A Touch of Kiwi in Thornbridge Ales and Last Call for Mac’s in Wellington

The latest Malthouse blog looks at how far New Zealand brewing has come in ten years, unveils two Kiwi connections with the ground breaking Thornbridge Brewery in England, details the brewing of a strawberry and pink peppercorn stout and provides a visitor’s opinions on our local beer. It is called “A Touch of Kiwi in Thornbridge“:

Thornbridge Hall Country House Brewery (to use its full name) is an innovative, award-winning and passionate English brewery set up in 2004. One of the original brewers was a young brewing graduate called Martin Dickie. When Martin left to start up BrewDog in his native Scotland, Kiwi Kelly Ryan joined the team in his place. The first brewery Kelly had worked in was Tui and to this day he retains a bit of a soft spot for that ‘East India Pale Ale’. Fellow New Zealander and well known beer lover James Kemp has also joined the team at Thornbridge (though he has a quite different take on Tui.)

From The Wellingtonian, my validictory for the Wellington Mac’s Brewery which will be closing its doors next month. It is headlined “Last call for Mac’s Brewery“:

I have many fond memories, too: my first sip of Wicked Blonde; tasting sessions on the viewing platform when brewing was underway, the air filled with an aroma like fresh bread; watching people try Sassy Red with the chef’s rustic French terrine or Black Mac matched with blue cheese, gingernut biscuit and chocolate covered apricot. That was when people began to understand craft beer and the art of beer and food matching.

Lion to close the Mac’s Brewery in Wellington

Lion Nathan has decided to relocate the Mac’s Craft Beer production capability from Wellington to the Canterbury Brewery, Christchurch and close the Mac’s Brewery in Wellington.

The Wellington Brewery is a higher-cost facility relative to our other breweries but up until now we considered this a component of our investment in building the Mac’s brand and its reputation for brewing innovation.

However the brand has developed to a point where consumer adoration for Mac’s no longer depends on the Wellington Brewery underpinning the brand’s reputation for brewing innovation. The maturity of the Mac’s brand and the introduction of the Mac’s Brewbars throughout the country have contributed to this change in consumer attitude, to the extent that we can now no longer justify the expense of operating the Wellington Brewery.

Full Story

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.”

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.

The Thursday Pint – Tuatara’s New Drop and Ale Tasting

In big brewing news, Tuatara are launching their first new beer in several years at the Malthouse in Wellington tonight. The beer is Tuatara Helles and the details are in the latest Malthouse blog post aptly titled “Fancy a pint of the new Tuatara?“:

The two sweetest words in the English Language, according to Homer J Simpson, philosopher, role model and pneumatic cerevisaphile, are “de fault”. However, I tend to think that Pete Brown, beer writer, global pub crawler and all-round bearded bloke, has it right when he suggests that “fancy a pint” is about the most appealing invitation you can get which involves remaining fully dressed.

Last night the Cellar Vate beer tasting group sampled some of the best ales from around New Zealand (and Tui). The full report and results are up now:

The April session of the Cellar-Vate Beer Club was a search for New Zealand’s best ale. Forty people tasted ales new and old brewed in a mix of contemporary and classic styles. They also tried Tui, a self-proclaimed East India Pale Ale, to see how it stacked up against the real stuff.

Beerly Writing – Beers that demand attention and Brewjolais

From The Wellingtonian, my column on (helping) to make Mac’s Brewjolais 2009. It is called “World First Wellington Beer“:

I made a beer. Well, technically I helped make a beer by taking notes and snapping pictures while other people did all the actual work. My sole responsibility was to check the map and figure out how much we would miss the Cook Strait Ferry by. The answer was one minute.

Over at the Malthouse blog, the latest post covers beers that stand out in a crowded market, sneaking, oysters, Australian breweries and, eventually, King Cobra. The post is entitled “Getting the Drinker’s Attention“:

Most beer writers are not genetically constructed to be proficient at sneaking. It turns out that I am particularly poor at sneaking quietly through beer festivals. My plan was to conduct a quiet reconnoitre of the sprawling Beer and Brewer Expo in the Melbourne Showgrounds. There were a lot of brands that were unfamiliar to me and, after I had run my three beer and cheese sessions, I wanted to ensure I used my seventeen or so hours on site effectively.

Hits and Misses in the World of Beer

This new feature will discuss some of the big and not-so-big issues in the beer scene and provide a positive spin (hit) and a negative interpretation (miss) for each. There is a vague intention that this will be a fortnightly column but the chances of that actually happening are about the same as Parekura Horomia taking up parkour. The links in the column will generally be worth a click too…

HIT: My guests round watching Wellington win the Ranfurly Shield from Auckland each bought Tuatara beers.
MISS: My guests round watching Wellington win the Ranfurly Shield from Auckland each drank Tuatara straight out of the bottle.

HIT: Going away drinks for Mac’s Head Brewer Colin Paige.
MISS: The fact that Mac’s Head Brewer Colin Paige is going away.

HIT: The Corona foosball ball table at Mac’s Bar 22 where one team is little bottles and the other team are little limes.
MISS: I don’t have one yet.

HIT: The Yeastie Boys Pot Kettle will be the next guest beer at D4 in Wellington. Pot Kettle was won the random draw which will be used to select future guest beers (within reason – no Leon Rouge for example.)
MISS: D4 owner Dermot can persuade leprechauns to start fights with Mike Tyson but even he is struggling to convince people that it really was a random draw.

HIT: Epic Pale Ale is now in 500ml bottles.
MISS: I don’t have one yet.

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: Salient Points

From Victoria University’s student newspaper Salient, my beer column on Tui:

My historical research suggests a somewhat different course of events. The surge in Tui’s popularity was caused by clever marketing and aggressive sponsorship. It actually occurred despite the popularity of the drop at Palmerston North Polytech (known locally as Massey University). Young readers will need to know that this all happened back when Massey did not have more branches than Wishbone.

To redemn myself, the next column was on Mac’s Brewjolais:

In the 2006 vintage, the bitterness was more than noticeable –— it left your palate feeling like it had just poked Jerry Collins with a stick. I loved it. In 2007, the beer was more balanced but bordered on generic. This time, Mac’s have created a beer which tastes unique — it is one of the few beers which genuinely stands out from the crowd. It has recaptured the spirit of Brewjolais.

Finally, a warning about the increasing price of beer:

There is a clear and present danger that, in very near future, beer prices are going to rise higher than the waistline of Stephen Fleming’s pants on that terrible advert for heat pumps.