Tag Archives: Pale ale

Mikkeller ‘Stateside’

Mikkeller 'Stateside'
Mikkeller 'Stateside'

Gawd, I can remember the depressing blurgh of this all too well. I’m trying my best to catch up to the actual Diary, but the value of t still stands at fifty-something days, and the memory remains uncomfortably raw. I bought this on the same shopping trip that netted the Coconut Porter and ‘Big Swell’ IPA from Maui Brewing, so it was in good company, and the Mikkeller beers I’ve had before have been marvellous. Smart money might look like it was on this being at least enjoyable, but it just wasn’t.

The overall sensory impression was: something is wrong. It’s difficult to pinpoint just how it rang my internal alarm bells, or quite what it most resembled — the plasticky, papery awfulness of a rain-soaked piece of junkmail; the unexpected sudden wrongness of distractedly biting too far down a piece of melon and accidentally eating a big chunk of that thick, terrible skin; the horrific vegetal funk that wafts around the kitchen when you finally get around to cleaning out the bottom drawer of the fridge. Maybe all of those, and more. I suspect that bits of my brain have charitably done a spot of cleaning house, pruning the neurons that remember the specific horror, just leaving enough of the general memory to be going on with.

Not that I’m blaming the beer; I can’t — I just don’t know what the Hell went wrong. There were a few complications in this thing’s life before it horrified me so, ranging from the immediately-recent to the possibly-long ago:

  1. It fountained like crazy when I popped the cap. That’s never a good sign, and could be down to a few things — two possibilities for which we’ll get to — but my previous Mikkeller, the ‘Jackie Brown’ which I had on Boxing Day last year, was also enthusiastically bubbly… Moreso than this, but the memory of the other one being initially-worrying but perfectly fine was enough to stop me freaking out.
  2. Just like that previous Jackie Brown, this was a “grey market import”. Such things have a historical reputation for at-least-imperfect / possibly-outright-dodgy handling, and a rough enough trip over from the other side of the planet could make something go sufficiently wrong to account for both the foam and the yuck. The problem being, of course, that you just don’t know. Maybe something went wrong in transit, maybe something was wrong with this bottle before it left the brewery, or maybe the beer entire is just pants. Who knows?
  3. And this poor, unfortunate bottle in particular suffered a fridge-fall a few days earlier. Sitting at the outside edge of the bottom shelf inside the door, the physics and the leverage conspired against it and hurled it out and onto the floor after my flatmate, in hunger-induced enthusiasm, opened the fridge too fast. Ordinarily, a few days undisturbed would be more than enough to calm it down — but perhaps things were worse than they appeared; maybe the cap was dinged enough to ruin its seal, letting in something funkifying or just a whole bunch too much Oxygen. Again: who knows?

I had to check / bluff / Google the funny-speak (i.e., the Danish) on the label to make double-sure that nothing weird and ripe for mere-subjectivity-based dislike was meant to be going on. But no. Just a nice big American-hopped pale ale, with a dose of oats thrown in for texture, presumably. Sounds fab — more’s the pity about this bottle. Ah well.

Addendum: (My second addendum in as many days, weirdly.) Since this post has been referenced in Hashigo’s ‘Rungs on the Ladder’ newsletter — as Dom was talking about grey market imports, making points which I’m totally on board with — I feel I should be extra-honest and up-front about the provenance of this beer, decoding the note in my handwritten Diary: my ‘Stateside’ came from the New World Thorndon supermarket, and carried a sticker showing it’d been imported by BeerStore.co.nz. I’ve had fantastic beers from New World and BeerStore, and both acting in concert; but that’s just the point, duds like this are the ineliminable risk involved — caveat emptor, bigtime.

Verbatim: Mikkeller ‘Stateside’ 19/4/11 330ml $10 @ NWT, 7% Bought together with the Mauis. And a lesson in the difficulty of ‘reviewing’ something. This was a) a grey import, b) the victim of a fridge-drop a few days ago, and c) a fountain when it opened. There’s something ‘off’ about it, but I have no idea what’s at fault for that. Should be lovely, given the pitch + maker. But it’s not. And that’s bloody depressing.

Mikkeller 'Stateside', funny-speak (i.e., Danish)
Mikkeller 'Stateside', funny-speak (i.e., Danish)
Mikkeller 'Stateside'
Diary II entry #94, Mikkeller 'Stateside'

Maui ‘Big Swell’ IPA

Maui 'Big Swell' IPA
Maui 'Big Swell' IPA

And then, a few days later, something rather similar — which makes a certain amount of sense in that my Monday was spent dealing with the same nonsense that lead to the unexpected Saturday night off. But it all worked out alright, and was fun in its own peculiar way, and so I cracked open one of these to celebrate.

