Beer Hi – A weekly review

Hi!

A shorter post today for you, just a few musings on some of the quality ales I have imbibed over the past week or so!

Will try to make this a regular thing I think, which is obviously majestic for all involved – you the reader of course will be utterly thrilled and I get to experiment as much as possible with even more unique and delicious beers!

A delicious beverage

I will start with probably my favourite beverage of the last week or two – The Parrotdog “Colin” West Coast IPA. It is big, bold, malty and hoppy as hell but without being ‘chewy’ as many can be. At 7% it packs a decent punch but it is a glorious drop which leaves you wanting more but not too much if you want to avoid feeling a tad dusty the next day.

I must add at this juncture that I love Parrotdog. The quintessential beer success story, taking their original homebrew Bitterbitch to Beervana one year and taking out the Peoples Choice award. This beer is a few years old now but is an absolute staple in their range and in my fridge.

I also recommend giving their Hazy IPA’s a nudge – the “Susan” and “Keith”, both only 6% but stand up to the bigger Hazy’s out there. These guys just know how to do decent beer! Get out to there tap room in Island Bay too, well worth it.

Keith

My Pipe Band had a contest out at Scots College on Saturday ( we won..) and a post contest thirst quencher was much needed after sweating our asses off in unexpectedly hot conditions. An error in communications led us to the Gasworks in Miramar, a Wellington Hospitality Group owned bar – so , it’s going to be “ok”, but, like the others out there in the chain , is a bit generic. However, I do enjoy that they have a number of rotating taps for some independent brews so I went for the Whistling Sisters Red Pils, followed by the Tinker Tailor APA. Both very enjoyable, in particular the Red Pils, giving the drinker a little more interest than just a regular Czech Pilsner.

I will finish with another couple of highlights of the last week or so:

Deep Creek – Lupulin Effect Double IPA, another great example of fantastic beer coming out the much improved and ever growing Auckland scene. This one is deceptively easy to drink for an 8.5%’er. Would have again, but not on the same night!

8 Wired Juice Control Hazy IPA, again very easy to drink and full of flavour. Perhaps just a little light on the “juice” but a great drop none the less. 8 Wired are another fantastic Auckland Brewery who constantly produce excellence.

A couple of other Garage Project offerings saw out my last couple of Sundays. Both were big old IPAs (yes, I am a sucker for the IPA) Here I went for the West Coast Ultra Dry IPA – excellent and lower in Carbs, what more do you need! Then the Boss Level Douple IPA, and although I rated it highly, one is seriously enough! Rolling in at 8.5% it is a big old bitter number but unbelievably tasty. Although these guys do a fair bit of experimentation it is good to know they can pump out classic styles with aplomb.

Oh, and seeing as the blog does have the word “bites” in the title , I thought I would treat you to my favourite dish to cook up of a Sunday and accompany my numerous libations, behold the wondrous Chicken Saag. As I like to turn up the heat a little, the second pan you see has the addition of a ludicrously hot red chilli, it might be a Habanero? I dont remember other than it stung. A lot. I am not proud of myself for this. I still can’t quite seem to match one I made with the addition of just half of a hotter red Ghost Chilli, it ended up very hot but with more of a tang than a burn like this one.

So, this weekend could see a return to a the Homebrew world…will see how we go. It will certainly see a few recipes getting knocked out in the Kitchen though. Potentially a Ramen broth, possibly a Goan Pork Vindaloo , certainly a slab of bacon will be smoked and undoubtedly all will be accompanied by some new craft ales.

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Man in Van!

Standard Van Scenery

Welcome back! I have to admit to nothing much of anything happening since I started my blogging empire a week or two ago. I did get angry again at another beer calling itself a hazy, but being nowhere close…slap on the wrist to you Abbey “Brewing”, a winery by day I see!  Their Calypso APA was so so, but no no no , you were not a big delicious juicy New England IPA! Ruined my Sunday evening*

*not really

So, I am going to regale you all with some Vancouver tales for now. Where to start?? The scene and general excellence in this spectacular city is worthy of numerous posts so I’m going to start with a run down of some of the new breweries I visited on my Summer 2018 trip, and at some point in the future I will pull 4-5 years of “research” together into a best and not quite as best post. I don’t think there are any that could be categorised as “worst”.

