Monthly Archives: November 2011

The Great Pacific Beer Expo (PBE) review Part Two

22-23 October 2011

Wellington, New Zealand

Event by Hashigozake Cult Beer Bar

Text by malice with additional images by greasylightbulb (GLB)

 

photograph by greasylightbulb

This is Part Two of The Great Pacific Beer Expo (PBE) held on the weekend of 22-23 October 2011 in Wellington, New Zealand and run by Hashigo Zake Cult Beer Bar.

Hashigo Zake….I like saying that name…. Hashigo Zake! Anyway…

The second half of this event sort of took me across the Pacific ocean and back again and somehow I ended up in Australia miles away from the Pacific in more ways than one. The beers were pretty good, and the more I became absorbed in them or rather absorbed them, the more difficult it became to take useful notes and participate in meaningful beer conversations. I was there to drink beers man, so I’ll forgive myself.

Here we go…

8 Wired “Double Brown” Brown Ale 9% (New Zealand)

This 8 Wired was a 9… that is 9% and following on from the xeRRex at 10%, I think I had inadvertently decided to take the hard beer road around the Pacific rim, although not necessarily the one less travelled. I like it that the New Zealand based 8 Wired brewers follow the no.8 wire attitude, making do with what they’ve got and while that probably speaks more to their lack of brew kit than their skills as brewers there is little risk of getting something ordinary. That’s probably why they were the champion New Zealand brewery at the BrewNZ Beer Awards 2011. Good work guys. The thirstyboys have often talked about getting them to do a tasting across their range for us….hint.

A couple of the thirstyboys were drinking this Double Brown and the raw general consensus was it had a sniff of coffee beans on the nose, probably had some chocolate malt in it and it was brown. Characteristically, this isn’t surprising for a brown ale but unlike 8 Wired’s Rewired Brown Ale 5.7% (which is good) this is double brown…double! Get that down ya…

“A roasted toasted taste to it, chocolaty after taste”

“It’s a bit thin eh?…” “You always say that…”

Bear Republic Red Rocket Scotch Ale 6.8% (United States)

I pretended this beer offered some reprieve at 6.8 and noted that finally the taste buds had crossed the ocean to a US brewery – the Bear Republic Brewing Company in California. I couldn’t think straight on this and someone blamed it on the fact that that my nostrils had been ravaged by the xeRRex. According to the Jesuit though there was caramel and toasted marmalade in this brew but it wasn’t stellar by Scotch Ale standards. Where was the scotsman when you needed him…?

“not in the same category as a the Renaissance Stone Cutter…” the jesuit

“Don’t like this, jeepers its y***” Mr Horse

Moylans Kiltlifter Scotch Ale 8% (United States)

“Why do people always make jokes about the Scots and their kilts?” Mr Horse

 

Another California based brewery concocted this beer. My Celtic heritage was not helping me on this one and I was still suffering from the xeRRex but it was surprisingly light. A hint of caramel/chocolate, you could almost put it in your lunchbox and have it as your midday meal. Didn’t lift my lavalava though, I have to say…

“Not dissimilar to the Stone cutter… ” the jesuit

“I am deciding what to get next there is so much that I want!” Greasylightbulb

Bear Republic Big Black Bear Stout 8.1% (United States)

Someone pointed out to me that this beer with a rich coffee coloured foam had twice the abv as the Renaissance Craftsman Oatmeal Stout. It’s American, everything is bigger… my main memory of it was that it went well with the Hashigo Zake chocolate brownies on sale.

“Big black, chocolaty, lovely…” mr horse

Renaissance Tribute Barley Wine 10% (New Zealand)

Shit that’s boozy! That’s powerful stuff…” The Jesuit

“Oh Christ!” greasylightbulb

“Thick…much more like a sherry.” greasylightbulb

Enough said?

Feral Boris Imperial Stout 11.5% (Australia)

This beer came from the outer, outer, outer reaches of the Pacific Rim, on an island known as Australia, a half hour drive from the Perth CBD in fact. They are an award winning brewery but at this stage of the day, I had almost had it. This is the type of beer I’d put in a barrel and tie around the neck of a St Bernard dog before sending it off to rescue someone in the snow. There was a lot going on in this beer, and it was a real viscous volume to consume. As their website says they are “not boaring”…but definitely filling and a wee bit challenging. It was the last beer of the day and the Jesuit as usual had plenty to say.

