Beer Jerk Advent Calendar and other stories

Silly season beer

It is officially the silly season….woop dee feckin doo! Just to be clear the sarcasm is dripping through the screen here. In order get through / embrace the season of good will I decided to throw myself enthusiastically into ordering plentiful beers via some of the awesome online purveyors of fine ales. This has meant by stark old pantry cupboards are now in plentiful supply of excellence to enjoy and numb the nonsense that inevitably ensues.

So I was most pleased to make an order of the Beer Jerk advent calendar. 24 beers for 24 days , and not just regular old standards you night get in a regular order, but 24 more rare releases from a wide variety of breweries, from NZ and worldwide. I was not disappointed upon opening as there were only 2 within that I recognised as having imbibed previously These were the outrageous 14.9% Urbanaut Imperial Triple Hazy, which is basically a meal in a can and the Modern Times Orderville Hazy which I remember being an absolute delight!

And yes, I have totally gone against all Christmas tradition and opened them all at once. Where is my Christmas spirit? Sitting firmly beside the Grinch in the Grinches cave I’m afraid, but I am drinking them in the exact order as they were boxed, so that is something right? Too bad if it isnt, but perhaps some sense of childhood wonderment will appear via some other nostalgic Xmas nonsense.

As I tend to not drink through the working week in an attempt to kid myself I am being more healthy, I shall not be opening a beer every day of December, but will instead do what every responsible drinker does and cram them all in over the weekends. Now, on to the beers:

Dec 1 – Urbanaut Imperial Triple Hazy (Auckland, NZ)

Just an outrageous start to proceedings. A huge huge beer in a very tiny can, but believe me you could not drink a pint of this. Not that it is bad in any way, but you would simply collapse in a massive heap of your own uncontrollable limbs by half way. Yes its chewy, but its delicious and would drink again in a heartbeat.

Dec 2 – Amundsen Brewery Parallel Worlds Respberry and Tonka Sour (Norway)

Loved this. Tasted like Pastry as described, the Raspberry was wonderful and it was balanced well by the Tonka (which I discovered is similar in nature to Vanilla). Two for two so far!

Dec 3 – Dugges Bryggeri Porter (Sweden)

Exceptionally roasty toasty flavour, almost overpowering, but not quite. I did enjoy it though and was a nice end to an enjoyable evening of sampling. However, I was rather “upset” in the stomach department the next day which was weird. I have put the blame on this beers shoulders ..perhaps unfairly

Dec 4 – Modus Operandi Former Tenant Red IPA

Even comes with a hilarious back story regarding a former tenant of the brewery growing weed and getting caught or some such. However for me this is where the “fun”ended. The first sip didn’t fill me with confidence, then I thought it grew on me but I found it hard to get to the end of the can. My drinking buddy concurred and didn’t drink more than a few sips. Sorry Modus.

Dec 5 – Eddyline Black Lager (Nelson, NZ or Colorado, USA)

According to the Beer Jerk Facebook page, I have made an early error. Apparently it should have been the Alesmith Brewing Hazy, ah well then. It is what it is !

I have also discovered via the power of the interwebs that Eddyline are also based in Colorado! You learn something new every day after all.

Well, I have to admit I have not been singing from the rooftops about their beers so far, but this one is indeed slightly better than the rest! It is pretty big and roasty which you dont fully expect, but it thankfully mellows out a bit.

Dec 6 – Ground Up Brewing Monk Life Saison (Wanaka, NZ)

Not a huge fan of the Saison style but this was pleasant, very drinkable and it is always pleasing to discover a new brewery. Shall look to investigate this one some more based on this rather lovely drop.

More on the advent calendar next time but meanwhile and within all of this excitement I drank some other delightful and not so delicious ales.

Good

Can Behemoth do no wrong?? As you may have noted from my past ravings , I love Behemoth and everything they do.

This week I went for the “Lenny and Carl”, another of their Hazy Hop Buddy range, this one brewed with Cira and Sabro hops, which I am not familiar with. Simply delicious once again , far superior I am sure to Duff.

My second choice for my Sunday sampling was the “Thanks Pecan Pie”, a 9.7% Imperial Stout. Now, this one pained me, I could not make up my mind. It was so sweet, sickly so. But at the same time I could not stop drinking it. I dont have much of a sweet tooth and really dont eat that much in the way of desserts or sweet items. But when I do, like this, it must trigger something deep inside my brain because I could not get enough. It did not make me want to go and try a Pecan Pie either.

It was not as good as the “Mmmmm Doughnuts”. A beer that tasted exactly like doughnuts! I mean, come on! What is the world coming too here. It was fantastic.

In amongst by rabid online ordering, I visited Garage Project on a friends recommendation to purchase their Triple Hazy IPA, Excessive Machine. It was built up somewhat and I have to say deservedly so. Would be up there for one of the beers of the year I think.

Not so Good

As part of making my order “worthwhile” (I like to justify the delivery costs so always order too much) I also got in two of their special releases, and you would have to agree they are quite festive released no?

Well , if so then I hate Christmas more. Sorry, but both the “Golden Raspberry and Lemon White Chocolate Stout” and the Dark Chocolate Espresso, Hazelnut & Orange Stout” were less than enjoyable. Both are marketed as being “Liquid White / Dark Chocolate in a Can”. A nice idea but really not enjoyable as a beer. Unfortunately I couldn’t even finish the dark one and I dont not finish beer that often.

So, a reasonable summary I am sure you will agree. As I right I have progressed a couple of more days into the advent calendar, and on a wee weekend in the mecca of Palmerston North, have sneakily discovered a new brewery who have produced a phenomenal Hazy. Join me, go on..it isn’t too bad is it?

Beervana 2020

Another week another Beer festival! Lucky old NZ and lucky old me. Once again I get to don a hipster cap and doff it toward the multitude of beer and food purveyors adorning the bleak grey concourse of the Wellington Cake Tin, or Sky Stadium as it is less affectionately known.

This was my first Beervana since at least 2013, at which point I had lost some faith in this stalwart festival as it had become a little bit, and I hate to say it, dull. As noted in my opening gambit, the stadium concourse is barren at the best of times so the atmosphere was essentially nil. The beers, well, yeah there were of course crackers but not enough choice, and I felt the ‘big boys’ were starting to get a little bit too much of an influence on what was going on. The food was ok but it never seemed like there was enough, and I also seem to recall that the session time was a mere 4 hours. (I could be wrong on that and would love to be corrected) But regardless I always felt like it was all over in a flash with not any time to just sit back and chill out before heading in again for more tasters.