One note before I proceed, why is the beer selection on board and in the Air New Zealand Koru Lounge Beer so shocking?…for an airline which proudly celebrates the best of kiwi culture, it is sadly lacking in this department. At least Singapore Airlines have cottoned on teaming up with the excellent Garage Project to offer us mortals some decent ales whilst stuck in their tin tubes.

Anyhow, per the latest update on the BC Ale trail website there are some 178 breweries in business for our quaffing pleasure. This takes in the wider British Columbia area , which is, well, fucking huge. The entirety of the UK can comfortably fit inside as this hastily put together image proves!

Of the 36 dotted around Vancouver and North Van I am proud to say I have visited at least 23 (from a hazy memory). Add the four from Port Moody, a couple around New West / Burnaby / Coquitlam then a few over in Vancouver Island, up to Whistler…well, you get the picture. Not too bad when your generally limited to the Sky Train, 2 legged transport and time ….Pipe Band is a serious business y’all, cant be rocking up to practices drunk. Light headed? sure!

In addition there are many solid brew pubs around hosting many local beers – I recommend The Alibi Room in Gastown which is one of the best. Exceptional food, wings a highlight, and a majestic beer selection taking in many of the weird and wonderful from the region.

St Augustines on Commercial Drive, is not only located right at the Skytrain stop at one of the most eclectic streets in the city, but is a superb starting point for your brewery crawl in East Van, plus it’s a cracker spot for people watching. A past time that you could waste days on here!

I also make a point of visiting CRAFT each year. Yes, its a bit “big” and slightly commercial, but with over 100 taps and a regular seasonal rotation you can’t really argue. The food is decent but certainly had not changed over the 4 years I have visited ..however the views out back and on the way are exceptional.

And, not forgetting the John B in Coquitlam, no frills but now with over 80 taps and very good rotating seasonal selection. Exceptional for a local pub, and the Monday Wing nights are epic!

I also make a point of going to the Black Frog, next to the Steam Clock purely because it was one of the first bars I visited back in 2015 so it holds that nostalgic place in my heart. It is perfectly fine, but nothing that sets the heather alight. Super friendly but not amazing any more it pains me to say.

On to my 2018 explorations. It turns out I managed to hit 6 new breweries this time around, which is not too shabby given the aforementioned limitations. First I made it too Electric Bicycle Brewing situated on East 4th Ave, just off Main Street (which in itself is worth a day or two if you have the time).

It is certainly one of the quirkiest tap rooms I have visited and I believe was only a few months old when I went. Totally unpretentious and certainly not afraid to experiment. They only had a small selection but all four I tasted had something unique about them. Most notable were the “It’s No Game” American IPA, which was delightful and the “Frosty Mugs Brown Ale”, made with lactose, sassafras, fresh ginger, juniper and certainly star anise was evident! Also, excellent but no longer brewed as a regular ale. The others on the flight were a Strawberry Lemonade IPA and a Session Ale. I was always going to go back here and one look at their current list makes this decision a no brainer.

Another free day rendered a trip to one that had been on the list for a few years. Postmark Brewing, on the corner of Dunley and Alexander right in the heart of Downtown Eastside. For those unfamiliar…it can get a little sketchy down here. You wouldn’t know it upon stepping inside the brewery though. It is strikingly grandiose, almost perversely so compared to some of the dereliction of its surrounds. On my way back toward the Alibi Room this was most evident by some locals enjoying the fruits of their long glass pipe.

The beer here – meh, unremarkable. Their Kettle Soured Saison and Juicy Pale Ale were pretty good but generally just a little tame overall. In total contrast to Electric Bicycle, this place felt just overly lavish and like they were trying too hard too impress. That can be forgiveable if the beer has some sort of wow factor…but it didnt.

