Tag Archives: ale

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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Lagunitas India Pale Ale

 

When I was putting together my list of breweries to visit or at least sample the wares of during my stay in America, Lagunitas was one of the first on my list. I’d had the pleasure of tasting a few of their beers back in Melbourne – the Red Ale was great, and the Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ was simply superb – so I was super excited to see their IPA stocked in quite a few party stores around Michigan.

I first tried it from a 330mL bottle, sitting in front of a lake with the sun overhead. I’d already had a couple of pale ales, warming up for the big hit of malt and hops IPAs always deliver. Trouble was, when I did taste it, I was underwhelmed. It wasn’t the big IPA I was expecting. This time, I grabbed a larger bottle and made sure to keep my palate fresh.

The beer pours a deep copper colour, with a cream-coloured foamy head and delicate lacing. Deep and mildly turbid, it does look impressive. The label boasts 43 different hop varieties and 65 different malts. Yep, that’s right.

I’ll admit, I’m excited to try it again.

The nose is almost sickly sweet and rich – the overwhelming, almost painful sweetness many homebrewers might recognise – but it is so goddamn smooth that it still remains inviting. It’s a little too difficult to pick anything out other than hints of pine, apricot, and citrus. And of course the malt. Heavy, smooth malt notes take the forefront and singe the sinuses.

Carbonation is low and mouthfeel is medium. It immediately feels like a different beer to the Lagunitas IPA I had two weeks ago. Rich, fruity, and malty, with a zingy back-palette. The lingering bitterness suggests more than the 45.6 IBUs listed on the bottle, but this is perfectly matched with malt.

By now the head has almost completely disappeared, and it is starting to desensitise my tastebuds. I still have over half my glass to go, and I’m losing pace. At such a low IBU value, and a not un-modest 6.2% alc, I would have assumed it would be slightly more sessionable, but no. Even the Tactical Nuclear Penguin kept me wanting more for longer.

Overall, this is a beer that tastes wonderful, demonstrates excellence in brewing and checks every box, but ultimately a pint is all I could drink. Well worth trying, especially the 330mL varieties.

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Micro-view: Dogfish Head Imperial 90 Minute IPA

Well, it’s pretty much perfect.

Smooth, fruity, aromatic, fresh hops. Sweet, balanced, caramel malt. Impeccably hidden 9% alcohol content. Ideal mouthfeel and carbonation. The box claims that it’s “probably the best IPA in America”, and I’d extend that to the world.

9% and sessionable. Well played, Dogfish Head.

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If I haven’t sold you, check out this 100/100 it’s gotten on Ratebeer.

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Micro-view: Samuel Smith’s Imperial Stout

I picked this up from a party store after remembering how good the Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout was last time I had it, and for $4.80 it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

The beer pours as an imperial stout should – thick, black, with a creamy-brown, foamy head and a decent spattering of lacing. Rich chocolate notes and roasted malts billow off the nose, with rich esters that suggest a high alcohol content. This clocks in at a moderate 7% ABV however, so I wasn’t too worried about ending a night of lager, hopfen weiss, and catching up on the footy with something titled ‘imperial’.

Mouthfeel is thick, low in carbonation, and feels like sucking down motor oil, albeit sweet, raisin-soaked motor oil. The beer features a well-balanced palette of rich chocolate malt, roasted malt, rich estery stone fruits, and a decent dose of bittering hops to carry the stout home.

I’m not sure I prefer it to their oatmeal stout, though there’s every possibility that I’m looking at the oatmeal through rose-coloured glasses. That said, for something so rich, high in gravity, and thick, it’s going down surprisingly well. Similar stouts have been just a little too sweet, or just a little too thick, but this verges on sessionable (a dangerous proposal, perhaps).

For $5 a pint I rate this as something everyone should try, if only to try a great example of a stout. I doubt how imperial it is, but it is good.

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Micro-view: Rogue Northwestern Ale

An afternoon of beer! What a wonderful thought! Before I indulge in the consumption of a keg of beer some friends are organising, I thought I’d treat my palate to another bottle of Rogue.

I’d been putting this one off for a rainy day – literally, it’s been far to hot to appreciate beers with body – so today is the day.

It pours dark amber/red, with a fluffy brown head and thick lacing. The ale is far more turbid than the Orange Honey Ale I had the other day, and looks mighty more substantial.

A pleasant hint of sweet malt and caramel on the nose, and a touch of piny, fruity hops. Upon tasting, I was reminded of Cooper’s heavier beers, but the distinctive Pacman yeast that Rogue loves is there also. The taste is big resin-y hops (yep, there’s Amarillo in there) balanced with caramel and chocolate malt.

A lively carbonation keeps this big, flavoursome beer fresh and drinkable. A roasted malt bitterness lingers and urges you to take another sip.

At 6.2% alc, it makes for a great special release (not that it’s in limited supply, every Meijer, Walmart, and Kroger I’ve been to seem to stock it) and is definitely worth a try. I wouldn’t class it as sessionable, but it would go down a treat with food.