Plus, here we are with another canned beer. I gave some of my thoughts on them — and on the spelling of Aluminum (no second i) — in my recent Diary entry on the same brewery’s Coconut Porter. That rant (the canned-beer one, not the Aluminum one so much) was prompted by comments made by local beer writer Neil Miller, and this was his Birthday. Perfect.

So soon after the Ballast Point ‘Big Eye’, it was nice to have another big-but-balanced American pale ale. The tagline on the can uses the word “hoppy” for thirty percent of its text, but the beer serves as a nice reminder that hoppiness isn’t exactly the same as bitterness, closely related though they are. It manifests here with all those wonderful classic American pale ale flavours of citrus fruit and fresh, resiny pine — but they’re all just a little more relaxed than they often are. Not tired, like a bad import or anything lacking in freshness, just relaxed. Imagine something already-delicious like Hallertau’s ‘Maximus’ finally escaping the clamour of Auckland,1 getting itself a beach holiday and just chilling right the fuck out. Rather fitting, really, given its Hawaiian origins.

And damn, they aren’t kidding when they say smooth, either; it’s peachy, hazy golden colour, pillowy soft, excitable bubbles and luxuriously lush feel all put me in mind of Golden Bear’s ‘Bear Trappe’ though the two beers otherwise come from quite different backgrounds and styles. As I said on the Twitterthing when I bought this and the porter, anyone who wants to say there’s no such thing as good canned beer should have to do so to the Maui Brewing Company’s face — and to 21st Amendment, and to BrewDog, and… You get the idea.

Addendum: And then, the day after I posted this, Neil presented a somewhat-more-nuanced position on Twitter:

My definite preference is for beer in bottles but cans have their place. What is in the vessel is ultimately the most important. Some cheap cans can taste a bit metallic but a good can is fine – Big Swell IPA being the perfect example.

Though there’s still an under-current of anti-can sentiment in there — why else the definite preference? — I totally agree with the idea that it’s the beer that counts most. On that, given the inner (non-metal) lining of the sorts of cans usually used, metallic tastes are much more likely to be a brewing fault than attributable to the cans (a point covered, ironically, in the recent New Zealand TV programme for which Neil was a Talking Head). Still, it’s nice to know the fairly-strident lines he delivered in his ‘Beer 101’ tasting session — overhearing bits of which while clearing glasses was what initially freaked me out — don’t quite match up with his considered views on the matter.

Verbatim: Maul Brewing Co. ‘Big Swell’ IPA 18/4/11 355ml can $10 @ NWT 6.2% Reward for a weirdly enjoyable return to lawyering today. Really pretty hazy peachy gold, big fluffy white head. Soft nose of fruit + piney oily sides. Not big and bitter and punchy, still soft and smooth. Lush. The bubbles are totally reminiscent of Bear Trappe’s. And hey, it’s Neil Miller’s birthday, so a good canned beer is apt. It’s like Maximus went on a beach holiday + chilled out.

Maui 'Big Swell' IPA, tagline
Maui 'Big Swell' IPA, tagline
Maui Brewing Co. 'Big Swell' IPA
Diary II entry #93, Maui Brewing Co. 'Big Swell' IPA

1: Well, not that Hallertau live in the clamourous part of Auckland. Or really Auckland at all, as such. They’re clever enough to be a twenty-minute blat up the motorway out of town. But you know what I mean.

Ballast Point ‘Big Eye’ IPA

Ballast Point 'Big Eye' IPA
Ballast Point 'Big Eye' IPA

My memory of this one gets a little hazy. I mean, the Creatures Stout was delightfully light, but it was followed by heavier things — as we continued to ramble, sit around and generally enjoy my unexpected Saturday night off. So far as memory (imperfectly) serves, I had a couple of Three Boys’ magnificent Oyster Stouts, joined a round of whiskies with my flatmate and his friends, and was given a Schneider ‘Aventinus’ that was accidentally opened (instead of the other kind of Schneider in stock). I was, therefore, perilously close to violating the Rule Against, but — as is, admittedly, quite-often the case — proceeded regardless.

I couldn’t not, really. I’d just missed out on a proper glass of the same brewery’s ‘Sculpin’ IPA: a ludicrously-highly-regarded thing of which I only managed an instantly-impressive taste that (apparently) put me in mind of “angry peaches”. The Hop Garden had bought their keg of Sculpin from the fine folks down the road at Hashigo Zake — in the spirit of a rising tide lifting all boats, and in the knowledge that your competition isn’t really your competition in the usual sense, in this business — and there were a few bottles of this in the fridge, so it seemed the obvious backup choice.

