Tag Archives: Fruit beer

The Fourth of July (Last Year)

Anchor Porter, on or after the 4th (depending on your point of view)
Anchor Porter, on or after the 4th (depending on your point of view)

One of the genuinely-many delightful things about celebrating “occasion beers” keyed to non-local occasions is that the magic of timezones can grant you quite a bit more time — in case you’d like to keep the party going, or just if you’re the forgetful and distractable sort.

So I didn’t get around that absurdly sexy Anchor Porter right there until the local day-after the Fourth, which was probably still the actual Fourth, since ours is a large-ish and sedately-spinning planet, around which it takes a while for daylight to circuit. No harm, no foul, right? But gawd is Anchor Porter sexy, in a bookish and interesting way that a hack Hollywood director would be obliged to convey by having it take its glasses off and let its hair down.1 Which is me anthropomorphising to a worrying extent, I realise, but I run of out words to describe the reliable-but-perpetually-exciting loveliness that the beer’s always granted me. I was, therefore, almost glad to’ve run out of time on the local Fourth; it deserves your full attention.

So there we were, last year,2 celebrating the Fourth while we worked, in the company of a handful of lovely people, most of whom could credibly claim some degree of other of Americanness and with a fittingly-fantastic array of four U.S. beers with gloriously-ostentatious tap handles happily assembled.

Victory 'Hop Wallop'
Victory 'Hop Wallop' IPA, a classic case of 'ugly label, gorgeous beer'
Brewaucracy 'Punkin Image, Ltd.', with pumpkin pie
Brewaucracy 'Punkin Image, Ltd.', with my first-ever pumpkin pie
Yeastie Boys 'Her Majesty 2011'
Yeastie Boys 'Her Majesty 2011', after everyone else had finished theirs







My first beer of the night — the rumours are true; one of the few unalloyed joys of bartending is that you occasionally / frequently drink while you work (although the hours and the pay sometimes drive you to it, on balance) — was a ‘Hop Wallop’ IPA from Victory in Pennsylvania, generously shouted-by and shared-with our friend Kimmy (who, if memory serves, hails from nearby). Apparently originally a hop-harvest seasonal, it has all that lovely, intensely-aromatic high-velocity fruit salad kind of zip. It was heady doses of lushness and gorgeousness at the front, quickly replaced by a surprise bitter punch in the neck before it ran off and hid long enough for you to be lulled back by the nose. (Then wham-rinse-repeat happily all the way down the glass.)

We were also lucky enough to all split a rigger / growler / flagon3 of Brewaucracy’s then-new ‘Punkin Image, Ltd.’, a pumpkin beer and, as such, something very American while being not at all Fourth-ish. They’re traditionally Thanksgiving-related things, but when you’re displaced on a spherical planet, the seasons get all ass-backwards. So another of ‘our’ Americans, Annika, made proper pumpkin pie, and an unmistakable home-comfort happiness dawned on very many faces. Except mine. Mine was a face full of skepticism and doubt, since I’ve long held to the maxim that Pumpkins are Pig Food and Pigs are People Food; for peoples to eat pumpkins would be to inadvisably leapfrog the food chain. But I’d previously tried Dogfish Head’s pumpkin beer, and was astounded to find myself enjoying it, so I gave them both a chance — and can happily report that I am, weirdly, very fond indeed of both pumpkin beer and pumpkin pie as much as I still detest pumpkin pumpkin. Maybe it’s a texture problem, with the actual thing, or just the fact that — in both the pies and the beers — any flavour they might’ve had before they went in is completely swamped by deliciously soothing and satisfying winter spices.

Yeastie Boys 'Her Majesty 2011', with womens
Yeastie Boys 'Her Majesty 2011', with delightfully-mad womens
Yeastie Boys 'Her Majesty 2011', blurb #1
Yeastie Boys 'Her Majesty 2011', blurb #1: on style and origins
Yeastie Boys 'Her Majesty 2011', blurb #2
Yeastie Boys 'Her Majesty 2011', blurb #2: on sexism and beer







And finally, I had (in my personal stash, secreted in a corner of the fridge) a great-big bottle of the then-new vintage of Yeastie Boys ‘Her Majesty’. Sharing it with a bunch of my favourite beer-geeky women made enough sense just leveraging off the name, but the label on this vintage went out of its way to deliver a beautiful fuck you to the sadly-prevalent sexism in this business, and that firmly cemented the idea. A rather-radical departure from the previous year’s edition — with which I began my second Beer Diary — other than in the Belgian-yeast department, I have vague memories of it causing some consternation at the Matariki Winter Beers Festival, but I definitely recall enjoying its dry, peachy funk. But it couldn’t really fail, when served according to the directions: “Enjoy responsibilty with friends, laughter and music”. Done.