I was pleasantly surprised to see time of the Saturday afternoon session set at 11am to 4pm, and being positive that the previous years had been only four hours total, I was much more enthused to purchase the ticket. Additionally the sheer number of Breweries was incredible (62!! Yes 62!!) with a decent representation of overseas breweries, which was fantastic in the current times. Plus there were at least 18 food outlets and all for just $45, plus a fee free $30 preload on the AWOP bracelet. Itself a majestic system of payment which really improves the queuing and efficiency! It should have been phenomenal…more on that later.

The first thing that struck me was that the vendors were right around the concourse, whereas in previous years it was limited to perhaps half. This made for a far more spacious event where you didnt have to knock multitudes of elbows and risk spilling the precious beer of strangers. Second, the atmosphere was, well, there was actually an atmosphere. The barren concourse echo was definitely dampened and there was a multitude of live music dotted around at various spots. Coupled with plenty of areas to sit down helped maintain a lovely background chatter and hum! It was very pleasant.

On to the beers. I went in there with no particular plan, other than ignoring the running tally of the ‘Peoples Choice’ in an effort to find my own favourite, ignoring the gimmicks and ‘bigger’ brewers, and just try as many different brews as I could from as many different breweries.

Without much further ado, here are my beers of the day:

  1. Smog City IPA

This beer proved why I love the American IPAs. Everything is bigger in the US and they always seem to produce bigger IPAs! Bigger taste, bigger hops, bigger punch. It was also super clean on the palate. Winner!

In fact, all the American beers camp up Trumps! …see what i did there. The Virginia Brewing Co Analysis Paralysis IPA was spectacular, the Modern Times Black House Coffee Stout was majestic and the Heretic Brewing Juicier than Thou NEIPA was also another punch in the face of juicy goodness. So bizarre, polarising politics aside, they certainly produce magnificent beer.

But us Kiwis are not at all shabby either. My top 3 were as follows:

1 – Duncans Blueberry Ripple Imperial Ice Cream Sour

Following hot on the heels of the unbelievable Tangelo Sour I sampled at Brewday a few weeks prior, the Blueberry Sour was just as magnificent. Not quite as mind blowing but sensational none the less. Sours are very hit and miss for me, but I love the fact they are saying “you want a sour, here is a feckin sour!”. 8.2% of sheer fruity deliciousness. And no spew aftertaste. If you are one of the, perhaps just one avid blog readers then you will know my hatred of the spewy aftertaste.

2 – Behemoth Dumped the Trump Triple IPA – as the tagline says, this beer is the “Triple IPA version of Dump the Trump to celebrate the Dumping of the Cheeto Faced Moron!” Maybe it was the joy at seeing the clown losing the election, but this was another sensational big beer from, in my view the NZ masters of the Hazy. At 9.9% there is clearly no pissing about here. Love it.

3 – 8 Wired Brewing Ace Degenerate West Coast IPA

Excellent! Just solid “regular” IPA goodness.

Whilst I am at it an honourable mention goes to their Kveik Fermented “Once were Vikings” Farmhouse Ale. I’m not a massive Farmhouse Ale fan, I find they can get a little sickly and chewy , but this one begged me to go back for more. I didn’t because I was on a taster run! But it was noted to grab a pint next time I see it.

Lastly , although I said I was going to avoid the gimmicks, I had to try one, so it was off to Garage Project for the “Blue Milk”, an Oat Cream IPA brewed with rolled oats, lactose, hand selected Mosaic and blue spirulina. And it was as the tasting notes suggest – “Close your eyes and it’s a rich, hazy IPA”. It was, it was very lovely indeed. But why the blue?? It certainly stood out visually, which I guess is the point, but I say just let the beer speak for itself.

Lastly, Abandoned Brewery – once again, exceptional work on the stand!

So, myself and my accompanying Aussie pal had a grand old time. Chatting, eating, drinking fine ales, sorting the world out. What a fine day out indeed.

A couple of niggles though. We did only eat one thing, opting for a pulled pork burger from “Salt and Wood

It was absolutely delicious. An impossible amount of pork pouring out from the bun all over the accompaniments. But unfortunately – no forks! Which was utterly bizarre given the nature of the burger. It was essentially impossible to eat without half of it ending up all over your face, and being a gentleman of the hirsute variety, made this a particularly challenging experience. Call me old fashioned but I don’t want to do a Krypton Factor challenge when I’m eating. Us Beer enthusiasts are often juggling a beer map, a full glass and updating Untappd. The food thing should be easy, let us eat like normal people so we can crack on with our day and not have to go for a quick shower after we are done.

My last niggle, and it is a reasonable niggle; the session time is still not nearly long enough. I get that pumping through four sessions in two days will maximise numbers and profit, but I would argue that stretching it out another couple of hours will get the people in there spending more. I would have loved to have sampled many more beers, and would have needed more food to keep up the sustenance levels. Also, they started getting taps shut off after just four and half hours!! Come on people! It felt like it was over before it had really gotten started – again.

So in terms of value for money it doesn’t compare to Brewday , but the beer choice is superior. However if I had to choose one over the other and I could only go to one, Brewday would be the winner. There is still enough beers there to get the bang for your buck, and I am sure that that event will only get bigger. Four or five extra breweries would make this unmissable. So, unless they start spilling out onto the pitch, or change venues Beervana is unfortunately of at capacity, so I think they will have to have a rethink on those session times given the competition. Hell, Beers at the Basin just one week later had a massive amount of Breweries and was eight hours long!! Sounds like a dream world, for which, unfortunately I could not get tickets. 😦 However a guest post is forthcoming offering up their thoughts on the day.

Maybe, Beervana could offer up some differences like some extra seminars or demonstrations like they do at the Food show. Maybe they have an additional cost? Fill out the time, bring in some more coin. Just a thought.

All in all, it was a great afternoon, but as I said, it was over too quickly. I did also have 2 x Juicehead right at the end but I forgot to check them in…<sigh>, as always you get caught up in the mad dash at the end..because it is over too soon and you havent had a chance to try as much as you can!! Anyway, maybe one was the Devils Rain, the other…Damn it! Both were good and I hereby promise to make it up to everybody and try lots of Juicehead until I find the other.

