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.

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.’

Of Tuataras and The Treasury

Reprinted from the Wellingtonian, my latest column titled “Hatching a new Tuatara“:

With the expansion completed, Carl is turning his formidable brewing brain to more new offerings and is planning some special big brews. These, he says, could include a stout, a “nice American Pale Ale” or a “big Belgian triple on the yeast, champagne corked and wired so it would age.”

This week I also ran a beer tasting for The Treasury:

It was in the hallowed halls of The Treasury that I ran my first ever beer tasting. The year was 2003 and the big worry then was bird flu rather than swine flu. How far we have come. It was attended by exactly eight people and around half the beers we tried that night are no longer brewed today. It was a very different event last night when twenty people sat down to a value for money buffet and, more importantly, to taste six New Zealand craft brews.

Beerly Tasting and the Winter Solstice

Last week I ran the second annual beer tasting for the Ministry for Culture and Heritage:

I made a mistake – the same mistake as last year. According to my carefully designed beer menu, I was running a tasting at the Ministry of Culture and Heritage. Such an august body does not exist and indeed never has in New Zealand. It is the Ministry for Culture and Heritage though in my defence even the former Prime Minister used to make the same mistake though she probably didn’t have it pointed out to her in the same way I did. Any insinuation that there is a Ministry of Culture and Heritage is erroneous, untrue and quite possible flocculent.

Last night I attended the launch of Mac’s new winter beer Solstice:

Mac’s Solstice is a five malt beer, fermented from a mix of Pale malt, Vienna malt, caramalt, Dark Crystal and Chocolate malt. The Hop component comes from southern Cross and Fuggles, while Horopito adds some mouth-warming clove and pepper aromas.

Beer tastings, so many beer tastings…

On friday night I ran a beer tasting for the good people at Telecom and the report and results are now up on the site:

The hardest aspect of last Friday’s beer tasting was finding the right building. There are five identical units on the site and I spent several awkward minutes in the wrong one. After locating the correct Telecom office, I had the chance to talk thirty enthusiastic punters through a selection of Kiwi craft beers and an iconic Belgian strong ale. One of the staff even produced some great food matches for the beers with his culinary feat made all the impressive by the fact he had to Google a few of the beers to because he’d never heard of them.

The night before I had run my third tasting at Thomson Reuters and the results are also in:

It is always a good sign when a company starts calling their beer tastings “an annual event.” Last Thursday I visited Thomson Reuters to run their third annual tasting session. As always, their questions and comments kept me on my toes as we worked through a selection of New Zealand craft beers and the traditional big Belgian closer. At the end of the evening the popular vote was very close with one beer making the podium for the very first time.

Beerly Writing – Winter Warmers and Beer Talk

The May Cellar Vate beer tasting looked at “Winter Warmers” in appropiately wintery conditions:

The theme of this beer tasting – Winter Warmers – was selected as the last vestiges of autumn still lay snugly over the Capital. By the time the anointed time arrived, the weather had conveniently provided a week of cold, gales and rain to really set the scene for a selection of darker, stronger, warming beers. Forty people tried a range of dark lagers, porters, stouts and dubbels in the Cabinet Room at the Backbencher.

Over at the Malthouse blog, the latest post, “Lets talk about beer“, looks at the subtle art of beer writing and Cooper’s Stout:

Liquor aficionado Frank Kelly Rich once penned a thoughtful piece on why beer appreciation (or “beer snobbery” as he called it) was superior in virtually every way to wine snobbery. Of course, Mr Rich considers anyone who drinks out of a glass rather than a furtive paper bag to be a bit of snob really. Fundamentally, he argued that beer snobs had it better because the dress code was more casual, there was no need to learn French and you could basically make everything up because no-one really knows what they are talking about when it comes to beer.

Glass Tips – The Backbencher and The Malthouse