This year, I’ll be helping out at Hashigo which — owing to the formidable stock of West Coast U.S. beers they import and the statistically-significant fraction of expats in the local craft beer community — is traditionally a busy one. They’ve rather spectacularly one-upped my “Four of July” from Malthouse last year, with eight visiting Americans in a row all along their main bank of taps. Should be a great lark.

Diary II entry #121, The Fourth of July
Diary II entry #121, The Fourth of July

Original Diary entry: The Fourth of July 4/7/11 working @ Malthouse with Petey & Halena. 1) Victory ‘Hop Wallop’ IPA ÷ 2 with Kim, who shouted for the occasion. 8.5% 355ml nicely pale + hazy. Big nose, blunter fruit salad cf. Hop Wired etc., nice big bitter sting, but not lingeringly so. So kind [of] like Punk, in that see-saw 2) Brewaucracy ‘Punkin Image Ltd.’ with Annika’s pumpkin pie! Which is hardly-usual for the Fourth, but this is the other hemisphere. Both were delicious + smooth. So my Pumpkins are Pig Food stance doesn’t apply to pie or beer, it seems. 3) Yeastie Boys ‘Her Majesty 2011’ with Haitch, Amy, Shannon, Annika + Kim — some of my favourite beer-geeky women! Total colour / weight inversion from 2010, but still Belgian & Odd. Light, dry, fruity — peachy, I thought. But what do I know? 4) Anchor Porter. Well, that was the plan. I forgot it until the next night. Such a fucking marvellous thing. Rich + fabulous.

1: Much to the consternation of geeks and just-plain-decent-thinking people alike; we know you can be perfectly sexy with your still hair up and your glasses still on.
2: I’ve been enjoying the increased topicality of posting closer to the day I actually drink a beer, but I’m resolved not to let those beers that I had to vault right over languish unpublished forever. I’ll try and make one calendar year the high-point of my slothful delay, switching back-and-forth between historical and current posts as I go — but leaving that mind-breaking back-dating scheme I formerly used entirely to its retirement.
3: Depending on your linguistic heritage, knowledge of Antipodean slang terms, and/or the state of local trademark law.

Defamation ‘Beetnik’ IPA

Defamation 'Beetnik'
Defamation 'Beetnik'

Stuck in the not-yet-uploaded limbo of the latter half of the first Diary is a stout by my now-flatmate; a big, delicious thing called ‘Cottonpicker’. That was the first time I’d been moved to enter a homebrewed beer into my notes. And this here is the second. You could look at that as a) a fairly shitty average of one per hundreds-of-pages book, or b) evidence of high standards. Personally, I think it’s both, and will look to remedy ‘a)’, now that I know a good few more excellent homebrewers.

And you might not be seeing this more widely-available any time soon, but we’re on the cusp of a bit of an explosion in Wellington-based and Wellington-ish brewing: the Overboss and Over-overbosses of the Malthouse are soon to set up a brewpub-type-thing on Bond Street and beers should soon be available from two new nano-breweries,1 in the shapes of the fittingly-named the ‘Garage Project’ in Aro Valley, and Kereru Brewing2 out in the Hutt Valley. My days of occasionally lamenting or wondering about how this town, of all towns, doesn’t have any breweries within its limits are numbered in the small numerals, it seems. And — speaking of homebrewers, you see — a fair-few local folk are poised to make the switch from brewing in their basements and whatnot to contract-brewing at various places around the country; look for names like ParrotDog and Revolution Brewing very soon.

