Tag Archives: Irrelevancies

Posts in which I’m slung off on a bit of a tangent

Liberty / Galbraith’s ‘Yakima Monster’

Liberty / Galbraith's 'Yakima Monster' handpull badge
Liberty / Galbraith's 'Yakima Monster' handpull badge

That right there is a real contender to win the Outstanding Achievement of Awesomeness in Tap Badge Design award.1 It’s fair to say the craft beer scene in our little nation punches well above its weight, but it’s worth also pausing to celebrate the easily-arguable notion we’re also rather spoiled in the design department.2 Beer’s a weird thing, art-assets-wise; it’s some peculiar mix of the bland, the offensively naff, the apparently-homemade, the fine-but-boring, the showy and overblown — with, at the top end, plenty of cleverly-done and extremely effective designs and occasional moments of pure freakin’ genius.3 Liberty’s main run is definitely of the clever-and-effective sort, and this comes from that final bracket of brilliance.

I’m a comic-book nerd from way back, and I just love how this takes the larger format of a pumpclip (compared to a tap badge) and crams the space full of a shambling horde of wonderfully classic-looking hideous beasts, who are familiar and yet not just copyright-infringingly lifted from somewhere else. If you were so inclined, you could stretch that into a nice metaphor for the beer itself, since — in this incarnation as the most-recent installment of Galbraith’s utterly-genius cask ale series — it’s assuringly recognisable and excitingly different at the same time. And you can enjoy that interplay from either direction, depending on whether your default position is closer to the world of handpulled pints in a nice quiet pub (making this nicely supercharged) or bigger and brasher U.S.-style hoppy pale ale (in which case, the low-carbonation delivery makes this one quite charmingly sedate).

Liberty 'Yakima Monster', handpulled
Liberty 'Yakima Monster', handpulled

The beer’s big, but it’s definitely a friendly giant — just like the brewer, if you were keen to needlessly pile on metaphors purely because they work. The booze is high — relative, particularly, to things usually served off the pump — and the hops are plentiful, but the way they’re put together makes the whole thing lush, fat and delicious. The fullness of it and the fruitiness of the flavours made me think of pineapple barley sugars — if such things exist; are the yellow ones intended to be pineapple? I can never quite tell — and it made for an incredibly satisfying pint on a lovely night at the pub. “Queen’s Birthday weekend”4 makes for a predictably-quieter-than-usual Friday evening in town and that, to me, is a marvellous thing. There was a veritable boatload of Liberty on tap in addition to this thing — which also existed in a cask-conditioned gravity-pour version, perched on the bartop.

I don’t have the kind of hyper-palate that found the cask and handpump versions massively different. That said, I only had a little sample of the former, which proved queue-inspiringly popular when it was tapped, though now I wish I’d taken the chance to side-by-side pints of the two. I was definitely at the bar in a celebratory rather than investigatory mood; my notes went largely neglected as I just enjoyed the company and the beer. The quieter-than-average night and the Liberty-packed taps upped the proportion of “beer people” in the room, and it was great — like an End-of-Week Bumper Edition of Tuesday’s long-standing Beer Geek Church. Jo seemed to be having a great time, and was definitely in fine form when George and I sat down with him (and Mike, from Tuatara) to record a podcast the next day.

The local craft beer community is fortunate to have Jo; he seems really generous with his time and his expertise (which includes wonderfully-minute details of brewing and engineering), and he’s possessed of a worryingly unique sense of humour. And the beer-drinking public is damn lucky to have his beers on the market. I can’t remember ever having one that seemed naff or wide of its target. There’s a very-credible rumour — though no official confirmation, yet — that there are soon to be much great numbers of Yakima Monsters roaming the world, with a vastly-more-voluminous contract brew coming up.

Yakima Monster was born, together with Yeastie Boys’ Motueka Monster, out of a nice little meta-competition run between their brewers alongside Malthouse’s long-running West Coast IPA Challenge. The two pit American- against locally-grown hops, and the latter has already been promoted to full-scaled production as ‘Digital IPA’.* That beer has a regular place in my cupboards and provided the perfect ‘occasion beer’ with which to mark my own nerdy observance of Alan Turing’s centenary. If I can readily stock my beer-stash with bottles of Yakima Monster, my house will be even more of a home.