So, Beervana 2021?? Tbh, unless they change it, or give us forking forks, I doubt it.

Back to the Beer!

Earth friendly beer cup on hairy face!

It has been some time since I posted last! And as we all know a lot has happened in that time. The world has been thrown into unbelievable chaos due to Covid-19 and it doesn’t look like going away any time soon. Little ol’ NZ entered a 4 week lockdown back in March but came out of that quite well. Then we suffered a little bit of an outbreak but avoided a full on 2nd wave by once again managing it properly and now seem to be in a pretty good position with currently (and knocking on a Tãne Mahuta sized piece of wood here) no community spread, with every day life sitting at a good degree of normal.

Seeing the UK seemingly hurtling toward another lockdown is just so surreal and also saddening. I really do feel for my family and friends back home and have never felt luckier to live so remotely from the rest of the world.

But, without this turning into another Covid-19 post about lockdowns and beer, let me succinctly wrap that side up. I drank plenty of great beers during the lockdown and thereafter but didn’t feel particularly inspired to write about it.

However, I feel like I have found a bit of my mojo again thanks to a quite magnificent couple of days spent with great friends here in Wellington. Firstly, myself and the aforementioned friends played in our very first gig with our Ceilidh Band “Craic N Ceilidh” at a Whisky Tasting night, followed by a few celebratory ales. The next day they very kindly invited me to brew some beer with them at The Occasional Brewer, which was awesome fun. Was good to use a fully set up Mash Tun / Kettle system and under expert guidance of the OB’s staff. I certainly learned a lot for if I ever delve back into my own home brew. And we kind of celebrated that by heading up to Garage Project to spend a voucher then “have dinner” at Hey Day! Incidentally the Hey Day Echo and Maiden Mercury NEIPAs are both magnificently quaffable alongside their ever delicious fried chicken. And yes..that photo of a Coffee you see below is actually an unbelievable Garage Project Coffee Stout beer served with a Chocolate Brownie. Delicious!

But the main event of the weekend was the much anticipated Brewday, held at Brewtown, Upper Hutt. A bit of a trek for us Central Wellington’ites especially when there were no trains due to maintenance, but the taxi trek was more than worth it. It was a bit grim to begin as Wellington served up another of its classic days of howling wind and rain, and having to queue outdoors to get in was not the perfect start to proceedings.

Once we were under cover though, and began to revel in the simply excellent amount of beer, cider, food and entertainment on offer, all thoughts of the misery outside was long forgotten…until we had to trek to the toilets…but a little on that later.

The Highs

Firstly, the space was great fitting in over 30 Beverage and 10 or so food vendors, plus a Barbers! I bought some beard oil, which I didnt really need but it smelled great. The drinks on offer were mainly Breweries, but there also a few Wine, Cider and Spirit offerings. There was certainly enough to please even the most ardent non beer drinker.

There was a mutlitude of musical acts playing through the day, which ensured a happy vibe through the day. However the main stage acts were particularly bass heavy so you couldnt really hear them clearly, and unfortunately they were also a shade on the loud side meaning conversation was a little hard in the main room.

Now, the place was heaving! I cant even really estimate how many there were but it didnt seem to let up from the minute it opened to the very end. It seemed from the initial queue that it was going to be chaos, however the space inside was pretty much spot on. In certain spots elbows were certainly being bumped but you never found yourselves stuck in a bottleneck. Plus there were plenty of seats scattered about , more so nearer the entrance should you have felt the need for a sit down.

I must also applaud the time allowed for the event. 11am until 6pm is exceptionally generous for events of this nature making the $45 price of a standard ticket exceptional value for money. (take note Beervana!) I opted for a $75 ticket which included a $30 credit on the Cashless Wristband used for purchasing at any vendor, which again worked seamlessly. You just topped up at the booth when you got low and away you went. Even better you didnt have to drink your way through the entire value as they offered up refunds either in cash or online! Genius.

The tasters were generally $2 or $3 and servings were generous. The full pours ranged from about $6 to $8 , maybe more depending on the beer. I think I paced myself well by sticking to tasters for much of the day in order to sample as many new beers as possible.

I cant speak for most of the food vendors as I only ate from one, but Scottys Meats Martinborough, take a bow! Served perfectly rare with bacon, egg, and a tangy beetroot chutney, your Venison Burger might just be one of the best burgers I have ever eaten. The “Great White”Pork Sausage on a stick wasnt half bad either.

And so, the Main Event! The Beers! Oh the beers. How I have missed the amazing festival selections which leave me flummoxed as to what to try next. So what tickled my fancy and did any leave a sour taste?

The Bestest Beers

According to my Untappd check ins, I quaffed 23 ales during the course of the day. Most were tasters so at leaving time I certainly felt merry, but certainly not in a munted state. In fact I must applaud the festival goers for the overall atmosphere on the day. I certainly didnt witness any sort of bad behaviour or see anyone getting chucked out or even cut off. It was friendly and fun all day, which was probably aided by about half the punters opting in to the Halloween / Oktoberfest fancy dress option and it certainly made for a very mixed and eclectic crowd.

Anyway, here are my top 5 of the day, two of which were stand outs.

5 – Waitoa Mosaniac Single Hopped IPA

I was quite surprised by this little fella! It was near the end of the day and I had run out of beers I studiously ticked off as ‘must tries’ before the day began. Despite not being overly excited by their ‘Pineapple Lump’ Porter earlier I gave this a go and found it very pleasing. Usually the last beers on a day like this all begin to taste the same but this full flavoured IPA stood out on its own.

4 – The Macleods 802 #28 Unfiltered NEIPA

This was my first beer of the day and I clearly started on a high. I love Macleods Hazies and this one was excellent. Full bodies, fresh, fruity and awesome.

3 – Garage Project Fresh NEIPA October 2020

I’m such an IPA fiend..but, it is so hard to not love these! Garage Project are turning out some exeptional monthly specials and this one was phenomenal. I’m only disappointed it is now November and there is more of this one 😦

2 – Choice Brothers Puppet Dancer Nectarine Infused Hazy XPA

I thought this was spectacular. It promised to be a juice bomb and it delivered 100%. I have tried the original Puppet Dancer but the nectarine infusion took this up a level. I note there is a Pineapple version too which I am eager to get a hold of!