And not long after, with any luck: Defamation Brewing, the project of David Wood, a manager from down the road at Hashigo and the maker of this — a charmingly-odd IPA made with beetroot. Because why not? I’d tried it a while earlier, and was quite taken with it, when he’d brought some in for a little ‘brewshare’ evening at Malthouse. The weirdness of its ‘pitch’, and its striking colour — which did show up best in a smaller glass, as you can see below — gave it a bunch of uniqueness points, but it stood on its own as a well-made beer on top of all that. Even if you were blindfolded against its striking first impression, the beetroot would still come through in an unexpectedly-welcome earthiness that seems to help set off the significant lively American-esque hop flavours — in the contrasting-and-amplifying manner of that little bit of rock salt on posh chocolate, or (similarly) of the oysters in Three Boys’ masterful stout.

It made for a very nice little consolatory beer after the tragedy that was my particular bottle of Mikkeller ‘Statesman’ — Dave happened to’ve stopped by my pub late in the evening, and I was recounting that sad tale when my perennially-slack memory kicked in and reminded me that a full bottle of Beetnik was sitting in my personal stash in the keg chiller. Perfect timing, and pretty damn good remedy.

With “little guys” like these turning into slightly-bigger-guys in the brewing game, it’s a bloody marvellous time to be a great big beer nerd. The next few months will doubtless see a whole bunch of new names in my little Diaries; bring ’em on, I say.

Verbatim: Defamation ‘Beatnik’ IPA [I still can’t believe I didn’t get the punny spelling right; I love punny names] 20/4/11 donated by David, who was just in earlier tonight. I was sharing my ‘Stateside’ pain, and so thought this might nicely compensate. Big American hops, after all. Beetroot, though? For colour, to mess with people, including yourself. And for that “earthyness”, which, sure enough, is here in spades. Heh. Spades, how apt. It looks like a Kriek Boon, complete with the pinkish foam. Really well made, and bloody interesting. And after ‘Cottonpicker’, we’re now averaging one homebrewed beer per Diary. Two goodies, too.

Defamation 'Beatnik' IPA
Diary II entry #95, Defamation 'Beatnik' IPA
Defamation 'Beetnik' IPA, taster
Defamation 'Beetnik' IPA, taster
Defamation 'Beetnik' IPA, on the swirl
Defamation 'Beetnik' IPA, on the swirl

1: By which we mean the step smaller than “micro”, of course — not actually “nanoscopic”.
2: i.e., named for the native “Wood Pigeon”. New Zealanders seem rather fond of this source of brewery names. Even if you set aside Tui — since it’s not really a separate brewery anymore, and isn’t really a proper beer (please excuse the lapse into snobbery on this occasion), or isn’t the beer it says it is, at least; please, can we set aside Tui? — there’s Tuatara, Moa (with a ‘Weka’ sub-brand), and there was briefly a Kea Brewing. I’m sure other charismatic-and-endemic animals will be seized upon, yet, but I’ve also always thought that  “Native Animal Brewing Company” itself would make a nicely postmodern homage.

Heather Ales ‘Grozet’

Heather Ales 'Grozet'
Heather Ales 'Grozet'

As you’d probably guess, we buy a lot of beer at work. And frequently, it seems we fill in the corners of an order with some half-dozens of especially random stuff. Because why not?

Peter and I were working one Saturday afternoon,1 and these things were staring at us from the fridge, prompting questions for which we didn’t even have the beginnings of answers. Perhaps the Overboss (being mostly-Scottish) was already familiar with it when he ordered it, or maybe he was just being nostalgic and whimsical. But it was a mystery to us, and the Blessed Internets were contradictory in their reports and thereby less help than usual. So, being good empiricists, we just had one. And being publicly-minded learners-of-things, we also cut in those people with the unanswerable questions. That did carve a 330ml bottle into a half-dozen shares, but what we lacked in per-person sample size, we made up in roundtable (or over-bar) discussion.

Handily, this both mild, and weird — two things which are usually enough to stimulate controversy and conversation on their own. I’m a fan of both factors, in general, but only half warmed to this — I certainly didn’t enjoy it as much as the weirder beers by the same brewery, which also makes ales flavoured with heather and pine. I should elaborate on my Diary note: I don’t only like my weird beers to be very-weird — the favourable comparisons Dave (from Hashigo) and I were drawing for this were to Nøgne Ø’s lemongrass ale, which I’d had relatively-recently — but I wanted this to be weirder. It would’ve suited being weirder; not being moreso tipped the mildness dangerously close to unforgiveable limpness.

And damn, “weird” is another one of those words that look weird when you type them or read them too-many times in quick succession. Appropriately enough, I suppose.

