Auckland Trip: Day Two – Part One

Following the publication of the day one in Auckland blogs, I have received literally hundreds of emails. Unfortunately, the vast majority are from generous lawyers in Nigeria needing my help with US$64,000,000 risk-free or special offers to upsize my manhood now. Just for the record, in answer to the frequently asked question “did you do anything in Auckland you didn’t write about last time” – the answer is yes. You are actually reading the short version. I’m saving the rest (including my strong opinions on how my bacon was cooked) for the directors cut.

Our story begins early on day two as our hero leaves the sumptuous Shakespeare Hotel. I stroll down Albert Street pausing only to buy a newspaper from a from small shop. The wizened shopkeeper conducts three transactions without saying a word or making any real eye contact. I barely resist the urge to gather my change and jauntily say “no, thank you sir!”

I write up my notes from the day before at Ronnies Cafe. As alert readers have noticed (and commented), the words came flooding out. After 45 minutes of scribbling (I was once told it must be handy for me to know shorthand but they were talking about my hand writing), it was time to sort out my plans for the day.

The previous evening – where I left early and the photos from Luke below show that was probably a good idea – there had been some grand talk of Luke showing me round the Auckland Belgian Beer Cafes before I was due to have a chat with Keith at Galbraiths (3pm), David Cryer at the Shakespeare (4pm) and Barry at the Shakespeare (5pm). Things were looking (happily) complicated.

The Belgian Beer Cafe situation was made simpler by a call from Luke “you are so soft” Nicholas pleading off the Belgians on the grounds he felt a bit “rocky” after the night before. He promised to show me around the Belgians when he felt less “rocky”. That was three weeks ago.

Having perhaps anticipated this turn of events, lunch time finds me on the balcony of the Shakespeare. The weather is mild with a gentle breeze. The barman (from Adnams country) tells me the pub will be extra busy because it is “chilly”. Soft Aucklanders. Gazing over the rail, I notice there are two karaoke bars within 50m of here. I recant all my Auckland comments.

It is time for the tasting tray. I’ve made a few comments on each beer to placate irate readers who said “um dude, perhaps you might want to talk about the beer a bit more given this is the realBEER BEER blog”…

Barraclough Lager (4.1%) – very pale, dry grass nose, mellow body, assertive finish. The drinkability is strong in this one.

Shakespeare Draught (4%) – A kiwi style draught with a candy sweet nose, toffee middle and a warm finish with little bitterness. A bit sweet for me but can see it appealing to many.

Bohemian Lager (5.5%) – The tasting sheet calls it “incomparable”. Dry grass nose, full body with a touch of dried spice in the finish. Robust, strong yet sessional.

MacBeths Red Ale (4%) – Scottish style (instead of the more common Irish Red style) which is consciously malt dominated. Very dark black-ruby colour, solid sweet chocolate/caramel malt nose with similar flavours in the glass. Late burnt notes provide astringency. Surprisingly light mouthfeel but smooth and well-constructed. A later sip reveals an iodine note.

Falstaffs Real Ale (4.3%) – Dry hopped English bitter. Rich brown colour, throws a creamy head, mellow beer with plenty of late spicy, lingering bitterness. Not much aroma to it this time.

Pistols Old Solider Ale (6.3%) – Described on the sheet as “more dangerous than a minefield” – awesome. I shudder to think what that would make the King Lear (8%) or the Pucks (11.1%) – a nuclear bomb perhaps? Black beer with an espresso head. Bitter chocolate nose, full coffee malt middle with burnt toast astringency at the end which lasts and lasts. Remarkable beer.

Willpower Stout (4%) – I have to look up “willpower” in the dictionary as it is not a term I am familiar with. English stout – not Irish. Black with a persistent head, sweet chocolate note, chocolate cookie body and a bitter burnt finish (though not to nearly the same degree as the Solider). Light mouthfeel for a stout. A pleasant sweet stout.

King Lear Old Ale (8%) – Very dark and the best head of the range in terms of longevity. Nose has malt sweetness and higher alcohols while the body is sweet with some fruitiness (luscious grapefruit). Dry and spicy finish completes a complex and engrossing beer.

And because everyone asks me, these were my favourites:

Pucks (not on the tray)
Bohemian Lager
Old Solider
Old Ale

As I go to leave the Shakespeare, I bump into Peter Freckleton at the bar. While talking to him, I am greeted by Theo (formerly from the Twisted Hop). Clearly good beer people know where to go for a pint in Auckland. What I know is that I’m due at Galbraiths… in the next instalment soon.

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