Aged beers

Words by Greasylightbulb

After a hiatus that was threatening to turn epochal, the Thirsty Boys finally managed to be in the same place at the same time and in the company of a themed beer selection. It’s certainly not that we hadn’t been drinking in the meantime, it’s just that orderly structure had eventually given way to a pleasant casual whimsy. However much like a room of monkeys on typewriters, all we had to do was wait long enough and this day was bound to happen.

Being nothing if not contrary, it was decided to ignore the fresh sensorial delights of the current wet hop season and instead explore the dusty old box that had been unearthed when I recently moved house. I knew there had been some bottles somewhere in the garage, some of which had been put away on purpose, others less so. I hoped some might be nice, but figured that even if not, then it could provoke interesting discussion about the whys and wherefores of ageing beers.


 1. The Bruery Saison Rue (8.5% ABV)

bruery saison rue

The box turned out to contain a pleasingly wide variety of beer styles. First up being a 2012 Saison from Orange County’s Belgianesque The Bruery. They no longer make this under the same label, but spinoff brand Bruery Terreux do. It’s made with rye and bottle conditioned with some brettanomyces. Described in the literature as rich and hoppy when fresh, but expected to “…dry out and become more complex with rustic notes of leather and earth” with age.

On the day it was delightfully classy start to proceedings, with the advertised earth and leather propped up against a fruitiness which opened up and became more complex a little while after decanting.

“Subtle and aromatic” The Jesuit

“Held its malt body really well” Gingerbeardyman

“Hints of sherried honey and spice” Greasylightbulb

It was enjoyed by Malice who normally finds saisons hard to like; and also Troughboy even though he considered his tastebuds to be unenlightened despite all the practise they were getting. It was superbly well matched to a round of Tenara ashed goats cheese from Kaikoura which the Lady Piemaker had kindly provided

This very vintage won Best beer of 2012 by Wine Enthusiast magazine. We gave it 7/10 Man Points (see here for no real explanation at all), though we scored all beers at the end of the tasting which leads to something akin to curved grading.


2. Chimay Bleue/Grand Reserve (9% ABV)


Iconic strong Belgian ale from 2012. Quite a lot of information and opinions are available in the internet bout the ageing of this and other Trappist beers. Although exact character will vary with vintage, the size of bottle, and the way it is stored. As a crude rule, 3-4 years in bottle appears to be considered a peak time. It’s intricacies on the palate left the Thirsties grasping for likenesses

“Raspberryish” Lady Piemaker

“Fruit preserve on burnt toast” Gingerbeardyman

“It’s Christmas cakey” Lady Piemaker

Conversation then turned tangentially to how hipsters were now drinking the iconic Scottish budget fighting juice Buckfast, the origin of the hipster culture, and merits of artisanal firewood.

(8 Man Points)


3. Invercargill Brewery Pitch Black Imperial Stout (9% ABV)


Batch barrel aged in central Otago Pinot Noir barrels for 3 months, then left to its own devices in Greasy’s garage for 3 years. Invercargill say it “….will only improve with age”. Despite an erratic supply this far North (unlike a few years ago when we could get our hands on an extended range)  Invercargill brewery are still warmly regarded by several of the Thirsties. Would age legitimise that fondness or highlight the erraticism? Well with minimal carbonation it poured an enticing deep walnut tinge and….

“coffee and blackberry” The Jesuit

“ a good dessert evening beer, great with ice cream” Lady Piemaker “…and chocolate”

Though its impossible to know, we felt it would risk getting a bit flabby with more time, so were happy to revel in it’s gorgeousness for now

(9 Man Points)


4. 8 Wired the Sultan (10% ABV)


This sultana-containing Quadrupel was the originator of the stash for ageing. It was picked up at Wellington’s Beervana festival in 2011 or 2012; memory failing me slightly. However I do remember the distinct feeling that it was a) amazing, and b) could be even more so. Hence putting it away and trying harder not to drink it than I normally try not to drink things. The bottle blurb states it would continue to develop for 3-4 years.

“..has a tartness to it” The Jesuit

“This is like a beer you drink just by itself, you don’t need food with it” Lady Piemaker

It was agreed that we’d like to have another one, which was a problem since sadly it appears to be discontinued by 8 Wired. This is an inherent risk in ageing beers, in small volume anyway. When you get it right, and find yourself relaxing in the glow of a decadent complex beer at its peak, the feeling risks being tinged with the regret of not buying and keeping more at the time.