Grozet Gooseberry & Wheat Ale
Diary II entry #86, Grozet Gooseberry & Wheat Ale

Verbatim: Grozet Gooseberry & Wheat Ale 9/4/11 random bottle @ MH. 330ml ÷ 6 including Peter, Dave & Denise. From the brewery who make the heather Fraoch and the pine Alba. This was controversial in the crowd. Dave would buy a keg, Denise thought it was too… nothing, normal. I’m half way. I like weird, but I want weirder. Nose was better than taste — tinned pineapple, says Pete.

1: Er, Saturday the 9th of April 2011, obviously. As you can tell from the datestamp. But I’m writing this on a Thursday evening in June. Which shows you how bad the backlog has gotten. This time-travelling posting-plan does my head in sometimes, self-inflicted as it is.

Cassels & Sons ‘Elder Ale’

Cassels & Sons 'Elder Ale'
Cassels & Sons 'Elder Ale'

Lawks, I’ve fallen way behind on the updates again. The value of t has crept up to about 60 days. I knew it’d been a while, but the absurdly blue sky in this photo — compared against the much more me-ish weather we’ve been having laterly — really tipped me off. Excuses include occasionally-stonkingly-high levels of busy-ness at work, and a few technological problems I’ve been having with plugins not playing nice with other plugins.

But no mind; onwards!

This was me ‘auditioning’ a beer I’d never had before, contemplating its potential inclusion in a beer tasting I was running for some folks at the ACC. The brief was ‘A reintroduction to the New Zealand craft beer scene’; just a nice general run-down on ‘what’s happening’ — and you won’t be able to talk much about that for quite a while yet without mentioning the long shadow cast by the February earthquake. I’d recently watched a video featuring the aftermath at the Cassels & Sons brewery which was equal-parts horrific (in the wreckage), amazing (in the near-misses) and inspiring (in their obvious ‘fuck it; we’ll get back on track’ attitude); if you haven’t seen it, you should. I resolved to include one of their beers in the line-up, and given that it already included quite a few darker, weightier things, I thought I’d give this one a go.

And really, it’s a perfectly lovely thing. Nice, mild golden ale with a distinct-but-not-overblown fruity sideline from the Elderberries1 Elderflowers. At a nudge under 4%, it fits anyone’s definition of ‘sessionable’ and so would be a freakin’ marvellous barbeque-and-general-summer-mooching companion. It was a pretty big hit at the tasting, and I just found it a good bit more enjoyable than I ever found, say, Mata’s vaguely-similarly-pitched honey and feijoa golden ales.

The next tasting I did on a basically-identical theme was a few weeks into the colder weather, so I swapped out this for their ‘Dunkel’ without even bothering to give it an audition like this one had. It quickly justified that decision, winning over the crowd and proving to be a nicely roasty dark lager — which apparently pushes it closer to being more-properly a Schwarzbier; the distinction between the two was a bit beyond my Beer Geek horizon, but this was a perfect time to learn. (Isn’t it always?) Here’s hoping these guys — and everyone else down there — get back to normality real soon.

Verbatim: Cassels & Sons ‘Elder Ale’ 30/3/11 $8 @ Reg, at home, auditioning for a beer tasting @ ACC on Friday. Lovely bottles, and nice to see some of their stuff after the earthquake, though it’ll be a while before they’re running again. 3.9% Elderflower-ed [that should be Elderberry-ed] ale, here. L&P-looking, flowers-and-funk nose. Decently quaffable and interesting. Nothing much, but not really trying to be. Middling near-golden ale, with an interesting sideline. Definitely good in the Sun.

Cassels & Sons 'Elder Ale', swing cap
Cassels & Sons 'Elder Ale', swing cap
Cassels & Sons 'Elder Ale'
Diary II entry #84, Cassels & Sons 'Elder Ale'

1: Edited, 2 July 2011: I keep making that mistake; I fixed it when writing up my notes, but still made it here. Sheesh. Thanks to the Cassels crew for the incoming link, and the correction.

Beer 101 Tasting Session

Beer 101 tasting session empties
Beer 101 tasting session empties

George (the gifter of the original Diary) organised a little tasting session at his house for a few friends of ours, with me playing the Informative Nerd. I’ll be the first to admit that I made them all run a bit of a marathon, but we hit most of the Big Styles, did some Interesting Comparisons, and had a whirlwind tour of the Long and Rambling History of Beer.

