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But wait…

Those Dark Horse beers were great, but then I went and had a Southern Tier 2XIPA. So good. I’ve had it before, and still it surprised me with how good it is. Crazy lacing, well-balanced, well-hidden booze, and fruity, floral hops that blast you but don’t distract.

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Dark Horse Taste Up

A couple of days before Christmas, a large box emblazoned with labels denoting fragility found its way into my hands. Yes, my (wonderful, thoughtful, and benevolent) girlfriend had ordered for me no less than 12 beers to whet my whistle over the Christmas break. Having picked up a polypin of Cullercoats Winter Warmer that would not last the week, I put the bottles aside to focus on the cooking and celebrating at hand.

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What I have to drink today are a few bottles from Dark Horse Brewing, a brewery whose beers I sampled at Michigan’s Summer Beer Fest in Ypsi, but whose premises I never had the chance to visit. Their tent/s had the greatest number of beers available (if I recall correctly, which I probably don’t, as beer festivals tend to get a bit hazy by the end), but their beers were also the most consistently interesting and enjoyable. I made a striking mental note to sample more of their brews, and today is my day.

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The amber ale. Cloudy!

First up is the Amber Ale. It pours with a high degree of visible carbonation, yielding a foamy, off-white head, and gives a copper/amber hue, deep with haze and sediment. The bottle was left with appears to be a half-inch of sediment as well. The head quickly began to vanish, leaving no lacing. While sweet floral notes and a little Belgian funk are detectable on the nose, nothing particularly malty jumps out. Mouthfeel is light, with minimal but sharp carbonation. The sweet Belgian nose follows with a similar flavour, and if it had been a blind tasting I would’ve assumed it was a light Belgian ale and not an amber ale. The flavours are a little muddled with caramel, citrus, banana, and a late bitterness all coming through. At first I thought the light feel and mild fruity sweetness might make it a good session beer, but honestly it just doesn’t have enough flavour to hide what quickly becomes a chore of a flavour palette. It’s like sweet Coopers Sparkling without the hops up front. Given a little more malt and a thicker mouthfeel it could be more like a Belgian, but again, it comes up as lacklustre. A quick look at its RateBeer entry shows a collective vote of 48/100. I agree. IT also states an abv of 5.5%. Could’ve fooled me.

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Brown (black?) ale.

Next up: the ‘Boffo’ brown ale. Now, I’ve never been a huge fan of brown ales (though there have definitely been exceptions), but I’m keen to crack on and discover a Dark Horse gem. This one pours thick and dark, with a foamy brown head, and yes, some sediment in the bottle. I wonder how long these had been sitting on the shelf? Don’t Londoners drink American craft beer? But anyway, this beer’s head does fall away to exhibit some lacing, and the body is so dark that light will not penetrate it. The nose give faint caramel and chocolate malt.  In the mouth, it is a mildly carbonated but solid ale. Thick and bitter. I’d like to imagine that with time the carbonation could develop from foamy to creamy, because that probably the only element of this beer holding it back. The strong bitterness remains from start to finish, finally dissipating to leave you wanting more, and beneath it, roasted malt, chocolate, coffee, and hazelnut jumps forth. This is a damn tasty beer. Again, in a blind tasting I probably wouldn’t have judged it by the style it says on the label, but I’m not complaining. The Googles informs me that it’s 6.5% alc, which probably contributes to the elevation in standards after its lacklustre sibling. 15 minutes on, enjoyed it to the last drop.

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The Scotty Karate is a superb beer.