The impressions that stay with me through the partial fog of over-indulgence are simply these: loveliness and balance. The hops are met with enough of a smooth body to maintain an enormous amount of drinkability for something so flavourful. And they aren’t all about bitterness for the sake of it; they’re there in their massive quantities for a reason — as a device to deliver deliciousness, not just a way to punch you in the head as an end in itself. Some American IPAs (and some things inspired thereby) can slip into cartoonishness and a weird sort of blinkered extremism that (for me) often (but not always) defeats a lot of the fun. This isn’t one of those, not by a long shot; it’s big, but equally even-handed and enjoyable.

Ballast Point 'Big Eye' IPA
Diary II entry #92, Ballast Point 'Big Eye' IPA

Verbatim: Ballast Point ‘Big Eye’ IPA 16/4/11 @ HG, after a mispour Aventinus. Score! Their ‘Sculpin’ was on tap, but ran out before this, while I was distracted by the above — it tasted, from a sample, like angry peaches; marvellous. This is a lovely red-bronze, 6.0%, 355ml $10.50. Fresh, fruit-laden nose. Very smooth body. It’s utterly lovely. Despite the origin, the style, the strength. Another astute HZ purchase. Clever chaps. Delicious, and balanced, as they are, against their stereotype.

Beer 121: The Audiobook

Beer 121 tasting session lineup
Beer 121 tasting session lineup

I’m not sure if any / many of you are sufficiently curious about this to actually push play — whether to eavesdrop on a tasting session, or just to have a sample of my peculiar untraceable accent (and occasionally-substantial lisp) — but we had buckets of fun doing this ‘Beer 121: New Zealand Beer for Americans’ thing, and so I’ll share it regardless.

Two of the attendees proved themselves deviously useful: Jessie (a Californian friend and the catalyst for the event) surreptitiously recorded the proceedings on her fancypantsphone, and George (who was learning to use Audacity for an upcoming beer-related podcast project we’re working on — about which more very soon indeed) edited the thing into beer-sized chunks, and pruned out the more extreme you-had-to-be-there tangents and irrelevances.1

The original post probably makes for something ranging between helpful and compulsory companion reading, since I used the space there to explain what was going on in my brain when I chose the lineup. I’ve also added ‘show notes’ to each beer here, to provide references / ramblings / corrections as required.

Hopefully-temporary note, 31 May 2011: Apologies for the absence of an in-post player. The whatsit that was generating those turns out to be conflicting with the whatsit that handles the gorgeous pop-up display doodads for my photos and Diary scans. As you can tell by the handwavey substitute-words, there, I’m not quite geeky enough to sort that out on my own, just yet. And since every post has pop-up images, but only this one had audio files in this format, something had to give. They should still work as downloads or as in-browser plays, though…

— #1: Tui “East India Pale Ale”

  • Solid data is hard to come by — questionable brewery press releases or absurdly expensive market reports don’t really count — but us New Zealanders do drink masses of this stuff and its barely-discernibly-different siblings. I’ve never heard anyone outside of a state of enthusiasm-induced delirium suggest that craft beer accounts for more than 10% of sales.
  • The ‘Six o’clock swill’ lasted longer than I thought: Pre-WWI to post-WWII. How unforgiveably dim that it spanned a whole generation.
  • Tui is conspicuously sweeter than its otherwise-samey brethren (from my memory, at least), so I always believed the story that it was literally coloured-up with caramel. Hopefully they just use some sweeter, darker malt, but I doubt it — D.B. have conspicuously skirted the ‘sugar question’ on their website.
  • Likewise, D.B. aren’t massively forthcoming on which beers continue to use continuous fermentation. Their ‘How Beer is Made’ flowchart just silently splits in half and doesn’t bother to say which beers take which route.
  • The confused and depressing Tui ratings I mention can be easily found on RateBeer.com and BeerAdvocate.com.
  • And seriously, Penny-farthings are as fascinating as they are stupid.

— #2: Emerson’s Pilsner

  • There was a “Germany” when Pilsner was developed (in 18-42, not 18-seventy-mumble), but it’s not the “Germany” we have now. European history is complicated and seemingly nowhere more so than Deutschland — but I’m told that Bavarians are basically still Bavarian first, German second, anyway.
  • My ‘history and context of pilsner’ is roughly cribbed from Pete Brown.
  • And I don’t mean to short-change this bloody-marvellous beer; we did talk a lot more about it (I feel guilty that its chapter is shorter than Tui’s, I admit), but it was peppered with frequent sidetrackings as we tried to find a suitable North American substitute — still with no success, by the way; suggestions welcome.