1 – Duncans Brewing Tangelo Ripple Ice Cream Sour

I like a sour! I’m not mad for them as I’m not in to that slightly sickly, spewy aftertaste that is prevalent in so many. But I will always give them a go as now and again one will come along, stick its head up and say “LOOK AT ME I’M AWESOME”. This was hands down the beer of the day. The Tangelo Ripple includes Tangelo, blood orange, and ruby red grapefruit and the addition of lactose gave this a real ice creamy finish. It was phenomenal and an easy 5 out 5.

I don’t think there were any beers that stood out as particularly bad..I certainly didn’t spit any out. But there were many that were very close to hitting that top 5.

Before I forget though, well done Abandoned Brewery. Coolest display stand of the day! You also complemented my hat so there is that.

The Lows:

To be fair, I thought the entire day was excellent. The only slight downside was the fact the toilets were located outside, and coupled with the poor weather turned the surrounding grass into a mud pit. My shoes are still sitting on a mat looking very sorry themselves waiting to have the caked mud all over them cleaned off..meh, maybe leave them until next year.

So, that wraps up my take on Brewday 2020, and I am willing to hang my room polarising, coffee sack cheesecutter on this next statement; this was the best Beer Festival I have yet been too. It will be very interesting to compare and contrast with Beervana in a few weeks time.

Seeedneeee

That bridge you can go up

Accent stereotypes aside, I can confirm I do actually have Aussie friends, and they all talk exactly like that. Says he with the most bastardized twang of Scottish, Aussie, Kiwi and Canadian.

Anyhow, enough jibber jabber, and on with a much delayed post that I was promising to write months ago. A small foray into some beers and bites over a short weekend trip to Sydney back in May.

I can remember some moons ago, 2008 potentially, 2009 possibly…I was piping at an excellent event in Adelaide, and ventured down O’Connell street of an eve in search of some refreshment, and enjoying very much a Little Creatures Pale Ale on tap. Where? No idea. But to this day the beer holds a special place as I always remember that moment I tried it for the first time. Out with mates at decent pub early in my Craft Beer adventure and just loving it. Biscuity, full bodied and just damn tasty!

It was a total contrast to the standard Aussie fare that I was used too, Tooheys New, Carlton Draught or VB. Vast quantities of said flavourless fizzy stuff was certainly washed down the gullet during my year in Sydney in 2006. Minimal amounts since. And dare I say it, minimal amounts of Little Creatures sadly. Now owned by Lion of course since 2012. My preference is always to support, as best I can, independent breweries.

Fast Forward to Sydney, May 2019 – I was excited. I had some spare time on the day of my arrival to head downtown for a bit. Was there a Craft Scene here? I was certainly impressed by Melbourne from a few years prior and was eager to see if the fast paced Auckland-esque city would rival its laid back, boutique Wellington-esque counterpart.

Now, a bit of a disclaimer:

1. I had a plan all set in my mind of seeing the Opera House, the Bridge and my old busking spot on Circular Quay for sheer nostalgia as it had been about 10 years since my last visit. 2. I had been up since 4 am and didnt really fancy straying too far off the beaten track, and 3. I had to be in some sort of form later on. So I entrusted Google, took this list as gospel, and homed in on what looked to be a decent spot downtown to aim for after my blatant touristing. This being the Redoak Boutique Bar and Brewery on Clarence Street.

The blurb was promising, many styles, family owned, supports the small craft brewers etc….but, I left pretty disappointed. Everything just felt underdone. The lunch special was a burger and a beer (a piddly Aussie sized ‘half’) for twenty something buck I think….and I went for the classic Aussie Burger. The menu was hardly inspiring but the deal seemed good on paper, but for what you got it was a touch over priced. It was just a burger, perfectly ok, but in no way was I dancing on the rooftops about how juicy the patty was or how delectably moreish the caremelised onions were. It was just a burger ‘n fries.

Along with it I had the “Mother Brucker” Pale Ale, an ale promising fruity, spicy and floral characteristics, and was brewed using Hersbrucker hops. One that was certainly new to me. Of the 5 I sampled it was certainly the stand out, light and refreshing and hop was certainly distinctive. Quite dank I thought.

I tried four more on a tasting flight; the Stouty McStoutface, The Trap Belgian Blonde, A West Coast Pale Ale and the Organic Pale Ale. All were, again, ok. Just needed a bit of an increase in volume. The West Coast Ale had a decent hop finish but everything else was slightly timid. It must be tough I would imagine – expensive real estate downtown, and I would assume a more stiff business clientele who might not be keen on a mad Double IPA with their lunch. Pity. Those board meetings would be way more productive.

Perhaps the most deflating aspect though was the atmosphere and service. It felt like any other standard downtown bar. I have always loved the willingness and enthusiasm of staff in a Crafty place, open to discuss their beers or just have a sociable chat. Nothing of that nature here unfortunately.

Would I go back?? Arrrrggh, I dunno. Maybe after a decent kip and a fresh mind I would think a bit differently. So perhaps I’m being overly harsh here..

If / when I go back to Sydney I think this list shall see some exploration. It looks genuinely exciting but requires a bit of decent Ubering and Metro’ing. And I see that Marrickville, near the Airport is housing many a good stop. Two of these were given a good nudge on my second night, being Batch Brewing and Grifter Brewing.

Much much much much much better! Actual atmosphere, flavoursome beers, and very importantly Proper NZ chips at Grifter. Sorry crisps! Seriously the Onion and Green Chive flavour – basically crack in a bag.

Highlights :

Batch Hazy Sour – Loved it

Batch Elsie Milk Stout

Grifter Big Sur – West Coast IPA

After imbibing a good few (many?) ales and sharing many a tale with good folks we made the short walk into the eclectic and chaotic Newtown. A hotpot of worldwide culinary delights that I would love to spend a few weeks or months exploring. Only one place was on our list tonight though and that was Faheems in the heart of Enmore Road, a Halal Pakistani Tandoori joint which I first (and last) visited 13 years prior. I also happened to be with my old mate who introduced me to Faheems all those years ago, and he used to vist this place as a ritual , most weeks I believe when he lived around the corner. I will never, ever forget the creamy spicy Lambs Brains and I was overjoyed to still see them on the menu.