With a few hours to kill I headed out once again to Commercial Drive, walked its length from the Skytrain and took up a pew at East Van Brewing, another new kid on the block. It is a sensational tap room. Spacious, friendly and comes with pinball! However, 4 of the 6 beers were exceptionally timid, only the “Double Venom” DIPA and “Unholy One” Stout offering any sort of excitement. From memory they had a dozen or so to choose from, and maybe I got unlucky with my choices but, I would much rather see 3 to 4 staples done exceptionally well with a couple of excellent seasonals on top, then mix it up with a regular flow of the experimentals, the more outrageous the better too! These guys seemed like they just wanted to offer everything at once. Would be keen to give them another chance though!

Onward to Callister Brewing, a collaborative brewery which allows independent brewers access to their equipment in order to start and progress their business. It is also the home of Good Buddy and Sundown Brewing.  Sounds Great and it is great! It provides plenty of choice which is not ideal when faced with just 4 on my flight in the effort to remain untainted for practice later. Well worth the trip and plenty to choose from

Just down the road from Callister is Strathcona Beer Co. By now,I had limited time so ended up hoofing back a ‘Canned Heat’ hefe and grabbing a takeaway pizza. Both were excellent, Hefeweizen is certainly not a style I regularly enjoy but this was remarkably pleasant as were the surrounds. Although Strathcona Beer Co have been around for a number of years the building had recently had an overhaul. Well worth going and I certainly intend doing it more justice another time.

Lastly, and closer to “home”I made it to Mariner Brewing in Coquitlam – another newbie on the scene and a first for Coquitlam. Overall, it is pretty good! They do a decent meat & cheese platter if you are peckish, the beer…yeah, it’s not bad. It again seemed just a little timid overall, I get that they are probably feeling their way into a reasonably crowded market , but you aint gonna turn heads by producing middle of the road fare. The Sour needs more sour, the Berliner Weisse is ok but give me more! The Hazy…no, more Hazy please! Their NorthEast IPA was by far my favourite – big, bitter hops with a smooth balanced finished. A growler of this was certainly enjoyed later.

All being well I shall be back over in July 2019 for more pipe band and ale quaffing antics. I note at least three or four more Breweries in the locale as “Opening Soon”, which is exceptional. I fully intend to finally hit up Luppolo Brewing this trip. The last 2 years I have tried to find this place but for whatever reason I fail each time. It can’t be that hard surely? (in fairness I don’t actually think it was open in 2016 despite it being listed, 2017…who knows?)

There are also plans afoot to spend a day and a night up in Squamish. A beautiful, quaint town about an hour or so north of Vancouver. I passed through a few years ago on the way up to Whistler. A sensational drive and home to three breweries; Howe Sound, A-Frame and Back Country.
Howe Sound was awesome so I thoroughly look forward to this new adventure.

Round the Haze

fog
Very hazy indeed

Right, time to get semi real here. This is just some about stuff that I like!

In 2017 it seemed that the World went mad for Sours and Goses!! It certainly seemed that any Brewery worth its salt was required to have a solid Sour or two alongside the staple Pale Ale’s, IPA’s and Porter’s* ..just FYI La Folie Sour Brown Ale by New Belgium Brewing, unreal if you get the opportunity to try!

When I say “world” I can only speak for wherever the hell I happened to be in the World at that time, being Vancouver and then back home in Wellington.  I also spent a few weeks in Denver, Colorado  prior to all of this becoming a certified FAA Flight Dispatcher, a slightly bizarre left field turn of events but maybe more on that another time.  Utilising the stock standard “Craft beer, wherever the hell I am in the world right now” Google Map approach, I was to be found weeping in the corner of my motel room as I discovered a scene bursting with opportunity mere yards from my front door, and having only about 2 days of free time to explore.  The merest scratchings of a massive surface in a delightful pictorial display below – I did not too badly with my time:

Turn the clock forward…back?? , lets say forward to 2018 and the world definitely did, and still is going mad for the Hazy IPA, also known as the New England IPA, renowned for bold, juicy flavours and the distinct ‘pea souper’ consistency.  Big, fruity hops are added late and masses of dry hopped goodness all contribute toward this, like the sour, somewhat polarising style of brew.