Now normally if I’d hit a 6.5% beer on my second of a five beer tasting I’d be worried that I’d not ordered them very well. Next up is a scotch ale, and though it doesn’t say how alcoholic it is (none of these damned American beers seem to anymore*), I’ve learned to be wary around scotch ales. This is the Scotty Karate scotch ale, and the label sports a psychedelic Viking one-man band. Again, be wary around scotch ales. The Three Floyds one was an eye-opener too. This one pours with a creamier head and more lacing than the last two, and despite the apparently typical, thick layer of sediment in the bottle, the beer remains clear, with a deep red hue. Carbonation is there, but not overwhelmingly. On the nose I get mild malty nose and a bit of bit of fuit – maybe citrus or raisin, but it’s faint. Upon tasting, mouthfeel is light, but alcohol is definitely noticeable. If feels nice and creamy, with an ideally mild carbonation that makes it easy to drink. It’s boozy, but pleasantly so. An initially sweet finish fades to reveal the alcohol and stonefuits, raisin, toffee, malt, and a slight late hop bitterness. A stellar beer. If I had to pick a fault, it would be the foaminess of the carbonation/mouthfeel. It does, however, have a hint of that stereotypical Mikkeller burnt sweetness/booziness thing going on. I’m not sure if anyone else gets that, but I can always tell a Mikkeller by that same distinctive flavour, and I love it. While I’m sitting here enjoying it, a quick perusal of RateBeer informs me of an abv of 9.75% and an overall rating of 97. I can believe the alcohol, but I’m surprised by the rating. I love the beer, but I’d have pegged it at about 92-95. Maybe once I’ve had a six-pack of it I’d be ready to give it a 100 and tell it that ‘no, you! I love you!’, but for this excellent tasting beer with unrefined carbonation, 93 is my vote.

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Angry potato wants to hop you in the mouth.

The penultimate beer in this tasting is the Double Crooked Tree IPA. The pour greets me with the familiar sickly sweet but piney, hoppy aroma I have come to love from such beers as Lagunitas IPA, and Dogfish Head’s 60/90/120 Minute (Imperial)/IPA/s. The beer is murky with visible layers of sediment and sports a reddish, almost blood-orange-cum-watermelon hue. A quickly dissipating foamy head forms splotchy lacing on the sides of the glass. Mouthfeel is a shock; it’s surprisingly alcoholic, and with very little carbonation. Alcohol and bitterness seem to be the name of the game. Here the foamy mouthfeel that has pervaded the previous of tonight’s Dark Horse beers is actually of benefit – it breaks up the liquid in your mouth so you can really feel the potency throughout. Every sip has me wide-eyed and twitching a little, and I begin to wonder how I’m going to go finishing a whole bottle (FWP, I know). Where the Dogfish Head Imperial IPA is perfectly balanced but also supercharged, this is strong but a little wonky. There’s a slight empty metallic tang with the late bitterness that lingers and distracts, and while notes of straw and toffee do come through, the strong bitterness and element of booze overpowers all. I jump on RateBeer to look up the alcohol content, and jesus, it’s 13.6%. Wow. I would love to try this on keg as I’m sure tropical and citrus fruits would abound. The RateBeer community has rated it 99/100, an incredibly high rating, and while the more I drink the more I enjoy it, it still falls short of the other imperial/double IPAs I’ve had in the past. It’s (unfortunately) a little headache-inducing, and that’s to a hop-head like myself**. All in all I say it’s worth buy a bottle to share among friends. It’s a tasty beer that will go down great if you’ve had a few or several but there is a burn and it’s not *entirely* even enough to get 99/100. Perhaps 95. And really, this feels like an India Barley Wine! Given the Dogfish Head Imperial IPA was 9% and came off as perfectly balanced, I don’t quite see the need for the 13.5%abv of this brew. Maybe I’m still in shock and feeling bitter. Either way, I’d be keen to see what other people think.

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Possibly my favourite, the Sapient Trip Ale (a Belgian trippel) is a well-balanced, hoppy Belgian with just a little funk.

Feeling like my lack of research prior to tasting had led me to jump the shark again, I am now writing from day #2 of the tasting. What was labelled a double IPA and turned out to be an Imperial IPA/Barley Wine had left me with the Dark Horse Sapient Trip Ale, a Belgian style trippel with a label sporting a grim reaper wielding a mailbox, and wanting to be able to enjoy it, I took a wee break and resumed my drinking today. It pours a peachy amber, with a fluffy white head that creeps slowly down the glass to leave minimal lacing. It smells almost wheaty with banana, but the sweet funk lays subtly underneath. The nose is fresh, complex, and inviting. Mouthfeel is light, with bitey carbonation and a foaminess that dissipates to leave with feels like a fruity mineral water. It’s really very refreshing. After the initial carbonation buzz dies down, thick spatterings of lacing are adorning the glass, and this is looking like a great beer. Taste-wise, it’s balanced, with a veritable fruit bowl of esters and floral hop characters – banana, citrus peel, and tropical fruit juice. The Belgian yeast is there with some banana and bubblegum notes as well. The late hop bitterness isn’t resiny, but fresh, and perfectly balanced with the other flavours. I’m not one to fly the Belgian ale flag, but if this is the future of the style, I’m on board. It makes me wonder how far from the style it is (that I like so much), but I’m not complaining. A trip to the internet reveals an alcohol content of 9.5% (which is largely well hidden), and a rating of 86. Given that the RB community gave the Double Crooked Tree 99, I feel as though this beer has been cheated. Dark Horse made a 9.5% Belgian style ale almost sessionable, and it was the wonky, unbalanced Imperial IPA that people gave almost top marks too? Perhaps this is a symptom of the hop fad**. This is a solid, complex, well-balanced beer that ticks every box for me. I’d love to a pint from a fresh keg to see how it tastes brand new.