Old mate was entrusted with the order and i think we got in most of the menu. It was absolutely unbelievable and goes down as one of the best meals I have had. No doubt having a fantastic night, surrounded by great people played a part, but seriously the Tandoori Chicken!! Outrageous.

My apologies for the lack of photos, I was too wrapped up in the moment and devouring the glory in front of me. But there was fish curry, lambs brains, tandoori chicken, dips, pickles and absolutely huge naans. Delightful.

Then a random pub for G & Ts to finish and that was that. An epic night.

And that was really that. I did hit up the Strand Cellars the next night, very quiet times indeed but it was a great store with a decent choice for this quiet part of town.

Two particular highlights I picked up were the Murrays Brewing Gardenia Double IPA. A beautiful big 8.5% hop hit! Awesome.

Followed by Prancing Pony – The Piper West Coast American IPA, another big hoppy hit, but smooth and easy to drink.

And, finally Wayward Brewing Red IPA – excellent, hoppy, malty goodness.

The Bowmore was pretty sweet too

Just a final note – we had a few drinks at the Summer Hill Hotel, a totally classic Aussie Pub, close to our location and with the standard very poor beer options. But, hold the phone caller…the Young Henrys Newtowner caught my eye and this little blighter certainly wasn’t Tooheys New. It was instead pretty decent Aussie pale ale, medium bodied, light but flavourful..yes you read correctly, flavourful! A welcome addition to the taps.

A little digging seems to show this Young Henrys brewery as becoming pretty big in Sydney and their beers are quite widely available in the city….I suspected some sort of Lion or Carlton involvement but it seems not. Rather Dan Murphy’s, the massive liquor outlet, appeared to get involved early on in stocking their beer and they grew from there. So cheers to that!

And so my wee Aussie adventure came to an end. I was very fortunate to get some exploration time and I am very keen to get do some more digging one day as I think there are many hidden delights here. I will leave you with this totally unrelated picture of my Margarita from the Koru Lounge! Why not?

Yes ..I know…

It all started with a hiss and a roar didn’t it. I got into this blog writing in a decent way, but quickly fell into the age old trap of getting round to the next post tomorrow. Then numerous tomorrows came and went and now here we are some 7 months later. Shocking stuff I know.

So without much further ado I will give you a very accelerated run down of beer, bites and bagpipe happenings in those last 7 months. When I last wrote I had gone somewhat rogue, carrying out ‘Davey’s Dry End of March into April’, 32 days of zero alcohol! And of course penning the hilarious Water Review post. It was surprisingly easy and I felt pretty great. However, one cannot live without the delights of beer for too long and neither can my tens of readers who long to be delighted by my blogging acumen.

So here we go, strap in:

May – I went to Sydney for some bagpipe related antics. Checked some craft beer spots and was generally disappointed with the ‘scene’ until we ventured to Batch Brewing and Grifter Brewing one eve. Both were excellent with some great beers. It was a welcome relief….more on Sydney next time.

Also- Faheems! Oh my god, Faheems. 13 years ago I went here and was blown away. Back we went and it was just as outstanding, if not better. Visit Sydney – go here!

June – not much happened, prepared for the impending Canada / Scotland trip, drank some beers , these were the best ones:

“Epic Sparks Imperial Stout “ which looks like a one off collab beer, and “Garage Project Fresh IPA – JUN” (seems they have a fresh one each month which is cool)

Oh, and my bagpipes basically snapped, which, if you know anything about the instrument – is not a great thing to happen and especially a few weeks out from the World Championships.

But, I did make this fucking delicious beef cheek ragu.

Fucking delicious

July: I flew to Vancouver ..yay! Somehow scored a business class upgrade thanks very much Air New Zealand

feet!

It was however via LAX which is a total shambles.

Vancouver though – amazing as always. Beers, bagpipes , unreal Sushi, chicken wings, Ribfest, beers, Pitch and Putt drama! Bagpipes, beers, whisky, ridiculous Dodge Challenger rental cars, beers etc etc etc…..Man in Van part 2 will delve into some of these delights!

Went to Scotland, played well at the Worlds. It rained.

Finally, I turned a significant age …let’s not dwell on this.

End of August / Sep / Oct and now early Nov: I came home having put on a few kg!

Got hammered at a party celebrating said significant age. Showed that I was definitely the significant age by heading home before 9.30pm.

Made a decision to eat less meat in general…it’s kind of going ok. Those big old grainy salad bowls are something to behold.

Went back to the gym. It is also kind of going ok!

Brewed a damn good beer with the other half , a Baylands Brewing 350 Session IPA Clone.

My Pipe Band put on a concert, it went quite well!

Made Pickled Daikon and Kimchi for the first time. Both were stand out successes and my second batch of Kimchi is bubbling away as we speak.

Ate the most exceptional food at Highwater Eatery. The Lamb Ribs were simply unbelievable.

Had a cracking pub crawl, drank more beers , won at ten pin bowling.

And there we are, very brisk and brief and ready to go again.

I have realised that I actually do quite enjoy penning these wee articles together, whether or not anyone else is reading and enjoying them is another matter entirely. But, many a new beer has been drunk in that time and I feel that you, my mystical and potentially non existent audience needs to be informed of this…so be prepared!

Water Hi -A Monthly Review*

Welcome back to another exciting entry from your favourite beer blogger!**

This week I shall be raving about the backbone of beer! The very essence of what makes the brews we love so delicious. Without this special ingredient we would not have any of the delightful concoctions we know and love as beer.

We are indeed surrounded by this mystery ingredient! Our rivers, lakes and streams are full of the stuff. It pisses down on us from above on an alarmingly regular occasion. Hell, our very bodies are nothing but about 70% of it and is the giver of life itself! What is this mystery adjunct??

Well, the most astute among us will have read the title. If you still were not sure after the above then please leave immediately.

I am most certain we will all by now have cleverly deduced that what I am banging on about is in fact WATER! GLORIOUS GLORIOUS WATER!

water

That’s right! An insight to the glorious H20 I have sipped and savoured over the last month, tearing apart the flavour profiles and providing you with a definitive list of must try waters from around the region. What could be better!

Straight into it today folks with my Number 1 – Good old Wellington Tap

Oh the irony!!!!!!!!!!!!

Clear, crisp and depending on your plumbing setup, cold. Beautifully odourless , you get absolutely nothing but the mild aftertaste of water pipe on the palette. With it just being the right viscosity this tap water is second to none.

