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.
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.
Either I’m frequently wrong about what I do and don’t like — or I like beer enough that it can turn me around on things that otherwise gross me out. Just to cite two very-recent examples: Yeastie Boys ‘Hud-a-wa” tasted of marmalade, and Emerson’s ‘Taieri George’ is like liquid Hot Cross Buns. Hell, nevermind individual beers: I don’t really even like citrus fruit at all but am frequently delighted by American-esque pale ales.
And then there’s coconut. Barring this — and its part in making the soupy half of a good laksa, and as the sprinkling on the outside of a lamington; two uses in which you can’t really taste it, anyway — I’ve got very little time for coconut. This, though? This is delicious. I’ve had it before, on my Birthday last year, as part of a suite of bloody-marvellous beers which I used to close off the original Diary.1 So I already knew it, and knew it would make a fantastic follower to the stonkingly-beautiful 8 Wired ‘iStout’ Ice Cream Float I’d just had.
I wanted to have it out of some weird sense of solidarity, too, given that a Certain Beer Writer2 had recently been maligning and ridiculing the mere idea of canned beer. That just struck me as needless, outdated, and wrong. As a blurb on these very cans will tell you, Aluminum3 is way better than glass for the storing of beer. It’s lighter, cheaper, more recyclable and utterly opaque — forget the vexed question of what colour glass blocks what types of light best: this isn’t a variously-tinted window, it’s a wall. There’s a stereotypical correlation between cheap-and-crappy beer and cans, sure, but it’s hardly any stronger than the statistical link between beer at all and bad beer. Good beer is still the minority, whatever its packaged in — and to the extent that slightly-more-than-average dodgy beers might be canned than bottled that’s not somehow the can’s fault. And it’s difficult to square anti-can sentiment in people who’ll also say that beer is usually better on tap than from a bottle — kegs are just fucking-great-big cans, made from a different metal, but with all the same advantages for all the same reasons.
Back to the beer. Especially if you followed the footnotes, it’s been a while since I mentioned it, so I’ll reiterate: it’s delicious. Previously-basically-useless coconut finally finds its destiny in providing a gorgeously complementary toasty dryness to the relaxedly rich and chocolatey porter. It’s a softer version of the effect you get with the stronger ‘roastiness’ you might find in a nice stout — which is arguably (though probably not) part the dividing line between porter and stout. You won’t get me near a Bounty Bar, though, so there’s got to be a fair amount texture-aversion going on behind my mostly-anti-coconut stance.
I was never quite sure about a few aspects of the labelling of the can, though. 1) That’s a weirdly-hideous drawing on the front, there. 2) The tagline “Like hot chicks on the beach” hardly seems to make any sense, nevermind the potential gendery sexisty minefield. And 3) “Certified made on Maui”? By who? And how, and why? Was there actually a dispute about this, at some point? I draw attention to these things mostly to point out the sorts of things which pop up in my mind but are quickly forgiven in the presence of a sufficiently-awesome beer. Slagging off Aluminum, or calling it “Aluminium”, though? That I won’t abide.
Verbatim: Maui Brewing Co. Coconut Porter 15/4/11 $10 @ NWT, because cans were recently needlessly maligned, and because it’s lovely. 355ml We bodged it up with Tuatara Porter on the Hopinator, but this is the real deal, and it shows. Light, fresh, delicious. Toasty cocoa / coconut, without any stodge.
