Tag Archives: Stout

Stone’s ‘City Tap Takeover’

Stone 'W00tstout' — in collaboration with Drew Curtis and Wil Wheaton (Malthouse, 13 March 2014)
Stone ‘w00tstout’ — a collaboration with Drew Curtis and Wil Wheaton, and therefore mandatory

Late-breaking news that beers from Stone, a legendary but rather isolationist Californian brewery, would be available “legitimately” in this part of the world was greeted with some surprise by local beer geeks. Stone have never exported to New Zealand (nor even to all parts of their own country) and Greg Koch, co-founder and figurehead of the brewery, is famously opposed to “grey market” imports and goes out of his way to encourage that the consumption of beer be “fresh-and-as intended, or not at all”. And indeed, plenty of the incredulous reaction was vindicated; in the end, it transpired that an announcement of impending distribution was a tragic (and strange) miscommunication. But what we Wellingtonians did get — and what Melburnians soon will get — turned out to be a super-sized, double-venue’d, fairly-freakin’-serious tap takeover. There was a subtle lingering awkwardness in that the night’s hosts — Malthouse, and its younger brewpub sibling, Fork & Brewer — have always dealt in the kinds of mainstream offerings and parallel-imported beers1 that Greg so righteously rails against, but still. The result was a shining example of How To Pub:2 the beers I had were only uniform in their excellence, and the mood in both bars was wonderful to partake in.

One of few real criticisms of the night was that each venue’s beer lists weren’t published anywhere and you had to fall back to scouring Untappd / Twitter / Whatever for clues, if ping-ponging between bars seven hundred metres apart seemed inconvenient. But just before leaving work, I spotted (somewhere online) that Stone’s new sessionable ‘Go To’ IPA was on at the F&B, so I headed there first. I did technically already own, waiting for me at Malthouse, a glass of the ‘w00tstout’ Stone brewed in collaboration with Drew Curtis (of Fark.com) and Wil Wheaton (of, well, Plenty Of Awesome Things) having stopped by the bar earlier keen-bordering-on-paranoid not to miss out on it but equally conscious of its over-ten-percent punch and the work I had left to be done — including driving a delivery van. In any case, starting with an Imperial Stout doesn’t often bode well, so thankfully the unexpected prospect of a midstrength hoppy pale was enticing enough to distract me.

Stone 'Go To' IPA (Fork & Brewer, 13 March 2014)
Stone’s relatively-new ‘Go To’ IPA

After an alarmingly-shaky start a few years ago (in both the brew~ and ~pub departments), the Fork does seem to be finding its feet. Co-hosting events like this — and doing so rather well — can only help to demonstrate that. Meanwhile, ‘Go To’ was delicious and exactly what I felt like: a properly thirst-smacking lush golden body with a massive hop aroma hurtling up the nose to shock a fading brain back into alertness — and also to cut through the worty wafts of a brewpub in mid-brew. The Americans in general have a reputation for their superboozy beers (lacking a ramping-up excise tax regime to discourage them), so it was gratifying to see a sub-five-percenter go against the trend — and then to spy another (the ‘Levitation’: a maltier, smoother and calmer affair, utterly perfect for pint #2) and to have that, too. I then wound up helping a friend work his way through a flight of tasting glasses, having sips of four much-madder beers — white wine barrel-aged ‘Cali-Belgique’; Matt’s Burning Rosids,3 brewed in honour of an employee killed in an accident at the brewery; Perfect Crime; and Vertical Epic 11.11.114 — which were all well put-together, diverse, interesting, storied, and at least a few leagues North of merely “good”; great fuel for sipping and rambling.

But my w00tstout kept calling from down the road, and didn’t disappoint once I retrieved it. I think I spent a full hour with it, a massive thing of madness and deliciousness with plenty going on — the collision of two of my own particular kinds of geekiness in such a lovely beer made for an utterly sublime experience. A few more tasters from the relatively-bonkers end of the spectrum followed — a white-wine barrel aged saison called ‘The Tiger Cub’; and the red wine barrel-aged version of the ‘Cali-Belgique’ I’d previously tried — which both just went nicely with more sipping and rambling with regulars and colleagues from my Malthouse days. I switched back to having pints of the saner stuff, afterwards, and found the everyday Pale Ale and IPA both to be buckets of fun and just as worthy as the weirder ones, in their own ways. The bar was in absolutely fine form, and despite the critical eye that a former staff member would naturally have, it probably still hasn’t been equalled when it really gets a run-up and goes in for full-noise beer events.

Stone Takeover taps (Fork & Brewer, 13 March 2014)
Stone Takeover taps
Stone Takeover taps (Malthouse, 13 March 2014)
Stone Takeover taps

The beers were all good. They were stupidly and consistently good, forming a range of genuinely impressive scope with properly skillful execution. But one of the surprising lessons learned from having a cross-section of such legendary things in front of me was that we’re doing pretty damn well, here. It’s one thing to leap at the chance to try them, to let yourself be blown away by them, and to drift blissfully through a fair few glasses — but don’t despair that they’re not more-readily available down here. Even with only a token factoring-in of scope and history, the local (and here I mean “Australasian”) breweries are easily pulling their weight.5 Damn right I’ll be visiting Stone whenever I find myself even vaguely in California’s orbit, but as these beers were running out one by one last week, I wasn’t mourning; I’m not even close to done learning about the things within reach to worry very much. ‘Go To’ was great — but so are Liberty’s ‘C!tra Junior’ and Panhead ‘Quickchange’, just for example; I could go on.

'Fizzy yellow beer...' (My house, 14 March 2014)
“Just what I feel like right now” is — I relatively-humbly submit — another good ending for a sentence that starts with “‘Fizzy yellow beer is…”

Close to midnight, I went in search of a suitable nightcap, and found it in the form of Stone’s 2010 Imperial Stout; a giant velvet exclamation point to end a lovely evening. Epic Brewing’s Luke Nicholas6 was commandeering the sound system (for better or — occasionally — worse), as he does, and Greg Koch jumped up on the bar for some old-timey-style evangelism, which was kind of adorable and awesome but also put me back in mind of a few misgivings. I’m all for broadening peoples’ notions of what beer can be, but there’s an uneasy inconsistency in Stone’s off-and-on-again absolutism about some things: Greg’s fanatical anti-grey-market stance is awkward standing in front of a fridge featuring more than a few such bottles, and preaching about the unenlightened “on this very street” is a little strange in a bar that will happily — and rightly — sell them a faux-import Heineken right now. The event could’ve been staged in collaboration with (if not at, for reasons of scale) Hashigo Zake, for example, if moral purity was a paramount concern. And against all that reaching-out rhetoric, something like “Fizzy Yellow Beer Is For Wussies” clashes horribly. Not least because of the simple fact that several of the Stone beers on offer that evening were objectively-speaking both a) fizzy and b) yellow — nor the even-better point that, with everything in its right place, even the simplest, blandest, most-unfashionable and “mediocre” beer can be just the thing for the moment. The real problem here is a simple breach of the Ethics of Comedy: the Fizzy Yellow Beer line makes fun of the mainstream drinker, not the often-duplicitous producer, and amounts to the sin of “punching down”. If we’re going to be evangelising — and please, let’s — we’d be better off not trying to snark and smile at the same people simultaneously. Beers as good as these actually do very well at speaking for themselves, anyway.