 

 

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Micro-view: Goose Island Summertime

This one is a light, refreshing, tasty Kölsch-style ale from Chicago’s Goose Island Brewing.

Very sessionable, while retaining plenty of flavour, and a nice depth. Malty with citrus notes. Mild late bitterness is all that lingers. Low carb for easy drinking and a decent 5% abv.

Winner.

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Rogue Summer Orange Honey Ale

I’m in America.
Many of you already know that, and the rest of you were going to find out when I posted all my excitedly typed notes on the brewery visits, beers, and festivals I’ve enjoyed in the month since I’ve been here. But I’ve been too busy having fun to knuckle down and produce anything up until now, when I decided it was time to start drinking and reviewing the ever-increasing collection of beers lining the walls and insides of my fridge.

So to start the Beer Tour de USA, I’ll review a brew from one of my favourite breweries, Rogue Ales.

Rogue Summer Honey Ale

As I sit down to begin cooking the evening meal (butter chicken tonight, I think), on a 35+ degree day, it strikes me that I need a refreshing beverage to tide me over. Not the shameful half block of PBR, but a quality craft beer. Enter Rogue’s Summer Orange Honey Ale.

This little beauty pours as clean as a over-filtered macro, has about as much head retention, and has a suspicious straw/off-amber colour that could leave it mistaken for any “premium” lager, but it is better than it looks.

It sports a fresh, citrusy aroma, with plenty of sweet malt and a mild hop character. Upon tasting, the main adjective that comes to mind is ‘zesty’. It bears less resemblance to the Rogue Ales I’m used to and seems like a dilute homemade citrus cordial (or dilute American lemonade). It is low enough in carbonation to just add enough bite to add to the citrus element, without making it feel like a beer.

I can see why the RateBeer community might rate it 43/100, but I don’t agree. On tap, I would happily pick this as a session beer, and it suited my requirements on this hot day perfectly. Its mild, yet attractive flavour doesn’t overpower or shock the tastebuds, but it has enough of everything to please.

The label boasts coriander and chamomile, but I don’t find either of these to be especially indistinguishable. Rather, a barely detectable spiciness underlies what hop bitterness there is (and at 10 IBUs, that’s not a lot).

I found it discount at my local party store (yep, ‘Murica calls a spade a spade and sells alcohol and snacks in one convenient location), and for a few bucks, this sessionable 5% alc brew does exactly what it aims to.

 

NB: Recently, Sudsavant posted a really great review and comparison of both the Rogue Ales’ Double Dead Guy Ale and Stone’s Double Bastard. For my two cents, I love the Dead Guy ale, but found the Arrogant Bastard to be, well, a little arrogant. The Dead Guy was a really palatable ale, while half a sixer of Bastards are still sitting in my fridge, purely because there is an abundance of more attractive beers on offer. That said, I haven’t had the Double Bastard yet, and it’s been a year or two since I tried the Double Dead Guy, so I’m thinking I might have to do a comparative review myself. I also have a good 50+ beers in my fridge to review, and notes from a large handful of Michigan breweries to post in the coming weeks, so watch this space.

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Quickie: Mikkeller Nelson Sauvin Single Hop IPA

Having picked this little beauty up at Slow Beer a couple of months ago I’ve been eyeing it off in my beer pantry ever since. What better occasion to crack it open than my birthday?!

Pours a thick, foamy head, showing a lot of carbonation and a deep, dark, cloudy orange hue. The nose is very malty (it is Mikkeller after all) but there isn’t much more after that. Given the style and the hop focus I thought there would be a greater presence of hoppy goodness, but if anything it is very mild.

On tasting, carbonation is nowhere as high as it appeared when pouring, which lends itself quite well to the rich, thick mouthfeel Mikkeller have down-pat. Over the toffee base is a strong hop bitterness with notes of lemon and pine, though it is that well-balanced that nothing really springs out too strongly.

Holds the 6.9% abv very well and remains oh-so-sessionable. Pity I only have the one. I’ll have to try the rest of the series now.

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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: Final Days

When last we left our friends they had conquered the mighty Belgian Beer Café beast and escaped the horde of Dunedin. Now, our trusty subjects started afresh in Christchurch, fully aware of the challenges that would await…

Given our big bottle buy-up, we had plenty of fine beer waiting for us when we got back to CHCH. Wanting to start right away, we opted for something nice, light, and possibly suited to breakfast. Invercargill Brewery’s Boysenbeery fitted the bill perfectly, despite being a fruit beer (I kid!). With a wheat base, this one brought the usual banana character you’d expect, with a touch of zesty, citrusy hops (that NZ rules at) to compliment a massive addition of boysenberry concentrate (added during fermentation). I have said again and again that fruit beers aren’t my thing, but after this brilliant drop, and Jamieson’s latest batch of Raspberry Ale, I may have to start adjusting my prejudices. The Boysenbeery is not only a great pun but a very nice way to start a beery day, or possibly finish one, if dessert is on the cards. We gave a sample to a PMD fan and got the thumbs-up, so it seems this might be a great entry beer for all you beer-lovers trying to get your non-beery friends on to the yeastie stuff.