1: The latter half of Diary I is still stuck in a Not Uploaded Yet limbo, for which I keep apologising. I really will get around to it, some day. Partially because I’m as much as completeist as I am a procrastinator (imagine the headaches that internal tension causes…), but mostly because there are just some bloody-marvellous beers in there, to which I’m always annoyed I’m unable to refer. 2: Neil Miller. I’m not actually shy about naming names; I just know that him and I are approximately-equally fond of footnotes. [Later edit: on noticing this and a later reference, a More Nuanced Neil appeared than the one who provoked my disbelieving, can-defending near-outrage.] 3: Oh yes: Aluminum. One i. Does not rhyme with Sodium. This isn’t negotiable, and isn’t just one of my peculiar pieces of Occasional North American Idiom.a Humphry Davy — the chemist who properly isolated it identified its existence (and who hired one of my personal heroes, Michael Faraday) — initially called it alumium (since he got it from it occurs in a compound simply called alum), but soon changed his mind (for reasons unknown) to Aluminum. The change to “-ium” stems from an anonymous review in a non-scientific journal, and comes for the inexcusably-daft reason of objecting to the “less classical sound” of Davy’s chosen name. Seriously? Piss off. Some anonymous literary critic doesn’t trump Humphry Motherfucking Davy (come back when you invent and discover a tenth of what he did, whoever you are); you don’t get to overrule the name given to a thing by its discoverer;b and half the goddamn Periodic Table doesn’t have a “classical sound” — who cares? So no. No second i. It’s Aluminum. — a: Which I certainly do exhibit, and which are mysterious (along with my mangled, Mongrelish accent) because I haven’t been on that continent for more than a few weeks of my entire life; perhaps I just watched too much TV, as a kid. — a: Er, except in rare cases like when William Herschel (otherwise a seemingly cool guy, and doubtlessly great scientist) discovered Uranus and wanted to call it George’s Star or the Georgian Planet, after the king who just happened to’ve recently given him a stack of cash. But then, I’m still unsure “Uranus” is much better.
Poorly-justified trademark nonsense and brandwank that flies in the face of the plain meaning of words are rather topical at the moment — for the avoidance of doubt or subtlety, I’m looking at you, D.B. and Moa — and so it is the perfect time to finally enter into my Diary the arguable Granddaddy of such: Budweiser.1
The beer itself is basically universally reviled among the geeks. It’s pretty much synonymous with mass-produced bland fizzy water. They brew it with rice for fuck’s sake; if nearly a third of your grain bill is rice, you’re intentionally minimising the flavour of the end result, or cutting corners to save money to the point of absurdity — or, you know, both.
I was always faintly embarrassed, therefore, that I had never personally tried this thing that my Nerd Brethren hated so passionately. I spotted it in the fridge at Public,2 ascertained that it was the genuine article (rather than a “brewed under license” clone, as we so often do here in the Little Country at the End of the World), and then popped next door after work. In the interests of fairness, I tried desperately to avoid reading their preposterous label text and focus on the beer, first. I’ll repeat that, here.
It is piss-gold. That is absolutely the word for it; everything you ever heard about it looking like urine is true — although, as someone who used to work at an organisation who published helpful guides about these things, I can tell you that it does look like the whiz of a healthy person who drinks around about the right amount of water, if that helps at all. The nose is either absent or pleasantly-but-very-mildly fragrant. Nearby flower arrangements in the bar were particularly numerous (or convinced I was a Bumblebee, or something) and were rather perfumed, themselves, but I can at least say that the beer was basically lacking in the godawful rotten funk I get from most bog-standard mainstream lagers.
I found it difficult to taste anything much, initially; the over-riding sensory impression of ‘Fizziness!’ drowned out all other neural activity for quite some time. It was dry, but weirdly grainy and sweet at the same time. The dreaded ‘Macro Funk’ did slowly emerge as I went / as it warmed a little, but it was certainly a good distance from being the worst beer I’ve ever had in my life. To use a classic Faint Praise metric, I’d instantly choose it over a local clone of Heineken or Amstel, for instance.
But damn. Any time with this beer just amounts to time to savour the utterly absurd boasts on the label. Starting with the attempt at implying Worldwide availability / domination with the buckled-belt logo’s “Europe; Asia; Africa; Australia”: the word you’re looking for to go in that last slot is Australasia, you monkeys. (Or Oceania, if you’re feeling modern.)3 And then there’s this:
We know of no brand produced by any other brewer which costs so much to brew and age.
The only way for that not to be an outright, ridiculous, intentional lie is to keep the man who writes the label text in a very small box, cut off from the world. I can, off the top of my own rubbish-memoried head, probably name a hundred or more beers which would make a falsehood of that sentence — unless they aren’t talking in per volume terms, which would just make them history’s worst-ever statisticians.
