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.’

Top 6 “Must Try” New Zealand Beers – 2009

With 50 small breweries in New Zealand there is a massive number of beers one must try to find the best the country makes. So if you are just starting your search for the best New Zealand beers, or someone just visiting New Zealand with limited time on your hands, here are the Top 6 “Must Try” New Zealand beers.

These beers are world class, coming from the most innovative and adventurous brewers in New Zealand. If you have the time, try the rest of the beers from these breweries you will be seriously satisfied. Actually this list probably lists the top 6 best breweries in New Zealand.

(Note: this list is based on the beer being available in bottle, also the ranking lists the beers based on availability (i.e. number of outlets it’s available in). It’s hard to list the great beers from brewpubs as they are only in one location, and batches vary, or are extremely small)

1. Epic Armageddon IPA – from the brewers of the Supreme Award winning Epic Pale Ale comes Armageddon IPA. This beer was inspired by a trip to San Diego in 2008, and drinking many of the mind blowing hoppy double and imperial IPA’s on offer. This beer breaks new ground for massive hop useage in New Zealand. Brewed using US grown Simcoe, Columbus, Centennial and Cascade, it’s a hop monster. In a country where most people don’t even understand what craft beer is, this beer is light years ahead of its time. If brewed on the West Coast of the USA, people would understand why. Its all about the hops. 6.66% alc/vol Buy Now

2. Invercargill Smokin Bishop – who would have thought that one of the most envelope pushing beers in New Zealand would come from the conservative south, and would be a big smokey Rauchbier style. This beer is all about the awesome huge smokey aroma and flavour. When people try this they are just blown away on every front, aroma, flavour, and the fact it is from New Zealand. Way to go Steve. Actually Invercargill Brewery is now coming of age and the whole range is very solid and well made, and each beer should be tried. 7.0% alc/vol Buy Now

3. Three Boys Oyster Stout – with actual Bluff oysters used in the brewing process, some even say they get a briny note. This beer is a glorious stout and one that should be hunted down and tried, and better yet if you can find it on tap. (inside tip, try Pomeroys in Christchruch for it on tap). As with the previous two beers, this is currently only a seasonal release, and as with what might happen to the above two also, the success and demand for these beers are likely to see the season available extended to all four seasons. There are some world class beer available in New Zealand. Buy Now

4. Mussel Inn Captain Cooker – first brewed by Captain Cook on his discovery of New Zealand, this beer uses freshly picked tips from the Manuka tree. This beer is amazingly floral and fragrant to the point you give it a double take, not actually believing that a beer could possibly smell like this. The intensity is only slightly less in the flavour, and is remarkably drinkable. Not only is this an incredibly flavourful beer but is uniquely New Zealand. It may even contain health benefits but you aren’t allow to imply that in relation to alcohol, but wasn’t that why Captain Cook used it in the first place? 4.0% alc/vol Buy Now

5. Hallertau Porter Noir – this is another beer inspired by the cutting edge of craft brewing on the planet – “beers with bugs”. If you get it, you get it, and I just don’t have room here to explain. This is a porter style beer aged for 4 months in oak barrels previously used for pinot noir wine, which is infected with Brettanomyces. Sounds pretty dumb to put beer in a barrel that is infected with spoilage organisms, but wait till you try this beer, WOW. This beer is complex, it goes beyond beer, with flavours from the wood, hints from the wine, and the additional fermentation from the Brett. which gives it a sourness. You have to try it. 6.6% alc/vol

6. The Twisted Hop Sauvin Pilsner – this is the best example of the use of New Zealand hops in a beer available in New Zealand. Many breweries here just miss the point, and either get the variety wrong and get it too grassy and harsh, or go the other way where it has too much passionfruit and tropical notes. The Sauvin Pilsner nails it. The hop aroma and flavour is still very prominent but the balance is awesome which is why this is a must try. Possibly best to try it on tap at The Twisted Hop. 5.0% alc/vol

Which is your “Must Try” New Zealand Beer – 2009(polls)


Yes, that’s right – sometime in September, some looser has lifted it from the Mussel Inn mantelpiece and there’ll be no competition if there aint no trophy. Anyone who knows anything which will lead to the return of the trophy and a spanking never to be forgotten of the slimey culprit will be handsomely rewarded with copious quantities of Mussel Inn beers and ciders

Full Story

Beerly Writing – Around the Traps

From The Wellingtonian, the Malthouse gets Captain Cooker and Chimay White on Tap:

Captain James Cook was a sailor, a navigator, an explorer, a cartographer and a brewer. He personally made the first batch of beer in Australasia at Dusky Sound in 1773. The production of beer, which was safer and healthier than water on the ships, was considered so important it was common for the Captain himself to do the brewing. Cook’s recipe is recorded in voluminous detail in his log which also modestly notes the resulting beer was “exceedingly palatable and esteemed by everyone on board.”

From Beer and Brewer magazine, a profile of the one and only Mr Richard Emerson:

I a cruel twist of fate, award-winning brewer Richard Emerson threw away most of the best beer he ever made. He made a beer with Vierka Munich yeast but says it “was terrible to ferment and didn’t taste that great after two months in the bottle.” Needing the bottles, he dumped virtually all the beer down the drain. The two dozen he kept sat forgotten for a year.