Diary III entry 11a: City Tap Takeover
Diary III entry 11 part 1: City Tap Takeover
Diary III entry 11b: City Tap Takeover
Diary III entry 11 part 2: City Tap Takeover (cont.)

Original notes:7 City Tap Takeover 13/3/14 @ F&B, to start. 1) ‘Go To’ IPA 4.5% just as Colin, Luke + Greg arrived. The place is jumping — but very worty as Lester is still going. Fucking delicious, hugely hoppy, golden + fabulous. Massive, uppy, but not angry. Gorgeous. Nice to see this place crammed with happy — if starstruck — nerds. 2) ‘Levitation’ 4.4% Another session beer spied, and therefore ordered. Really nice comparison; vastly maliter, less hoppy, less spiky + fizzy in presentation. Glassphemy, too, in a Coopers glass — sure sign of a busy bar. Loads of good people + good vibes. (Helping with Kit’s tasters: Cali-Belgique (White Wine) 8.8% Matt’s Burning Rosids 10.5%, Perfect Crime 6.8%, and Vertical Epic 11.11.11 9.4% Just shows a great breadth. 1) is like unpuckering Funkonnay, says Kit, and he’s on to something. 2) is like a jasmine bonfire, serious but lovely. 3) more forgettable after just a sip, but you quickly get that in a crowd. 4) Holy hell, #freshisnotbest. Big explosion, despite its age. Spicy, which might help it on that front.) 3) @ Malthouse, now. W00tstout! @wilw’s beer, among others. I bought one at 2pm, out of sheer FOMO. Which wasn’t necessary in the end, but totally worth it. The only plausible case for insurance, really. So good. Tonnes of smooth, boozy flavour. Pecans evident but not obnoxious. Just sublime. It took over an hour, and it was marvellous. Then two little tasters: The Tiger Club (White Wine) 8.9% and Cali-Belgique (Red Wine) 8.8% — And, fuck it, a pint of the flagship Pale 5.8% Everyone’s having a grand time. The staff are in their element, and the bar is — as it always did — kicking arse in Beer Event mode. The a Stone IPA because why not. Greg’s on the bar, and Luke’s on the sound system. It’s vintage Malthouse, and it’s bliss. And then, while I was looking for a nightcap, a sour-face-inducing Gueze came out, for the VIPs, I guess. 6) Imperial Stout 2010. There we go. That’ll do.

Greg Koch and me, barely (Malthouse, 13 March 2014)
Greg Koch and me, just barely — I was taking photos in the bar when he borrowed my camera for an impromptu selfie, with the settings evidently way out of whack for such a thing

1: And rightly so I hasten to add, for reasons that flow from their physical locations, market niche, and from the fundamentally-usually-rather-overblown nature of the anti-grey panic in the first place. The scare-quotes are very firmly only “legitimately” in this post’s first sentence because, despite Greg’s fevered use of words like “illegal black market” (see the footnotes of the above-linked entry), the sale of his beer here has always been legal under NZ law whether he likes it or not — and whatever the valid concerns there might be with the practice. (Also, to pre-emptively split hairs, I’m not certain that the F&B stocks / stocked grey beer, but they definitely trade in mass-market stuff.) 
2: Without meaning to imply that there’s only One Way, of course; I just had a surpassingly wonderful very quiet-and-civilised night at Golding’s, drinking plural Panhead beers, eating delicious pizza, and watching the Cosmos re-make. 
3: It turns out that the Rosids are a group of flowering plants, including — no surprise, in context, once you learn the first half of this sentence — our friend the hop. 
4: One of those joyful-and-t00-rare moments when the Americans’ maximally-stupid middle-endian month-first date notation won’t drive me mad. 
5: I’m fairly sure it was Luke Robertson who nudged me into keeping this in mind, but I can’t remember if he did so on the Twitters, his blog, or in his podcast. I recommend you follow all three. 
6: Who must’ve been a contributing cause to this event happening in these places, friend and collaborator of the manager — and fellow oddball hophead to Greg Koch — as he is. 
7: I’m on to my third actual Beer Diary, but the power cord for the scanner has fritzed out, so I’m having to make do with somewhat-difficult-to-stage photos, for now. 

Post-GABS Afternoon Taphouse Mooch

Post-GABS Taphouse Tasting Paddle
Post-GABS Taphouse Tasting Paddle

When you’re waiting for your plane home to Wellington, when you’ve been staying with friends in the near-Southern suburbs of Melbourne, when you’re in a post-Spectapular state of beery bliss mixed pleasantly with mild lethargy — and when, perhaps, you’re me — there really is no answer to “what shall I do this afternoon?” other than: wander down the road to the Local Taphouse and mooch.1

I do love the Taphouse; it’s just so completely my kind of pub in a bajillion different ways. And to make matters even better, a good friend of mine (and former colleague from two crappy bars here in Wellington) had transplanted there and had the day shift. She fixed me a medically-necessary coffee, ordered an equally-mandatory stonking great big burger and poured a terrifically mood-improving beer in the form of a little glass of Mountain Goat ‘Hightail’, an old favourite of mine. I first met it at Beervana one year, then the leftover kegs joined us at Malthouse, and its easy-going, surefooted and balanced nature admirably coped with the rather unusual “go-with-this-breakfast” task I set.

We sat, we rambled, and we had a few little tasters of various beers. It was a perfect little afternoon at the pub; an ideal dose of simple hospitality after our grand and busy weekend. The Brooklyn East India Pale Ale caught our eye — hailing, as we do, from a country where that style term is famously abused by one of the nation’s biggest-selling mass-market sweet brown lagers2 — and charmed us with its very old-school marmaladey Englishness, as did a bottle of Moon Dog ‘Melon Gibson’, a slightly-sour fruit beer from a “Marvellous Mullets” series (together, brilliantly, with ‘MacGuava’ and ‘Billy Ray Citrus’) and a welcome case of swagger and silliness accompanying worthy and interesting beer, rather than the former being used as a substitute for the latter; Moon Dog seem refreshingly capable of both.

Breakfast of Champions
Breakfast of Champions
Brooklyn E.I.P.A.
Brooklyn E.I.P.A.
Moon Dog 'Melon Gibson'
Moon Dog 'Melon Gibson'






It’s hard to resist a tasting paddle when you’re at the Taphouse,3 so before I realised how little time we had before we needed to head to the airport (through some combination of my lousy memory and being too accustomed to my little City, perhaps), I picked a fairly-random collection of things from the Big Board. Brew Boys’ ‘Ace of Spades’, my first of theirs, would’ve made even better sense with my coffee (but the burger, probably not so much) and was wonderfully fat, full and roasty. The Holgate ‘Temptress’ which followed was a fantastic contrast, with obvious chocolate and vanilla sweetness and the lovely smoothness that Nitrogen can give — and all the niggling dispense issues it can cause, which just kept K.T. happy supplied with a steady stream of leftovers.