Additionally, you can be rest assured that your dental health is in great hands, safe in the knowledge that you have between 0.7 and 1.0 ppm flouride coursing through your veins and straight to your gnashers with every gulp.

Believe me this is the ultimate thirst quencher

Number 2 – Kiwi Blue Spring Water

All gone. It must be good.

The only commercially bottled product to make my list. Yes, it is a Coca Cola backed product…, yes they are a large corporate. I have heard it all.

However, let us be thankful that at least these small craft, high quality waters that get bought up by the big players helps make them more accessible the general public and hopefully away from the tasteless “swill” we get from bigger brands.

Number 3 – Water cooler water, Opera House, Wellington.

I have no idea where this particular water is from other than “out of the “cooler” “. It was wet, mildly luke warm and took on the taste of the eco unfriendly plastic cup it was delivered in within seconds. Mild irritations aside, it quickly did the job required of any good water, and rehydrated the flagging body of a soul melting in the heat of the cheap seats during the Wellington Comedy Gala.

*I am sure you don’t need the explanation. I am 30 days off the beer as of today!….this is what it has done to me. Please enjoy this comical piece

** at least top 5 right…..

Beer Hi – April in Review

Take it all in for now folks! I’m officially ‘aff the beer for a few weeks in an effort to shed a few more kg and rest the old liver.

I head over to Sydney at the end of May for a bit of Bagpipe banter so will hoist myself back up onto the Craft wagon then, that is as long as there are Crafts to be had or it will be back to the delights within a schooner of Tooheys New! Something we all look forward too.

So, what has gone on since my last little round up? Well, we had the fantastic HAPI festival, and of course for all the pipe band readers of which I am sure there are literally tens, the National Championships in Dunedin (a link to the magnificent stream by Brassbanned.com of the days action from the Saturday!)

The bawnd!

As a bit of a team builder the band headed to the Speights Brewery, for a bit of craic during some down time. I wouldn’t choose to go here on my own, but it was excellent for a bit of banter with a good crowd. The tour itself…well, it had it’s moments, the fellow taking us was very insistent on telling us how amazing the Company was, how many beer and food companies they had control of and just basically how much ‘stuff’ they owned. The very reasons why so many people are turned off by the big dominant breweries. However, we got to sample numerous beers at the end, most were pretty lacklustre but I will give them some credit for the “Summer Haze Pale Ale”. It was pretty refreshing and actually had some flavour. To be fair, Speights tend to produce the most palatable of the ‘large brews’ in my most humble of opinions.

A wee explore of Dunedin was required and a tip off led us to a small and cozy Scottish pub called Albar. It was certainly reminiscent of being back home with the tightly packed bar, leather seated booths and extensive Gin and Whisky selection. The beer on tap at this time though was not particularly mind blowing and I settled for a Sawmill Pale Ale on hand pull…( I think it was the Pale Ale… it was definitely Sawmill but we got stuck into some Hendricks after this and memories have faded) Anyway, the experience was not amazing, but the Gin made it worthwhile and I would be keen to check out those Single Malts on a return visit.

And let us not forget the glory of Lime Scooters! Probably the highlight of the sojourn down south. Note – not great for transporting beverages:

Another Pipe band related trip took me up to Tauranga a few weeks later and with a little time to spare I managed to take in a quality establishment called Rising Tide. A wondrous place with a ridiculous number of taps and the most meaty and flavoursome dumplings I have sampled to date!

The majority of beers on tap are by the Mount Brewing Company, although there is a wide and varying selection from around New Zealand. I was impressed by the value for money here. $7 pints, $15 Growlers and $10 for 8 massive dumplings. However I paid through the nose ($35 from memory) for a growler of Slab Brewing Naked City IPA , another small local brewery which I had not come across before. It was excellent! But I wonder why it was so much? Also, the liquor store next door seems to have some sort of control over a couple of taps, meaning you cant get a take away depending on what is pouring in there. A little weird quirk, especially annoying when the liquor store is closed.

However I thoroughly recommend a visit if you are up in the Bay of Plenty. Great atmosphere, lots of good beer (the Mr Jones IPA was the best of a few I tried) and the aforementioned dumplings are worth the trip alone.

Ok, on to my Top 5 for April in no particular order:

Actually screw that, number 1 by a long way and my first 5 start review in a looooong time, Behemoth – The Dude Abides, Imperial Milk Stout.
This is up there as one of the best beers I’ve had. A toasty, slightly bitter caramel white Russian in a beer. Insanity yet stunning!

Spectacular

There is now order from here on in , number two: Deep Creek Brewing Wisdom IPA (Totem Project). An interesting ‘little’ West Coast IPA number which at first had me very underwhelmed but in a few minutes the can was empty and I was quite sad. Would have again!

3 – Another Deep Creek Number, this time the Drop Top Chardonnay Brut IPA! As I have previously admitted am an IPA fiend and have difficulty straying away into ‘unuusal’ styles. Brut is one of these, but in the interests of furthering my experiences and actually having content to write about, I have no choice but to experiment.

This one was pretty good! This is an IPA fermented with Chardonnay grape juice you certainly get that forward fruit!

4 – Tuatara Double Trouble. A massive, bitter 9% hop explosion. Just my cup of tea but rendered me a blubbering mess immediately after.

5 – As noted above, the Mount Brewing Mr Jones IPA. Slaking my thirst alongside those plump meaty pork dumplings absolutely made my month complete.

That is it for another little while, stay tuned for a little reminisce about Denver, Colorado and hopefully some new exciting content during this brief dry period!

very dry

I’m so HAPI

Huh, because I’m Hapi
All these new beers waiting for me, get them into ma bell-ly
Because I’m not so hapi
Freeze my ass off in the rain and, inside chaos gener-allly
Because I’m happy
Clap along.. if the big old whales heart got you right in the mood 
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you also.. got more pissed than you should

The HAPI Festival has been and gone. If my poorly executed verse above has not described it sufficiently then here is my reasonably succinct summary in a more traditional prose.

The Queues and the Chaos !

Well, to begin with anyway. A huge queue awaited us on a traditional, blissful Wellington night ie, a freezing, howling southerly with intermittent biting rain. Despite arriving fifteen minutes early it was already winding its way back towards the markets car park. The doors did not open until 7.30 pm and only impending
beer glory kept the motivation levels high as we embraced a half hour of bitter cold and wet, slowly meandering our way into the foyer.