* Correction, the next morning: As Joe (with an -e!) notes in the comments below, Digital IPA wasn’t originally Motueka Monster, it was Motueka Warrior — the Yeastie Boys half of their head-to-head from a different year’s IPA Challenge.

Original Diary entry: Liberty / Galbraith’s ‘Yakima Monster’ 1/6/12 6% on handpull, and a smidge from the cask on the bar, thanks to Steph. After a day in the Garage with Joe5 + Mike, now hanging with Hadyn6 + Narelle. Oodles of Liberty! It’s everywhere. So is Joe. This is lush. Not scary at all. Like pineapple barley sugars. Fat and delicious. Not a huge difference from the cask — just a little more apparent bitterness, maybe? It’s a quiet-ish evening (“Queen’s Birthday” weekend), but a lovely night at the pub. And suddenly there’s a Yakima Scarlet in front of me. Huzzah.

Three-of-many Liberty tap badges
Three (of many) Liberty tap badges
Diary II entry #222, Liberty 'Yakima Monster'
Diary II entry #222, Liberty 'Yakima Monster'
Yeastie Boys 'Digital' IPA, on Turing's Centenary
Yeastie Boys 'Digital' IPA, on Turing's Centenary

1: Which admittedly doesn’t yet exist, but should.
2: Thanks to the work of — among many others — Barry Hannah, Anton Hart, and the folks at Deflux.
3: Examples? Off the top of my head, per category: 1) The Peak beers or Stoke’s main range, 2) anything from Pumpclip Parade, and possibly things like Wanaka Beerworks’ ‘Lady’ and the Bennett’s beers, 3) Mussel Inn (though not, in that case, in a bad way; it suits them, charmingly-odd hippies that they are), 4) Sprig & Fern, maybe, 5) Moa, naturally — and 6) Three Boys, Renaissance, Yeastie Boys and Hallertau’s Main Range / Numbered Four, then 7) things like Garage Project’s ‘Day of the Dead’a and especially Hallertau’s ‘Heroic’ Range, i.e., the big 750ml bottles with the mock-classical relief art. I’ve thought about this quite a bit, and I honestly think ‘Stuntman’ might just be the Best Beer Label Ever, Anywhere; it’s gorgeous, classy, and understatedly hilarious at the same time.
— a: Again: disclosures, disclosures.
4: Scare-quotes made necessary by a) it not being the actual birthday of Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, and b) by me being the sort of Republican (in the philosophical / small-r / non-U.S. party political history sense) who’d rather not celebrate these things at all.
5: It wasn’t until I was writing up the podcast we recorded the next day that I checked around online and found that the preferred / consensus abbreviation for Joseph is, in this case, just “Jo”.
6: Hadyn’s got an uncommon-but-not-unheard-of spelling for his name, and I occasionally blank out on just how it goes. I’m rather pleased with the little trick I came up with, in my handwritten notes, to split the difference between my two best guesses.

Maui Coconut Porter

Maui Coconut Porter, again
Maui Coconut Porter, again

Either I’m frequently wrong about what I do and don’t like — or I like beer enough that it can turn me around on things that otherwise gross me out. Just to cite two very-recent examples: Yeastie Boys ‘Hud-a-wa” tasted of marmalade, and Emerson’s ‘Taieri George’ is like liquid Hot Cross Buns. Hell, nevermind individual beers: I don’t really even like citrus fruit at all but am frequently delighted by American-esque pale ales.

And then there’s coconut. Barring this — and its part in making the soupy half of a good laksa, and as the sprinkling on the outside of a lamington; two uses in which you can’t really taste it, anyway — I’ve got very little time for coconut. This, though? This is delicious. I’ve had it before, on my Birthday last year, as part of a suite of bloody-marvellous beers which I used to close off the original Diary.1 So I already knew it, and knew it would make a fantastic follower to the stonkingly-beautiful 8 Wired ‘iStout’ Ice Cream Float I’d just had.