“Tar-like, somewhat oily” the Jesuit

“Porridge with beer in it, a meal in itself” the Jesuit

“Would go well with a with a very strong blue cheese or at the other end of the spectrum a dense chocolate pudding” the Jesuit

“I was going there but I didn’t get that…” karorifryup

photograph by greasylightbulb

Afterthoughts

That was the end of my beer journey round the Pacific rim. I didn’t make it to Japan and its beers (damn!) which signalled to me that next time I should review the beer listing, plan my day, and map my itinerary more carefully. It was an occasion of missed opportunities, where I had rushed to the familiar instead of being more curious. Nevertheless, I was still surprised here and there by the brewers I thought I knew and my choices took me further afield as I took time, talked to others and studied the list.

As Hashigo Zake claimed, the Pacific Beer Expo aimed “ to treat Wellington and New Zealand drinkers to an unprecedented range of elite craft beers from the Pacific region in a festival setting”. They delivered. I enjoyed the event a great deal. It was nicely promoted, in a pleasant venue, well organised and the beer list was well curated. I purchased an extra souvenir glass on the way out and I glided, no… glid home along the waterfront. This wasn’t a stagger home affair.

In my mind, I think a challenge remains to further explore the ocean of Pacific beers. It is easy to write it off as a region of predictable and non-desirable possibilities where no serious craft beer enthusiast would bother to venture. I mean, what excuse can be made for a lack of curiosity about the legacy the colonials, the British, the Germans, the Dutch, the Americans, the New Zealanders and Australians left the Pacific in beer? What do the locals make, like and contribute to beer making and beer culture today? Like anyone who seeks new knowledge or experiences, we won’t know till we go there…until we drink those beers! Who else on the Pacific rim will bother? Are the Pacific Islands a beer drinkers’ edge of the world? The terra nullius of Pacific rim beer drinkers?

Some parting comments below about the Great Pacific Beer Expo from a few of the thirstyboys and others…thanks for reading.

“I don’t know…I am not good at quotes…brilliant really, a beer festival run by clever people. Worth waking up for…” Phil

“A lot of good beers, a lot of beer nerds, more sheilas than I expected.” the Jesuit

“Just proves that Hashigo’s is not full of blood sucking vampires” karorifryup

“It’s a line up of breweries to die for, great sunshine, well organised, my favourite is 30th street pale ale, but I’ll hit the stouts now.” greasylightbulb

My people…I liked everyone I met…which is difficult as a bartender” petey pete

“Something better than wonderful…no! Wait, wait, wait! Yeah, that sounds good.” Unidentified Parrot Dog beer person

You can follow the thirstyboys blog by clicking FOLLOW at the right. It’s easy. If you have any thoughts or comments on the PBE please post them by clicking COMMENTS on the left hand column…Gawan, gawan…

photograph by greasylightbulb

Links:

The full beer lineup for the Great Pacific Beer Expo

http://hashigozake.co.nz/Pacific%20Beer%20Expo%20Lineup.pdf

The Great Pacific Beer Expo (PBE) Review Part One

https://thirstyboys.wordpress.com/category/events/

photograph by greasylightbulb

1000+ thirstypeople

Today, we passed 1000 + views on this blog site since September 2011 and we celebrated with a very enjoyable blind tasting at Malthouse conceived by karorifryup and hosted by Phil Cook. It was most testing. Good work guys…as one thirstyboy exclaimed, “it was like being in sixth form again.’ Watch this space for the eventual write up.

The Great Pacific Beer Expo (PBE) review Part One

22-23 October 2011

Wellington, New Zealand

Poster and event by Hashigozake Cult Beer Bar

Text and images by Malice

(updated)

 

The Pacific Ocean is so massive, how do you map its extremities in beers? Hashigozake Cult Beer bar took on the challenge and created an event on the weekend of 22-23 October 2011 in Wellington, New Zealand, somewhere down here in the southern reaches of the Pacific.

Warning: This is a long review in two parts, but hey, I spent four hours drinking there, man.

