Verbatim: Three Boys IPA. 15/11/08 $8.50 @ Malthouse, 5.2% Had it lots, but it warrants an entry. Gorgeousness personified. Slightly less traditional than a Tuatara IPA, but proudly so. Wonderfully balanced (cf Epic…), slight grapefruity hint, not hoppy for the sake of it. Full damn marks.
Afterthoughts, November 2010: I’d probably run my little camera out of battery — the 15th does have both the Tuatara ‘Ardennes’ and the Pink Elephant ‘Golden Tusk’ noted down already. It does take a beating, that thing; probably 90% of its work is done under appallingly low light conditions. It’d be pretty tiring.
And here’s the first mention, I think, of the anti-Epic strain that definitely runs as an undercurrent through my early days at the Malthouse. For the record, though we’ll get into more detail later, I think their beers have vastly improved — but there was a whole bunch of Emperor’s New Clothesy carry-on around when I first encountered them.
3 Ravens 55 American Pale Ale. “55” because of five hops and five grains, apparently — and first made for the occasion of their fifth birthday as a brewery. It’s made from barley, corn, wheat, oats and rye — which makes me want to say that it feels more “American” at the expense of being less “American Pale Ale”. The grains do make for a really nice mix and a good full body, but they’re driving very much more than the lively American hops you’d usually expect. Possibly another case of peculiar branding of a beer that’s doing what it is doing very nicely, whatever it’s called.
Verbatim: 3 Ravens ’55 American Pale Ale. 7/10/08 $3.5 @ Markets 5.5%. 5 hops + 5 grains (Barley, Corn, Wheat, Oats + Rye), so more American, but less APA: not hugely hoppy in the nose again. The grains make a nice mix, but drive more than the floral hops. Maybe our NZ hops are distorting our PAs. (Bottle cond.)
Afterthoughts, November 2010: This borderline-numerology stuff does crop a bit in brewing circles, actually. It seems a common trope to jig the number of ingredients, or the ABV, or IBU, or something to match some relevant number. I suppose that just shows you that obsessiveness and nerdery are common traits among craft brewers. And that’s got to be a good thing.
Meanwhile, that’s a terribly-focussed photo. The two strong beers previous must’ve blunted either my ability or my perfectionism, or both.
These guys are a popular “little” Victorian brewery, but I was distinctly underwhelmed when I tried their stuff during my years in Melbourne. This bottle in particular, though, was recommended by the guy in the South Melbourne Markets. Actually, he didn’t so much recommend as insist. And took care to apologise on their behalf for the utterly hideous label. Godawful packaging, great beer, he promised. And damn, was he right. Pouring a nice, slightly cloudy amber, it doesn’t have a hugely hoppy nose but that’s because they’re all hiding in the taste. Which is good and big, with stonefruity bits all over the place. And it weighs in at 7% booze, so it earns its name, as well as excuses its own ugly bottle.
Verbatim: Jamieson ‘Beast’ IPA. 7/10/08 $3.5 @ Markets 7%. Recommended by the Swords guy. Hideous label, great beer, he said. Nice slightly cloudy amber. Not a hugely hoppy nose, but it’s all in the mouth. With stonefruity bits all over the show, too. Big + grunty. So excuses/earns the label/name.
Afterthoughts, October 2010: Yeah, yeah; books, covers, trite moral lessons. All learned, don’t worry about that.
In this, the first double-whammy entry, mine is the IPA. It’s a tasty, mild brew which is still very-definitely an IPA. It’s gently hoppy (Fuggly, to be specific) and nicely malty, and is a perfect Gateway Beer to introduce people to pale ales.
I do like the Squires beers. On my way over to the Big Country for this trip, I asked the flight attendant what they had by way of beer, and her answers were Something Horrid; Something Awful; Something Forgettable; and James Squires Golden Ale. No contest, obviously.
The beers from the the Malt Shovel Brewery, as they’re officially called, are really useful. They’re like Mac’s or Monteith’s were here before being bought out by the Bigger Boys. Some beer nerds look down their noses at Mac’s and Monteith’s, but we’re a zillion times better off for having them as the nearly-ubiquitous beers-on-tap than we were when it was DB versus Lion brands, with smatterings of the provincial “Draughts”. They are Gateway Beers; milder versions of the various different styles that give people a low-risk way to Try Something New. My suspicion is that the (inevitably, but lamentably) stronger regionalism in Australia will get in the way of something similar happening over there. But if anyone manages it, it should damn well be Squires.
Toby’s beer — that’s him not doing very well at Guitar Hero in the background — is Grand Ridge ‘Hatlifter’ Stout. Another from Mirboo North, this one was definitely my favourite when we visited a few years prior, and was still freaking gorgeous. Unfeasibly smooth and easy to drink, and so a perfect Introductory Stout to anyone silly enough to resist such an idea.
Verbatim: James Squires IPA. 3/10/08 $3 @ IGA. Had the Golden Ale on the plane yesterday, too. Big fan of these Malt Shovel boys. Lovely mild IPA, but still an IPA. Gently hoppy and malty, very good gateway beer(s) for evangelism. (Fuggled.)
Afterthoughts, October 2010: A fairly ruthless Editorial Policy is in effect, it seems. ‘Hatlifter’ is denied an entry, despite not already having gotten one at the brewery itself, just because it’s Toby’s beer, rather than mine. And it’s possibly not very fair to say he wasn’t doing very well at Guitar Hero; really, he just wasn’t doing well compared to me — few people do. I’m a severally-faceted Nerd.