The Air New Zealand in-flight magazine Kia Ora has rated Wild about Wellington’s Boutique Beer Tour one of the fifteen coolest short tours in the country.

Captain Cooker NOW ON TAP @……

Captain Cooker from the Mussel Inn has made its way out to a number of outlets around the country.

The Malthouse – ON TAP NOW

Hallertau – ON TAP NOW (well it should be. Steve said it would be on Tuesday)

Galbraiths Alehouse – have a keg, still waiting for release date.

If you know of anywhere else it is on outside of The Mussel Inn please post in comments

The Best Beer Names Ever

A fantastic little article in the St Petersburg Times by Joey Redner called “the 10 best beer names ever.” Samples include:

McQuire’s I’ll Have What The Gentleman On The Floor Is Having Barley Wine The name is a subtle hint that at 12 percent alcohol by volume, this beer is meant to be sipped. If you can drink it faster than you can say it, slow down!

Wasatch Polygamy Porter The slogan explains perfectly why this is the coolest beer name ever: “Why have just one?” I have big love for this beer’s name.

On a New Zealand list I’d be thinking of beers like Lighthouse Fugnose, Mussel Inn’s Bitter Ass, Epic Mayhem…

Golden Bay microbrewery ‘hot’ travel destination

The Mussel Inn, although remote, is named alongside luminaries such as Guinness (Dublin), Monstein (Switzerland) and Cascade (Hobart) in the 10 top brewers.

Last year, a “beer bounty” offered by the Mussel Inn assisted the cull of thousands of possums. The inn exchanged a handle of beer in return for every possum tail delivered.

Built in 1992 by the Dixon family, the inn is described on its website as “Kiwi woolshed meeting Aussie farmhouse in style”. A two-hour drive from Nelson, it is 17 kilometres from Takaka on the way to Collingwood. Next direction: keep an eye out for parked cars. A “land” telephone pole with old cellphones nailed to it is perhaps indicative of being removed from the rat race. You might spot a celebrity face among the patrons (a colleague swears that he saw George Harrison, of Beatles fame, there one night).

Full Story

NZ tourist attractions best in world

New Zealand’s remotest boutique micro-brewery, two hours from Nelson is among one of the 10 best beer brews in the world.

“Apparently there is a signpost but far easier to spot by the cars parked nearby. Beer is very much an integral part of life at the inn. The owners once used it to eradicate furry pests by offering a ‘beer bounty’ to cull possums taking over the Onekaka countryside.

“The offer of a free handle of beer or cider for every possum tail encouraged locals to eradicate over 5000 of the critters.”

Full Story

Land of Hops and Glory

There are few things in the history of the world more satisfying than a good beer festival. On the 5th May the Hops and Glory festival was held in Upper Moutere. It is the brain child of real ale enthusiasts Martin Townshend, Andrew Cole and Kieron Lattimer.

Kieron was kind enough to supply the following report:

Approx 350 were at the beer tasting (sober drivers and non-beer drinkers weren’t charged entry so we don’t know exact attendance).

The majority of the attendees were from the immediate local area (rather than Nelson itself) and over 100 signed up to the “Hops and Glory” email link.

The event also attracted people from the local tourism/restaurant industry who wanted to check out alternatives to mainstream beers – very encouraging!

Beers from 10 South Island brewers were available – including “The Twisted Hop” and “The Townshend Brewery” – the only Real Ale Breweries in the South Island. 140 litres of Real Ale alone sold out in less than two hours! (many thanks to “The Twisted Hop” for providing the three beer engines for the night – people were mesmerised watching the beer being pulled and loved watching it swirl and settle in the glass).

Full list of Brewers/beers

Lighthouse – Dick’s Dark, Pilsner
Founder’s – Generation Ale
Mussel Inn – Captain Cooker Manuka Beer, Apple Roughy Cider
Pink Elephant – Golden Tusker
Renaissance – Perfection Pale Ale
Emerson’s – Pilsner
Townshend – Dinner Ale, Number 9
Twisted Hop – Challenger
Three Boys – Wheat Beer
Tasman Brewing Co – Best Bitter, Tasman Lager

The event also got a great deal of attention from the print media – (Nelson Mail, The Press, Malborough Express, Nelson Leader, Motuka-Golden Bay News) – the best of these will soon be displayed on our website.

The next event is planned for Spring 2007

Any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me or any of the other guys involved.

Cheers – Kieron Lattimer

This sounds like an absolutely fantastic event and the organisation deserve our congratulations. I for one plan to be there for Hops and Glory II!

Beerly Writing

In the latest edition of the Free Radical the beer column covers “The Mussel Inn – A whale of a time.”

“It is quite frankly in the middle of nowhere and I have only spent one afternoon there, yet the Mussel Inn in Golden Bay remains a highlight of my beer drinking career.”

“The Weasels beer – any of their standard beers mixed with 50% soda water – had me in stitches. That kind of subtle mockery is exactly what shandy drinkers deserve really.”

Last weeks Wellingtonian had a column on “The new house of hops and malt” – the Malthouse.

“Many otherwise stoic Wellington beer lovers shed a little tear at the end of 2006 when the beloved Malthouse on Willis Street closed its doors. Their building was being redeveloped into yet another stack of shops, offices and apartments and the bar which served the largest range of beer in New Zealand was forced to seek a new home.”

Both are reposted with the kind permission of the editors.