Tag Archives: Golden ale

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

Three Boys Golden Ale (on handpull)

Three Boys Golden Ale, handpulled
Diary II entry #21, Three Boys Golden Ale, handpulled

Three Boys Golden is an absolute favourite of mine. So after the heartbreak that was the Hopinated version of  Twisted Hop’s ‘Sauvin’ Pils — another beer whose deliciousness is closely-tied to its simplicity — I was a little nervous to try this. Especially after Martin had some and found it a little sweaty.

But this modification wasn’t as extreme as biffing in a whole buttload of some superfluous flavour, this was a difference in delivery method — upping the temperature a tad, and losing almost all of the bubbles. The effect wasn’t as jarring, and I thought it moved the beer into the sort of very-pale English-style bitter territory occupied by Galbraith’s charming ‘Bob Hudson’s’.

Verbatim: Three Boys Golden Ale – Handpulled 5/10/10 on tap @ MH Another slightly-varied old favourite, so after Hopinated Sauvin Pils, I was pretty nervous. But I like this more. I think it winds up like a golden Bitter, like Bob Hudsons from Galbraith’s, maybe.

Cucapá ‘Clasica’

Cucapa 'Clasica'
Cucapa 'Clasica'

Mexican beer does get a bad rap in nerdy circles. But you always have to be skeptical of bad reputations where far-flung places are concerned; it’s usually not the Good Stuff that gets famous elsewhere, first. Think Fosters, think Budweiser — think Steinlager, if it comes to that. And hey, beer’s a pretty accessibly-priced sort of a thing, so I figured I’d take a punt on three beers from the Cervecería Cucapá that showed up randomly at Regional, the dangerously-awesome bottle store down the road from my house.

Not the classically-pale sort of ‘golden’ that someone like me might expect, this does have a pretty nice orangey-ambery hue to it, and is a decently tasty smooth malty sort of a beer. So already it’s a step or seven up from the Usual Mexican Thing You Might Resort To Sticking Fruit In The Neck Of. But there’s a nasty metallic bite to it that does spoil things somewhat.

Cupaca 'Clasica'
Diary II entry #8, Cupaca 'Clasica' Golden Ale

Verbatim: Cucapa ‘Clasica’ Golden Ale 17/9/10 355ml $4 from Reg. 4.5% Not that ‘gold’; quite a bit of orange / amber in there. Certainly not terrible, which is a welcome change from most Mexican beer available round here. Yeastie Sam is right on Ratebeer; it’s a bit thin + metallic in the body, but the malt flavour is decent. Just needs to lose the metal

Racecourse ‘Phoenix’ Golden Ale

Racecourse 'Phoenix' Golden Ale
Racecourse 'Phoenix' Golden Ale

Re-creating old recipes is a neat idea, I think. There are some wickedly wonderful bookish types and homebrewers who archive old brewery notes and get themselves the chance to resurrect and sample long-dead brews. There are also outfits like Dogfish Head who tee up with archeology boffins and go distinctly older-school than that.

Then there are relatively half-assed approaches which are mostly exercises in marketing; in getting your ‘brand story’ off the shelf, as it were. This, sadly, is one of the latter — and I say that even though l liked it.

The rep. said it was made using “wild yeast” collected from behind the original racecourse itself. Scotty was fairly sure — and both of us hoped to hell — that he meant wild hops. But that’s just the thing. They’ve traded brandwank for substance; there is a damn good reason that hops are farmed. They, like all crops, would rather not work so hard. Left to themselves, they don’t crank out the mad levels of flavour or bigness or both that people would like. (The World isn’t here for us, after all.) So when you use wild hops, you don’t get much out of them. And it shows, here; the beer is well-made enough, but it’s very mild. That said, it’s preferable to basically every bog-standard lager-thing out there. It just doesn’t have the fun, lush loveliness that you can get from a nice golden ale.