— #3: Tuatara APA

  • Jessie had previously described herself as hailing from “within crawling distance” of the Sierra Nevada Brewery.
  • The hops used (at launch) were described in an official blog post. I believe they’ve recently (i.e., after this tasting) joined in several other breweries in switching (largely? partially?) to the new Falconer’s Flight hop blend. The flavour certainly changed around a bit rather suddenly — not for the worst, necessarily, but I still think it’s rather poor form to not, you know, say so.
  • As I finally write this up, Tuatara APA is two weeks shy of its First Birthday, and is still branded “Limited Release”.
  • Synethesia is both inherently interesting and very useful for describing beers — at least in this near-metaphorical, non-pathological form. Flavour seems somehow more subjective than the feel / mood / overall thingness you can sometimes convey if you employ peculiar and emotive similies instead.

— #4: 8 Wired ‘Hopwired’ IPA

  • Number 8 wire isn’t named for a metric or imperial sizing; it was just a more-or-less abritrarily-numbered step on the British Standard Wire Gauge. As the son of an engineer, I can’t tell you how horrified I am to hear myself saying (even for a brief, uncertain and recanted second) that it was 8mm — it’s around half that, sheesh.
  • I’ve gotten the Søren-and-Monique story a little mangled; I blame the fact that for ages, Søren was too busy making good beer to have time to get a website built, so I had to rely on third-hand biographical snippets passed around the Beer Nerd community.
  • Plant & Food Research is the current name of the government-owned entity responsible for hop research and development. NZ Hops is someone you can actually buy these things from, and provides very handy / very nerdy data sheets for the different cultivars.

— #5: Epic / Dogfish Head ‘Portamarillo’

  • My original post has this as Beer #6, but it’s just occurred to me (listening to myself refer to PKB as the one we’ll “finish off with”) that that’s wrong. It was the plan (as you can see from the lineup photo), but we decided to step away from hoppy things so we could step back, fresher.
  • From what I can tell, the Beer Nerd Biography Whisper Mill let me down a little here, too. Sam wasn’t a Levi’s model as a pre-brewing job, he did a Levi’s shoot as a brewer. I think. Google is still letting me down a little, here. The point remains, though, that you have to admit he’s a good-looking man.
  • There is a ‘Brew Masters’ TV show website — and, you know, ahem, torrents.
  • Three Boys ‘Pineapple Lump’ Porter got deservedly-good write-ups online.
  • I had both the Epic / Dogfish Head & Dogfish Head / Epic versions together when ‘Portamarillo’ first appeared in my Diary.

— #6: Yeastie Boys ‘PKB 2010 U.S. Remix’

  • I finally had a bigger dose of this stuff just a few days before writing this up. The ‘New Guy’ at work, Jono, brought in a bottle which he generously halved. Its entry should hopefully be up shortlyish, and it was still tasting marvellous.
  • ‘Pot Kettle Black’ is indeed a Wilco song; so there you go.
  • Stout-versus-porter is a fun topic on its own, but the Usual Story does work well enough for PKB versus PKB Stout Remix.
  • My Diary entry for Deschutes ‘Hop in the Dark’ has my thoughts on the vexed question of just what the hell to name this style.
  • This is the end of the notes.

1: I don’t remotely mean to imply that I don’t endorse the sidetrackings — random table-talk and distractions can be a good chunk of the fun at a beer tasting. Beer is a social drink, after all. But particularly in a crowd where most of us knew each other fairly well, we perhaps got a bit in-jokey and peculiar for a wider audience.

Golden Bear ‘Black Magic’

Golden Bear 'Black Magic' IPA
Golden Bear 'Black Magic' IPA

The night before writing this up, I was going through the neglected second half of Diary One and getting it all scanned. I found my first mention of Golden Bear in the entry for Beervana 2009. It’s hardly auspicious; a pale ale of theirs is down as the day’s only dud — its one-word annotation is simple: “Pleh”. Not exactly a promising start, but one swiftly remedied as their subsequent mentions have either been moderately or glowingly positive.

And for this ‘Black Magic’, we’ll be somewhere in between “moderate” and “glowing”, I think. The name turns your mind to the recent Unnameable Trend, but the beer very-definitely isn’t black; it’s certainly very dark, but it’s a rich brown through which you can actually shine a light. The not-quite-black shows up in the flavour, too — there isn’t the roasted toastiness of a porter or stout, or ‘Black IPA’, come to that. What you have instead, especially as the hops start to pile bitterness onto the back of the palate, is a smoked Toffee Pop.1 It really is delightfully peculiar.

I was out for a wander and a beer or two since my non-nocturnal friends, with whom I’d been having dinner for Robyn’s birthday, had all retired for the night. As I noted in the Diary, I’d taken along a bottle of Dogfish Head ‘Midas Touch’; several of the people at the dinner were also at a beer tasting I hosted a while back where I had massively talked it up. Though never a “beer person”, Robyn’s always willingly tried whatever George and I have (increasingly desperately) thought she might maybe-maybe enjoy. It’s been a long time coming, but she did rather like it. Which just goes to show you that all is not lost; no one is unreachable. Beer’s just that diverse, I guess — though you might have to reach for an obscure-and-expensive bottle of an imported recreation-of-an-ancient-brew to get there.