My initial excitement over the expo was imagining the beers of the Pacific from Papua New Guinea, to the Solomon Islands, out to Fiji and the Cook Islands and to Hawai’i in the north and Rapanui (Easter Island) in the east. One armchair explorer in the thirstyboys was sceptical that there were any good beers in the region at all, which pissed me off, as a part-Samoan. No doubt he is descended from the same guys that thought there was a great southern continent (terra australis) or that the edge of the world was somewhere out here, the difference being he has never bothered to look. I honestly thought that Jesuits had more faith…

As it turns out my imaginings of an Oceanic odyssey of beers was tempered by the fact that this expo would only feature beers from the geographical boundary of the Pacific rim also known to volcanologists as the “ring of fire”. It would feature beer from breweries in Japan, the United States, Australia and New Zealand. It would miss out all the islands and cultures of beer drinking in between, damn! But I decided I could live with that for now. Every inaugural beer expo, even great Pacific ones start by pouring the first beer…

Advertising

I gotta say that poster for The Great Pacific Beer Expo (PBE) was excellent. I have it rolled up ready for framing when I shift house. The poster was notable for its circus-like, Barnham and Bailey aesthetic, from the font choice to the colours and general festive theme. It made you think something big, gigantic was going to happen; Titanic even… (wrong ocean) and the big-ass old school ocean steamer with a bow load of kegs spoke of promise. The promise of beers…

I noticed the little sequence of letters and numbers on the bow that read HZNZ2011. It was a clever touch…it’s important to claim the honours when striking out into new territory.

Venue and Organisation

The event was organised by Hashigozake Cult Beer Bar and followed on the heels of the Beervana 2011, but I thought that the focus of the expo would draw an interested and mixed crowd and was a good fit for Hashigozake’s brand and reputation. The Boatshed onWellington’s waterfront was the chosen venue. Although it is not huge, it is apparently the oldest sporting clubhouse in New   Zealand’s North Island. I had been there for a couple of weddings and it holds a crowd up to about 300 people. This turned out to be adequate and comfortable for the purposes of the PBE.

The registration/ticket table was at the entrance to the building and we each claimed a little expo bag with food and beer tokens, a beer guide and a glass. Just like a conference–I mean, symposium. We then climbed the stairs to the main room, which was spacious with a wooden floor with windows around its perimeter. Doors opened out onto balconies, allowing people to look out over the nearby lagoon creating space inside for the beer service.

The main room was organised around a circular and centrally placed beer service area. This created good flow and as a strategy worked better than having tables around the walls. There were a few barrels (from memory) around which drinkers clustered holding their beers, their tokens and the beer list. It was a juggling act that could have been remedied by more conventional tables, but barrels were part of the theme…

Glass cleansing stations were provided and staff were friendly and clearly identified by their PBE T-shirts. The food menu included hot chips, sausages, chicken yakitori, curry and chocolate stout brownie. The food offering would have been no surprise to Hashigozake-ites: it was the sort of scoffable fare you’d expect at an event of this kind. There were also non/low alcohol drinks and some brewery merchandising.

“The sanitary facilities are extremely well patronised…” the Jesuit

 

The Beers

The beers, the beers….there was quite a selection. A link to all the beers featured is at the bottom of this post. In the list that follows, I will describe the selection I tasted, with some comments and a little reflection on what I experienced. Please note I have turned the Manpoints off in this review. Too much was going on.

There were so many beers and I was trying to drink, eat, stand, talk, take notes, and think about the next beer while reading my beer guide…I think I subconsciously looked around for something familiar to kick-start the gig. A couple of the thirstyboys are followers of the Garage Project since Beer # 11, so for better or worse I went for these offerings first, although I should have known that while the Garage Project is familiar their beers are always a surprise.

 

Garage Project- ANZAC ALE 5.8% (New Zealand)

“it has floaty things in it, so I guess it means it has more flavour…” Mr Horse

Unlike the ANZAC cookie (named after the Australia/ New Zealand Army Corps of WW and II) the ANZAC ALE was not coconutty. This might have been a good thing, but as a part-Samoan it disappointed me. In many official histories of the ANZACs, Pacific Islanders are often marginalised in the record, they barely get a mention and I teased the brewer that the same had happened in his beer making. “Where are the coconuts?” I said. “Pacific Islanders are part of the ANZAC tradition!” Nevertheless, this ANZAC ALE was a good nod to the Australian and New Zealand military tradition at least in name and intention. It had a nice nose, was reasonably complex, and very bitter. It is definitely worth developing and of course a most marketable brand. Ultimately, I will defer to the brewer on the coconut issue…experimentation is their business, will they take it to the next level? Beer history isn’t made by historians dudes!

 

Garage Project – PACIFIC RING OF FIRE 7% (New Zealand)

Great name…Pacific Ring of Fire! What did it mean? Ring of fire….It was named in the spirit of the occasion so I went for it as my second beer of the session. It was a most cosmopolitan beer made from hops from around the Pacific rim and therefore a bit of a mixed bag like me, and in its internationalism, a contrast in concept with the ultra-localness of the ANZAC ale. It was a warm ring of fire and not overly bitter. One of my favourites from the Garage Project to date.