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It’s delicate, but light and refreshing.

As with all my beers in this review, they’ve been bottles that I can only assume had been sitting for some time, so the dynamics have probably changed. Maybe the Double Crooked Tree is well-balanced and smooth when straight from the brewery. Maybe the Scotty Karate truly is a 97/100 when fresh. All this tasting has shown me is that Dark Horse makes some damned flavoursome beers, and that I can’t wait to get back to Michigan to drink these straight from the… er… horse’s mouth. Scratch that. But you know what I mean. They’re fun to drink, and some are pretty damned sessionable. Dark Horse remains one of my favourite breweries and I’ll try my darnedest to get along next chance I get.

*I’d love to know if it’s a part of the restrictions on labels that American breweries *can’t* advertise how alcohol their beer is, or whether they just choose not to. Common sense would dictate that those who wish to drink responsibly be provided with information about how much alcohol is going into their system, but maybe it does drive alcoholism.

**Yes, yes, I love hops. I love growing my own hops, making my beers super hoppy, and part of the reason you haven’t seen me post about any English beer is that only a handful of English breweries actually have the inclination to use hops to a noticeable degree. What I don’t agree with is wasting hops by overhopping a beer to the point where it stops you from enjoying it, or overshadows any of the other flavours in a beer. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved beers that have technically been ranked at ~150 IBUs, but they were always balanced. Ain’t no need to make a shitty beer just to highlight what everyone knows – that hops can be flavoursome.

P.S. I love you guys, and I love seeing that my old posts are still getting read. It’s quite the boon to my drive to write to log in and see the hit counts still climbing. I’ll be back soon.

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This Post, A Placeholder

Having realised my lapse in regular updates I thought I would at the very least jump on and check in with what’s going on with me and with the blog.

It’s great to see the the blog is getting plenty of hits, even after months and months of inactivity. I must admit, I didn’t know whether what I was posting was incredibly relevant – it’s easy to get very bored reading beer review after beer review. What I’ve found though is that people are still getting to the site by googling particular beers. I guess if you see something on a shelf and don’t whether to buy it, a quick search doesn’t hurt. So yeah, contrary to my own previous beliefs, people do want craft beer reviews. I’ll make sure to start posting those from now on.

I also enjoyed seeing that the Communist Drinking Game post is still the number one attraction to the blog. Over 60% of all page views are of that post, and it comes up regularly in search term reports. I guess people love the novelty. I just hope you’re all drinking responsibly. (And by responsibly, I mean craft beer.)

In a couple of weeks I’ll be hearing back about an application I submitted to study abroad in Chicago. That plan is to head over in July and try every US craft beer I can get my hands on, while still acing my microbiology and bioinformatics (shudder) classes. I daresay a lot of this will be posted here on the blog, including a trip to the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. I seriously cannot wait. I was hoping to build a checklist of American beers and breweries to taste and visit while I’m there, so if anyone wants to hit me up on Twitter or leave a comment with your favourite US beers, bars and breweries, that’d be great. Also, if anyone can recommend a good coffee place in Chicago, that’d be good too. I am from Melbourne, after all.

I’m also thinking about posting some stuff on my home brew, as it’s getting to the stage where I’m finding it hard to fault, and I’m my own worst critic. Brewhouse efficiency is >85% and all the flavours are coming through just as planned. Carbonation is easy as, now that I’m kegging, and I’m slowly scaling up my yeast lab. Guess I’ll post a couple of my favourite recipes and you guys can let me know what you think. I might also be building a randall into my kegerator, but I’m still in the planning stages at the moment.

So yeah, I’m feeling invigorated as the ball is starting to roll faster and faster. Watch this space and I’ll do my best to get back into the rhythm of posting.