Verbatim: Golden Bear ‘Black Magic’ IPA 2[6]/3/11 on tap @ HZ 6.4% $10 After dinner for Robyn’s birthday, at which we re-tr[i]ed Midas Touch; delish. And Roo liked it! At last! Anyway, this, weirdly, isn’t Black IPA. It’s brown. Very dark brown, but definitely not black. Malt comes through very toffee / choc / caramel — smoked Toffee Pops, given that late bitterness, maybe. That does build nicely, too. Quite a peculiar thing.

Golden Bear 'Black Magic' IPA, tap badge
Golden Bear 'Black Magic' IPA, tap badge
Golden Bear 'Black Magic' IPA
Diary II entry #81, Golden Bear 'Black Magic' IPA

1: Note for aliens from other jurisdictions: I mean the biscuit, not the Damien Rice song, which I hadn’t heard of until it occurred to me to write a clarifying footnote. It (again the biscuit, not the song) is a delicious little thing — a small crunchy puck of lightly malty goodness, covered in a relatively-gooey caramel (nicely variable with temperature, so a from-the-fridge one is massively different from a hot-day-picnic one), and then entirely encased in a thin shell of chocolate.

NZ Craft Beer TV ‘Mash Up’

NZ Craft Beer TV 'Mash Up'
NZ Craft Beer TV 'Mash Up'

It is basically true that boys will take any excuse for a roadtrip. If the proposition also includes visiting basically every operating craft brewing in the entire country, it becomes quite literally amazing that what became ‘NZ Craft Beer TV’ didn’t exist sooner. But now it does, which is handy. Luke Nicholas (perhaps inspired by his time with Sam from Dogfish Head and his documentary-making crew) hopped in a van with Kelly Ryan (his colleague / returning expat / new hire / underling from his Epic Brewing Company), a Camera Guy and a Sound Guy — and they hit the road.

Proper ‘episodes’ will hopefully be on the interwebs — and perhaps the actual-teevee — soon, but along the way they were also working on a nearly-all-in “collaboration brew”. (Because why not?) We had a big ‘Meet the Brewers’ night at work recently, so Luke and Kelly were in town, and among the goodies brought along on the night was a preview keg of the beer: ‘Mash Up’.1

Kelly, who was blogging along the way, wrote up the story behind ‘Mash Up’ in a long-form and well-worth-reading post. I had a peculiar pang of paranoia (or perhaps just vanity) when I got to the part wherein he explains why they chose to brew a hoppy pale ale, predicting that the choice would bring charges of one-trick-pony-ness. I’ve accused Luke having a one-trick-pony past — although, ironically, I brought it up because I thought his collaborations (with the aforementioned Sam and with Kelly himself, back when he was at Thornbridge) were lately rescuing him from that. But as he says, pale ale is as good a bet as any since it’s a) a massively popular trend, and b) a great way to show off something we do so very well here in the Little Country — namely that we grow freakin’ gorgeous hops.

But I still think it’s rather too generous to call this a “collaboration”. It isn’t, in any normal sense — and probably couldn’t ever be, realistically. Luke and Kelly have instead kept part of their brain ticking over as they traveled and met umpteen brewers and beer-industry-folk and have made a fair crack at capturing the mood of the local scene as they saw it, with pretty-solid justifications for each of their ingredient choices. Personally, I’d have thought it was a perfect opportunity to keep a running collection of handfuls of each brewer’s favourite malt, or a single pellet / flower of their most-loved hop, or whatever. Those could’ve been biffed into a full-size brew of ‘Mash Up’ as a token-but-real representative from their respective homes — without materially effecting the recipe. Something along those lines could’ve made the “collaboration” aspect more weighty, but after all it’s their show, not mine.

And the result is unarguable, anyway. From the preview keg that we had, I can report that this stuff is delicious. If this is ‘liquid zeitgeist’ for the New Zealand craft beer community, then we are in damn good shape. The appealing pale colour — just look at the thing shine, almost outclassing our beer engine’s freshly-polished brass bits — is an effective advertisement for a simple malt character which leaves plenty of room for the hop flavours to really shine, but which in no way wimps out or falls apart into annoying thinness. Oodles of zesty freshness comes from those hops, but they’re not overdone and don’t seem like they’re fighting in the glass; the flavours of each just nicely mingle together and make for a bloody lovely pint. The whole thing holds together like an enjoyably civilised conversation with three affable chaps in comfortable surroundings. I’m sometimes not a big fan of hop-forward pale ales on handpull, but this went like gangbusters.