(8.5 Man Points)


5. Liberty Brewing Renall’s Towards Muriwai (11% ABV)


You may have notice that the proceedings have gone Belgian – stout – Belgian – stout, turns out it’s not easy to order this selection. I went with anticipated size and body rather than beer type (then stuck the freak at the end…). Other suggestions would be welcomed though!

Anyway: back to Liberty. Described as a “Black Forest Stout” this single batch from 2012 contains a hefty dose of sour morello cherries. It was made for Brewers Guild New Zealand awards, and won a medal. However it really has its roots in a much more personal symbolism. It commemorates Liberty Brewing’s Joe and Chistina Wood’s 12 years of marriage. Apparently they were aiming for 12% ABV, but missed. I hope that fact isn’t symbolic of anything. Muriwai was a special place in their youth and the beautiful label was by an art teacher from the college they met at. It really was a bottle with sophisticated elegance. I remembered thinking it as a good end-of-night beer originally, but our commentary suggests that the effects of time may have shifted its optimum place in one’s daily routine.

“A beer for breakfast” Lady Piemaker “ coffee”

“Good with porridge and brown sugar” The Jesuit

Compared with the rest of the night’s dancecard it didn’t have as much depth or complexity of flavour. But we did wonder what it would be like with even more age. Since it was my last bottle, the regret firmly took hold.

7/10 Man Points

See more by the label’s artist Sarah McBeath at

Renall's towards Muriwai col

Renall’s Towards Muriwai by Sarah McBeath 


6. Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary Jack and Ken’s ale (10.2%)

sierra nevada

This American dark barley wine is the oldest of the bunch. Crafted in 2010 as one of four commemorative and collaborative brews to celebrate Sierra Nevada’s 30th anniversary. This one was a collaboration with Jack McAuliffe of New Albion Brewing who has been described as the first American microbrewer. It is said that… “this robust ale should age gracefully for years”. Today we could prove it.

“That’s an incredibly great beer… just the balance between all the elements” Gingerbeardyman

“I once drank a bottle of this on my own, I was very swirly” The Jesuit

(at the 65 IBUs) “oh no, it’s not bitter, at least I don’t think it is bitter” Lady Piemaker

“Layers of liquid liquorice” Greasylightbulb

“ has a serial moreishness” the ever quotable Gingerbeardyman

“I don’t see how it could get any better” Greasylightbulb

(9.5 Man Points)


7. De Molen Raad & Daad (6.5% ABV)


Not much could be researched about this oak aged sour from 2013. Brouwerij De Molen themselves had no mention of it on their website. There’s a discussion on about how the bottle was made differently to the draught. Google translates the name as possibly meaning council and deed. Mysterious. Very different style to the other beers, as apparent in the atmosphere created by the swirling glasses.

“oh no” Troughboy’s prospect

“…a felonious aroma” The Jesuit

“Genuinely embodies horse saddle sweat” Greasylightbulb

“Sweet and sour acidity” Troughboy

“It has candy to it” Lady Piemaker

Scoring was divisive, but averaged out at 6/10


Well what could we conclude from the evening? Apart from wishing I’d saved the Sierra Nevada for last. Exploring the effects of ageing would be much more successfully achieved if we had tried aged beers alongside their more youthful versions. Some American brewers are now branding some of their range as “vertical beers” for this express purpose. Unfortunately some of our brews were batches never again repeated, denying us that opportunity. But we can safely say that this selection was aged and it was delicious. Relying on our memories somewhat, they were generally felt to be more complex and interesting than they had been originally. I’ve decided imperial stouts and barley wines are the ones to put aside for me, so I’m off to find some more to fill that new hole in the garage.


Aged Beers – The Empties

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Rogues Gallery: The Rogue Ales of Newport Oregon, USA.

Text: The Jesuit

Tasting: Malice and staff of Hashigo Cult Beer Bar, Wellington, New Zealand

In May 2015, a parcel of Rogues aka the Thirstyboys wandered into a bar, Hashigo Zake Cult beer bar as it happens. The occasion, a tasting of beers selected from the range of Rogue Ales of Newport, Oregon – a long established player in the American craft beer scene (founded 1989).


1. Brutal IPA 6% ABV (Manpoints 5.5) 

Not at all brutal by current hop-crazed standards, this beer is more like a beeted up bad boy version of Coopers Sparkling Ale (as described by the Gingerbeardyman). It would pair well with fish and chips or a flavorsome pie.