With all the NZ beers around, I was surprised to find this specimen in a local supermarket of all places. It seems the local supermarkets DO have their finger on the beer-lover’s pulse in CHCH, namely the New World chain. This little beauty was NZ$7, which works out to about AU$2.50 or something similarly cheap in real dollars. I was shocked! Dogfish Head Brewing Co is such a highly lauded brewery that I had to grab a bottle, and I was happy that I did.

The beer itself is an Imperial IPA, clocking in at 9% abv, 9o IBU and continually hopped for 90 minutes of the boil, hence the name, 90 Minute IPA.  More than enough hops to satisfy my hop-loving palette, but backed up with enough caramel malt and warming alcohol, this really went down well. The hopping process left a far greater array of hop flavours and aromas than just the usual bittering agent it is so-often mistaken for – citrus, pine, grass, and hints of tropical fruits. Worth the hype.

Beer and meats - what more does a guy need?

A nice selection of locals.

From our own beer tasting to a guided, illustrated and very informative tasting at Pomeroy’s with Craig, the man behind BeerNZ distribution. He is tasked with getting the beer from over 20 of NZ’s craft breweries to the assorted bars, pubs, bottle shops and folks such as myself. We discussed and quaffed a couple of the big names like Epic and 8Wired, and a few from the smaller breweries I’d seen or heard about but didn’t have access to on my travels. In short they were all very nice, as was to be expected, but the 8 Wired Big Smoke did stand out for me. Worth checking out.

Kaimai Brewing Co. is another of the contract brewing companies that are quite popular in NZ (I’ll leave the contract brewing controversy for another time) but what makes these guys different is that a) Brewer Andrew Larson actually brews the beer himself at either Harrington’s or Croucher Breweries and b) All their beers are made with 30-40% rye, a very unique twist. I can’t say I was a fan of the Porter’s Rye Ale, but it was definitely interesting. As far as porters go I found it kind of weak, with only vague hints of vanilla and cocoa above the basic roasted malt flavour.

iStout. You cannot expect to get away with a name like that without SOME sort of mockery.

I could not resist buying the 8Wired iStout as soon as I saw it, for SO many reasons. Firstly, the name is just so clichéd and wonderful, and deserved a silly photo. But having fallen in love with the 8Wired range, and having heard so many good things about it, I couldn’t not give it a burl! As touted, this did become one of the stand-out beers of the trip. At a modest 10.5% abv and boasting one of my favourite varieties of hops – Willamette – I can safely say this was always going to please me, but it was the depth and quality that backed it all up and made it one of my favourite stouts. The perfect combination of coffee, raisins, and molasses flavours, a noticeable level of alcohol with a mouthfeel both syrupy and milky rendered this a dream to drink.

Another shopping trip yielded more beers for the tasting and the Spruce Beer was a nice find. Similar to the Captain Cooker Manuka Beer, this includes the noticeable addition of tea tree and a warming ginger/spicy character. The folks down at RateBeer don’t seem to like this one, but I thought it was great.

We couldn’t visit any city with a restaurant named ‘Meat Unlimited’ without trying it out, so stopped in to see what they had to offer. The slim beer list was made-up-for by the best 450 gram steak I’ve ever had, so I can see myself making a point of coming here when next I get the chance.

Having been told about The Twisted Hops’ Nokabollokov being ready just in time to try before our departure, Tully and I bookmarked it in our minds and made damn sure we went back for a tasting. Such a brilliant name was matched with quite a good Imperial Russian Stout, but I was told it had not lived up to their expectations. The cold Christchurch weather had halted the yeast and meant that the stout was neither as strong or mature as it was meant to be. That said, it was still lovely. I get a little teary when I think that I’ll never see the Nokabollokov or The Twisted Hop’s IPA in Australia, for they were both probably in my top 10 NZ beers list.

The Dux de Lux was one of the bars that everybody had raved about when I mentioned I was going to tour the south island. I had been told all my troubles would be solved and all my dreams would come true, right in the very bar. We arrived on a Friday night, at about 10:30, tried a beer, ordered some dessert, and were then told they were closing. I wasn’t sure what was wrong. The beer wasn’t bad, the bar looked pretty swish (technical term), but the place was empty, save for us. We left, having only tried a couple of Dux beers during the trip, and having found nothing to back up the raving claims about the place.

The cake was good though...

Having been evicted from our last port of call, we headed home. Having to get up at 5 the next morning to catch our flight home, one might think it was straight to bed. Apparently not. Beers and cocktails were consumed, justified by the idea that having to wake up hungover in the next few hours would make us feel worse than navigating customs while heavily intoxicated. I still debate that.

Now back in AUS with my friends, family, local pubs and beer, I do really miss NZ and hope to do a north island trip over summer. I suppose this is the travel bug you hear about.

Standout Breweries: 8Wired, Wigram, Epic, The Twisted Hop, Harrington’s

Standout Bars: The Twisted Hop, Albar, Bar Beleza (the music was rad)

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