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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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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: Days Three & Four

Day three was a big one that left me feeling a little tender, so I’ve put off writing until now so I can do it justice.

The day opened with a trip to Harrington’s Brewery. This was something I’d been looking forward to since I started planning my trip, partly because when I contacted Mark regarding a tour his reply was as positive and backed by enthusiasm as my email. This was my first thought when I met him at the brewery; Tully and I were ushered in, given a couple if beers to drink on the way, and given the most detailed tour from someone who was as excited to talk about it as I was to listen. It’s the passion I’ve found draws so many of the craft brew community together that I love, and while Harrington’s is quite a large scale operation, it was evident that it is being run by brewers that take a craft brew approach.

I have heard that Harrington’s once had a reputation for making a cheap, highly-alcoholic drunking lager that gave the brewery a bit of a bad name, but that they’ve been re-emerging as a quality craft brewer over the past little while. The beers I tasted were quite nice (I only had a few of their very large range), with their ESB being a standout. Mark was quick to load us up with a few bottles from the cellar to take with us and even a couple of their latest batch of Weiss which is still maturing.

The tour went for about 45 minutes and we went through every detail of the process to the point of sticking our heads in the tuns to get a good whiff. Mark told us they also do bottling for several local craft breweries that don’t have the facilities themselves (Three Boys Weiss was being bottled at the time) and they also will crush grain for homebrewers that swing by.

With bags full of beer we ventured out into the pouring rain bound for the highly-recommended Pomeroy’s. It is one of those great little pubs you get into a don’t ever want to leave, with amazing food (I had the Pomeroy’s Big Deluxe Burger and Tully had the Venison Hotpot, which were both staggeringly satisfying) and most importantly a selection of great beer. I had a Yeastie Boys Yakima Monster, a Tuatara Hefe and stout whose name I forget, all of which were really, really good. Ava, the bar manager, was up for a chat and she knew her stuff and was a good help identifying the quality locals. She even gave us a free bottle of the Yeastie Boys brew we hadn’t tried and kept us topped up with assorted samples. Pomeroy’s was hard to leave and I can see myself going back at least once before I fly home.

One the way home we stopped in to the Mac’s Brewpub to see what they had to offer. For the first time in months they asked for ID, which I found odd for two beardy Swedes turning up at 3 in the afternoon for a beer, at a pub that didn’t actually have any other customers inside apart from us. That said, they had all the Mac’s range on tap, including the Brewjolais seasonal I couldn’t resist trying. It was basically a maltier, more-balanced version of their Hoprocker ale. I like the Hoprocker and I’ve had it a fair few times but neither the Brewjolais nor the Hoprocker went down amazingly, both seeming a bit dull. Odd also because they were all on draught in their own pub. Oh well, I’ll still continue to drink Mac’s when I go home. They did manage to make me the best macchiato I think I’ve ever had, so props to them for that.

Our journey continued, stopping in at a local supermarket recommended as having a good craft beer range. I like with a good $120 worth. Hopefully they’ll last us a little while.

Once home we readied ourselves for a night out on the town, and started with Indian at The Two Fat Indians. Very good nosh, and passable beers, it was a very pleasant meal.

On we went to The Twisted Hop (again, I know, but they had plenty I was yet to try) to get our beer on. The standout was the Fullers Golden Pride, which was amazing. Very rich and full yet not too heavy, which might sound a bit contradictory, but it was a beer you’d sip on and not want to stop. I didn’t take a great amount of tasting notes for the Golden Pride, which was a mistake, but their website seems to sum it up pretty well.

We also picked up a bottle of Green Man Whisky Bock, on a challenge set by bar manager David. It was shit. I drank almost half a glass and moved on. (Tully finished his and the rest of mine… he claims he thought it was woeful)

On we moved to Sole Square, the hub of Chrustchurch nightlife. We went to Yellow Cross, a large bar with many taps of varying qualities of beer and very cool decor. There were even a couple of fermenters with some amazingly disturbing artwork painted onto them. Live music, good drinks, and Tully also scored a pair of Speight’s overalls.

Home. Spent most of the remaining night drinking water and headed to bed at 5. Was unreasonably hungover today.

We spent today cruising around the hills of Akaroa, a small French settlement which I confirmed did have the best fish and chips I can remember. Quality greasy food and lush sprawling scenery, I can’t think of a better hangover cure!

Having a great BeertripNZ thus far, can’t wait to see what Dunedin yields,
J 🙂

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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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…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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Friday Night Drinks With Steve

This post came from an impromptu get-together last night, organised after all the major bottle shops had already closed. Some minor supermarket ones were open, so I used the opportunity to try a couple of the beers I had always seen but never wanted to try.