Changing favour gears rather drastically to 3 Ravens ‘Ale Noir’, a smoked-and-Pinot-barrelled dark was rather confusing and confronting, but the beer seemed potentially quite interesting — not that I’ll get another chance with it; the brewery seems to’ve closed between then and now, sadly. After all that, Mornington’s IPA, perhaps inevitably, came across as outrageously fruity, almost to the point of absurdity. Generously hefty in the flavour department, it was full of citrus-peel bitterness that crackled across my brain. Those to in combination set me up nicely for the Australian Brewery’s Smoked IPA, which turned out surprisingly accessible; the smoke in ‘Ale Noir’ had that baconny, Rashuns-ish edge, but this had the sparkly notes you get if you squeeze orange peel into a candle flame, which made all the sense in the world given its citrussy pale ale base.

And then, pretty damn sated, we bid farewell and made our way to the airport and back home to Wellington. It was a freakin’ excellent weekend in the dear old Melb, and the Taphouse team deserve a lot of credit for GABS and their utterly-lovely home base. I’ll definitely be back next year, and hopefully considerably sooner than that.

Original Diary entry: Post-GABS Taphouse Afternoon Mooch 14/5/12 with Dom + Dave, and KT behind the bar. Coffee + Hightail + a sublime burger to start, then little tasters of Brooklyn EIPA + Moon Dog Melon Gibson. Before a near obligatory paddle: Australian Brewery Smoked IPA (5.9%), Mornington IPA (6.2%), 3 Ravens ‘Ale Noir’ (Smoked, 5.4% — Their Dark, aged in Pinot Noir barrels), Holgate ‘Temptress’ (Choc porter, 6%), Brewboys ‘Ace of Spades’ (Nitro stout, 5.9%). Going backwards, since nothing really seems strategically obvious. AOS: Big, fat + full roasty bitterness. HT is crazy smooth, vanilla evident (and a bitch to pour, so KT gets plenty of dregs) AN: Weird, a little confusing, but intersting. MIPA: Ludicrously fruit nose, after all those. Big citrus peel bitter body, afterward. SMIPA: Surprisingly accessible, given all that. AN is definitely baconny + Rashuns-y, this just has a little of that burning squeezed-pith sparkle.

Post-GABS Taphouse Big Board
Post-GABS Taphouse Big Board of Beers
Diary II entry #218.1, Post GABS Taphouse Afternoon Mooch
Diary II entry #218.1, Post GABS Taphouse Afternoon Mooch
Diary II entry #218.2, Post GABS Taphouse Afternoon Mooch
Diary II entry #218.2, Post GABS Taphouse Afternoon Mooch

1: Possible idiosyncratic dialect alert: I tend to use mooch in the lesser-but-still legit intransitive sense of “to loiter / wander about aimlessly” rather than the more-pejorative transitive one of “to obtain freely, esp. by subtle begging”. But it also does bear pointing out that Dom (owner of Hashigo Zakea and fellow GABS volunteer) did pick up the tab for all three of us, which was a bloody lovely thing to do.
— a: Coincidentally, I’ve just made another potential-conflict disclosure — because I’ll be joining the Hashigo staff as an occasional fill-in to ease the squeezier weeks in their roster, earn me a little more beer money and keep my bartending muscles from atrophying — so I should get a few words of praise out of the way now, since the following thoughts were ultra-confirmed over GABS weekend. Hashigo really do genuinely invest in their staff (in ways varying from the mundane, like generous staff discount, to the spectacular, such as bringing his second-in-command along to Melbourne most-expenses-paid or arranging staff to go visit breweries and join in making one-off beers), and it shows. Their staff turnover is incredibly low, in an industry famous for high rates but a sector wherein accrued product knowledge and familiarity with regular customers and craft beer notables is absolutely key. The Fork & Brewer, which opened late last year and still hasn’t quite found its feet, is teetering right on the border of complete (i.e. 100%) turnover of its front of house staff — the last time Hashigo had a “new guy” was a year ago. Therein lies a difference worth watching, and worth learning from, if you ask me; it’s a pretty key symptom and cause of the health of any given bar in this scene.
2: Style-wise, Tui is really a “New Zealand Draught”, and (deservedly) cleans up in that category at the local beer awards. D.B., who produce it, are typically proud to shout awards from the hilltops (with a decades-old trophy still boasted on Export Dry’s label, and Tui’s ‘Blond’ sibling crowing about its more-recent successes), but they just can’t quite bring themselves to celebrate Tui being an award-winning something when it’s marketed as a something-else. Given how freely they bullshit about style on all other occasions, that’s frankly a pathetic lack of conviction. (I’d also go further and suggest that beer awards should have a little more muscle on the issue and just bar beers from being entered into categories that are contradicted by their presentation to the public.)
3: I assume. I’ve never tried.


GABS Paddle #1: Everything ≤ 4.5% ABV

Tasting Paddle #1
Tasting Paddle #1

As I’ve mentioned a few times when talking about GABS, my Friday was very sleep-deprived; I only had two hours sleep on Thursday night — my nocturnal nature meshes not at all with early-morning flights — and wound up awake for some twenty-six hours. So I took it very easy, those first two sessions.

I’m a dedicated flag-bearer for midstrength / sessionable beer, and was delighted to see that in a festival of (mostly…) one-offs, I was still able to assemble a paddle-worth of beers at-or-under 4.5% ABV.1 They were pleasingly varied, style-wise (though that did make figuring out a drinking order rather perplexing), which I took to be a good sign of the increasing health of this corner of the industry.

I started with Croucher ‘ANZUS’ — as did the festival, since this was officially beer #1 on the Big Board, and a fittingly trans-Tasman2 way to begin what really was a genuinely Australasian festival. The Little Country wasn’t just there in a tokenistic way; a quarter of the beers were from over here, and from what I’ve read, a lot of Australians had a pleasingly eye-opening experience with New Zealand craft beer. ANZUS is a 2.7% hoppy pale ale, which puts it in the same family as Hallertau ‘Minimus’ and Liberty’s ‘Taranaki Session Beer’, and if that family is determined to have more offspring then I’ll gladly give them all the oysters and tax breaks I can to encourage the activity. Minimus was my ‘Beer of the Year’ for 2011, together with its brothers-from-other-mothers, so I’m positively delighted to see more of them around. It was delicious, and well-balanced — no easy trick at that ABV — and refreshingly bitter. So far as one can tell from a festival-thimble, at least. It’d make a cracker addition to their full range — hint hint, Paul, hint hint.