Nevermind the pathetically-sad registration, by local giant D.B., of the word “Radler” for a beer which isn’t even a Radler;4this is the most abysmally lame brewing trademark. They mimicked a brew which had been released in the U.S. the year before (1875), verbatim-copied its name — which was just an origin term, in German — and legally locked it up for themselves. It should’ve never been awarded, and later courts should’ve booted it out summarily, or at least forced them to abide the concurrent marketing of things under the same name which happened to be actually from the place that the word implies.
This is the problem with brandwank. This is it in a little brown bottle. The beer isn’t inherently abominable; it’s just not, whatever you’ve heard. I was as surprised to learn that as anyone would be. It’s limp and bland, not liquid evil. But the yards-thick, completely fucking ass-faced aura of marketing horseshit which surrounds it makes me thank the non-existent gods that I didn’t hand over any of my own money for the one I had. I’d feel sullied and cheap and stained to the core if I did — but I’d still very-swiftly whisk one from a barbeque chilly bin that otherwise only held Tui and Beck’s.
Verbatim: Budweiser 2/3/11 @ Public $8, but shouted. Awesome. 4.9% “Bud Heavy”, says their American, since Bud Light is so ascendant. I can’t believe I’ve never had one. The pale straw colour is the first impression (well, after the brandwank-drenched label). 355ml. And you really do have to say “piss gold”. The nose is grainy, and very faintly perfumed; could be the flowers in here, even. Feel isn’t as thin as I’d assumed, but very fizzy. The usual Macro Funk isn’t as bad here as in many I’ve had; Heineken is certainly worse on that score for example. Strange combination of dryness + light sweetness in the body. Not horrific, certainly. Oh, the Funk does build a bit. But not my worst ever.
1: Rather than being anyone’s Granddad, Budweiser would rather introduce itself to you as ‘King of Beers’. And then expect you to curtsey, presumably. I’m enough of an anti-monarchist that that’s hardly helping it endear itself to me, but the main problem is that actual-Budweiser was long known as “the beer of Kings”, so Anheuser-Busch’s slogan is double-pronged dickishness. 2: Or [public] — with a unique, mysterious, and unreproducible p-u ligature — if their typographer is to be believed. 3: The question of what isn’t and isn’t a “continent” (and thereby how many there are) is a tricky one, but absolutely no one except Anheuser-Busch follows the ‘Budweiser Label Model’. 4: And fuck; don’t get me started. Or at least beware, if you do. There’s a court date looming. I’m sure I’ll have more to vent about it — one way or the other, depending on the outcome.
I’m at a bit of a loss with the name of this one. Something in it seems superfluous, certainly. It’s those three b-words in a row. I can make it work with any two of them,1 but all three together just unexpectedly trips me up like an abandoned skateboard in darkened hallway.
The Wellington weather was beginning its turn towards the grey-and-drizzly, providing a nice excuse (as if I really needed one) for staying for another and continuing on my recent run of tasty dark beers. Triple-B was on tap and when something both interesting and imported appears in front of you at Hashigo it’s best to jump in without delay; these things don’t often last long.
After the doubly-peculiar goodness of ‘Black Emperor’ (it being a lager and conspicuously-hopped, both of which set it apart from the majority of dark craft beers it otherwise superficially resembles), ‘Big Bear’ is a bit closer to straight-up-and-down stouty stuff. It’s boozier than usual at 8.1%, and that strength also manifests in a definite sweetness — the taste is as big and full as the overloaded name would imply / require, but the traditional burnt-and-bitter edges are softened right off. This is a friendly animal of the ursine persuasion, for sure. You merely need to keep one eye on your pic-a-nic basket; you don’t have to immediately run for your life — or frantically wrack your brain trying to remember whether you’re supposed to run from a bear or stand your ground or throw some toothpaste to distract it, or whatever-the-hell confusing and forgettable ‘survival advice’ people on the TV keep giving us.
If anything, it’s too friendly. For all its bigness and solidity, I drank mine way too easily; the clumsy name was more of a mouthful than the glass. The obvious solution of going for a bigger vessel would quickly get reckless, given that it’s stronger than the average beer — just to throw in one more Yogi reference before moving on.