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A Trip To The Seaside

Everyone knows that feeling you get when you come back to something you haven’t had time for, only to realise that it’s been so long that it’s been made all the more difficult, right? Well this is me digging my heels in and making it happen. Allons-y.

I was recently propositioned by my parents to make a trip to our beachside shack and catch up, and as an added bonus, the suggestion of a brewery hop along the way seemed like an obvious choice of activity. Trouble was, breweries located an achievable distance away from our vague route to Golden Beach were few and far between. The only ones one I could think of were Grand Ridge Brewery in Mirboo North and Red Hill Brewery (in Red Hill, duh), but as they have grown into pretty big players in the craft beer scene, we set off for the seaside with eyes bright and tails bushy.

First on the list was Grand Ridge. I can safely recommend making a trip out there for the scenic journey alone. Spectacular views and greenery. The brewery itself is a large old barn-like building that apparently used to be a butter factory, which houses all the brewing equipment and the bar and restaurant. Strangely enough the bar and restaurant did have a TAB feel to it, but I guess you have to accommodate the locals. (One patron had the gall to request a Carlton Draught. At a craft beer brewery.)

We didn’t order food as we weren’t sure how much time we had up our sleeves, but all the dishes we saw looked and smelled amazing. Instead, we each order a tasting paddle which included the Brewer’s Pilsener, the Natural Blonde, the Gippsland Gold, the Yarra Valley Gold, the Hatlifter Stout and if memory serves, the Moonlight nut brown ale. Having tried most of these before at the Grand Ridge showcase at Chloe’s Bar, the paddle was just a refresher. Everything in the paddle had a very similar flavour (mainly the hop profile) when compared side by side, and seemed to have tasted a lot better by the pint back in Melbourne. I did get a pint of the Moonlight nut brown ale as I hadn’t had it by the pint before, and it was big on flavour but a little overbearing.

Having stepped down as driver for the remainder of the trip, my father ordered a pint of the Moonshine. He was as surprised at the $20-per-pint price tag as I was the difference in flavour from the previous beers. The Moonshine blew me away. It might have been the 8.5% alcohol content, or the added care for what appears to be a limited release, but my god it was brilliant. I had to pick up a bottle ($14 at the brewery) and its big brother the Supershine to review. Interestingly, the Supershine I bought came not from the brewery, but a small boutiquey cafe, which charged only $12.

Grand Ridge Moonshine

Pours thick, nice dark head that falls away leaving patchy lacing. Rich sweet, caramel nose. Deep roasty flavours – burnt toffee that blends perfectly with the mild, herbal hops. Also some fruit, such as cherry or plum. Very big, just how I like it. Leaves a dry, burnt flavour in your mouth that makes you want another, and another. Definitely more a scotch ale than a barleywine. Can see how they can charge $20 for a pint.

Grand Ridge Supershine

Less carbonation and head the Moonshine. Possibly a little lighter in colour. Similar sweet, rich nose, but not as strong. Very little carbonation in the mouth, but very smooth and creamy. Alcohol noticeable (11%) and very warming. Flavours aren’t quite as deep but they’re definitely strong. A little bit of candied citrus peel, well-blended bitterness, and the same burnt ending after each sip. As it warms it becomes smoother, but the alcoholic phenols become a lot more pronounced. They made a big beer bigger and did a great job of it.

Having filled up on Grand Ridge’s offerings, we continued on our destination, stopping only to pick up our drinks for the stay. My partner managed to find an incorrectly labelled six-pack of Duvel at Dan Murphy’s and scored it for $16, while I grabbed some Gage Roads IPA, Brew Dog Punk IPA and Baron’s ESB. The Duvel was much better than I found it previously, managing to hide an abv of 8.5% flawlessly. The Baron’s ESB was full of caramel malt (as expected), and the Punk IPA was a little rough. The Gage Roads IPA was a stand out as I’d not had before (and hadn’t really expected much, judging by the macro-styled label) and was pleasantly surprised. It was a solid, well-balanced IPA and I can easily recommend it.