Next was the Sarsaparilla Stout from country-Victoria’s Grand Ridge, a brewery I have some extra fondness for after a particularly-excellent birthday evening-and-morning spent there years ago. I didn’t notice the mention of licorice in the book until after my first sip — and man do I hate licorice — so the very-much black jellybean nature of the thing was an unpleasant surprise. But if that’s your thing, this’d be a damn-handy four-percent sweet stout to have lying around for wintery afternoons. The Mash3 ‘Koffee Stout’ was only a touch stronger (or 0.3 of a touch, depending on how you calibrate these things), and muchmore my speed, caffeine-fueled organism that I am. Sessionable coffee stout sounds like perfect Writing Beer, to me.

I finished with a Pair of Weirds, one minor, one major. Hargreaves Hill’s ‘La Grisette’ was a bit of a history lesson, in both beer-style and words-of-French-origin terms. The basic idea seemed to be of a blue-collar after-work Belgian; a less-funky old-style Saison, perhaps. The flavours evoked a lot of sweetness, at first, but it dried right out at the back of the palate and could indeed make for a wonderful hot-day restorative. But then, damn. Feral’s ‘Watermelon Warhead’ was one of those beers that was the talk of the festival — in the “no, fucking seriously; try it” sense. An intensely sour Berliner Weisse, dosed with Watermelon juice and fermented in Chardonnay barrels, it was face-puckeringly surprising and brain-tinglingly fantastic. Alice Galletly likened it — in this growd of nearly-five-dozen beers — to a palate-cleansing sorbet, and that’s bang on.4 Making things even more impressive, it transpired that the ABV in the booklet (2.9%) was essentially a work-in-progress guess / estimate / number read of freshly-rolled dice; the beer was more likely around one point nine, making it handsomely the most flavourful — and most charmingly odd — “light beer” I’ve ever had within grabbing distance, or been tempted to grab.

Diary II entry #212, GABS Paddle #1: Everything ≤ 4.5% ABV
Diary II entry #212, GABS Paddle #1: Everything ≤ 4.5% ABV

Original Diary entry: GABS Paddle #1: Everything ≤ 4.5% ABV 11/5/12 in this absurdly gorgeous building back in the beloved Melb. (1) Croucher ‘ANZUS’ (2.7%) A little warmer thant I’d like, but still. In the Minimus mold, obviously, more bitter? Hard to tell from 85ml. (34) Grand Ridge ‘Sarsparilla’ Stout (4%) ~ and licorice root really evident. Black jellybean. Subbed for a hop addition, so rather sweet. (58) Mash ‘Koffee Stout’ (4.3%) Much more my speed. Tasty, but subtle. (36) Hargreaves Hill ‘La Grisette’ (3.8%) A style I’ve never heard of, but kind like. Feels like it’ll be sweet, but dries right out. Weird, but worthy. (55) Feral ‘Watermelon Warhead’ (2.9%) My first Berliner Weisse, and it’s exactly as sour as I’d like. Tart and indeed Watermelonny. Still nicely round.

1: There were actually six in the book, it turned out. I missed one — Moo Brew’s ‘Belgo’ — entirely. But, to atone, I had a whole glass on the Sunday. You’ll see it here soon.
2: Let’s just ignore, provisionally, the rather-fraught third (‘US’) member of that Treaty and focus on the ‘A’-‘NZ’ relationship for a moment — my guess is that Croucher are referring, all at once, to being a New Zealand beer at a festival in Australia, brewed in a vaguely-American style.
3: This being from Mash Brewing in WA, not from the Mash Collective which operates out of Stone & Wood in NSW (which also had a beer in the lineup). It’s probably a very good sign that breweries are proliferating rapidly enough that their names are starting to collide.a
— a: See also, for example, New Zealand’s plural ~Dog beers: ParrotDog, Rain Dogs, Black Dog.
4: Watermelon Warhead was also tied — with a Wig & Pen beer that became my GABS Glass #3 — for the lowest-posted official IBU rating, at a ‘paltry’ 6. Which just goes to show you, among all the hop-fashion and bitterness-chasing, that sour beers really can deliver intensity from a whole ’nother direction.

Resolute ‘Zaragoza’ Molé Stout

Resolute 'Zaragoza' Molé Stout
Resolute 'Zaragoza' Molé Stout, twice

Last week was massively distracted, in my brain and many others, by the run-up to GABS and Good Beer Week in Melbourne — but it (i.e., the week) still found time for the (North Island) launch of a new contract brewer in the local scene, Resolute Brewing. Well, for a given value of “new”, at least, since it’s the work of Nathan Crabbe, formerly part of contract-brewing operation Golden Ticket. He’d departed that gig for a job brewing at Harringtons but evidently had a relapse of the do-your-own-thing itch and is back in the game as Resolute.1

He pitched his Beer #1 as a ‘Molé Stout’, inspired by — and brewed with many/most of the same ingredients as — a traditional Mexican mole poblano sauce, namely chocolate, chili and (very many) various spices. Which immediately puts me in mind of last year’s beloved ‘Day of the Dead’ from Garage Project,2 but they’re very different beers, despite their rather-similar initial impressions. Surprisingly light (in both colour and alcoholic weight — the latter not quite as intended, I was told), Zaragoza was definitely promising and well put-together, especially considering its two-dozen-odd ingredients — they weren’t fighting like angry cats in a bag, though they weren’t making much noise of whatever attention-grabbing kind, come to that. Subtlety is no bad thing at all, but it was a little unexpected in this case. To me, it massively suited warming up rather a lot and developed into something like the (friendly) ghostly apparition of an astonishingly decadent chocolate brownie — all the flavour, none of the stodge. If anything, it could use more meat on its bones, but it wasn’t worryingly thin.

Resolute and Golden Ticket, side by side
Resolute and Golden Ticket, side by side

Golden Ticket, meanwhile, has continued in the hands of Nathan’s former business partner Ally McGilvray and has been making some lovely beers — like ‘Black Emperor’ (a “black pilsner”) and ‘Champion Malky’ (a characterful golden ale) — one of which was on handpull right beside this one, fittingly enough. I’d had two pints of Zaragoza and realised I had time for another half of something before I had to head off, and was unable to resist the fittingness of the two beers side by side and one after another. I also got that photo of the badges together — Hashigo’s difficult lighting mandated using my camera’s HDR trickery and the multiple exposures made Dylan’s photobomb ghostly and spectacular. ‘Brown Marvel’ is a charmingly quaffable take on an American Brown, a nicely balanced mix of a little malty roast and a little fruit hop. And as if to underscore the surprising lightness of Zaragoza, this “brown” seemed a shade or two darker in the glass than the stout which came before it.

Original Diary entry: Resolute ‘Zaragoza’ Stout 8/5/12 @ HZ for BGC,3 its North Island launch. R is Nathan, formerly of Golden Ticket, then Harringtons, then on his own again. Brewed at the resurrected Twisted Hop, which is neat. I’m not enough of a foodie to know much about Molé, but chili-choc is the general idea. Only 4.5% (intended to be %5-ish), and very-brown, not black. Surprising lightness of body isn’t bad, but I was keen for some stodge. Tastes very brownie, but with utterly un-brownie texture. Hints of vanilla emerge (whether from actual vanilla or not). Chili isn’t of the hot kind at all. This isn’t a patch on DOTD, but it’s equally not at all bad and a promising start. — Then, appropriately, Golden Ticket ‘Brown Marvel’ (5.5%, $8, 380ml) Which is, oddly, darker. Pleasantly easy-going. Suits handpull. A little roast, and a little fruity hop.