Verbatim: Bear Republic ‘Big Bear’ Black Stout 22/3/11 also on tap @ HZ. 8.1% Shitty weather outside (i.e., my type of rainy drizzle) and an Odd Day, so more good beer. It seems like one of the Bs in the name is superfluous, but I’m not sure which. Any 2 seems to work. This is proper serious, but not at all scary. Quite an easy nose, but my previous may have something to do with that. Nicely full, sweet-edged body. Rich, but not burnt + bitter. My only “complaint” isn’t one at all: it’s way too easy to drink.
1: “Big Bear Stout”; “Black Bear Stout”; “Big Black Stout” — they all seem sensible. And they certainly seem sufficient, you’d have to say.
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.
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.
So sayeth Hunter S. Thompson on the label, and for what it’s worth I concur.1 I bloody loves this beer. I loves it for its intrinsic goodness and for the circumstances in which I’ve had it — and I’m a mad keen Hunter S. fan,2 so I’m sure his appearance(s) on its livery should be included among those, too.
It’s just utterly delicious; black, boozy and bitter. Full of flavour, but in no way overblown or stunt-ish. Just rich and warming and delicious. And inspiring — with the name, the quote, the artwork that has always gone so well with HST’s stuff — how could you not just sit down and get some writing done, if you had your handy-dandy little laptop with you? I couldn’t not, because I did, if you follow. I plonked myself down in the bar and hacked happily away at my keyboard for quite a while, churning out quite a few Diary entries and generally enjoying my Evening Off.
Turning back to more strictly-Beer-Nerdy topics, I couldn’t help but notice that they label this as an Imperial Porter but also proudly trumpet that it’s an award-winning (American Style) Imperial Stout. Which nicely brings up the question of the porter versus stout difference — and my favourite answer: that, basically, there isn’t one. And as nerdy as I ever get about style names and the boundaries inbetween, this is one of those rare and delightful beers that just shut me right the fuck up and slap a stupid grin on my face. And set me to writing.
Verbatim: Flying Dog ‘Gonzo’ Imperial Porter 11/3/11 $12@HZ 12floz 7.8% 85 IBU I can’t remember if I ever diarised this, or if I just piggybacked on Toby’s one. I bloody loves it. For itself, and for its awesome HST referencing. And I’ve just noticed that they firmly deny a stout / porter difference, calling this both, on the label. Such an awesomely huge flavour, big + warm at the front, then smooth + rich to follow. Can’t resist doing some actual writing, with this in front of me.
1: I’m sure that any empirical case I’d try to make here would be drenched in confirmation bias — but still, it seems pretty solid. Certainly if someone sketchy-looking wanders into the bar late at night and starts to wobble the needle on my Muppet Detector, them asking “what’s your cheapest beer?” right out of the gate will start up some horrid-sounding mental alarms. 2: If you are similarly enamoured of HST but the word ‘Transmetropolitan’ means nothing to you, go now to your nearest bookstore / library / internet-shopping-thing. Now. You have your homework; report back. The rest of you — you unfortunate normals — you should check it out too. But let the proper people at it, first.
Beer style names are often rather odd, when you think about them too much. Which I do on occasion, perhaps unsurprisingly. My favourite example of late concerns a recent (delightful) trend in craft brewing circles which has seen the release of several dark-and-hoppy / hoppy-and-dark beers.
If you take the rich black malty base as your starting point, you might see these as hoppy porters and one instance of the broader modern hoppy-x phenomenon. But if you start from the hop focus instead, then these look like IPAs with the malt darkened to the limit.
Both starting points lead to clumsy potential names for the style, as it emerges. “American style porter” carries the unfortunate implication that the United States is synonymous with hoppiness and that sort of lumping is just a bit much like suggesting that “Belgian” equals boozy and “English” equals not-very-bubbly. Even if a nation does do something particularly well, I just can’t shake my discomfort with having their name in the style’s name.1 The other extreme usually leads to “Black IPA”, which is peculiar for the rather-obvious reason that the ‘P’ in IPA stands for pale and ‘black’ pretty much entirely implies not pale.
I don’t really have a good suggestion for how to fix all this, but I can say that I emphatically reject Deschutes’ attempt here to coin “Cascadian Dark Ale” / “C.D.A.”. That’s just awful. It sounds horrendously smarmy in its full version, and too much like “seedy, eh?” in its abbreviated form. And what about beers that don’t opt for Cascade or generally-Cascadey hops? For what its worth, I vote No on C.D.A., while at the same time voting Hell Yes on another one of the beer itself, please.