Personally I love ’em! I am a huge IPA fan, gotta love those Hops.  But some of the overwhelming bitterness can get a little much to take. Step forward the Hazy. Fruit forward, a little bit of bitter and exceptionally drinkable.  This is potentially now my favourite style to date…step aside Milk Chocolate Stout and GTF Vanilla Coffee Porter!

Back to the Hazies.  As I say, I love em, and it has been interesting sampling what was on offer over the summer in BC then coming back to a veritable fruit explosion in New Zealand.

I do find those I tried in BC, a solid mix of Canadian and US beers, just a little more punchy.  Certainly bigger on the fruit and not afraid to serve you a juicy glass of what looks like pulp. In saying that the Kiwi versions absolutely stand up in terms of flavour and balance.  I have had very little poor experiences with the Hazy but 3 in recent memory didn’t quite make the grade for me.

Unfortunately all 3 were kiwi beers.  “Hey Day Phase Wave” & “Deep Creek Misty Miyagi” were both just ok, a little bitter for me, lacking the fruity balance I would expect.  More recently “The Renegade by Fortune Favours, didn’t really pull its weight as a Hazy at all…if you say your a Hazy, then give me a Hazy. It was a perfectly fine beer to quaff of an eve, totally inoffensive but lacking any renegade risk taking at all.  A consequence perhaps of pressure to appeal to the masses? A topic for another time I think.

On the upside of this my current favourites are also Kiwi, go us! Now I do love pretty much everything by Behemoth and there is no mistaking the beauty of the ‘Lid Ripper’, ‘Humorous Ludicrous’ and the ‘Maths, Science, History’.  All just a little bit different, and all sensational in their own right.  The Humorous utilising “pure lupulin in the form of Cryo Hops” , my understanding of this being no cone or pellet hops, just powder.   It is a wonderful end result.

Denver served some delights but to be fair I was not overly aware of the Hazy craze at this point. One that stood out was “Woods Boss Brewing – Vivette”. An 8% fruit bowl in the face. Also, the tap room is outstanding so well worth a visit.

Vancouver! Ohhhhh Vancouver!!! Wonderful Vancouver…my third home after Welly and Aberdeen (did I mention I was born and raised in the land of sheep..real sheep mind, not your nonsense Southern hemisphere sheep, once again I digress)

A number of posts are likely to be forthcoming regarding my various adventures around this wondrous city, but for now I shall stick to going over the top on the merits of two outstanding Haze filled beauties.

1 – The Yellow Dog High Five IPA

Sensational. No more words; and

2 – Backcountry Brewing – The Widowmaker

Looks like a glass of fruit juice and I am sure many a “WTF is this” has been muttered upon its arrival. Fear not, its majestic. And at 6.7% is fortunately / unfortunately quite sessionable. Well worth the headache.

Incidentally the Yellow Dog Brewery is a fabulous tap room. One of four along a little stretch in Port Moody that includes Moody Ales, Twin Sails Brewing and Parkside Brewing.  Super easy to access via the Sky Train, and anyone visiting BC who enjoys a wee beer needs to get out there.  If visiting in July certainly head to the Port Moody Rib Fest! Unbelievable scenes.  A dream world for meat lovers and beers on tap from the four breweries.

Some honourable mentions before I wrap this scintillating post up.

1 – “The Wild Beer Company – Trendy Juice – based in Somerset, England

I had this in a cracking bar called Six Degrees North, whilst home in Aberdeen a few years ago.   Kind of pointless to post about the beer as they no longer brew it, however the company is worth a mention given their penchant for unusual fermentation techniques and seasonal ingredients.

2 – McLeods 802 #11 – Waipu, NZ

Delicious!

3 – “Set Wave – Heyday Beer” – Wellington, NZ

I love Heyday and everything about it. Their fried chicken is a delight and this beer is a standout.