The various bars were set up on the ground floor, next too the little spinny globe thing that we all know and love (disappointingly, but sensibly not switched on tonight) and also up the first flight of stairs outside the Gallipoli exhibit, with food also readily available on both floors.

It was all a little bit crammed and chaotic. The space could not initially handle the 500 or so eager drinkers, who were also unsure of what exactly the ‘system’ was. There were 2 breweries per stand, and volunteers were scrambling about trying to get us to form one line per brewery, but the queues were so long you couldn’t get close enough to see what was pouring, so it was basically a gamble of standing at the back of a massive pack, edge forward and see where you ended up.
“What the hell is going on here?” and “I just want a fuckin’ beer” were the two most popular phrases at this point, but herd mentality soon took over, scoffing at the official approach as we evolved into a much more sensible ‘one line per stand and verge left or right at the last minute’ approach.

So, the first beer was not sipped until roughly 8pm, a good half hour after the doors opened and kegs were tapped. Not a great start for sure, but as everyone settled in and discovered that there was actually a lot of free space away from the bars to take stock and chill out, it turned out just fine.

Absolute top quality beverages

The selection was magnificent. All breweries had a selection of 4 for the night with a wide range from Goses to Triple IPA’s to massive Imperial Stouts. Perhaps a little heavy on IPA generally but I guess that was the point being a ‘hop forward’ occasion. Of the 80 or so beverages available I mustered a paltry 16 samples, but with barely a beer below 6% and the taster pour being decent I have to say that was a reasonable effort. I was certainly a touch wobbly by the end and the general merriment of the crowd by 11 pm was notable! But, the overall standard of beer was exceptional, such that I could still determine that Beer 16 was different to 15 and so forth…well, at least I think I did.

The beer highlights:

The queue for the Omnipollo Lorelei Imperial Double Porter never wavered for the whole night and it wasn’t hard to understand why. Served with some flavoured, crushed ice from a slushy machine, it was…well, unbelievable. Toasted Coconut and Maple abound, and a miraculous balance of flavour and just so more-ish. This was unique in every way and I would not hesitate to go back for more. Beer of the night for me.

Unreel beer. Celebrities not pictured – Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi having a chat off to the side..I’m not a wierdo paparazzi type

My IPA of the night belonged to Monkish Brewing. Their 7th Anniversary DDH DIPA was 8.7% of sheer glory but from out of left field two of my standouts were a Gose and a Saison of all things. I try to avoid Saisons like the plague, but my head told me to get out of my IPA comfort zone wherever possible and this led me to the Hill Farmstead Nordic Saison and the Mikkeller San Diego Passion Pool Gose. Both were welcome relief from the hop heavy DIPA’s and TIPA’s, with both providing excellent palette cleansing, refreshing qualities. The Gose in particular was fantastic, without that wretched aftertaste so prevalent in sour beers. Both would be perfect for copious quaffing of a summers day!

The Alvarado Street Brewery Sunny Hours DIPA is also worth a mention. Hazy , juicy and bold. This was sipped slowly during a little downtime halfway through whilst munching on some quite shockingly flavourless and rock solid mushroom dumplings. I hope that wasn’t a reflection on the rest of the food offferings.

Piss poor shrooms…

There were not any particularly bad beers, a couple were unmemorable and a couple I just didnt enjoy, mainly the super alcoholic, bordering on Port “beers”. Just not for me, never have been.

Overall, it was a great night. A shaky start certainly but once things got settled it was perfectly fine. I heard some mutterings of it being quite expensive and I suppose it probably was in retrospect. On average $3 /$3.50 for a taste, then $7 or $8 for a full pour that wasn’t much bigger than the taste. But when you factor in what it must have cost to freight the kegs of awesomeness from around the world I think it was very reasonably priced. Not only that but the room was FULL of craft brewers from around the globe! It was a delight all round.

Hopefully this grows into an annual event as we don’t get that much opportunity to try so many different worldwide brews in one place at one time. It certainly requires a few tweaks – more space around the bars is a must. Perhaps think about opening the doors earlier so people can get inside and suss it all out a bit before the taps open and help avoid that initial chaos? All a punter wants is to get that first beer in when they are through the door, so just make it easy to do. Also, look to improve the food, and absolutely get on top of refilling the water coolers! Running out is a bit of a no no as happened here later in the night, although the bars did have plenty but it all looked a bit shabby.


I think visibility of what is pouring is also a must – you had to barge your way through a mass of bodies to see what was on offer before barging back again and joining the queue. Chuck a couple of TV screens up with the current list and locations perhaps?

The jury is out on the EFTPOS pay as you go system, is it better than the token system? I don’t know, it seemed to work ok with minimal delays to be fair. You are going to have to queue either way. If this event does continue maybe they will go the Beervana loaded wristband route, or look at a self loading app?

Last but not least – we need more life size Whale Hearts at these things. This was very popular with the big kids and kept security on their toes for most of the night!

Playtime!

HAPI Days are here again

I am excited! Genuinely acting like I was 20 years younger excited right now!

Take a little look at this beautiful event happening in my glorious big village, tomorrow April 6th. The HAPI festival has been co-ordinated by Garage Project after developing a very exciting hop supply business, to better provide for overseas brewers utilising the magnificent NZ range. They also wanted to showcase some of the exceptional beers being brewed by like minded forward thinkers, so why not link the two together? Why not indeed.

And the lineup that has been put together for this event, to be held at Te Papa Museum, looks simply incredible. 19 Breweries from all over the US, UK and Scandinavia are having kegs of fresh, hop forward beers air freighted in especially to tickle the taste buds of the likes of you and me.

As you will have noted from my previous posts (go read them if you haven’t already….off you pop..) you will know I love to try new stuff. As we know Garage Project love to experiment and a gander at the line up is no exception to this. I have tried very few beers from the list, so I’m going to be like a kid in a candy store tomorrow night. I am also super excited to see what the guys who’s beer I have tried are bringing to the table.
So, who is coming? Here we go:

Hill Farmstead – Vermont, USA

The Bruery – Orange County, California, USA

Cloudwater Brewing– London, UK

Firestone Brewing – California, USA. I was stuck in LA for a night last year after a delay coming home from Denver. I made it to a magnificent burger place called
Stout Burgers N Beers in Santa Monica, and the Luponic Distortion Series 10 was on tap. It was fantastically hoppy, I wonder if it will be the series 12? Certainly will be keen to try out their offering tomorrow

Modern Times – San Diego / Portland, USA. These guys produced one of my favourite Hazies the Orderville IPA, …I’m never going to make it to midnight.