Racecourse 'Phoenix' Golden Ale
Diary II entry #7, Racecourse 'Phoenix' Golden Ale

Verbatim: Racecourse ‘Phoenix’ Golden Ale 16/9/10 Sample from a truly-clueless rep. a few weeks ago (who couldn’t tell his yeast from his hops). 330ml ÷ 2 w/ Scotty 5%. Brewed at Wigram, but apparently a recreation of an old classic, a la last year’s Waitemata Sparkling Ale. Or WAITEMATA SPARKLING, I should say, in new-Book terms. And it’s similarly perfectly bland. Not an insult. Faultless, but unremarkable. I’d take it over any macro lager, I mean. Apparently made using wild hops (or yeast, the rep. worryingly erred), which would account for some absences of zing; these things are farmed for good reasons.

My entry for the People’s Blog

The weekly blog on the Malthouse’s website has a semi-regular feature called ‘The People’s Blog’, where regulars and hangers-on and (occasionally) staff are invited to / dragooned into writing a little blab about their “two favourite Malthouse beers”. I was one of the “volunteers” for the second edition of that, and so this probably rates as my earliest, most-official piece of Rambling About Beer:

It’s chronically unfair to ask me for my “two favourite” Malthouse beers since I’m a fairly fickle and promiscuous drinker with tastes that vary pretty wildly depending on the weather, the plan for the evening (or morning…), what my previous beer was and general whims.  But okay. Let’s play along and pick two enduring favourites, at least.

Emerson’s Bookbinder (Dunedin, 3.7%). Absurdly flavourful for its moderate weight, Booky serves brilliantly as an after-work restorative (and actual book-binding is damn hard work, I can assure you) or as a sessionable fuel for long hours of talking nonsense with friends and generally laughing asses off – which won’t leave you too blurry in the small hours, or too hungover the day after.  It’s a reminder that, if you’re clever enough, you don’t have to climb to boozy heights to make a tasty beer, and that often there’s merit to be had for finding that perfect balance between your malts and your hops.  Both factors run nicely contrary to some frequently-silly fashions, and are worth celebrating.  So raise a glass.  Then another.

Cooper’s Sparkling Ale (Adelaide, 5.8%).  My first good Australian beer, upon which I luckily stumbled while beer-shopping for an Australia Day while off at university in a forty-degree Canberra summer. Hardly “sessionable” at 5.8% (not that that stopped me…) but a truly gorgeous golden ale with a wonderfully easy, fruity, lively and lingering taste that can be a great way to ease lagerheads into other styles, or to bring those who don’t consider themselves “beer drinkers” (maybe because lagerheads just offer them lager…) into the fold.

With its optional ritual of rolling the bottle to kick up the sediment, it’s also a great introduction to the joys of natural, unfiltered, bottle-conditioned (and so, arguably, “real”) beer.  It’s effortlessly delicious.

Continue reading My entry for the People’s Blog

Three Boys Golden Ale, again

Three Boys Golden Ale
Three Boys Golden Ale, again

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 few times, 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.

Orkney ‘Northern Light’

Orkney 'Northern Light'
Orkney 'Northern Light'

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.

Renaissance ‘Paradox’ Blonde

Renaissance 'Paradox' Blonde
Renaissance 'Paradox' Blonde

By “blonde”, here, they mean “golden ale”. You can see I’ve developed an obsession. It’s a great bright gold with lively racing bubbles that make a fine head which lasts all the way down the glass and make for an notably (but enjoyably) fizzy feel. It’s perhaps not as aromatic as billed — the text on the bottle is full of zesty and bursty and exclamatory tone that makes me want to counsel them to just calm down and embrace the nature of the lovely mild ale instead. (As I mentioned with the previous beer, some people expect too much of golden ales — it’s just odd that, here, it seems to be the people marketing one that miss the point a touch. But I forgive them.)

It does have a definite zing, and is brilliantly refreshing. There’s a solid passionfruitiness to it, which is apparently a hallmark of the Riwaka hops used — and probably accounts for the label’s colour scheme, too.