I’m loving this style, whatever it winds up being called, and this is a bloody lovely example of it. Huge and rich, and with a many-fronted hoppy component that makes instant nonsense all over again of the one-dimensional name. Even when you know what you’re getting into with these things, the fruity nose is still a pleasant shock — the brain’s connection between this sort of appearance and more-traditional porter / stout is pretty strong yet, I suppose. This one just struck me like a fantastic fruit salad from some parallel universe in which chocolate is also a fruit.
And, enjoyably, this turned out to be a rare exception to the way in which taking photos of your beer tends to get you laughed at — here, it got me laughed with. My Newfoundlander friend Jillian (over here on an extended holiday, part of which she spent working with us at the Malthouse) took the opportunity to show off (or just entirely ad lib and invent; I’m not sure) her light-writing skill by ‘signing’ my glass with my trusty beer-illuminating cigarette lighter. It’s a pretty good result (though, if we’re being entirely honest, there were several hilariously-crap early attempts, which I’ll spare you), and gave me a crash-course in the long-exposure settings on my new camera. Bloody marvellous.
Verbatim: Deschutes ‘Hop in the Dark’ C.D.A. 3/3/11 @ MH from my stash. 1pt 6floz ÷ 2 w/ Peter, after a nice night out @ Hop Garden. The Emerson’s dinner was on, which had a side-effect of letting us hang with a bunch of regulars. This seemed suitably weighty. I do love the Black IPA, as much as I resist this silly name. It’s massively dark, with a surprisingly fruit nose. Just what you need. Like fruit salad, if chocolate was a fruit, as well.
1: I’m okay with “American Pale Ale”, though. Which is possibly just old-fashioned inconsistency, though I might defend myself by noting that APA certainly did emerge from the U.S., and that the national adjective pegs to the varieties of hops and their character rather than just the raw notion of their presence and intensity.
This is possibly the best instance of a Beer for the Occasion yet recorded in the Diary. After my visit to Hashigo, I wandered back to the Malthouse just before closing to have a beer with Stefan — he’d been our doorman for just over a year, but this was his last night as he was leaving to take over running a bar out in the Hutt. With the help of one of our regulars, I picked this beer from my stash, since it was a Mocha Porter for our Mocha Doorman. But then it lately dawned on me the pun works three times over:
roguenoun 2. a mischievous scamp
mochaadj. of a brown colour, like mocha coffee
porternoun 2(1). a person in control of the entrance to a building (wiktionary.org)
So, a Rogue Mocha Porter for our departing rogue mocha porter. How freaking perfect. Then I just went and piled on the puns — I am really quite seriously unable to help myself, on that score — and noted down the beer itself as smooth but with a bit of a bitter sting, again just like Stefan. Heh.
But that really does bring me nicely to the subject of doormen. We must be one of the more difficult doors to work, in this town; we’re a very civilised little bar, really, but we’re right on the big crazy noisy yahoo-laden party strip. So while we’re a fairly calm sort of a place, we do get our share of Collateral Muppets. Our doormen are our filters, and the best of them (by which I mean Stefan, and Rod, who worked our door for years — before it was in its present location, even) have this freakish, Jedi-like ability to wave away People Who Aren’t Really Our People without being a dick about it or resorting to silly pretend rules about the quality of a person’s shoes or whatnot. All the way, they keep everyone smiling — usually even those rare people who actually need to be eventually escorted from the premises. But damn, if things cross a line, the transformation from Amicable and Welcoming all the way to Serious and Scary is instant and awesome. It’s uncommon enough that a person would possess both temperaments, and exceedingly rare that they’d then also have the skill to flip from one to the other seamlessly and exactly when needed.