2. Hazelnut Brown Nectar 6.0% ABV (Manpoints 3.75)

Brown ale enhanced by hazelnut essence, i.e. what it says on the tin, the nectar reminded us of a nutty liqueur. According to the Little One; “peanut brittle in liquid form”. This might work well as a winter warmer. Potential food matches: pork roast, boysenberry ice cream, pancakes.


3. Rogue Farms Fresh Roast (5.7%ABV) (Manpoints 7.0)

“Smells more than it delivers,” opined the Little One. However, the rest of us felt it held its sweetness better than the two preceding beers. Among suggestions for food pairings were roast chicken, Maggi Onion dip and sticky date pudding with custard.


4. Rogue Farms Chipolte Ale (5.5%ABV) (Manpoints 4.0)

Gingerbeardyman declares this beer reminiscent of a bad scotch but he is a cruel man. In reality, the beer is mild, has hints of smokiness, and not a lot of heat. It was marked down on the man points because it purports to be more than it really is. Food match: chicken quesadillas. “You might drink it…,” declared Gingerbeardyman “ …if you didn’t have any chips!”


5. Chocolate Stout (6.3ABV) (Manpoints 7.25)

Nice, smooth, boozy and definitely chocolaty, we liked this so much we drifted into conversation about television current affairs programmes (or lack thereof). Food match: spicy salami on rye.


6. 7 Hop IPA (8%ABV) (Manpoints 8.0)

Hopsessive Grassy as a sauvignon Blanc or a freshly cut lawn opined Mr Horse. Either way it caused Gingerbeardyman to succumb to some cub scout inspired PTSD. We might drink this with a creamy pasta, say carbonara.


7. (Bonus beer) Marionberry Braggat (11.42%ABV)

This beer incorporates 17 ingredients, notably marionberry a cultivar indigenous to Oregon aka (Rubus L. subgenus Rubus) or Marion blackberry. An award winning brew in 2014 and 15…a big way to end the night.

Tagged , , , , ,

American Independence Day: Revolution and a taste for beer

Tasting and text by Karori Fry Up

Over two hundred and forty years ago American patriot Paul Revere rode through the night to warn revolutionary leaders John Hancock and Samuel Adams that the British army was advancing upon them. As the fourth of July draws near we Thirsty Boys gathered at The Malthouse to celebrate that other revolution, the American craft beer revolution.


Here’s something to think about. If you could walk from Wellington to Portland, Oregon (7125 miles) with all the craft breweries in the United States (approx. 2768) spaced evenly along your journey, you would be able to get a beer every 2.5 miles.

Now a beer tasting spanning fifty years and over 2000 breweries cannot obviously be summed up with five beers in one night. This was going to be challenging.

It is a shame that Beer Without Borders, the Malthouse and others don’t regularly import beer from anywhere near 2000 US craft brewers. However, before Dominic corrects me, I admit, my assumption here is as accurate as Nick Smith’s Auckland house-build calculator.

So to make the tasting harder I had to find a bar in Wellington with a selection through which I could weave a historical narrative, of fifty years, through five beers. It wasn’t easy.

In 1965, when a restaurateur and friend told him that the brewery of his favourite Anchor Steam Beer was about to close, and that he should pay them a visit, Fritz Maytag did that. He saw potential and bought himself a brewery, Anchor Brewing Company.

Maytag would set about improving the quality, consistency and, in fact every aspect of the brewery. He was not an overnight success. For Maytag it was a long hard grind. Despite this, Maytag’s contribution to the craft beer scene was far-reaching. Maytag would inspire many craft brewers, and he shared his knowledge with visitors to his brewery. It seems that any American craft brewer of note had at one time visited the Anchor Brewing Company.

In 1974 Fritz Maytag visited the United Kingdom searching for inspiration. One beer that impressed him above all others was Timothy Taylor Brewery’s The Landlord, a hoppy pale ale.

Somewhat suitably we start our American revolution with an English classic.

Version 3

Beer no. 1, Timothy Taylor’s The Landlord.

West Yorkshire, UK. ABV 4.1%. IBU approximately 30-40.

This delicious ale poured a fantastic clear gold, with good hop and malt balance, worthy of its four CAMRA beer of the year awards.