Other Half Brewing – Brooklyn/Rochester, Noo Yoik, USA

The Veil Brewing Co. – Richmond, Virginia, USA

Mikkeller – Copenhagen, Denmark. I am positive I have tried beers from these guys but I don’t see any on my list 😦 . Ah, well, tomorrow will change that! Always. Log. My Beer.

Sierra Nevada – California / North Carolina. Arguably the most recognisable name on the list.

Crooked Stave Brewing – Denver, USA. Despite giving Denver a decent nudge in 2018, I didn’t come across these guys. Their beers look exceptional and wild and they have a specific ‘Brett’ Yeast project which definitely adds these guys firmly to the top of my list.

Trillium Brewing – Boston, USA

Alvarado Brewing – Monterey, California, USA

Omnipollo Brewing – Stockholm, Sweden

Stone Brewing USA and Worldwide! Along with Sierra Nevada another of the bigger brewers here…I have zero against them, but my preference is to see what the little guy has to offer first.

Tired Hands Brewing – Ardmore, Philadelphia, USA

Monkish Brewing – Los Angeles, USA

CANarchy Craft Brew Collective – Unbelievable. This collective, ranked well inside the top 50 of US Craft Brewers comprises a number from around the US; Oskar Blues Brewery, Perrin Brewing Company, Cigar City Brewing, Squatters Craft Beers and Wasatch Brewery, Deep Ellum Brewing Company and Three Weavers Brewing Company. I have sampled at least four by Oskar Blues and all were excellent. Gimme Gimme Gimme!

An Oskar Blues Classic

Cellarmaker Brewing – San Francisco, USA

The Bruery – California/Washington DC, USA. These guys again look very experimental, specialising in Barrel Aged beers. Tick! Hit me up.

Look at all that choice. Incredible!

So, the festival for the proletariat is preceded by an industry only Symposium earlier in the day, which has been offered to all independent breweries in NZ. So no doubt brewers and representatives from all over the place will be mingling among us later, a who’s who of the brewing world. Hopefully armed to answer lots of my silly questions.
This for me takes the Winter Ale Fest and the ‘all the right intentions but slightly underdone’ Pacific Beer Expo to the next level.

There is clearly an exceptional choice and I am keen, and must, try something from all of them. This will take will power, pateience, hydration, small tasters and a slow pace (booooooo…nope, I can do this…) so as to decrease the somewhat elevated chances of being a blubbering mess a few hours in.

There is just no other way to describe it, for all crafty beer lovers out there – this will be cool.

Beer Hi – A ‘Weekly’ Review 20 March 2019

(yes, yes, not really weekly …more like almost monthly)

Double Yolker! Made my week.

You may be rightly wondering what the hell is going on in the above picture, other than the delights of a double yolker. Well, I didnt have much food left in the fridge so hashed together a bizarre omelette, onion, cheese concoction and liberally slathered it in Sriracha sauce. It was delicious. But there is clearly a very deep and hidden meaning within those double yolks, something related to this post being a two for one as it is clearly not a weekly follow up to the last, or that the quest is now over for, you, the beer blog reader endlessly searching for that true hidden gem…….yip, that’s it, I’m sticking to that one.

So, onward we go with another little summary of most recent beers in the last couple of weeks. Once again budgetry and dietry (watching that weight you know) restraints are keeping a simmering lid on the totals drunk, but is ensuring that almost every beer that I try now is totally unique.

First a CONFESSION! I DRANK SOME DOU BROUS AND YOU COULD BE NEXT!

I apologise for this

Well, not if your sensible unlike me. Look, it was a pipe band practice weekend, things tend to get a little loose afterward…no? No excuses you say. You are right. And yes, they taste less than average. That’s right “they”, I drank more than one. I don’t mind the odd smashing of a Speights Original or Steiny Pure, perfect when it is ludicrously hot and I’m dressed in my kilted costume. I’m not that much of a beer snob. This nonsense gave me no pleasure whatsoever.

Now to the serious stuff. I am dealing with about 20 unique beers since the last post so I will summarise with a clear, concise top 5 , in no particular order:

1 – Hop Elixir NZ IPA – Martinborough Brewery.

I was piping at a wedding over at Coney Wines in Martinborough. Beautiful setting and a beautiful day to boot. I was lucky enough to have a long wait between sets so headed into town and picked up 5 bottles of the breweries offerings. This was the pick of the bunch, super malty, super hoppy and just damn tasty. Their two stouts are also worth a nudge and a visit to the very tidy taproom is a must.

2 – Music City Hazy Mosaic IPA, Behemoth Brewing

A growler fill this time to start an epic beer and food night at the house. Is there nothing Behemoth can’t do well …I have a bit of a beer crush on these guys right now. Hopped with Mosaic, a fruity, clean, American hop I found this one to be quite sweet overall, with passion fruit notes but currently ranking as a favourite in my Hazy list!

3 – Apehanger IPA, Bootleg Brewery

cool

I must confess that this is the first beer I have tried from Bootleg, a Hamilton based brewery, and I am impressed. Full of NZ and American hops the profile really brought back memories of drinking a solid IPA in Vancouver., it just seemed to have that little bit extra to separate it from a very over crowded IPA scene. This beer was the best in class, Gold Trophy Winner at 2017 Brewers Guild Awards, and made the list of top 50 beers in NZ for 2018. How on earth has it taken me this long to find it! I think I need to print that top 50 and add it to the overall quest.

4 – Imperial Nibs Porter – Kereru Brewing

Nibs. Is there a word more pleasing? And the beer is just as good.
Rich chocolate & coconut. What is not to love here! Nibs.

5 – Verbotene Früchte Schwarzbier – Garage Project

Look! I mean just look! A Black Forest Gateau in a beer!

My exact comments on this – it tasted like slightly toasted cake. Refer cake above. Magnificent.

That’s it again for another round up. I have also just about, almost thought about my next retrospective post regarding my foray into Denver, Colorado, US of A and the excellence of the beer scene I sampled in my short time there last year. So that is coming! Very soon. Let’s say “next week”