Golden Ticket 'Brown Marvel'
Golden Ticket 'Brown Marvel'
Hashigo's Daily Menu, Resolute-ified
Hashigo's Daily Menu, Resolute-ified
Diary II entry #211, Resolute 'Zaragoza'
Diary II entry #211, Resolute 'Zaragoza'

1: There’s no real suggestion of a falling-out, or at least none that I’ve picked up on. It just seems to be the case — and fair enough — that since Golden Ticket had, by now, put out more beers without Nathan that it had done with him it’s become Ally’s thing.
2: My favourite beer of 2011, a black lager with cocoa, chili and agave syrup — which was also launched with appropriate timing, having its debut on the actual Dia De Los Muertos, November 1. ‘Zaragoza’, equally fittingly, made its first-first appearance on Cinco de Mayo.
3: I habitually refer to Hashigo’s ‘New Release Tuesday’ as “#BeerGeekChurch”. They became ‘a thing’ with the Garage Project’s 24/24 phase, and have continued since. There is always a decent crowd of lovely beer nerds to hang out with; it’s a brilliant part of the week.

St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout

St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout (My house, 8 May 2012)
St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout

My Canada Day last year then continued with this, a Quebecker Oatmeal Stout, there at my desk at home (with the Diary itself and my rather-lovely Hashigo Zake bottle opener visible behind it, and it perched on ludicrously-extravagant Moa Beer leather-and-felt coaster). And, just for a sense of continuity and appropriateness I’m now — as then — listening to The Tragically Hip, who I’ve been fond of for ages and to the extent where it appears as a data point to those not-insignificant numbers of people who assume me to be Canadian.

This is a massively well-renowned stout, and it was being consumed by someone to which oatmeal stout is a kind of wintery, liquid Kryptonite.1 But it and I just didn’t get along fantastically well. Its company was pleasant enough, but it should’ve been like a fireside chat with Stephen Fry himself, given the circumstances. This just didn’t have the glorious smoothness that is half the reason I go so wibbly for a good oatmeal stout,2 and there was a faint tinge of metal that made it reminiscent (not entirely unwelcomely) of a thick foil bag of chocolate-chip cookies.

It just seemed a little past its prime — though the Best Before date was impenetrably Hieroglyphic, smooshed and encoded. Consensus from a few at Hashigo was that it probably had been around for a while and had come via a third party somewhere, this not being one of their ultra-cautious imports. While neither a disaster nor a complete swing-and-a-miss, certainly, it simply wasn’t quite what I wanted and seemed unable (in that time and place) from making good on its promise. Mercifully, in the same takeaway-shopping trip, I also bought another ‘Péché Mortel’ from the equally-Quebeçois Dieu du Diel!, which was completely delicious and undegraded and thereby rescued the evening convincingly. Now I just want another of those.

Diary II entry #119, St Ambroise Oatmeal Stout
Diary II entry #119, St Ambroise Oatmeal Stout

Original Diary Entry: St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout 1/7/11 continuing the theme. $9.5 @ HZ, 341ml only 5% Another hundreder,3 which didn’t immediately grab me. The smoothness of the oats (and of the online praise), just isn’t so much there. I initially thought I just had it too cold. But it’s still having the same sharp uptick ride on the palate. Not unwelcome, just unexpected, unplanned. Slightly metal? Can’t decipher the best before. “12 B? 30 / J2010” Hopefully the latter isn’t it… Not sure. Smells like a bag of cookies. [2nd Péché Mortel was way better.]

1: Damnit. Now a Superman reference seconds after talking about Canadian music has the Crash Test Dummies firmly stuck in my head.
2: See, for example, Liberty’s stupidly-fucking-fantastic ‘Never Go Back’ — or, if you think that might be cheating a little, with its hugeness, just look to Firestone Walker’s ‘Velvet Merlin’.
3: By which I mean it scored a full 100 on RateBeer.com. I probably use that word as short hand because I really loved Neal Stephenson’s Anathem (in which it means something very different).

Firestone Walker ‘Velvet Merlin’

Firestone Walker 'Velvet Merlin', tap handle
Firestone Walker 'Velvet Merlin', or at least its glorious tap handle

Karma is a bitch, sometimes. One day, I upload a podcast in which I make a flippant reference to wishing that trench foot isn’t lost from the world — I’m not even sure why I did; these things just ramble out of my brain, sometimes — and the very next day, I’m faced with a metric crapload of kegs to shuffle around in the chiller when I’m wearing my worn-out leaky hiking boots (rather than my ass-kicking hefty steel-toed factory-worker boots — which are also wearing out, truth be told). It didn’t get genuinely horrific, but it was conspicuously less fun than Kegtris usually is.

But — in yet another of those instances wherein the universe finds a way to reassert the relevance of a Diary entry, no matter how inexcusably belated — some of kegs in that swag were Firestone Walker’s ‘Double Barrel’ Ale, a beer which I’ve liked for ages, and am dead keen to have on tap. All the Firestone beers I’ve had so far have been charming, in their own ways. And this thing was an absolute delight to have as a guest for a little while. As you may be able to see on the awesomely ostentatious and typically-American tap handle, it’s another oatmeal stout, and I (to reiterate) bloody loves oatmeal stout, I do. This was the first to be tapped of a swag of American imports that we had stacked in the fridge, and its awesomeness and the sheer delightful silliness of that stonking-great handle proved a brilliant tease for the four more that were destined to go on together on the Fourth of July.

It was, to my no-surprise-at-all, just glorious. Positioned in a very pleasant middle-ground between the very-light likes of Little Creatures’ one-off oatmeal stout and enjoyably-worrying heavyweights such as Liberty’s ‘Never Go Back’, it’s smooth and silky and decadent without feeling overly or guilt-inducingly so. Nothing leaps out of my memory (or my notes) to really distinguish it from others of its kind, other than its nicely-built goodness. But that’s a fine and lovely thing, just to be doing what you do do well in an un-flashy and self-assured way. This does that.

Basically the only thing even remotely wrong with it is the name. There’s nothing inherently wrong about it — slightly obscure or bizarre as it might be, it does kinda work: “velvet” is certainly a word that anyone who makes this beer should feel entirely free to use, and “Merlin” is the nickname of their Brewmaster, Matt Brynildson. The tragedy is that is was once called Velvet Merkin. And that’s a whole bunch funnier. “Merkin” is seriously close to being an inherently funny word, and is well worth looking up if you’re not entirely sure what it means or why it might’ve been the name for this thing. I have — as you might have picked from the fairly-liberal swearing or from the short-form rants on the topic — a proudly defiant anything-goes approach to the English language and just hate to see people needlessly flinch from “bad words”. It’s the name of a beer, for fuck’s sake; you have to be legally an adult to buy it anyway, and this is such a gloriously outmoded word that it’s hard to imagine anyone clever enough to know it being simultaneously wowserish enough to have it give them the vapors and make them need a lie-down. But they self-censoringly changed the name when it graduated from being a one-off project, and that’s just kinda sad.

