Beer Tasting on the Water and the Year in Beer (USA)

The final beer tasting results for the year come from the session I ran for Jeff Gray BMW:

December 2009 was the busiest month I have ever had for beer tastings. At the final count, I did ten tastings and two tours over a fifteen day stretch. While many of the locations were familiar (Mac’s Brewery viewing platform, the lounge at Malthouse), others were new and spectacular. The venue for the Jeff Gray BMW Christmas function was the Mana Cruising Club up the coast and I ran a beer appreciation session on the spacious balcony overlooking the ocean (and totally sheltered from the rather boisterous wind thankfully).

An interesting perspective on the “Year in Beer” in America was provided by Joshua M Bernstein from Slash Food:

During the first half of 2009, craft brewing grew 5 percent by volume and 9 percent by dollars, numbers made more astounding when you consider that overall beer sales nose-dived 1.3 percent.

Why are microbreweries bucking the economic trend? It’s a matter of taste. Increasingly, brew drinkers “are attracted to flavor and variety, new and different products and beers made by small, local and independent companies,” says Brewers Association director Paul Gatza.

Glass Tip – Rach from Yellow Brick Road food company (best seafood in the country!)

More tastings with a view and Tactical Nuclear Penguins

At another beer tasting with a view, the MSO Design tasting last week generated the most extraordinary results in years:

The usual vote was anything but usual. There was a clear winner on the first ballot but a record three beers were initially tied for second. A further run-off vote failed to separate them with the beers again tied. The only option was to declare all three tied for second place – a first in over five years of these tasting sessions.

Delightfully deranged Scottish brewers BrewDog have claimed the world record for strongest beer with their new 32% leviathan Tactical Nuclear Penguin. The full release (including authenication of alcoholic strength is on their website:

The Antarctic name inducing schizophrenia of this uber-imperial stout originates from the amount of time it spent exposed to extreme cold. This beer began life as a 10% imperial stout 18 months ago. The beer was aged for 8 months in an Isle of Arran whisky cask and 8 months in an Islay cask making it our first double cask aged beer. After an intense 16 month, the final stages took a ground breaking approach by storing the beer at -20 degrees for three weeks to get it to 32%.

Beerly Tasting – Telecom and DesignX

One of the highlights of last week was a big, energetic tasting at Telecom:

It was a tasting that had pretty much everything: a full range of New Zealand craft beers, over 40 eager participants, a giant plastic pager advertising the event, excellent food matches for every beer from “Iron Chef Jonno”, a close popular vote and, of course, a guy in a full lion suit called “Mr Lion Brown” who had a bottle opener attached to his tail.

Last night I had the chance to run a fun little tasting for a ‘book club with a view’ which was organised by DesignX:

High in the hills of Northland (the Wellington suburb rather than the northern most region of New Zealand) I ran a beer tasting for a “book club”. Like most “book clubs” around the country, there was no reading involved but there was a lot of banter and good humour. It was hosted and organised by innovative web design company DesignX. The intention was to sample an introductory range of New Zealand craft beers, enjoy some snacks and marvel at one of the best panoramic views I’ve had at a tasting.

Glass Tip – Centre City Wines and Spirits for the supplies

Beerly Tasting – IRD and MAF (The Acronym Sessions)

It has been a busy month of beer tastings. Here are the latest two reports including the results of the public vote for best beer. First up is the IRD’s ‘Movemberfest’ tasting:

Every time I begin to think that there is a finite number of themes for beer tasting events, someone comes up with a new one. In this case, the IRD Social Club wanted a “Movemberfest” tasting. It was to have a Belgian, French and German-inspired vibe though it would mainly showcase New Zealand beers. The decorations showed David Hasselhoff – for some reason. Thankfully there were no mo’s in evidence.

I also ran a fun little session for the folks at MAF:

Last week I had the welcome opportunity to return to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to run another tasting. Over 20 people crowded into the meeting room to sample a selection of some of the best craft beers in New Zealand. Because Wellington is such a small place, one of the tasters was my old boss from the Treasury days.

Beerly Writing – The Wellingtonian: Craft beer defies the recession

My latest column in the Wellingtonian covers the state of the beer market in New Zaland and Tuatara’s debut on the Deloitte Fast 50 list. It is titled “Craft beer defies the recession“:

Brewers are, in general, remarkable people. Given only toasted barley, the flowers of a vine, clean water and a single-cell organism which usually makes bread, they can manufacture delicious, quenching beers. Confronted with those same ingredients, most normal people could only produce a slushy muesli which smelt like a barnyard and tasted of a teenagers sock drawer. Or worse – Victoria Bitter.