Verbatim: NZ Craft Beer TV ‘Mash Up’ 2[4]/3/11 on handpull @ MH. The day after Meet the Brewer night, shout[ed] by some going-back-home whisky nerds. The “collaboration” aspect is a paper-thin veneer; consultation writ loose as they travelled around. And am I being paranoid or vain if I think the “one-trick-pony” comment in the write-up (on them selecting pale ale) might be directed at me? Anyway, this is tasty. Lovely simply malt character, and nicely-done selection of hop notes. Zesty + fresh. Actually really-well-suited to handpull. It’s definitely-not a Time-magazine style averaging,2 and they missed a golden opportunity for using a Token Handfull of each brewer’s favourite malt. But hey. We can’t all be Exec. Producers. And this is, all on its own, rather lovely.

NZ Craft Beer TV 'Mash Up'
Diary II entry #79.1, NZ Craft Beer TV 'Mash Up'
NZ Craft Beer TV 'Mash Up'
Diary II entry #79.2, NZ Craft Beer TV 'Mash Up'

1: Depending on how much you know about brewing, it’s possible that the name is funnier than you think. It’s not just a repurposing of the word for a remixing and mucking-about-with that applies to half the pop-culture stuff worth watching on YouTube — mash is also the word for an early stage of the brewing process where the grains are all thrown together in hot water, ready for fermenting. I do love a good punny name, I do.
2: I think this is an instance of my Rubbish Memory, a recurring annoyance which is after all why I started keeping a Beer Diary in the first place. I thought I could recall a recent Time cover with a computer composite ‘average’ face of humanity. But the best I can find is a similar thing they did in 1993, but that wasn’t what I had in mind — which likely means that I’m thinking of the wrong magazine, and that I’m crap at the Google.

Croucher ‘Patriot’

Croucher 'Patriot', my first proper pint of
Croucher 'Patriot'

So here we are again with the ‘Black IPA’, which I’ll just go with calling it for now (the brewery themselves went with ‘American Black Ale’) and which it seems is cementing itself as quite the trend — though to take a stab at for how long would be patently foolish, as always.

I like these hoppy-but-black / black-but-hoppy beers, as I’ve said a few times before. So I was excited to try Croucher’s ‘Patriot’, since I’m usually rather fond of their stuff — their ‘Vicar’s Vice’ is the only counter-example that comes readily to mind; it was just very much Not My Thing, but it seemed pretty well received by plenty of others, so I’ll just chalk that one up to the blessed subjectivity. Oh. Oh, wait — he says, flipping through his Diary a bit — there was also ‘Mrs. Claus’; I didn’t like that at all. But apparently the little memory-management trick I pulled on my future self by sneaking it into a double-whammy entry worked quite well. Which is nice to know. So let’s press on quickly and pretend we didn’t remember, future-future self…

But this. This impressed me pretty quickly. I was sufficiently enamoured of my first try of it — on Saint Patrick’s Day — that I took a quick snap of my taster glass. And I realise that you don’t all have anywhere near the particular kind of odd brain that I do, so please just trust me when I say: that’s rare. I had my first proper full pint — and thereby made a Diary entry — a few days later. Then had two more pints that day. And have had several more since; its differentness doesn’t outstay its welcome. Compared against its siblings in the Unnameable Style, I found it a bit lighter and thought it was deliciously Jaffa-ish,1 which is probably down to the usually-distinctly-orangey Amarillo hop they used. Really rather delightful, and easily capable of making friends with people ordinarily shy of both the very-dark and the conspicuously-hopped. Which is something of a clever trick, to say the least.

Croucher 'Patriot'
Diary II entry #76, Croucher 'Patriot'

Verbatim: Croucher ‘Patriot’ 19/3/11 5.5% on tap @ MH, shouted by a regular. I am really liking this Black IPA trend, whatever we wind up calling it. This one’s all about the Jaffas, with the very orangey Amarillo hop in abundance. Very smooth; weird but not overwhelming at all. Much better than Croucher’s other recent one-offs, so I hope it joins the roster; which is rumoured. On the name issue, Croucher have gone with “American Black Ale”, which I don’t like because of the breezy “American = hoppy” assumption. This will be a tricky style to name.

Croucher 'Patriot', taster
Croucher 'Patriot', my first taste of
Croucher 'Patriot', my third pint of
Croucher 'Patriot', my third pint of
Croucher 'Patriot', tap badge
Croucher 'Patriot', tap badge and style name

1: Note for aliens from far-flung lands: I mean the chocolate-and-orange flavour of the eponymous candy, rather than the presumably-just-oranges flavour of the actual orange variety — nor do I mean to imply that the beer somehow tastes like a historic port city in Israel. Damn I love the many and varied things you can learn from a Wikipedia Disambiguation Page — and I positively adore the fact that there exists a page entitled ‘Disambiguation (disambiguation)’.

