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.

High on hops: Pale Ales

About a year and a half ago I discovered real beer. Not this cold, wet, tasteless swill that pretends to be beer. But real beer that tastes of malt and hops – or in the beers I tend to like hops, hops and more hops. I’m a hophead. And that’s why I love Pale Ales. Originally the term Pale Ale meant any ale (as opposed to lager) that was lighter in colour but over the last few years it has shrunk to define a subset of beer styles that share three characteristics – moderate alcohol levels (from about 5%), a pale colour ranging from amber to copper and noticeable hop flavour profile.

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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.”

Small breweries work to improve their game

Arrow Brewing has just been established in Arrowtown by four partners, and head brewer John Timpany says he is having trouble keeping them out of the place.

Set in The Oaks in a mall in the town centre, the brewery-pub offers several of its own beers plus Dunedin-based Emerson’s and Christchurch-based Wigram Brewing as well as wines and pizzas, pies and filled rolls.

The brews are on tap, with no plans to bottle – although future wider distribution in kegs is possible.

“It is hard to make a beer that pleases everyone,” Mr Timpany says, and he wants to therefore produce a wide range of different-tasting beers.

Tasting trays are available at The Oaks: they are a good way of finding a brew you prefer.

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Beerly Writing – The Final Round for 2008

From the latest issue of the Free Radical, here is my column on Lagers:

Michael Jackson, reminded even hardened ale drinkers that they should not be blinded to the qualities of good, traditional beer made by bottom fermentation. This is because bottom-fermenting yeasts produce a cleaner tasting, rounded beer. He asks (rhetorically) “which is better: a winey-tasting Lambic – a fruity, complex ale – or a clean, rounded lager? Assuming that the beer is good, my choice might depend upon the moment, my mood, and the place or time at which I was drinking the beer.”

This article was written in April but not published until December.

Much more recently, the Malthouse blog has the latest post on beers from Asia:

Beer in China can be incredibly cheap. We worked out that for one crate of beer bought from the corner mini-mart it was literally 28 cents for a 500ml bottle. You can forgive a few flaws at that price. The Malthouse stocks two fine Asian lagers though the price is somewhat higher than the Beijing markets. Of course, you can trying bargaining with the staff but I doubt the price will come down. It may even go up.

Beerly Blogging: Scottish beers and Booky

From the Malthouse blog, a post which talks about Saint Patrick, Colin the Handsome Scotsman and, eventually, two beers from Belhaven. It is called “Och aye the noo

After a introduction so long it would make Jeremy Clarkson blush, the next post profiles New Zealand’s most sessionable ale. This piece is modestly titled “the true power of Bookbinder“.

Honey, leaves and flowers in a thymely brew

Emerson Brewing has released a thymely beer to coincide with the festival.

Central Otago thyme honey and thyme leaves and flowers have been added to an ale to create Emerson’s Thyme (4.7% alcohol).

Old herbal recipes used thyme to ease throat infections, colds, coughs, bronchitis, for shrinking swollen nasal passages and easing menstrual pain.

In Asian medicine it is a remedy for diarrhoea, itching, toothache and vomiting.

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Beer – The only known cure for a case of the “Mondays”

Here is the full report on the latest tasting session at the Backbencher:

The theme for the September session of the Cellar-Vate beer tasting club was the unique “Dark and Ducky.” This moniker was devised to cover a combination of dark beers and the bottled range from the Dux de Lux. The 50 people in attendance had the Dux beers presented to them by the legendary Dick Fyfe. Given Dux de Lux means “masters of the finest”, I speculated in spectacularly poor Latin that this would make Dick the Dux de Dux de Lux – the master of the masters of the finest. I doubt it will catch on and it would never fit on his business card in any case.

Next, the first ever beer tasting event at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage:

On Friday night, I had the chance to run a fun little beer tasting at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage (who I accidentally called the Ministry of Culture and Heritage on the tasting menu and was immediately chastised. You never stop learning in this job.)

Finally, a write up in the Herald of a recent boutique beer tour:

Miller – a beer writer and expert who knows everything you could about beer as well as anyone who matters in the Wellington bar scene – is great company. He must be the only person I’ve met who carries around hops and barley in his bag.

In my defence, I usually only have hops and barley in my bag when I’m running a tour or a tasting!

September Salient Points

This Salient magazine column casts an Eye Over the Monteith’s Beer and Wild Food Challenge results:

Over at the Southern Cross, their wild boar loin was guarded by a “jelly which will stare you down.” Like a scene from Lord of the Rings, the plate was crowned by a single all-knowing sheep’s eye encased in Pilsner jelly. Suspending the eyeball exactly in the middle of the Pilsner cube is apparently no mean culinary feat. There may well be a thesis in there for a science student with a particular interest in jelly.

Next, an in-depth look at Beer and Politics in the most intelligent electorate in the country:

Politics and beer go together like VUWSA and financial mismanagement. With the general election approaching, it seemed timely to put the genuinely tough questions to the candidates standing for Wellington Central. This column is not distracted by peripheral issues like tax cuts, mysterious trusts or secret agendas. No, the key issue is what beer the candidates like and where they like to drink it.

Lastly, a glimpse of the Beers of Asia:

An unkind critic once claimed that saying that your country’s beers were better than Japanese beer was like saying your country’s food was better than English food. That is a tad unfair. The Japanese do make very drinkable pale lagers and many of them reach our shores (albeit with hefty price tags).

Beerly Writing – July

From the pages of The Wellingtonian newspaper, a column on beer at the Wellington food show:

Once through the gates, the first question facing every attendee at the Food Show is “left or right?” My decision to go left was immediately vindicated as virtually the first stall I saw was the Epic Brewing Company from Auckland. The impish brewer Luke Nicholas was handing out samples of his crisp Epic Lager and massively hopped Epic Pale Ale to big and appreciative crowds.

From The Salient, a short but intense look at stupid beers:

While many students live by the creed that the best beer in the world is the one right in front of them (preferably that someone else paid for), there are some beers which are simply stupider than Paul Holmes in a burka.

Finally for this update, The Salient column on dark beers:

A surprising number of people have absolutely no idea how beers get a dark colour. Depressingly, the majority seem to think that artificial colour is simply added at some specified point in the brewing process and – hey presto – instant dark beer. Tragically, that is precisely how a couple of breweries do it.

Beer and Food Match of the Month: Proper French Roquefort cheese and Invercargill Smokin Bishop – magic.