Just like oatmeal stout, swearing (and “bad language” more broadly) is one of the joys of life. Both take skill and timing, both are nourishing to body and mind, and both are capable of shocking and delighting — in turns or at once. Mister Fry is definitely with me on the swearing, and I can’t help but assume he’d be partial to a bloody-marvellous oatmeal stout, too. He just seems the type, don’t you think?

Firestone Walker 'Velvet Merlin' Oatmeal Stout
Diary II entry #115, Firestone Walker 'Velvet Merlin' Oatmeal Stout

Verbatim: Firestone Walker ‘Velvet Merlin’ Oatmeal Stout 24/6/11 5.5% on tap @ MH, with the glorious tap handle. Revising my July Four plan, but I’ll still jump in while it’s here. Ari Sr. shouted us a round! Loving the oatmeal stout these days. This is nicely placed on the number line between the Creatures and the Liberty. Smooth + light + lovely. Some silk sheets, but not too many. All very well put together, nothing seems to upstage obviously.

Belatedly uploaded: 29 November 2011

Liberty ‘Never Go Back’

Liberty 'Never Go Back'
Liberty 'Never Go Back'

And so here my notes complete a hat-trick1 of ten-per-cent-plus black-and-glorious monster beers. It happened entirely by accident — presumably helped by the contemporaneous feeling that Winter Was Coming — and now also occasions one of those nice coincidences that seem to happen (as I mentioned last time) when I’m this far behind with my rambling-uploadings: as I sat down after work to start putting this post together, I had two other oatmeal stouts. The first was a glass of the absurdly-delicious Ballast Point ‘Sea Monster’ we have on tap at work at the moment, and the second, firmly in the the spirit of “bugger it, let’s give these guys (yet) another chance,” was Stoke’s new one. Given my prior history with their beers (and no other real intervening changes on trying them several times since that almost-infamous Diary entry), I can relatively-cheerfully report that Stoke ‘Bomber’ was largely faultless, but it just wasn’t the sort of liquid luxury that I love in my oatmeal stouts — and I bloody loves oatmeal stout, I do.

But enough about those; they’ll get their own posts soon enough.2

I’ve been regularly praising the beers from Liberty in the podcasts — I often forget to prepare a list in the few days before recording, and Joseph Wood’s beers float readily to the top of my brain when George asks for a suggestion. Up until right now, the only one to appear on here was the Amarillo-hop version of his West Coast Blonde, which I had at Hashigo way back in February, on their genius-and-generous Fundraiser Night. Since then, bottles — bloody-great-big lovely 750ml bottles with that cute newfangled re-sealable plastic enclosure-thing — have been popping up fairly regularly, although the batch sizes are still very small indeed. I had a way-too-enjoyable time, back in May, when I inherited the remains of a some-of-everything tasting session that included a few experimental beers and plenty that have since shown up as ‘proper’ releases. It was a broad range, with interestingness and goodness present in sufficient quantities that I was delighted to be in possession of what were basically just dregs, and it featured some perilously-strong beers; I wound up very cheerfully drunk.3

‘Never Go Back’ is a suitably-dramatic way for Liberty to return here, certainly, and I freakin’ adore it. It’s got a peculiar Samuel L. Jackson quality about it — you know, like how Emerson’s Oatmeal Stout was all Barry White — that makes you just want to use the word motherfucker in an endearing and complimentary way. A big-ass glass of pure blackness, it smells like some kind of overclocked, rocket-fueled Hershey’s chocolate syrup and is ridiculously smooth. The word “velvet” is not remotely out of place, in the label blurb. Compared against something like 8 Wired’s ‘iStout’, I’d say it wasn’t as confrontingly bitter and punchy — by which I don’t mean anything inherently positive or negative, they’re just different; that side of iStout is very well integrated into the whole and is probably a massive part of what makes the iStout Float such a delight. And maybe that’s partly also down to all NGB’s gorgeous oatmeal smoothness, which makes such a big beer worryingly and brilliantly and perhaps-unexpectedly drinkable. The image that came straight to my mind — a mind that supervenes on a brain that had had more than one beer in the >10% bracket, remember — was of wearing silk pyjamas and leaping into a bed adorned with silk sheets… then finding yourself in a heap on the floor on the far side of the room after skipping frictionlessly off the surface. Never Go Back does something like that; it’s so velvety that it’s surprisingly easy, given its massiveness. Well that, and it could easily leave you in a heap on the floor, too.

But you’d be a happy heap. And that’s what counts.

Verbatim: Liberty ‘Never Go Back’ Imperial Oat Stout 20/6/11 10.6% — what a plateau! 750ml ÷ 3 with Tim & Amy. So big and lovely. Boozy, for sure. Fumey chocolate syrup. Powdery cocoa feel to it. Would make excellent stout floats. Definitely velvety, so much so that the body is oddly easy; it’s the silk pjs / silk sheets problem.

Liberty 'Never Go Back' Imperial Oat Stout
Diary II entry #113, Liberty 'Never Go Back' Imperial Oat Stout
Liberty 'Never Go Back', label text
Liberty 'Never Go Back', label text
Liberty Brewing samplers
My collection of Liberty Tasting Session Dregs

1: Possessed, as I am, of little-to-no sporting ability, such metaphors are likely rarer-than-average in my ramblings. But I like that one a lot — and used it for my three-peata of Hashigo Diary Entries that concluded with Coronado’s ‘Islander’ IPA — largely because, just as I hoped when I first heard it in my awkward teenage cricket-playing days, the original story involves an actual hat.
— a: Not wanting to overuse “hat-trick”, I went with “three-peat” there, instead, just vaguely remembering it from American sports commentary. But then I looked it up. And it turns out that it’s trademarked for commercial uses by some former basketball coach. So, once again: fuck trademark abuse, really. That’s insane. It’s a totally natural and obvious way to bend our beloved English language. Even the many and mongrel authors of the Wikipedia managed to assembled a metric boatload of ‘prior art’. The law graduate in me (buried deep, I assure you; don’t worry), just got a little bit angrier.
2: Given a generous interpretation of “soon enough”, at least. Maybe one on Geological or Cosmological timescales.
3: Just to be clear, the adverb “very” here modifies both the “cheerfully” and the “drunk”.

Originally posted: 7 November 2011

Moa Imperial Stout

Moa Imperial Stout
Moa Imperial Stout

It looks rather frightful, that Moa, doesn’t it? Maybe even sufficiently angry-faced that it hardly seems like a herbivore at all, in fact. I honestly still can’t tell if I like the kitsch of it, or if I just think it’s hideous. Something similar happens with the ludicrously-extravagant coasters — just how much money poured into the marketing budget that embossed leather-and-felt coasters got the green light? Like I’ve said possibly too-many times before,1 the brandwank with Moa is relentless, and I’m depressingly unsurprised to report that (as of the time of writing, in mid-October — I’m way behind, I know) it continues unabated.2

Like I said with an earlier pint of ‘Black Power’, the awfulness of the aura of ad-crap the surrounds a Moa beer and trails along behind it like an unforgiveable stench is such that it might get in the way of actually enjoying one of their beers.3 For me, Black Power just wasn’t a worthy enough thing to pierce the fog and make itself enjoyable in spite of all that — but a stonking-great barrel-aged imperial stout? Now that did the trick.