Verbatim: Croucher Pale Ale, from Rotorua, but with none of that city’s usual aromatic downsides. An after-work drink, and a pretty damn good one. It’s a little bit Little-Creatures-esque, what with being a pale ale, but not being a thwack in the head with a fistful of hops. More just a nice big glass of lively, pleasantly fruity goodness.
Afterthoughts, October 2010: If I compare something to Little Creatures Pale Ale, then I like that thing a lot. Just so you know. People too-often ask what my favourite beer is (I say too-often because it’s such a loaded question; for what? for when? for how-many in a row?), but if there has to be one all-time winner, Creatures Pale is likely it. For inherent and circumstantial reasons, like any proper ‘favourite’. But if the dear Critters weren’t so blessedly readily available here in the Little Country, methinks I’d drink bucketloads of Croucher’s Pale.
Verbatim: Mac’s new(ish) ‘Brewjolais’, their stab at a pale ale. And it’s a delightful little success, you’d have to say. A tasty, zingy little aromatic number that I’ve definitely taken a shine to.
Afterthoughts, October 2010: Not just a ‘pale ale’, historical-me; a wet-hopped pale ale. Which is a great and all-too-rare example of a big brewery making something properly Out There and Yum. Wet-hopped pale ales are made with the freshest-possible hops, which gives them an awesomely distinct flavour and nose. A few more will pop up in later entries, I’m happy to say.
It’s also a bit sad to note the passing, since this photo was taken, of the brewery at the Mac’s Brewery Bar. That leaves Wellington (currently) without a commercial brewing operation in the City itself — Tuatara is nearest, but still an hour or so drive away. (And don’t ever let Maurice Bennett tell you that he has a ‘Wellington brewery’, either. That’d be borderline fraud. But we might get back to him later.) Given the increased levels of beer-nerdery in this town, I do find that state of affairs rather bizarre and equally sad.
Verbatim: Waiheke Island Baroona Pale Ale. 16/5/08, 330ml, $4.5, at work, auditioning. Gorgeous curvy bottle; good honest stuff. Nothing too unique. Bubbles vanish quickly. Drinkable and very marketable. If the contract wasn’t fucked, it’d make a great guest.
Afterthoughts, October 2010: Is that really the first instance of ‘bad language’ in the Diary? That doesn’t seem like me. But man, that contract really was fucked. The previously-mentioned genuinely-mad new owner set me to the task of sorting out a beer list, and only after a few days of figuring (and auditions like this and the previous entry), did I discover (from someone else), that she’d signed an exclusive contract with one of the Big Breweries, Lion. So all my work was for naught. Shit like that made me give up.
As for the beer itself, though, this is another small brewery that just can’t get its positioning and descriptions to make any sort of sense. It’s named as a pale ale, but then goes and describes itself as “German-style”, which is horribly confused. For the record, it’s the former bit that’s accurate.
Verbatim: Gage Roads IPA. 19/11/07, present from KP+LB, 5.1%, 330ml. After trivia, watching Top Gear. Miss Parker & Mr Baker arrived last week, with beer in tow. This is Western, proper bottle stuff. Slight metallic note, but not nasty like Beck’s. Good IPA. Hoppy + beery. Yum. Drinkable, very.
Afterthoughts, October 2010: Not sure why I got those last two words backwards. But anyway. It was loads of fun when Karen & Lee visited — not just because they brought me beer, but hint, future travelers, hint. I got to take them on a little roadtrip around the mountains and lakes and bubbling mud of the middle of the North Island. And that’s back when they still had different last names. Their joining-of-names the next year was another great excuse for a trip to the Big Country, and for many more good Australian beers.
Verbatim: Goose Island Honker’s Ale. $?, 12oz, @home, Nov 6. More West Wing, so a Chicago ale with burgers. Darkish, but hints of orange again. Bubbles not so enduring, no haze. Lighter taste + smell, still flat, muted ale-ish. More an afternoon beer. Perfectly respectable + tasty. Great everyday stuff; entry-level Liberty, almost.
Afterthoughts, October 2010: Not that I knew it at the time, but Honker’s is styled as an American take on English pale ale, whereas the Liberty I’m evidently comparing-to is pure American pale ale — so the observed easier-ness makes a lot of sense.
I remember this one quite well, reaching for a legendary American ale after the re-election of GWB. It was a pretty freaking bleak day; I was in a genuine philosophical funk for days, even weeks. But I knew it wasn’t the fault of the entire country, so I did consciously reach out to known / suspected “good things”, so as to keep perspective. There really is a sense in which self-medicating with beer can be healthy. Very occasionally.
Verbatim: Anchor Brewing Co. Liberty Ale. $?, 12oz, @ home, Nov 4. Bush won again, but the West Wing is on. — Great bubbles, still around, very slightly cloudy, amber color. Even smells a bit orange-colored. Quite a strong muted-fruit flavour. Tasty. (5.9%) Bananas and orange peels, but flat notes where lagers would be sharp. Still bubbly. Well-made American. And then a big Hello Coriander at the end. The feel. Another fun thing about San Fran.
Afterthoughts, October 2010: It’s taken the Diary a while to get to its first pale ale, hasn’t it? The style hadn’t really hit its stride in the Australian microbrew scene, and the market definitely skewed (as you can see from these entries) towards European imports. I like the note that it “smells orange-colored” — and can’t help but notice that my occasional American-spelling habit was quite ingrained, at this point — that seems to be me noticing the classic American hoppy flavours. But then my brain got overloaded by the fruity / herby hoppy notes and seems to’ve retreated to the wheat beer genres it knew much better at the time when trying to pigeon-hole them.