22-23 October 2011
Wellington, New Zealand
Poster and event by Hashigozake Cult Beer Bar
Text and images by Malice
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…
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….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.