Beer Haiku Friday and Tasting at the Backbencher

Beer Haiku Friday exposes the best way to watch the fireworks with a poem called, unsurprisingly, “Fireworks“:

at my secret spot
with a wagon full of beer
watching fireworks

The October Backbencher beer tasting had the theme “Best of Brew NZ“:

The October Backbencher beer tasting had a “Best of Brew NZ” theme. A number of senior MPs were spotted in the immediate vicinity though they were probably present for the filming of “Backbenchers” (TVNZ 7) rather than the beer. There were over 370 entries in this year’s Brew NZ Beer Awards and only 23% of them received medals. This month’s selection showcased a range of medal winning beers accompanied by some fine food matches from the kitchen.

Glass Tips – Beer Haiku Daily and Backbencher

Beerly Tasting – Stats and Met Service

Here is the report from the recent tasting at Statistics NZ:

Over the years, Statistics New Zealand has been one of my most regular and favourite beer tasting clients. Last night, I ran my seventh tasting for their staff club. As usual, it was raining. That did not deter thirty two participants who seemed to enjoy trying a range of Kiwi craft beers. The offerings included some of the last Smokin’Bishop in the city. This year’s Three Boys Golden was also making its first appearance at one of my sessions.

That same busy week, I ran my first tasting up at the Met Service:

Last night I ran a beer tasting for the social club up at the Met Service. The venue was perched at the very top of the Kelburn hills and the room was filled with over 30 eager participants. I put together an introductory menu but it was only much later that it was (correctly) suggested to me that including Dux de Lux Nor’ Wester Pale Ale or Sou’ Wester Stout would have been both appropriate and tasty. However, this event did give me the chance to list my Facebook status as “off to run a beer tasting at the Met Service. The forecast is for ale storms.”

The results of the popular vote each night are in the reports.

Putting Beer in Context and A Tasting Report

From the Malthouse blog, a post on “Beer in its proper context” which covers why Fiji Bitter tastes better in Fiji, (Sir) Jeremy Clarkson on Chinese beer and details of the new beers coming on tap in October (including the debut from Golden Ticket):

The thing is, it was exactly the same (awful) beer but they were also quite right that it tasted much better in Fiji. Why precisely that was the case quickly became clear when I enquired about how they drank the beer in Fiji. Essentially, they all drank ice-cold Fiji Bitter in the hot sun, by the pool, relaxing on holiday while being waited on by someone young, attractive and largely naked.

In contrast, the Fiji Bitter they had in Wellington was served cool-ish, the rain was lashing against the spartan meeting room’s windows, it had been a busy working week and the beer was being served by a husky chap in a Hawaiian shirt. It is all about context.

Last week I braved blizzards and public transport to run a beer tasting out at Wallaceville:

I ran my first beer tasting in Upper Hutt last week. It was for the Social Society out at the biosecurity complex in Wallaceville and it turned out to be a great night despite Wellington producing some of the worst weather of the year. What happened to spring and global warming Mr Gore? Anyway, the idea was to offer up an introductory selection of New Zealand craft beer to an audience which contained more than one person who initially thought they ‘didn’t like beer.’

Beer Awards and Beer Tasting

The biggest week on the New Zealand beer calendar is over. The BrewNZ Beer Awards attracted a record number of entries while Beervana attracted a record number of attendees. The winners were honoured at the awards dinner last Thursday and the full results are now up on the Brewer’s Guild website. The highlight of the evening was Emerson’s Brewing Company being crowned Champion Brewery 2009.

Pre-Beervana, I had the pleasure of running a beer tasting for the diplomatic folks at MFAT:

The role of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been occasionally described by outsiders as ‘drinking for one’s country.’ It was therefore slightly surprising that it had been a couple of years since I had last run a beer tasting session for the MFAT social club. The organiser of the previous event is, rather ironically, now posted to a completely dry country though I’m sure there is no causal relationship.

Finally, to the hundreds of correspondents who almost over-loaded the Real Beer server with emails wanting to know what happened to Beer Haiku Friday, you will be pleased to learn that normal service will resume this week.

Beerly Tasting – Lawyers and Belgians

Last Friday I ran an introductory beer tasting at DLA Phillips Fox:

As a warm up to the successful Wellington Ranfurly Shield defence against Otago, I had the chance to run a beer tasting for staff and clients of one of Wellington’s big law firms, DLA Phillips Fox. It was an introductory beer selection which was accompanied by an impressive amount of food including paua fritters, chicken wings and ribs. One corner of the table had a big pile of bones which made it look like the Flintstones had dropped in to try some brews.

The July tradition continues with the annual Belgian Beer Tasting at the Backbencher:

July 21 is Nationale Feestdag. This is, of course, the National Day of Belgium and it celebrates the 178th anniversary of the coronation of King Leopold I. I suspect everyone already knew that. He is not still there obviously but I suspect everyone knew that too. More than just a chance to toast the Belgian monarchy, it is an excuse to settle down and sample some of the very best beers from the land sometimes called “the paradise of beer.”