We did the holiday thing and relaxed by the ocean, eating at local fish and chipperies and then just as we’d started to settle in it was time to head off for the return leg of the journey. I was quite excited to finally be visiting Red Hill Brewery as it had never failed to deliver an enjoyable product, but this was an extra special day. Not only was it the day of the Melbourne Cup (umm, woo!?), but the Red Hill guys had organised a special gourmet BBQ. There’s more – in addition to the good beer and good food, we were also dining with fellow beer bloggers Gem and Tristan of Eat, Drink, Stagger, and James and Jen of Beer, Bar, Band.

Red Hill had their Golden Ale, Belgian Blonde, Scotch Ale and Temptation available, all of which we tried (and loved). We also managed to sample the now released Bohemian Pilsner, which was light, fruity and very sessionable. We indulged on pork, ale-marinaded porterhouse, salmon and chicken snags until we were full to bursting, and then took a stroll around the hop field. That’s right, hop field. Excellent beer and excellent food in the middle of picturesque countryside AND they have a hop field. If there’s any way to fault them (and I’m trying really hard here) it would be that my own 3 hop plants have an extra 7 feet of height over Red Hill’s, so there.

We made an exit and headed back to Melbourne, feeling fully satisfied and very sleepy.

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BeertripNZ: Dunedin


With a population of 25,000 students (about one-fifth of the entire city population), I knew we’d have to take a trip down to check the place out. We were travelling with a few of Tully’s cousins who were going back to uni for re-orientation week so we folded ourselves in the shuttle bus and made the five-hour trip. The ride wasn’t too bad; the scenery was lovely (coast on the left, snow-capped mountains on the right) and I had my iPhone full of podcasts to catch up on.

Nice place, Albar.

We reached Dunedin around midday, checked into our room and headed in to The Octagon for a drink. @jedsoane had recommended Albar so we went there and grabbed a Greene King IPA which was on hand-pump. Quite nice, it had hints of candy. Due to there not being an abundance of hand-pumps around Melbourne, it took a bit to get used to the low carbonation and higher temperature but the super-creamy mouthfeel was amazing. They also had Emerson’s London Porter on hand-pump so I grabbed one of those as well, which wasn’t bad. The atmosphere in altar was quite lovely – I knew every song on the playlist and the bar was set up with a rustic maritime feel.

Bad Emerson's 😦

Before continuing our travels I grabbed an Emerson’s Old 95 which is a 7% juggernaut of an English ale. I’d heard it’s normally very good but the bottle I got was screaming with alcohol and I couldn’t finish it. The ethanol overpowered everything and even Tully-the-vodka-man didn’t enjoy it. I’m not sure if it was a bad batch or the bottle had gone bad but it wasn’t up to scratch.

So blurry, but so tasty!

On we pushed and came across Castle MacAdam Wine, a boutique beer and wine store. Had a chat there and picked up a small bag of fun things for later. That night we cruised around town with the uni folk enjoying $8 jugs of Monteiths and tried the TERRIBLE Green Man Tequila Beer which was almost as bad as their Whiskey Bock.

The next morning we were walking to a supermarket for supplies and hit the most amazingly malty wort smell. We soon discovered that we were standing next to Speight’s Brewery, so stopped in for the tour. The tour wasn’t bad per se, but was a tour-of-the-history-of-how-awesome-our-brand-is as opposed to getting into the nitty-gritty of what makes their beer worth drinking. I found it hard to judge Speight’s because they balance industrial brewing with a fairly large range of beers that in all honesty, don’t actually suck. I got the feeling that Coopers is heading in a similar direction.

At the end of the tour they took us to a tasting room with about six or so taps and let us go for it, which was very possibly a foolish thing to do, as I quickly drank back the tour admission cost. Their pilsner and their chocolately Empire Ale stood out as the better beers of their range.

Spectacular Hef.

Love a branded glass, especially when filled with beer from a hand-pump.

Stout time!

On we moved, buying jeans, eating lunch and touring Cadbury’s chocolate world, which was pretty fun, but it was the Eureka Bar and Cafe that took the prize for me. They had the Moa 5-hop Winter Ale reserve on hand-pump which was very hoppy and very satisfying. Also tried Croucher Brewing Co’s Hefeweiss and the Golden Bear Brewing Co’s Stout, both of which I’ll be trying to find again in Melbourne.

More dinner, more drinks, more sleep and some shopping and we decided it was time to take off back to Christchurch. Bus ride was better this time as we were able to get more accommodating seats (our legs are always an issue) and we made it through two seasons of Peep Show on Tully’s MBP.