There’s a lot more variation in beer than there is in, say, wine or whisky, so a fairly zoomed-out overview can go a long way towards making people more ‘conversant’ in the basic styles, why they are what they are, how to figure out what they’re in for by looking at the bottle, and to help people discover what is (and isn’t) Their Thing.

I can’t help but notice, though, that I utterly failed to fulfil Jessie’s request / demand for a “super-awesome” Diary entry. I’m definitely more of an improvisational entertainer than an on-demand one — and that curry was seriously distracting. Especially after all that beer.

Verbatim: Beer 101 10/10/10 I have to write something super-awesome, says Jessie. No pressure. Tasting session & history lesson at George & Robyn’s, with Jessie + Simon + Pip. Great chance to get my nerd on, and evangelise to Robyn. We had: – Wigram Spruce Beer – Hoegaarden – Hofbräu Munchner Weisse – Köstritzer – Pilsner Urquell – Mussel Inn Golden Goose – Tuatara Porter – Invercargill Pitch Black – Emerson’s Bookbinder – Fuller’s IPA – Epic Pale Ale – Three Boys Golden Ale – Chimay Blue – Kriek Boon. And now, George + Pip have wrangled us a curry. Bloody marvellous.

Beer 101 tasting session empties
Beer 101 tasting session empties
Beer 101
Diary II entry #23.1, Beer 101
Beer 101
Diary II entry #23.2, Beer 101

Mussel Inn… Pumpkinsomething

Mussel Inn Pumpkinsomething
Mussel Inn Pumpkinsomething, probably 'Happy Jackal'

I totally forgot the name of this thing, but the only mention of a pumpkin beer on the Mussel Inn’s awesomely / terrifyingly retro website — it just screams Microsoft FrontPage, which was last released seven years ago — is one they call ‘Happy Jackal’ (I’m not sure why).

Dogfish Head’s Punkin’ Ale was a surprising find, for me, at Beervana; despite hating pumpkins, I freaking loved it. So this draws inevitable comparisons against that, and I’d have to say that the Dogfish one does win, hands down — but there’s hardly any shame in that. This just lacks the smoothness that a good pumpkin ale can get you. My brewer-nerd friends point out that the actual pumpkin basically boils / ferments away to nothing, so these beers are all about that texture, and the spices you throw in with it — they’re more pumpkin pie than pumpkin pumpkin. Mussel Inn’s offering certainly has those spicy flavours in abundance, and the lighter body does leave it as a perfectly-respectable and interesting quaffer.

And wow, if you write “pumpkin” eight or nine times, it starts looking really weird.

Mussel Inn 'Pumpkinsomething'
Diary II entry #3, Mussel Inn 'Pumpkinsomething'

Verbatim: Mussel Inn Pumpkinsomething 8/9/10 — woot! — ?%, also gifted. ÷2 from an old-school Mac’s bottle w/ Haitch. Definitely spicy + especially cinamonny. H freaked out that I knew what Big red gum was; she’s not used to my Cosmopolitanism, still. I have to compare it to Dogfish Head Punkin Ale, which I had at Beervana, and must say this isn’t a patch on that, which I was surprised to find enjoyable. Much less body, here. Lacks that fullness + smoothness. Ah! Turns out that Punkin is named for the Punkin’ Chunkin’ Fest! Drinking the remainder faster, I discover this works better as a quaffer than a sipper; like a spiced wintery lager.

Liefmans Frambozenbier

Liefmans Frambozenbier
Diary entry #17, Liefmans Frambozenbier

Verbatim: Liefmans Frambozenbier. $?, 37.5cl, 4.5%, neat champagne-cork, paper-wrapped bottle. Belgian. Best before end 2014! Darker than you’d think, rich bubbles, still around, fruit all over as poued. Smells just like cordial. Warm beeriness in the background. Just great. Gold medal @ Peterborough ’98. Perfect for “I don’t like beer” girls. It’s raspberry for grown ups.

Afterthoughts, October 2010: And finally, my first fruit beer in the book. Unlike seemingly-many Beer Nerds, I am very fond of the style, actually — for its inherent yumness, for its evangelistic potential, and for its messing-with-people ability. This was starting out right, too; very highly-regarded proper old-school authentic stuff.