Dogfish Head ‘60 & 90 Minute’ IPAs

Dogfish Head ‘60 & 90 Minute’ IPAs
Dogfish Head ‘60 & 90 Minute’ IPAs

And really, how better to follow a charmingly old-school, relatively-sedate IPA than with a pair of hop-mad ones; two rungs on a ladder of crazypants by the mad geniuses at the Dogfish Head brewery. My flatmate Ollie and I each had a half-glass of their ‘60 Minute’ IPA and ‘90 Minute’ IIPA1 — the time references how long the brew is boiled for, and they just keep biffing more hops in every minute, on the minute.

There are two others in the range; a stronger, stickier ‘120 Minute’ (way up at 18%) and a ‘75 Minute’, which is a 50-50 blend of the 60 and the 90 which is then barrel aged, with yet more hops. These two are much more readily-available, though — the 90 Minute was the original, but it’s the 60 Minute which is currently their biggest-seller. I’ve had them individually before, and they make for a hell of a side-by-side comparison.

Both are positively a-sploding with classic Northwest-U.S. hop flavours.2 60 Minute is generously described as the ‘sessionable’ one of the set, but that’s probably only true relative to the others; it is still 6% and pretty wonderfully solid, all on its own. The 90 Minute is then instantly recognisable as the same idea, just with the volume turned up considerably — from how you might have it when unselfconsciously dancing around the house on your own, straight to something that’ll instantly annoy the neighbours. But to hell with the neighbours. You just have to crank things up stupidly occasionally. And this beer does that. Maybe you couldn’t have it every day, but maybe you wouldn’t want to. It’s that one day of madness and excess that you enjoy ridiculously, but which you couldn’t indulge in too often — lest you run out of money, liver cells, close friends, or chances at diversion from the criminal justice system (whatever you burn through most readily when you party just a bit too hard).

They’re both bloody marvellous and choosing between them is so agonisingly difficult that I personally just recommend you do as we did, here — better to break the rules with a Gordian Knot kind of move than to wind up like Buridan’s Ass, if I can just crazy with the references for a moment. These are the sort of beers that inspire that enjoyably-geeky sort of rambling and blathering, as you can see from the near-nonsense in my notes.

Verbatim: Dogfish Head ‘60 & 90 Minute’ IPAs 11/3/11 6% + 9% both 12 floz. Ollie and I are having half each, on the occasion of the new job. 60 is happiness all day, every day; 90, one massive hit, once a day. It’s Sophie’s Choice. I love how recognisable the progression is. 90 is just that leap upwards in aroma, sharpness + intensity — and just straight up the nose to the forebrain. 60 is the preacher saying “Can I get a flavour?” and waving his hands. 90 is the response from a thousand-strong congregation.

Dogfish Head ‘60 & 90 Minute’ IPAs
Diary II entry #75.1, Dogfish Head ‘60 & 90 Minute’ IPAs
Dogfish Head ‘60 & 90 Minute’ IPAs
Diary II entry #75.2, Dogfish Head ‘60 & 90 Minute’ IPAs

1: Those links are highly recommended, by the by. Both feature pretty good notes, and nice little videos featuring a bit of backstory about the beers and the brewery — including some high-tech and no-tech gizmos, and the origin of their otherwise-rather-odd name. You can see Sam’s easy and infectious enthusiasm in the videos, too. Despite being one of these new-fangled beer celebrities (what with his documentary series and its collaborations and all), he seems to remain a thoroughly-lovely chap — we briefly worked behind the same bar at the beer festival last year, which truncates the hell out of my Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon (Beer Nerd Edition) paths.
2: The hop varieties are from the Northwest, at least. Dogfish Head itself is in Delaware. But any mention of Delaware just makes me think of Wayne’s World, and thereby proves distracting.

Emerson’s ‘1812’ IPA

Emerson's ‘1812’ IPA
Emerson's ‘1812’ IPA

My impromptu round of Kegtris was apparently enough to earn me a second pint, this time of the also-just-tapped Emerson’s ‘1812’. The fashion for hop-tastic IPA being what it is, old-school classics like this are often unfairly passed-over. “Old-school” is obviously a fairly relative term, given that ‘1812’ isn’t old in IPA-itself terms — but it’s still pretty grandfatherly in the New Zealand craft brewing sense. It was an early example of local beer getting ‘noticed’ on the international stage, too; Michael Jackson (the beer and whisky writer, not the ‘other’ one, obviously) selected it for his 1998 book Beer (which was about as definitive, in its day, as its maximally-simple title suggests) and it’s even one of the dozen that also make the cover.