4 – “Modern Times – Orderville Hazy IPA” – San Diego, USA

Another one highly rated on my list.  I seem to remember this one balancing nicely with my salt and pepper chicken wings from the magnificent John B Pub in Coquitlam, BC.

There you have it. A little bit on the Hazy! I feel a follow up later in the year as I will certainly be prioritising this style in 2019.

Hopefully the breweries keep pumping them out, or will see a polar shift to the weird and wonderful Clear IPA??

clear
I can see clearly now the Haze has gone

*I welcome grammatical critique here in regard to apostrophes, never a strong point for me

I’ve tried over 1000 beers on Untappd don’t you know!

Of course you don’t! Why would you?? Who the hell am I anyway?

Well, hello I suppose. I am Dave! A fairly regular dude who enjoys the odd crafty. Not Just any old crap, but the good stuff, craft beers of all smells, styles and tastes. (except perhaps the mad percentage barley wines…I have yet to be convinced) So what the hell is this? I hear you ask , and rightly so. Well, let’s see if I can explain;

As the title suggests I have a small history of beers tasted over 5 or so years and over that time have had the fortune to touch upon some excellent Craft Beer scenes in places around the world, like Vancouver (unbelievable!) , Seoul, Osaka and Denver.  My current locale is Wellington, New Zealand, the Craft Beer Capitalof the country and possibly the windiest city on the world.  I also play the bagpipes – the significance of my passion for this instrument and the production of this blog will become evident here and over time.

KOPTA Sadly now closed 😦

But, I also love eating and cooking! I cant really narrow that down to be fair, but I have just recently started curing and smoking my own bacon which I am ludicrously excited about. So lets just say there might be a bit of that thrown in too.  A night of crafties and a dozen Salt & Pepper Chicken wings and you are on the way in to my heart…..a heart which could do with a few less of those delicious, fried nuggets of gold it must be said.  At this point I would like to thank Jetts Fitness for ensuring that this blog can even begin.

I have been known to dabble in a spot of home brew so I do kind of, but not really know what I am talking about, sometimes.  I still have to look lots of things up! Is it the bittering hop that goes in first, or is that mainly the flavour one? Damn it!  I’m very much an amateur

Anyway, the few wee ales that have been turfed out have been pretty good. Sure, they are littered with basic errors, look like they could clean a drain and sometimes look like said effluent from said cleaned drain but hey, you can drink ’em!! None have been spit out bad and indeed one variation of an Amber Ale was quite exceptional, but due to my sincere inability to keep records, will likely never be repeated.

2015-10-18-19.24.15
said home brew, “Quite Good”

My poor record keeping is just one reason why this blog began, but enough with that.  I am rambling already. Let us start at the beginning and I shall be as brief as possible:

It was roughly ten years ago, I was at work in Lambton Quay and a young software developer at our firm by the name of Dan Lord, yes, the very same…suggested a beer tasting evening as a social event one night.  Sounded like good craic, so I went.

It literally changed my life.

I had no exposure to the world of a craft beer at this point.  Here we had 21 beers to sample our way through and strict instructions on scoring each beer, not just one big score out of ten either, but for different categories!! What the hell was going on here?? What in the bloody name of hell was mouthfeel?? And there was not one beer I had remotely heard . (other than Macs Gold, in there as a control for the tastings I am sure)

Anyway, it was a magical evening – 21 beers can do that I suppose. And it was much like our beer tasting nights continue to be in 2019, the 21st beer being a lot like beer number 13.  However, I do remember excitedly heading home with a head full of this amazing world of wonder, a world of flavour, of complexity, of the finest balance between Malt and Hop that was just waiting to be explored.  I’m also fairly certain the original scoring sheet is still tucked away somewhere at the back of a cupboard, a hazy memory telling me one of the ‘La Chouffe’ beers came out on top, or perhaps it just had the most memorable label at the time.

lachouffe

This is where my love for a crafty was born. Now enter a love for travel and the mighty Untappd!