I wanted to have it out of some weird sense of solidarity, too, given that a Certain Beer Writer2 had recently been maligning and ridiculing the mere idea of canned beer. That just struck me as needless, outdated, and wrong. As a blurb on these very cans will tell you, Aluminum3 is way better than glass for the storing of beer. It’s lighter, cheaper, more recyclable and utterly opaque — forget the vexed question of what colour glass blocks what types of light best: this isn’t a variously-tinted window, it’s a wall. There’s a stereotypical correlation between cheap-and-crappy beer and cans, sure, but it’s hardly any stronger than the statistical link between beer at all and bad beer. Good beer is still the minority, whatever its packaged in — and to the extent that slightly-more-than-average dodgy beers might be canned than bottled that’s not somehow the can’s fault. And it’s difficult to square anti-can sentiment in people who’ll also say that beer is usually better on tap than from a bottle — kegs are just fucking-great-big cans, made from a different metal, but with all the same advantages for all the same reasons.

Back to the beer. Especially if you followed the footnotes, it’s been a while since I mentioned it, so I’ll reiterate: it’s delicious. Previously-basically-useless coconut finally finds its destiny in providing a gorgeously complementary toasty dryness to the relaxedly rich and chocolatey porter. It’s a softer version of the effect you get with the stronger ‘roastiness’ you might find in a nice stout — which is arguably (though probably not) part the dividing line between porter and stout. You won’t get me near a Bounty Bar, though, so there’s got to be a fair amount texture-aversion going on behind my mostly-anti-coconut stance.

I was never quite sure about a few aspects of the labelling of the can, though. 1) That’s a weirdly-hideous drawing on the front, there. 2) The tagline “Like hot chicks on the beach” hardly seems to make any sense, nevermind the potential gendery sexisty minefield. And 3) “Certified made on Maui”? By who? And how, and why? Was there actually a dispute about this, at some point? I draw attention to these things mostly to point out the sorts of things which pop up in my mind but are quickly forgiven in the presence of a sufficiently-awesome beer. Slagging off Aluminum, or calling it “Aluminium”, though? That I won’t abide.

Verbatim: Maui Brewing Co. Coconut Porter 15/4/11 $10 @ NWT, because cans were recently needlessly maligned, and because it’s lovely. 355ml We bodged it up with Tuatara Porter on the Hopinator, but this is the real deal, and it shows. Light, fresh, delicious. Toasty cocoa / coconut, without any stodge.

Maui Coconut Porter, tagline
Maui Coconut Porter, tagline
Maui Coconut Porter, certification
Maui Coconut Porter, "certification"
Maui Brewing Co. Coconut Porter
Diary II entry #90, Maui Brewing Co. Coconut Porter

1: The latter half of Diary I is still stuck in a Not Uploaded Yet limbo, for which I keep apologising. I really will get around to it, some day. Partially because I’m as much as completeist as I am a procrastinator (imagine the headaches that internal tension causes…), but mostly because there are just some bloody-marvellous beers in there, to which I’m always annoyed I’m unable to refer.
2: Neil Miller. I’m not actually shy about naming names; I just know that him and I are approximately-equally fond of footnotes. [Later edit: on noticing this and a later reference, a More Nuanced Neil appeared than the one who provoked my disbelieving, can-defending near-outrage.]
3: Oh yes: Aluminum. One i. Does not rhyme with Sodium. This isn’t negotiable, and isn’t just one of my peculiar pieces of Occasional North American Idiom.a Humphry Davy — the chemist who properly isolated it identified its existence (and who hired one of my personal heroes, Michael Faraday) — initially called it alumium (since he got it from it occurs in a compound simply called alum), but soon changed his mind (for reasons unknown) to Aluminum. The change to “-ium” stems from an anonymous review in a non-scientific journal, and comes for the inexcusably-daft reason of objecting to the “less classical sound” of Davy’s chosen name. Seriously? Piss off. Some anonymous literary critic doesn’t trump Humphry Motherfucking Davy (come back when you invent and discover a tenth of what he did, whoever you are); you don’t get to overrule the name given to a thing by its discoverer;b and half the goddamn Periodic Table doesn’t have a “classical sound” — who cares? So no. No second i. It’s Aluminum.
— a: Which I certainly do exhibit, and which are mysterious (along with my mangled, Mongrelish accent) because I haven’t been on that continent for more than a few weeks of my entire life; perhaps I just watched too much TV, as a kid.
— a: Er, except in rare cases like when William Herschel (otherwise a seemingly cool guy, and doubtlessly great scientist) discovered Uranus and wanted to call it George’s Star or the Georgian Planet, after the king who just happened to’ve recently given him a stack of cash. But then, I’m still unsure “Uranus” is much better.