It was helped somewhat by circumstances — not that it really needed much help — in that we had it and several of its siblings pouring at work at once, in a little version of the sort of ‘Tap Takeovers’ that happen semi-regularly at the Local Taphouses (if that is indeed the plural) over in Melbourne and Sydney. And such things are all very fun in and of themselves, of course: excuses and occasions and theme-ifying are some of my favourite things about a night at the pub. But for me, for multiply-peculiar me, a Tap Takeover is extra-special because it means Kegtris it means a bloody-great Herculian dose of Kegtris, it does — and when it was all done, of course, someone had to make sure that the beers were pulled through and ready to go. Oh, the chore of it all.

And honestly, I really can quiet the fumingly-outraged part of my brain for a little while, with this. It’s just stupidly fantastic: utterly enormous, but not overblown, and it doesn’t come across as trying to do everything at once in a sad one-man-band kind of attention-grabbing — in that (and in its weight, and its barrel-aged-ness — but in not much else, other than its hometown, come to think of it), it’s quite reminiscent of 8 Wired’s masterful ‘Batch 18’. I tried some side-by-side with a little glass of the Scott Base Central Otago Pinot Noir, partially because I assumed (given the founding-family connections) those would be the barrels involved and partially because I just can’t bring the classic Pinot Noir flavours to mind off the top of my head, as ignorant in Matters of the Grape as I am. I’ve since been informed by Dave Nicholls — the brewer, despite what their ad-men might say,4 a (mercifully) excellent chap who just gets on with the making of the beer while largely ignoring the dissonant background buzzing of the marketing machine — that they weren’t the barrels in question, but the comparison was still instructive and I suppose you’d have to have some sort of super-palate to spot, in a 10.2% stout, differences drawn from varying vineyard’s barrels.

There’s a lot of flavour left in those barrels, it seems, and it melds into the stout in surprising and delightful ways; plenty of tart fruit notes, bordering on sour almost, fill in the edges of the beer, taking the whallop out of some of the bitterness and booze you’d otherwise expect from a thing like this. You can’t really tell whether they achieve that through some clever complimentary-flavour trick on the brain, or if they’re just using a more low-brow “Look over here, instead!” tactic. But ultimately you won’t care about the how of it, because the result is worryingly drinkable for the punch it steal conceals in its multi-talented self.

If Moa’s brandwank doesn’t rile you as much as it does me, then just go and get one of these, simply because it’s delicious. But even if you are as infuriated by their ad-men as I am, consider this one worth the trouble, a nice reminder that at least someone there still knows what they’re doing — and a rare and philosophically-instructive example of a situation where the price you pay in conscience (since you’re giving those ad-men a not-inconsiderable sum of money — the thing which is, after all, how they ‘keep score’) might actually be worth it.

Verbatim: Moa Russian Imperial Stout 16/6/11 10.2%, Jesus. Hideous branded glass, as reward for an epic round of Kegtris for tomorrow’s takeover / migration, and all that Moo. The fruitiness from the Pinot barrels do massively set it apart, but are very well integrated. Not just tacked on, you know, like their brandwank. Really couldn’t resist. Enjoying their better beers is a real see-saw. Why does ‘Estate’ = bareknuckle boxing, where ‘Reserve’ = motorcycle? Oh wait. Vice, versa. Shows how superfluous + devoid of meaning, I guess. Wait. The beer. Gloriously huge, but still not overblown. Dangerously drinkable. Whole riots of fun.

Extravagant Moa coaster
Extravagant Moa coaster
"Super Premium Beverage"
"Super Premium Beverage"
Moa Russian Imperial Stout
Diary II entry #111, Moa Russian Imperial Stout

1: Such as when writing / ranting / rambling about: the ‘Black Power’ chocolate wheat beer, beer-and-marketing in general, their ‘Five Hop’ ESB, or their (two attempts at a) pale ale — the basic point is that Moa are grossly (but deservedly) over-represented on the ‘Brandwank’ index page.
2: Maybe, maybe there’s a touch of irony in all this. Or an attempt at such. Alice Galletly — of the excellent ‘Beer for a Year’ blog, which makes an absolute mockery of my way-delayed posting schedule — mentioned (in passing), her assumption that their “Handcrafted Super Premium Beverage” tagline (visible on the reverse of the Scary-faced Moa Glass, pictured above) was tongue-in-cheek. I certainly hope so. I hope they’re just rubbish at ironic humour, rather than an actual pack of appalling wankers. Perhaps I’m all jaded and cynical, but I just can’t be that charitable.
3: They are now, in this regard, the opposite of how the Stoke beers were when I first met them. Those I wanted to like, but I just couldn’t. They’re dipping their toes quite enthusiastically into a bit of brandwankery, themselves, but I do keep trying them occasionally to see if I can like them yet. But alas; not yet.
4: Criminally, you could diligently read — on a heavy dose of anti-nausea pills — the entire corpus of Moa’s marketing materials and not have any clue who Dave was, what he did, or even that he existed at all. Presumably, a Suit in Auckland thinks that pushing the myth of Josh-as-the-man-who-still-runs-everything is more ‘marketable’. For that, and their likely-myriad other sins, they deserve a kick in the pants.

8 Wired ‘Batch 18’

8 Wired 'Batch 18'
8 Wired ‘Batch 18’

This is ‘anniversary beer’ done right. And good god damn is it done right. I am peculiarly fond of ‘occasion beer’ and so do love it when brewers mark special moments with special beers. But when they’re afterthoughts, or half-assed, or tokenistic, then they’re just sad. Tuatara’s ‘X’ Anniversary Ale last year was one of those (for me, and just to pick the example that comes most-readily to mind) with its bungled packaging and uninspiring recipe — though it has to be said that this year’s offering was considerably better on all fronts, but we’ll get to that in its own turn, soon enough. Suffice it to say, though — as I already have done, twice — that ‘Batch 18’ is no let-down; it’s a freakin’ masterpiece.1

8 Wired really did hit the ground running back in late 2009, with a lovely brown ale (which came to be known as ‘Rewired’, but initially carried the somewhat-awkward name ‘All of the Above’), then an attention-grabbing local-produce-celebrating pale ale (in ‘Hopwired’), and onwards to an ever-expanding frequently-impressively-experimental range of beers. Most-recently, the still-relatively-new brewery’s rise was marked by taking out the “Best Brewery” gong at the beer awards this year — an achievement that was utterly deserved and generated seemingly-none of the usual beer geek grumbles or quibbles with such awards.