“Surprisingly approachable for the scale and range of the hops” the Jesuit

“The antithesis of terroir (a wine reference), meaning to have the flavour of the local earth” Mr Horse 

“Hey, only four hours to go….”

Bridge Road BIERE DE GARDE 7.5% (Australia)

According to the brewer based in Beechworth,Victoria,Australia, this beer is styled on traditional French and Belgian farmhouse ales. We found the Biere de garde malty and fruity. It starts out giving you the impression that it is going to be quite boozy but it actually mellows out. …it didn’t blow my hair back.

“tastes like a bloody mary…would go well with Greek salad with feta and olives” the Jesuit

Yeastie Boys xeRRex 10% (New Zealand)  

“Oh my god!”  Phil

“stare not into the abyss, lest the abyss stare back at you…”  the Jesuit

Yeastie Boys have quite a reputation with the thirstyboys and others for their inspiring and sometimes challenging brews. Our whiskey beer matchup tasting with Stu was a memorable evening you can read about elsewhere on this blogsite. I had not really given much thought to what Yeastie Boys would be offering at the PBE until I saw Phil and Peetie Pete (staff from the Malthouse) walk in off the street and head straight for the bright green shirt wearing Yeastie Boys cask and fill their glasses. Phil’s instant reaction was “Oh my god!” followed by a sort of steadying of the feet and a slight lurch backward.

The Yeastie Boys – Rex Attitude released earlier in 2011 is described in an earlier blog by TVDISKO as “The most polarising beer of the year. People will hate themselves for liking this beer!” The beer is described well in detail by Phil Cook elsewhere.

The rumour was that xeRRex was supposed to surpass the Rex Attitude in gruntyness. Who knows? To me it was a remix, a finessing and unlike the original. Thankfully the fumes from the xeRRex didn’t sting my eyes at 1 metre…, more like 80cms. It blew my hair back though…but I had a comb.

“Stronger but more mellow. I prefer it to the original.”  peety pete

“Definitely more palatable…goes well with chips and chilli!”  karorifryup

At this point in the PBE my thirst was only half quenched and my taste buds had only been to New Zealand and Australia! The Pacific Beer Expo review Part Two will appear later in the week. If you have found this interesting you can follow the thirstyboys blog by clicking FOLLOW at the right. It’s easy.

If you have any thoughts or comments on the PBE please share them by clicking COMMENTS on the left hand column.

Our favourite places no.2 – Bar Edward

In “Our Favourite Places” feature, the Jesuit acts as editor for a series of short reviews of bars, breweries and beer drinking venues from across the archipelago.

BAR EDWARD

Newtown, Wellington

New Zealand

photographs and text by greasylightbulb

Location: In the heart of Newtown! 167 Riddiford Street to be exact. That fact is totally one of Bar Ed’s strengths since Newtown is the most exciting, vibrant, open-minded, multi-cultural and above all fun suburb in Wellington. You can hang out all day… start off by visiting the market that’s come all the way from China via Otaki. Then get your coffee fix from Coffee Republic, pastry from Simply Paris, or for the hungrier visitor brunch at Baobab, occasionally stepping over locals relaxing on the street. You can get custom tee-shirts from the lovely Duncan & Prudence, pausing to watch a man wearing several people’s clothes shout at a lampost on the way.

In the evening you can catch some poetry or indulge in affordable cuisine options from pretty much every single country in the world, including a few that don’t technically exist now, and all the while enjoying the added frisson of not knowing for sure that that man standing outside hasn’t got a knife. All this without a decent drinking den would be a tragic waste like a having a slim blond supermodel who’s missing a nose. Newtown has The Office, which serves a purpose, several Tui bars like Zoo and the Bus Stop, which aren’t actually that scary if you don’t demand to know from which year exactly that chardonnay was supposed to have come from. There used to be The Adelaide too which I reckoned to be contender for the best pub in the universe and regularly had to deck people who didn’t agree. But the Jewel in Newtown’s crown now is totally Bar Edward.

Number 167 used to be a tapas bar who’s demise is no great loss. Buses stop promiscuously often right outside so you can even visit Bar Ed on a rainy day. In Wellington that’s A Good Thing.