Barons Lager

I’m a fan of Barons; they bring good beer to the masses, and for a VERY reasonable price. Lord knows I don’t like lager, but if I was in a pub that only (god forbid) served light lagers, this is what I’d pick. Very little flavour, but gets the job done better than most.
4.5%abv

Hoegaarden Witbier-Biere Blanche My mate Steve and I were at The Local Taphouse last weekend and could have sworn we ordered this (despite prior reputation). What we received was an amazing wheat beer, deep and satisfying. It introduced Steve to the wonderful world of wheat beer, and we’d found ourselves an excellent beer we wanted to try again. When we found this Hoegaarden Witbier in the shop, it seemed worth a try. Unfortunately, it was traumatically light; tasting like off water. Sweet, slightly spicy, and with only a generic wheat flavour, this one disappointed. I suppose we will just have to go back to The Tap House to find out what the beer was we originally ordered.

4.9%abv

“I’m actually looking forward to finishing it so I can move on to the next one.”
-Steve

Redoak Organic Hefeweizen

This beer review was lost due to a fault of my iPhone, so I’ll make do.
The main points I would make is that the nose is very stark, and upon tasting, the flavour resembles a champagne much more than a wheat beer. My tasting buddies and I have become very wheat beer focused, and this really didn’t live up to anyone’s expectations. Apparently “Australia’s most awarded brewery 2005-2008”, I’d like to see those credentials.
Tart, very low carbonation, and generally very unpleasant.

James Squire Malt Runner

Not a beer I’d ever avoided, but one I’d simply not come across.

A nose giving waves of resin, smoke, fruit and an unusual saltiness. Flavours including the obvious malt, raisins/cherries, and a good back-palette of hops, and still the bizarre salty flavour sensed in the nose.

Perfect carbonation for such a rich beer.
A very full lager, very satisfying, and probably the most satisfying of the Squires I’ve had to date. If the alcohol content was any higher I’d suggest it was a disguised bock!
Very nice, very indulgent, and the perfect end to a night of disappointing beers.

Steve and I flog our favourite.

So after picking the last few things we could find from a bottle shop with very limited selection, we’ve found that Squire and Barons come out on top. Can’t say this is very surprising as these are breweries with other beers I know quite intimately (probably due to their availability and price), but if you only have access to a very mediocre bottle shop, these two are worth a try.

Cheers,

Jourdan

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Big Beer Saturday ’10 (Part 1: Breakfast)

With the AIBAs and the Beer & Brewer expo in town, Melbourne was a buzzing beery place this weekend, and everybody with a passion for beer was making an appearance.

First up was the Hair Of The Dog Breakfast – a seven-course breakfast matched with eight craft beers. Sound impressive? It was, and I am so disappointed I couldn’t have pointed more people towards it. Information was tight while the event was being organised, and all I had to go on was that there would be beer, breakfast, and it was $20 entry. A quick tweet to the hosts (Beermen.tv and Beer Deluxe) received the message that the per-head charge would cover everything, but as I didn’t know what ‘everything’ was, I let it be. So glad I did, I arrived a little after 10AM to find the most amazing surprise: big long tables lined with 100 grinning beer-lovers, and a menu of eight beers each to match a succession of amazing breakfast dishes.

I’ll list the beers below in no particular order:

Bridge Road Hefe

Sure beats the ‘infected’ Celtic Red I had from them a few weeks ago. Always a wheat beer fan, this one went down quickly.


Mountain Goat Steam Ale

Not served with any particular course but full of flavour and very refreshing. Will be a summer regular. Surprisingly great for Mountain Goat (I’ve had a LOT of Goat in the past and this one shocked me).


Red Hill Wheat Beer

So nice that my girlfriend would not rest until she had bought a mixed sixer from these guys. We are yet to break into the sixer, as if it ought to be saved for a special occasion.


Bright Brewery Razor Witbier

Very drinkable and made with local wheat and hops.


Murray’s Whale Ale

Balanced, easy-drinking. May have to delve a little deeper into this brewery soon. Their porter is nice too.


White Rabbit Dark Ale

Aways a classic. Have tried the White Ale they’ve just brought out (a few times now) and the Dark Ale still reigns supreme.

I’m interested to see how the White ale does through summer, as I think that’s when it will shine.


Stone & Wood Stone Beer

Made by my girlfriend’s sister’s boss using heated stones. How whack is that!? And it’s a really nice beer!


Holgate Temptress Porter

A nice porter done by a brewery who has only been able to impress me with their dark beers.


Tuatara Porter

Not technically on the breakfast menu, but I’ve loved everything I’ve tasted from these guys.

The food itself was very nice, ranging from crepes to beans, from sausages-on-toast to waffles, and was all top nosh. It was the perfect amount of food to leave you feeling like you’ve just indulged in christmas dinner, and I really regret not dragging along any of my friends. The only flaw I could find was that the food did land on my plate a little cold (though I’ve never fed a hundred drunkards before, so I can’t really talk).

I want to thank everyone that organised this, as it was clearly an epic feat, and I really hope it is the first of many. Well done!

I was planning on listing every beer from Saturday in this post, but at last count it exceeded 40 different beers, so I’ll stick with breakfast for now and look over my notes for the best of the rest.

Back soon,

Jourdan

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