I then got introduced to something called Beervana (Remember when it was at the Michael Fowler Centre, ah such bliss) and then a few smartphones later I was on a mammoth overseas trip taking in Singapore, Japan, South Korea and Laos, beforehand deciding that trying to search out some decent beers would be a reasonable idea. Knowing that it had opened up explorations of lil ol Noo Zeelund, I hoped that this might also take me off the beaten track a bit in amongst the usual touristy nonsense.  So, after getting exceptionally giddy over the prospects for upcoming excellence in this Singapore Bar a few days prior, a ‘loose end’ was found after reaching closing time at the excellent Edo-Tokyo Museum.

5craftybeers
Jibiru, Orchard Road, Singapore

A perfect opportunity to see if there was any decent bars close by. “Craft beer near me” was input to Google Maps, and less than 100 metres away was The Popeye Beer Club, only one of the most renowned beer bars in the city.  I won’t dwell too long on this as I’m sure you get the point – but it was a glorious twist of fate.

Onto Osaka and ‘blown away’ is an understatement. The entire visit here was essentially planned around what bars might be good and it was a gold mine.  The last night the discovery of the now sadly closed,  KOPTA was discovered. This bar and night is possibly still my favourite travel experience of all time.  The bar was basically someones kitchen, 8 or so seats around the centre table, appliances, cooking stove, fridges, taps all around and zero English on the menus.  What can you do but boldly crack on, nod at the few curious locals and make the worldwide signal for “IPA”, which it turns out is just basically mouthing the letters IPA very slowly and hoping someone understands.

After feeling like the proverbial duck out of water plans were afoot to head off, however a conversation was soon struck with a friendly gentleman who simply loved NZ. A laugh was had and a pub crawl ensued. It was awesome! Needless to say the favour was repaid when he visited Wellington a few years later.

That was the moment that Craft Beer became the “Thing to Do”, rather than the number 1 tourist trap on Trip Advisor. It made it all the more exciting to go and see the big needle in Seoul  knowing that a selection of bars selling decent beers with (hopefully) like minded people were close by.  Go see ‘a thing’ then go and sink some excellent ales. If this approach had been utilised when booking then the smoke filled hovel “close to some things” in Seoul would have been avoided, and rather hitting up the area close to “Made in Pong Dang” , a little brewery that had only just opened would have been locked in.

2014-04-14 17.33.34

It was on this trip that I really started embracing Untappd. Well, more accurately it was after this trip that I realised that I should have been documenting ALL OF MY BEERS AND LOCATIONS!  I have certainly tried my best since then and have since registered the magical 1000+ unique check-ins…is that a lot?? Seems reasonable.

Now we come to Bagpipes,  everybody’s favourite instrument!  I play them professionally and have done for over 30 years. I have essentially circumnavigated the globe playing this instrument.  And the pipe band world love a drink!  Refer below scene from the Sunday after the World Pipe Band Championships 2018 

20180819_160606

Most recently this “hobby” of mine has taken over to Vancouver, BC  as I play for this mob called Simon Fraser University Pipe Band.

Let it be known that having one of the greatest craft beer scenes in the world played only a small part in my decision to continue to spend a small fortune year on year to go play with this band. Spending nearly the entire summer over there leaves one with a bit of downtime for exploration…and explore I have.  Vancouver is immense! It’s basically heaven for me but this story will be told in time.

It was then, this week, the 3rd week of 2019, that I was told in no uncertain terms to start writing about this sort of stuff ffs!  I travel a lot, I love eating local, I’m occasionally witty and I love craft beer.  I am also shocking at keeping records of things so maybe what you have read today is all that this blog will kind of maybe be about, if only to help me get better at recording memories! It is certainly going to be fluid…boom, and there it is, pun very much intended. Drop mic..

Does any of this make me qualified to run a beer blog?….probably not, I still really dont know my Goses from my Lambics, but i’ll try ’em and i’ll drink em again if I like it! And I am sure you will soon get used to my inane ramblings and excitable posts as I look forward to hitting beer number 1500.