Ambience: Generally chat is the sound you hear, but there’s a small screen above the bar with sports usually and a projector that can be used for significant events. The interior of Bar Ed is a bit of a downside, there’s a slightly superfluous second bar at the back which appears to be always shut and a bit sad looking, but does have a pool table, pinball, darts and the largest stock of pickled eggs in the Southern hemisphere1.

There’s bits of wall in places where you wouldn’t generally wish them and the décor is a bit murky – a brown, cream, orange and… er, Mr Potato Head theme bravely straddles contemporary and retro styles, by accident presumably. The ability to renovate is limited due to the fact that James sadly does not own the building. Visitors would be forgiven for finding the whole experience a tiny bit grubby, but don’t forget people – this is Newtown, it’s supposed to be a little bit shit. Honestly, Bangalore Polo Club or Ancestral would not work here.

Despite the name the atmosphere is that of a pub. What makes a pub a pub, or a bar a bar? For me a pub is somewhere you could come to on your own, and not have to sit in the corner pretending to work on an iTablet when really you’re just using state of the art interface technology to fling fictional chickens through the air. Here it’s like you’re playing The Sims, but in real time and 3-D. Actually that’s just called real life isn’t it?

Oh, the seats out the front get the afternoon sun offer a great spot for people watching. On the inside there’s hooks for coats. Hooks for coats people, put them in your establishment now! It’s not rocket science, it’s psychology: People feel at home after they put their coat on a hook. Lack of hooks is second only to lack of prices in my pet-peeves-of-Wellington-beer-bar trends. Anyway, let’s haul that rant back in….

Beer: six on tap, plus a cider, and one hand pull. The Tuatara range always features and Emerson’s often too. Tap beers are displayed handily on a blackboard with prices and abv, so as to avoid any surprises. I have on occasion been presented with particularly explosive pints which is explained as “it’s because the beer is so fresh”….ah, that’s fine then. They do a tasting tray of beer, which is a great idea, and have a fridge with some variety of bottles and even the odd aged beer on the shelf.

Food: A regular selection of all day pub snacks and bar meals between 4ish and 9.30pm that includes bitter-friendly Lancashire hotpot with bread and butter. Beer also features in the form of the aioli served with their fries. There’s also a pizza selection. The food is nice enough without being revolutionary but prices are a tiny bit cheaper than in town. They used to do roasted nuts which were perfect with a pint but sadly not any more. Vegetarians can eat there, vegans and gluten free will find it harder. Fans of pickled eggs are well catered for.

On Mondays all the above goes out the window and you have the fun of popping out to get your food and eating it inside. Staff will recommend the best options. Luckily Mediterranean Food warehouse have a special on Mondays with their “second-best-in-Wellington” pizzas, or you’re a few yards away from some fish and chips or my favorite falafel and mucver/mujva/zucchini fritters. Nobody has yet complained about taking away grease covered empty glasses…. 

Staff: Varying beer knowledge and skills. I find it quite endearing when they check to make sure I know what it is I’m expecting of the handpull beer “you know that’ll be flat, right?”. Maybe they had some Americans in once or something. I have however been less amused when told that “of course there’s no oysters used in oyster stout, it’s just a name”. They are easy-going and approachable and always available for chat.

Clientele: There’ll be locals sitting at the bar or nearby tables and see above for a feel of what a Newtown local might be, they’re very friendly as a rule – think Brixton pub. This is just as well as you generally have to navigate through, around or under them to get served.

Other people stop in for a drink while passing through on their way home of an early evening, and there is often a significant contingent from the Hospital. In fact if you position yourself just right you can overhear on a bunch of doctors slagging off nurses while simultaneously eavesdropping on a group of nurses bitching about doctors. On the other hand if you position yourself wrong, well then you’re just surrounded by physios. Legend tells that Newtown is full of genuine mental patients, but that’s actually an urban myth that’s now pervaded by Newtownians to keep people from Miramar from buying up properties and ruining the atmosphere.

Social Media friendliness: Not really, there’s a website that doesn’t get updated often, a Facebook page that doesn’t get updated at all and that’s it. Oh there’s a board outside that will have a couple of beers written on, does that count? But I doubt that there’s much tweeting or whatnot that would make a heap of difference as to whether people go to there.

Summary:

While It’s not a beer mecca a la The Malthouse or Hashigos but I was still very surprised when on a recent pub crawl a couple of the Thirsty Boys gave away that they’d never been. For me the qualities of Bar Ed make it well worth finding an excuse to venture out of the City. Those who do are rewarded with an entertaining drinking hole where people can relax and be themselves.

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1
This may or may not be technically true, I didn’t bother checking

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