But ‘Batch 18’ was in the works long before that. According to Søren’s characteristically-useful label text, the plan was to celebrate an “anniversary” with their eighth batch, setting calendar-based timing aside and leaning instead on that numeral in their name. Things were way too busy when #8 rolled around, so they pushed it back to #18; do it right, or don’t do it at all. I just love that;2 it takes balls to delay something obviously-occasion-based past its actual date, merely in the name of doing it right — just try, those of you with spouses,3 to skip an anniversary and see how much compensatory awesomeness is required in return. This, though? This gets away with it; it’s massive and elaborate and you wouldn’t want to’ve done it in a rush. It’s a big imperial stout, fundamentally, but definitely isn’t just a slightly blinged-up version of their bloody-lovely ‘iStout’. Rather, it’s brewed with two different yeast strains, dosed up with jaggery (a raw sugar, which throws in some interesting flavours and helps kick the alcoholic strength up a few notches), infused with coffee, aged for a few months in oak barrels, infused with more coffee — before finally being bottled up and wrapped in a gorgeous-but-simple label that implores you to a) share, and b) be brave.

So I did, and I was. After I was done for the night, I sat at the bar and poured out five glasses — while admittedly bogarting the biggest glass for myself. We were all struck by the forceful nature of the nose of it, on first whiff. This was not a beer that was shy about letting you know that a lot would be going on in the glass. It doesn’t warn you away, but it does warn you nonetheless. There’s a distinct booziness to it (it is 12.5%, after all), and that must help waft all those aromas up out of the glass. All the components are quite obviously doing something, and can certainly be picked out individually if you try hard enough — but it’s also a deft exercise in Flavour Jenga; they’re piled in a great big stack, but not precariously or without balance. They combine in interesting ways, too, stitching together into interestingly-unexpected notes like the “blue cheese and pears” comparison that Jono hit upon.

I’ve got two more of these, sitting in my stash at work. I should drag one out now (well, not now, since it’s 4.30am as I write this) and have it in celebration of the Champion Brewery trophy, and then I might just leave the other bottle to sit and wait until their calendar-birthday rolls around later this year. Søren was pretty sure that the coffee flavour would ease right off over time, but it was still nicely present in the bottles we had at a Weta Digital beer tasting not too long ago — so there’s an element of Science! to my plan, not just an attempt at delayed gratification and blatant act of hoarding. Thought it is those, also.

Verbatim: 8 Wired ‘Batch 18’ 3/6/11 500ml ÷ 5 with Peter, Haitch, Jono + Katie (the new girl) 12.5% $15-ish @ Reg. Bloody nice idea, well pitched and executed bang on. A little terrifying in your nose, but not in a bad way. Fumey + funky — blue cheese + pears, we think. Definitely hot + lingering on the palate, and you can definitely taste all the components. I said “definitely” twice. That’s telling. It’s a bit crazy, but in a charming kind of way, not (just) an off-putting one.

8 Wired 'Batch 18', blurb
8 Wired 'Batch 18', blurb
8 Wired 'Batch 18'
Diary II entry #109, 8 Wired 'Batch 18'

1: Hell, given the elaborate recipe and execution, it comes close to being a “masterpiece” in the older-school sense of the thing that signifies the turn from journeyman to craftsman. But that’s not how the Brewer’s Guild works, these days, despite the name. I have to say that, now I mention it (to myself so far, obviously), I can’t shake the suspicion that it’s a pretty neat idea…
2: I’m a habitual procrastinator, as you might be able to discern from the disparity between the dates of Diary entries and the dates on which they appear, here. When I feel the need to defend myself, usually just to myself, this is the line I run most often.
3: “Spice”?

Renaissance ‘Craftsman’ 2011

Renaissance 'Craftsman'
Renaissance 'Craftsman'

Gawd, it has been a while.

But it all rounds out in an oddly-nice way as I sit here and write about an absurdly, magnificently, madly chocolatey beer while eating some of the very-last (at last!) of my ultra-massive birthday cake — it seemed to be made of chocolate, chocolate, chocolate and some other kinds of chocolate. This whole week (since my actual birthday, last Tuesday; it’s late on September 4 as I write this) has put that whole “you can’t have your cake and eat it” cliché in a bin and thoroughly given it a pounding with cricket bats. It turns out that if some lovely-lovely people buy you a sufficiently massive cake, you can have it all week and eat it all week, too.

‘Craftsman’ had its re-launch at work way back in June — the value of t isn’t quite in the triple-digits, at least — shortly after it scooped the Champion Stout trophy at the Australian International Beer Awards. George and I were just recording a podcast episode today in which we discussed the various oddnesses of beer awards in general, so it’s additionally-fitting that I finally get around to this one, now. Whatever their issues — and let’s, for a moment, leave aside a) the peculiar way in which beer-judging works and b) the traditional Miniturised Industrial-looking Piece of Thing theme that all the trophies seem to go for — it remains a lovely moment when a deserving beer picks up an award and gives you yet another opportunity to shake the hand of the people from the brewery and congratulate them on the goodness of what they do.

I’d had a lovely afternoon, and had forgotten entirely that this was making its return that night. But on seeing the tap badge, quickly grabbing a tasting glass, and having just the merest sniff of it, I was instantly transported into a state of giddy, child-like glee. The nose of it is just perfect chocolate; like birthday cake, or a craving-ending snack, or an easter egg you found under the bed just when you were regretting having eaten them all already. The ultra-choc character comes from combining an oatmeal stout base with additional doses of cocoa nibs and vanilla. The latter was eased-off a little this year, and I think that was definitely the right move; last year’s edition had the same grin-inducing chocolatey loveliness, but got perhaps a little sticky by the time you’d made it most of the way through your pint. Here, everything’s in marvellous balance. That may be an odd-looking trophy, but it’s one damn well-earned.

(And in one final piece of nice, spooky timing, I closed my Diary entry with a mention of “The Barry White Joke”, a phrase that harks all the way back to Emerson’s sadly-retired Oatmeal Stout, and which I last noted here while rambling about Emerson’s ‘Grace Jones’ Porter — a ‘Brewers’ Reserve’ beer which has, itself, just been re-released. I had some tonight at Hop Garden, and it was tasting great.)

Verbatim: Renaissance ‘Craftsman’ 2011 1/6/11 @ MH. Launch of the new edition, which did very well over at the AIBA. Always nice to have Brian in the house, too. Me and Haitch were both reduced to wordless joy with our tasters — me probably helped along by still being on a bit of a high from a lovely afternoon. It’s just gorgeous. The vanilla is toned-back from last year, making it worryingly drinkable — I liked the 2010, but it did get a bit sticky. It’s liquid chocolate, dry and cocoa-y and dark. A worthy new target referent for my Barry White joke.

Renaissance 'Craftsman', AIBA trophy
Renaissance 'Craftsman', AIBA trophy
Renaissance 'Craftsman'
Diary II entry #107.1, Renaissance 'Craftsman'
Renaissance 'Craftsman'
Diary II entry #107.2, Renaissance 'Craftsman'