Once in Christchurch we quickly routed our way to The Belgian Beer Cafe for a kilo of mussels (yep, a whole kilo) and some of the best Leffe beers I’ve had. The Leffe Radieuse was a pick of the ones I tried, with enough flavour to easily match the 8.2% abv. The Belgian Beer Cafe in CHCH was warm, welcoming and full of good food and lots of Belgian beer. Prices were very steep, especially when compared to how cheap beer is everywhere else in CHCH and NZ. I’d say it’s worth going to once but unless they were to halve the prices, I’d be making Pomeroy’s or The Twisted Hop my local.

Dunedin nightscape.

Tomorrow we have a tasting organised with Pomeroys, a tasting of our own collection of beers, and possibly a trip to Dux De Lux, so it should be a full day.

I’ll keep you posted,

J

Note: Due to DIFFICULT mobile internet plans in New Zealand, I wasn’t able to post this while in NZ, and due to WordPress’ uploads form CONSISTANTLY CRASHING, some photos will have to be added at a later date.

Click through to BeertripNZ: Final Days

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BeertripNZ: Day Two

Today started as most days in Christchurch apparently start: freezing. We rugged up and jumped into the car bound for dumplings. They were good dumplings. A quick bit of shopping yielded extra warm shoes and a jumper and we stopped in at The Craic for a traveller.

The big beery treat today was The Twisted Hop, which is a great brewpub with a good range of both house beers and assorted craft beers. @tulbot and I thought we’d try all the house beers between us, and I think we managed the lot, plus a couple of others we couldn’t turn down.

First was the Honey Dew. Very light on the nose, very dry. Little flavor, hints of breakfast cereal. Barely any noticeable hop character. 4% ABV – perfect for summer. Really nice. Lightly carbonated, no lacing/head. SRM: 2 IBU: 15

Three Boys Wheat. Like Lemon Squash. Big taste! Citrusy, hoppy. Very zingy! Well-balanced and full. Hints if coriander and ginger. Lightly carbonated. Fruit salad: wheat banana and citrus. Had to come back for more. ABV: 5 SRM: 2-3

Sauvin Pilsner. Devilishly hoppy nose and taste followed suit. Flavoursome lager but still a lager. ABV: 5% IBU: 30

Brew Moon Pale Ale. A sweet, vaguely hoppy nose. Dry, tastes of light peppery hops, almost melony and fruity. More an American style than English. Im a fan. SRM: 6

Twisted Hop IPA. Got this one by the bottle and I’m glad I did. A BRILLIANT ale in a similar style to the Epic IPA, but I reckon the Twisted boys managed a far nicer balance without compromising any hop flavour. I could drink this one indefinitely.

Oatmeal Stout. Retained head while waiting for me to drink four beers. Jet black. Sweet, malty nose, low carb and then a flavour explosion. Coffee, toffee, earthy flavours. Very nice. A seasonal brew, so glad I was able to try it.

Challenger. Sweet caramel nose. First impression in was the strong malty-caramel returning. Nicely hopped. Good lacing despite the small glass and delay in drinking. SRM: 8 ABV: 5% IBU: 36

I also loved the house barley wine. It was probably the best thing I tried all night – deep and rich. It was ~10% but felt more like the Brewdog Tokyo than a 10% beer.

Blurry and floral

And finally, the Captain Cooker Manuka Beer was recommended as it seems to be pretty popular at the moment. Made with Manuka (NZ tea tree) leaves, the beer has a very unique nose and flavour that isn’t like anything else. It was really quite beautiful and floral. It’s good to see brewers doing something different to the ‘fill it with hops!’ attitude that has yielded flavoursome but samey, slightly boring beers. Also, the manuka plant is purported to have healing qualities, so perhaps my liver will be thanking me as well!

I wanna thank David the bar manager for his great recommendations and taking the time to fill me in on the local brew scene. If ever in CHCH I’d highly recommend you check The Twisted Hop out.

Click through to BeertripNZ: Days Three & Four

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BeerTripNZ: Day One

Though we really got into Christchurch last night, it was so late and the beer-drinking scenarios so few that today was officially my first day of #beertripNZ.

The plane trip wasn’t bad, and apparently a good 25 minutes shorter than normal, and they served complimentary cans of Speight’s Premium Ale. Coming from a country that serves ‘Premium’ Lager instead of beer, I found it quite refreshing to find that Speight’s offering was very drinkable. I may have to stop in at the Speight’s Alehouse while here.