Big smiley Jedi like Stefan (and Rod) fit our little bar just perfectly, and in combination with our small staff and its higher-than-usual (for the industry, and for this street in particular) level of Giving a Damn, we’ve had some freakin’ excellent nights when all the smart money would be on carnage and chaos and constant annoyance for all concerned. He’ll be missed, but — much like the earlier one with Scott — it wasn’t a bleak, depressing Farewell, since the new gig does seem like such a good fit. Next time I’m out in the wilds of the Hutt Valley — I’m not just reflexively knocking the place, per Wellingtonian tradition; I used to live there — I’ll have to take the family and go visit.
Verbatim: Rogue Mocha Porter 26/2/11 12 floz 5.1% ÷ 2 w/ Stefan, on his last night @ MH. Mocha Porter for our Mocha Doorman. It’s big + smooth + chocolatey, like Stefan. And a little bit bitter at the end, like Stefan. Heh. And I have to give credit to Annika for the joke / beer pick. There were a few candidates, but this is freakin’ perfect.
Not long after I showed up, Dave signed off and joined me, perched at the bar. He’d been bought a big bottle of this during the fundraiser night, and he split it with me. Which was extra-good, since it’s not often that two bartenders / Beer Nerds get to actually sit and have a beer, given that one or other (or both, obviously) of us is usually working.
They’d had this on tap at Hashigo as part of their recent haul of Western United States goodies, and Dave was instantly taken aback by how much milder it was out of the bottle. It was probably down to the bottle stock being older than the kegs they got — hoppy beers do calm down considerably over time, in the main. There may have been a bit of batch-to-batch variance going on here, too — that being another one of the joys of smallish breweries. Consistency is not an absolute virtue and uniformity is for supermarket stock; anyone demanding it of craft beer is a chump.
Mild-er as it may have been (I didn’t try the on-tap stuff), it was hardly mild per se, and we were agreed that it was pretty damn delightful and incredibly drinkable for a seven-percenter. The malt was nicely rich and smooth, and would’ve easily balanced out considerably higher hoppiness but was inherently delicious even in its absence. After my similar experience of Just Bloody Delightful-ness with their ‘Autumn Harvest Ale’, I’ll have to keep my eye out for these guys; I think there are still a few more in the haul.
And I can’t help but notice that this makes a hat-trick of Diary entries from Hashigo’s little basement beer bunker. Not a bad run at all.
Verbatim: Coronado ‘Islander’ IPA 26/2/11 1pt 6floz 7% bottle bought for Dave Wood, generously split with me. Nice bronze-gold, apparently a whole lot milder than what they had on tap. Probably a batch difference. Really lovely + drinkable, not a big wallop, surprisingly. Rich + smooth malt. Doesn’t taste more than 5% like this.
I’d been out for a nice catch-up in the sunshine with some friends who’d just returned from the far side of the world — and being me, I therefore needed some time in the shade. Hashigo’s basement beer-haven was the pretty-obvious refuge for me between the waterfront and work.
Since their tap range changes so dizzyingly-often, a little Taster Tour is mandatory, and never a chore. I had a sample of this, first, and can’t even remember exactly what the bigger / crazier things offered to me afterwards were; there was just something irresistible about it. I’d never heard of it, and the best that some surrounding Beer Nerds could do by way of description was to tell me it was basically a Märzen — and I’ll confess to not really having much idea just what the hell that entailed (though, from what I’ve read since, it seems a pretty good fit). I often say that there’s often a particular joy to be had in trying a beer about which you know basically nothing, and this was one of those times.
I was a wonderfully enjoyable pint, filled with all sorts of interesting angles, but never overdoing things in any direction. The colour of it was particularly striking (with or without sneaky back-lighting tricks), and maybe its redness was part of what helped put me in mind of deliciously snappy apples when trying to pin down the crispness of the body. An incredibly charming beer, I can imagine it comfortably fitting any number of moods. Which makes it a shame that I’ll have to travel pretty far to get another. Unless Hashigo have another keg stashed away somewhere.
Verbatim: Coronado ‘Autumn Harvest Ale’ 24/2/11 on tap @ HZ 5% Had a few wheat beers in the sun w/ Aran & Maeve, stopped by here and was bombarded with tasters. This was first, and I’ve returned to it for its oddness + goodness. Pale + ambery, about which I know nothing. Which is always nice. Fruity + full + balanced + different. Not a hop bomb. Lovely. Crisp, like red apples. Just a really nice pint.