of Lifetime Achievement Award around here.
Verbatim: Emerson’s ‘Bookbinder’. With a book to read, naturally. Easily one of my favourites, again. (And I’ll have to get another one to photograph, since we’ve just recently gotten in some neat branded Emerson’s glassware. The sacrifices I make.) A classic English-style bitter ale, at session strength. When people come to our bar and are disappointed to learn we don’t have Sassy Red, they leave having met the Bookbinder, and being Better People for it. It’s got assertive, but still mild, hoppiness and maltiness and is just the sort of all-around beery awesomeness that a person could drink until the Universe goes pfft. And I intend to.
Afterthoughts, November 2010: The beer is still a favourite. And so is that book, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. That was George’s copy, which I borrowed and absolutely adored. It’s purest genius. And rather oddly and coincidentally, I just finally bought my own copy the day before posting this entry and writing this note. Peculiar.
Verbatim: Tuatara ‘Ardennes’. A belgian-style strong golden ale from local favourites Tuatara. Just recently back on tap at work, and thereby eligible for staff drinks. Huzzah. One of our regulars (a formidable Beer Nerd) rates it as the #2 All-Around Best Value Beer Buy on the Planet, which isn’t a bad nod. It’s a lovely bright gold, slightly heftier than usual (at 6.5%, so not as full-on as the Belgian-Belgians often get), and with a nice smooth, slightly warming, peachy kind of yumminess to it.
Afterthoughts, November 2010: #1 on the Best Buy list mentioned above was Schneider Aventinus, if memory serves. But it often doesn’t, so don’t quote me on that.
It also occurs to me that I’m posting this, and writing these Afterthoughts, almost exactly two years since I took that photo. Two more years of backlog before I catch up with the steadily-marching-on ‘present’. Sheesh.
And then — mysteriously, a few weeks later — an actual Diary entry for this same beer pops up. But I didn’t take a photo at the time, so I’ve put the entry here, in the spirit of consolidation.
Verbatim: Dux de Lux ‘Sou’wester’ Stout. The Dux was nominated in the “Best Pub” category this year at the bar awards, and so was a certain little pub in which this photograph was taken. But the Dux won. And they brew. Fairly well. The Stout isn’t nearly as smooth as the Emerson’s or the Pitch Black; it’s a lot ‘livelier’ where the other two (especially the Emerson’s) go silky. This may well be Your Thing. It’s not quite mine.
And Three Boys Pils. A not-well-enough-known microbrewery from Christchurch (and so a fellow survivor of that Blight on the Universe, with Dux de Lux), and home to a similar range of uniformly better beers, I say. The Pils is a solid lager offering, with a good deal more presence and punch — and altogether more Interestingness than Dux Lager (just for instance). Closer to the lagers most people are used to than the Emerson’s would be, but conspicuously head, shoulders, and Big Tall Green Bottle above the Heinekens and Steinlagers of the fridge.
Verbatim: Invercargill Brewery ‘Pitch Black’ Stout. Again from the hand pumps at Old Malty, and in many ways one step further down Black Beer Boulevard from the aforementioned (and aforedrunken) Tuatara Porter. Bigger, darker, and stouty, basically. But still (I think) fairly accessible. Something of a favourite for a few of my female friends. But that might just indicate my peculiar taste in female friends. Who knows?
Afterthoughts, November 2010: Here’s a very-minor example of a common rebellion, with me; I’ll have absolutely no part of this frequent talk of what might be a ‘girly beer’. I just know too many exceptions in both directions (girls who drink “non-girly” beer, and non-girls who drink “girly” beer) and am too-easily bored by blokey sexist blahblahblah to tolerate it much.
Also, the whole question of what divides ‘stout’ from ‘porter’ is a controversial one, despite my breezy invocation of a commonly-understood difference, above. I’ve always had it in my head that stouts will tend to be drier and coffee-ish-er, while porters will tend towards the sweeter and chocolatey-er end of the spectrum. Apparently, though — just like all other putative distinctions — that’s not really very historical of me. Martyn Cornell has written a pretty damn definitive account entitled ‘So what IS the difference between porter and stout?’, which — spoiler alert — basically concludes: there isn’t one.
Beer history is tricky like that. And I’m just going to keep on using my non-historical terms anyway. I’m stubborn like that.