Back in San Francisco, Maytag would brew his take on The Landlord to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Paul Revere’s midnight ride. Anchor’s Liberty Ale first brewed in 1975 was the historic beer that started a revolution. The big American breweries which dominated the market were serving watery lagers with 10 IBU. Maytag wanted a flavoursome beer with up to 40 IBU.

Ideally for our tasting, beer number two would have been Anchor Liberty Ale, which was still on Malthouse’s website, but not in stock.

In 1980 a part-time bike mechanic and home brewer, Ken Grossman and his acquaintance Paul Camusi started a brewery in Chico, California . Inspired by Liberty Ale and its American grown Cascade hop, Grossman and Camusi brewed the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company Pale Ale.


Beer no. 2, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

Chico, California, USA. ABV 5.6%. IBU 38.

The Sierra Nevada complemented Timothy Tale but the Cascade hop was significantly more forward on the palette.

Every so often invention provokes revolution. Never was that truer than with the birth of the Cascade hop. Worldwide it was thought that European hops were – and had always been – superior to their New World counterparts. That changed in the late 1960s with the development of the Cascade… If one ingredient can be said to start a movement, it would be the Cascade hop – the plant that built craft beer.     –

Indeed, with generous helpings of Cascade hops, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale became the beer which would define the West Coast Style.

As a side note, home brewing of beer above ABV 0.5% was illegal in the United States until 1978. This opened the way for the relatively ‘quiet’ home brew culture to become a fully fledged and sanctioned industry led by the likes of Charlie Parpazian who formed the Brewers Association, published The Complete Joy of Home Brewing and founded the Great American Beer Festival.

[Thanks to the Jesuit for bringing up the important and relevant point of home brewing and Jimmy Carter’s influence].

If I was able to have Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, Anchor Liberty Ale, and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale my next beer would have been from the now defunct New Amsterdam brewery. In the very early eighties Matthew Reich pioneered successfully craft beer contract brewing. New Amsterdam beer was brewed at F.X. Matt Brewing in Utica, New York. While F.X. Matt brewed his beer, Reich was out marketing it, walking the streets of New York and getting New Amsterdam into bars and restaurants. When New Amsterdam did become a physical brewery it didn’t last long. Matthew Reich’s legacy included offering consultations to budding contract brewers.

One man who paid for a consultation with Reich was Jim Koch. In 1984 Koch, a Harvard graduate, one-time Outward Bound instructor and management consultant, co-founded a brewery which, by nature of its success would go on to challenge the definition of Craft Beer. Jim Koch came from a family of brewers and when he told his father he wanted to start a brewery he received two good pieces of advice. First, make good beer. He wouldn’t compete with the marketing budgets of Big Beer companies, but he could make a superior product to drive demand. Secondly, “You don’t need a brewery”. And so it was that the beer was brewed under contract in Pittsburgh.

I believe it is entirely appropriate in any 4th of July or American craft beer revolution tasting to include Boston Beer Company’s flagship beer, the Samuel Adams Boston Lager. Sadly this is another beer which appears on the Malthouse list, but not at this time.


Beer no. 3, Dogfish Head, 60 Minute Pale Ale.

Delaware. ABV 6.0%. IBU 60.

As you can see I could easily have finished my five beers of the American craft revolution in the 1980’s. So for beer number three, of the beers available, I leapt ahead to the 1990’s. Sam Calagione and his wife opened the Dogfish Head brewpub in 1995. His first beer was a pale ale but Sam realized that his tiny brewery would need something different if it was to become anything greater. Sam Calagione would be at the forefront of another American revolution. Dogfish would be a leader in pushing boundaries; adding ingredients like organic Mexican coffee and licorice root to the brewing process. Sam would also take the use of hops to new levels, especially with his 60, 90 and 120 Minute Pale Ales, where hops were added to the brew every minute for 60, 90 and 120 minutes.

Now our tasting sort of skewed the order a little here. Mostly, this was due to the available selection at Malthouse. Beer number four was to have been our last, but due to the lower IBU and respect to our taste buds it was promoted up the order.


Beer no. 4, Maui Brewing Company, CoCoNut PorTeR.
Maui, Hawaii. ABV 6.0%. IBU 30.

I had chosen this session-ending beer to reflect the American craft beer scene as it is today. Good beer is being brewed in more far-flung places than ever before (or at least since post-prohibition in the United States). Clever people, using local ingredients are fueling this expansion to meet demand. Ciaran of the Malthouse had mentioned that Dave Kurth of Coromandel’s Hot Water Brewing may have had a hand in the CoCoNut PorTeR, but I forgot to fact-check with him.