There are a few stories about the name. 1812 the year is a bit too early to be anything-much to do with the style itself,1 so it’s often suggested that there’s some slightly-too-clever reference being made to the beer’s hoppy ‘overtures’ (hur-hur, very punny), but there’s also the odd-and-maybe-related fact that 1-8-1-2 are the last four digits of the brewery’s phone number. All this numerology and allusion-chasing is enough to make me remember just why the fuck I gave up on watching Lost.

But no matter. It’s a catchy, simple name. And a charming beer; a nice counterpart to modern, flashy, boistrous pale ales (as much fun as they no doubt are, when the mood for them strikes). The malty body is delightfully smooth (particularly off the taps, I thought), and there’s a very pleasant, gently-building marmaladey fruit character comfortably mooching around in the glass. Just a bloody marvellous sit-and-sip kind of a pint.

(And no, the bar didn’t get lighter inbetween this and the ‘Rapture’ that preceeded it. Rapture was on the front taps, and I was a little rushed by the General Populace surrounding me, so I didn’t muck about and obsess as much as I ordinarily might. With the 1812 on tap at a much-quieter end of the bar, I set up a proper long exposure shot. Hence the blurry people. I do like my new toy, I really do.)

Emerson's ‘1812’ IPA
Diary II entry #74, Emerson's ‘1812’ IPA

Verbatim: Emerson’s ‘1812’ IPA 11/3/11 on tap @ MH, also. Further reward! And a chance to show off the camera, since a few stoppers-by were seeing me do some updates + having a tinker. If memory serves, this was a very early notable New Zealander. And it’s very tasty. B[y] current standards, it’s astonishingly mild, of course, but it’s always good to go old-school occasionally. Smooth malt body, nice, almost marmaladey fruitiness in there.

1: At least when it was known by that term. But from the opposite angle, 1812 is quite a bit too late to have much to do with the origins of beers vaguely of this sort (whatever they were called) and/or their export to India.

8 Wired ‘Hopwired’ (Saison yeast)

8 Wired 'Hopwired', Saison yeast edition
8 Wired 'Hopwired', Saison yeast edition

Just when we got a couple of kegs of the ever-delightful Hopwired back in at work, I heard that Hashigo had a keg of an experimental Saison-yeast variation. Which sounded like a prime opportunity for ‘Science!’. I jokingly suggested to Dave that we should pour some pints, brave the Liquor Ban and meet halfway for a side-by-side tasting. He found the good plan buried in my nonsense, and brought a little-wee-flagon of the Saison-edition in to me at Malthouse. Bloody marvellous.

And what a fine experiment it was. Hopwired is a fantastic show-off of both brewing know-how and flavourful local hop varieties. Here in the Little Country, we’ve made passionfruity Riwaka hops, lemon-limey Moteuka hops, white-wine-grapey Nelson Sauvin hops — just to pick three that you’ll find in Hopwired, nicely heaped into a big bowl of fruit salad and then thrown, with some vigor, into your face. In a surprisingly-enjoyable way.

Saisons are, generally, light-but-complex, summery ales descended from Belgian farmhouse brews — and one of their unifying features is a certain funk brought on by the particular yeast used. It’s a difficult thing to describe; it’s a bit of a “know it when you see it” situation. Think of that distinctly woods-y, barnyard-y, slightly-too-real scent that the outdoors produces on occasion.

In Hopwired, the yeast softens that hurled-fruit-salad aspect off somewhat, and insinuates oodles of that musty, funky character. Perhaps because Hopwired is a good deal oomphier than the bones of a Saison would ordinarily be, that charmingly-freakish side is firmly in check, though; it doesn’t obnoxiously overwhelm things at all. There’s a wineyness in there too, which was vaguely reminscent of that in Dogfish Head’s stupidly-lovely ‘Midas Touch’ — it didn’t really taste like actual wine; more like what I wish wine was. Altogether a worthy beer, very worthy as an experiment, and a fascinating side-by-side. I’d almost always opt for the original ‘vanilla’ Hopwired myself, if it were down to one or the other, but this was cracking good fun.

8 Wired 'Hopwired': Saison yeast
Diary II entry #71, 8 Wired 'Hopwired': Saison yeast

Verbatim: 8 Wired ‘Hopwired’: Saison yeast 7/3/11 wee flagon gifted from David @ HZ. Experimental batch of the back-on-our-taps-too Hopwired. Smells like Science! Definitely changes the nose; musty + funky, softening off the fruit. Similar things happen in the face. Not scary-funky, just good old-fashioned James Brown funky. Hints of winey / sour flavours, but not too much. Really rather fun, though I would almost always be in the mood for the original.