The first half of the day today was spent roaming the streets of Christchurch trying to vend an XT Telecom store to set up our iPhones with data, only to be told that they had all closed down and moved to surrounding malls. Dick Smiths helped us out and we were on our way.

Falling down the hill

After lunch we went for a drive around the hills and went for a bit of a climb, to get our daily bit of exercise out of the way. I danced, and we found a folly to watch from.

After dinner it was time to head into the city for a well-earned touch of beer. Our host had a favourite Irish pub called The Bog which served the best Guinness he’d come across in Christchurch. Having always been a Guinness fan, and needing a good, dark, thick beer to overcome the cold, I Bogged in. The Guinness WAS good; probably the best I’ve had so far, though I can’t say I’ve ever managed to locate the real stuff. It was actually the first time I was able to drink the black stuff to actually appreciate it for the qualities of beer, and in comparison I’m mighty proud of my own Chocolate Stout.

Next I tried a Speights Old Dark Ale. Having found Speight’s Premium ale quite nice, I couldn’t resist trying their dark. While technically not bad, it wasn’t to my tastes, having little to no hops in the aroma or the flavour. Very malty with hints of fruit, it will appeal to some. While the hops’ absence wasn’t preferred, it was still a good drop.

Last I had a Mac’s Black Mac. While my mission this trip was to drink beers I’d not be able to get my hands on in Aus, this was the best option I could see behind the bar, and I hadn’t had the Black Mac in a while. I also feel a certain fondness for Mac’s after the Beer & Brewer expo, when their tent was one of only a couple giving out free samples and after a few even giving me a free Mac’s-branded messenger bag. Their Hoprocker and Sassy Red are awesome too. The Black Mac was hoppy on the nose and full of flavour with caramel, coffee and chocolate notes, with a lovely late bitterness. I found it very malty in a similar way to James Squire’s Malt Runner, but Mac’s have kept this beer very light in the mouth and very easy to drink. I found it strangely carbonated for a beer so dark, but it worked.

Tomorrow we’ll be heading to a couple of bottle shops to grab a selection of different things to taste, so I’ll keep you guys posted.

P.S. Promite is pretty awesome. Not as good as Vegemite, but still yum.

P.P.S. iPhone tethering is AWESOME!

Click through to BeerTripNZ: Day Two

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…Beer Drink You! (The tale of The Communist Drinking Game)

Sometimes we crave excess. It’s true. Every ale connoisseur knows it, and every saison-sipper has been there before. We all love to sample different beers but there will always be the urge to have a little bit more. The other night a few of my friends and I indulged that urge, and I’m still feeling the repercussions.

To help us on our quest we had The Communist Drinking Game (those words will always strike a little anxiety into my sensitive consumerist heart) that had previously been toned down from a game of shotting vodka, to shotting beer. I shudder to think how it would have ended if we’d tried the original.

Without further ado, the rules…

So basically everyone takes turns pulling a card and paying the penalty. There are no winners, just a sliding scale of loss. That said, it was bloody fun. Being question-master was a highlight, as was the waterfall. For the first 4 or 5 hours it was a battle to learn and remember the rules and then after that my mind seemed to have ceased committing anything to memory.

The beer we quaffed included Barons Lager (meh), Barons 88 Balls (which is really fucking terrible), Coopers Sparkling (always reliable), Fat Yak (which was heaven after the 88 Balls), Big Head Pale (I like), my own Amarillo Pale Ale (which went down rather well, if I gauged reactions correctly) and I believe there was a hefeweiss in there somewhere as well. I made it home by 3AM, and proceeded to make bacon and eggs, setting of the smoke alarm as I went.

Drinking to excess is something that I’m doing much less these days (mostly due to the price of good beer), but when you find yourself in a large group of friends all getting their drink on, it just feels oh-so-right. While I doubt I’ll be indulging my self-destructive side again for a few liver-repairing months, if you do end up in a similarly precarious situation, I suggest you give The Communist Drinking Game a go!

On a side-note, I picked up a 19L stock-pot from Big W today, marked down to $11.98. That’s madness! Also grabbed a bottle of Duvel, a Young’s London Ale, and a Franziskaner Weissbier, so expect another post within a day or two.

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