Renaissance 'Paradox' Blonde
Diary entry #76, Renaissance 'Paradox' Blonde

Verbatim: Renaissance ‘Paradox’ Blonde. 21/1/09 $7 at Kirks. 500ml 4%. Further adventures in golden ale. Nice bright gold with lively racing bubbles + fine head. Not as aromatic as billed, maybe — the pitch is over-enthused; embrace the mild ale, boys. Definite zing in the flavour. Very refreshing. Solid passionfruitiness; apparently a Riwaka hop hallmark. The bubbles stay around and dominate the feel a bit.

Afterthoughts, November 2010: “Blonde” is one of those abused / overused words in the beer world where you really have to ask someone exactly what they mean by it before you can talk to them if they strike up a conversation / ask a question. If you’re European, it’s Belgian-ish boozy light-ish ale; if you’re American, it’s wheat beer, usually more Belgian-ish than German-ish; if you’re Australian, it’s low-carb lager. It does get confusing.

“Draught” is a similar word, but worse still.

Hopback ‘Summer Lightning’

Hopback 'Summer Lightning'
Hopback 'Summer Lightning'

This brewery’s self-proclaimed ‘flagship beer’, and a hugely-awarded one at that. Bottle-conditioning makes it a conspicuously-hazy warm gold, and it’s quite a lot fuller and maltier in the body than a lot of the Goldens I’ve been having lately. If it makes any sense, I almost want to say it’s more of a singly-capitalised golden Ale than what is (maybe mostly just to me) a doubly-capitalised Golden Ale. But for similar reasons, it’d make a great Gateway Golden for lagerheads, being all crisp and yum as it is.

Verbatim: Hopback ‘Summer Lightning’ Golden Ale. 20/1/09 $7 at Rumbles 500ml %5. A nice warm gold with slight haze — bottle conditioned. Quite a lot maltier than my other recent Goldens. Flagship beer of Hopback, and hugely awarded. More full bitterness not bad, just another expectations issue. (Lots of point-missing reviews.) Crisp +yum. Gateway Golden for lager-heads.

Hopback 'Summer Lightning'
Diary entry #75, Hopback 'Summer Lightning'

Afterthoughts, November 2010: The reference to ‘point-missing reviews’ comes from that fact that a lot of self-identified beer geeks don’t ‘get’ golden ale; you’ll see people harping about how the flavour is so light and soft and non-full-on. Which is exactly the idea. Not every damn beer has to be a punch in the face, people. There’s a lot of merit to be had in easy-going yumness.

Also, perhaps I’m just being picky, but that is the worst beer photo I’ve taken in ages. I’m not even sure why I dislike it so much; the glass, the focus, the wonky angle. Maybe the perilously-boozy beer before it softened my standards / ability again. But I certainly made up for it the next day.

Invercargill ‘Wasp’ (Golden Ale incarnation)

Invercargill 'Wasp'
Invercargill 'Wasp'

I’m increasingly certain that my nomination for Under-rated Beer Style is golden ale. I’ve got a few more sitting on my bookcase ready to try soon, but I’d also never gotten around to trying this one that we’ve had at work for ages. And it’s pretty bloody lovely, really. Compared against the Three Boys Golden Ale, it’s conspicuously more honeyish, with a fizzier, ‘larger’ liveliness to it. They’ve added some wheat malt to the mix, here, so doubtless that’s where the extra complexity and more numerous fruity notes come from.

Invercargill 'Wasp'
Diary entry #70, Invercargill 'Wasp'

Verbatim: Invercargill Wasp. 10/1/09 $8 @ work 4.2%. Another Golden Ale; my vote for underrated style. More honeyish, with a fizzyer feel. Like ‘larger’ liveliness. Some wheat malt, so more complex, slightly hazy.

Afterthoughts, November 2010: Invercargill, a generally damn-good and under-rated brewery, have never quite been sure what to do with this beer. Originally, I believe it was a crystal (filtered) wheat, then (as here) it was a golden ale, and as at the time I’m writing, it’s now a pilsner. Always with the honeyishness, but with the ‘base’ constantly and inexplicably changing. By all accounts, my timing was right; this was it at its best.