Emerson’s ‘Taieri George’

Emerson's 'Taieri George' 2011
Emerson's 'Taieri George' 2011

A third appearance, here, for dear old ‘George’. Not because it’d changed a whole bunch, or any other newsworthy reason — rather because the Diary was always about recording bloody-marvellous beer moments as much as it was for keeping notes of the new to guard against my hopelessly-crap memory.

The weather was getting wintery, I’d had a long week at work, and was just keeping to myself and turning my Sunday into a ‘Domesticity Day’ full of neglected laundry and other household stuff that is somehow even easier to fall behind on when you work nights. I wandered to the supermarket in the evening and realised there was room in the week’s budget for a nice bottle of beer — well, it’s more fair to say that I slightly rearranged the week’s budget to make sure there was room. We’d been selling the new batch of this at work, but I hadn’t had a chance to have one yet, so the What To Buy decision was unusually-easy.

Just-about everyone compares this to hot cross buns. Perhaps that’s partially down to the Easter-ish1 timing of its annual release, but there’s an undeniable similarity in both the spice flavours and the malty bigness. What there bloody-well isn’t, though, is any of the godawful glugginess of a hot cross bun nor any of their horrible here-and-there raisins — an inexcusable waste of grapes, if you ask me. I guess this is the danger in these comparisons — and I’m not sure if my frequent fondness for slightly more whacked-out and metaphorical ones counts as me trying to avoid that problem, or makes me even more prone to it. I guess the point is this: even if you’re appalled by the ‘received tasting note’ for something, taking a gamble might prove rewarding. And: Taieri George is a stonking great pint of seasonally-apt deliciousness, year after year.

Also, there’s a rare-ish glimpse of a beer perched right here (he says, gesturing beside the keyboard he’s currently using, on his desk at home). At-home beers much more often tend to be comforting, sessionable old-standbys rather than the sorts of things which (usually) make the Diary — the actual physical thing-of-which is also right there, behind the BrewDog coaster, in its second incarnation. The original Diary (now full) is on the bookcase, just out of shot. These things really do exist.

Emerson's 'Taieri George'
Diary II entry #87, Emerson's 'Taieri George'

Verbatim: Emerson’s ‘Taieri George’ 10/4/11 $9 from NW, at home, after a Domesticity Day and a PKB. The traditional dark, dark ruby. Nice spicy nose; cinnamon + nutmeg — but then, I can’t cook and can never remember the canonical ones. 500ml 6.8% We always say Hot Cross Buns, but this is so much nicer. I mean, it’s a liquid, so it avoids that horrid gluggy stodge, and retains the nice spicey flavours. Perfect on an Autumn night.

1: Seriously, ‘moveable feasts’? What the Hell sort of history-keeping descends to that level? Easter is arguably the most theologically-important event in the Christian story, and everyone’s okay with its anniversary swinging wildly from March 22 to April 25? That kinda freaks me out, as an ‘outsider’. The Wikipedia page on the ‘Computus’ problem makes for baffling reading, leaving me wondering why no one succeed in fixing a damn date — and suspecting that all that peculiar mathstronomya was a way to confound the ‘common people’ and maybe also something of a make-work program for monks who otherwise didn’t really have that much to do.b
— a: You start from the 21st of March (but there’s a schism over whether you use the ‘new calendar’ or the old one) because that’s the vernal equinox (except it’s usually not), wait until the next ‘lunar month’ starts (which will happen at the ‘new moon’, though there’s a fudge-factor built into deciding just what counts, for that) and then you add fourteen days, because that’ll take you to the next full moon (except it often won’t), and then (finally) you look to the next Sunday — that is apparently “Easter day”. I think.
— b: Except the Trappists, of course. They make beer. So I’m more okay with them.

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