A Thirsty Boys tasting, as is our wont, strays and deviates as the night wears on. Along the way we had briefly discussed brewpubs. We had also discussed Phantom Craft, what we in New Zealand tend to call Faux Craft. We had also discussed the similarities between the American craft beer revolution and the New Zealand craft beer scene. And so it was that beer number five also deviated, …into two beers.


Beer no. 5, Rogue Ales, XS Dead Guy Ale.
Newport, Oregon. ABV 8.1%. IBU 60.

Beer no. 6, Rogue Ales, XS Imperial I2PA.
Newport, Oregon. ABV 9.5%. IBU 95.

Like Dogfish, Rogue deserves its place in the extreme beers category. Founded by three Nike executives in 1988, Rogue is a Thirsties’ favourite. The XS range is excessive, and it was a fitting way to end our American craft beer revolution with a beer rating 95 IBU.

Voted best beers? First was Thomas Taylor’s The Landlord, and second was Rogue XS Dead Guy Ale. The Brits scoring one back over the Americans.


The last act of the night, however, was to toast my ancestor, Thomas Graves. In 1781, Graves, a British Admiral, lost a naval battle which effectively for Britain, lost the American Revolution. It is with great pride that I celebrate the incompetence and failure of my family which resulted in the birth of a free nation.

What would your 4th of July line-up be?

Tagged , , , , , ,


Recently, a few of the Thirsties had a chance to get a close up look at this tattoo on local brewer Shiggy of Funk Estate. A great composition and low-key use of colour and shade – it’s all about the hops. Tattooing by Tim Gau of Renegade Tattoo, Wellington, New Zealand.



Tagged , , , ,

BEER HISTORIES: The Anzacs from the brewery at Mangatainoka

On 25 April 2015, we will commemorate the centenary of the landings of New Zealand and Australian soldiers (the Anzacs) on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey during the first world war. To mark the centenary, and as part of our Beer Histories series, I thought I’d share a story of the sacrifices made by one small district and some of the men who worked at its brewery.

Before the Tui Brewery and rise of the now famous Tui Tower in 1931, the North Island Brewery Co. Ltd at Mangatainoka produced “Tui” beer and stout – popular brews which were distributed and sold throughout the country. The brewery was started in the 1880s by Henry Wagstaff. By 1919, it was reportedly one of the “largest and most up-to-date brewery concerns” in New Zealand, although the impact of the war of 1915-1918 had threatened the brewery’s survival.

At the start of the war, men from throughout the Mangatainoka district volunteered for military service or were called up in a series of ballots. The war would take a heavy toll on Mangatainoka and its neighbouring communities. According to one newspaper report, it appeared as if every man from the district was called to service, and for a time it looked as if the brewery would have to close down. Several employees ended up giving their lives in service of their country.


Lieutenant Henry Rawlings COWAN, Wellington Battalion, NZEF. 17th Ruahine Regiment – and brewer/assistant brewer

The managing director of the brewery, Mr Henry Cowan suffered greatly. He and his wife lost their youngest son Lieutenant Harry Cowan (aged 25) at Gallipoli in 1915. Harry was a single man who was described as “a great favourite throughout the fortymile bush, where he was born and lived his life”. The following year Cowan lost a second son, Sergeant William Cowan, a veteran of the Boer war who died in France. He was an engineer by trade, married with three children. Charles Riddell (aged 36) another brewery employee, survived the disastrous Gallipoli campaign but eventually succumbed to wounds he received on the battlefields in France. Mr Robert Henderson, the brewery manager in 1919, was a volunteer who returned to the brewery after surviving the war.


Cap badge, 17th (Ruahine) Regiment, circa 1916, maker unknown. Gift of the Defence Department, 1916. CC BY-NC-ND licence. Te Papa (GH021133)

The First World War impacted the lives of all New Zealanders. It changed the people who went to war, and those who stayed at home. The story of the Anzacs from the brewery at Mangatainoka reminds us of some of the ways communities, families and businesses in small towns were affected by the war. Sometimes these stories are lost in the grand narratives of history and the nation…as we share a beer with friends this week, let’s not forget them.


North Island Brewery Co. (newspaper article 1919)

H.R.Cowan (newspaper article Roll of Honour 1915)

Charles Riddel (newspaper article 1919)


Tagged , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: