Text and beard spotting: Malice and Greasylightbulb
Once again the Great Pacific Beer Expo (PBE) was held in Wellington, New Zealand, on October 20-21st, 2012. It was well organised, well promoted and a commendable follow-up to the first event of last year. The Saturday session was an opportunity for beer geeks and all-comers to try something familiar, new, experimental, or hard to get. I enjoyed my four and half hours exploring beers of the Pacific rim. Here is a very short review, followed by the beards of the Great Pacific Beer Expo 2012.
The venue was the Boatshed down on the Wellington waterfront next to the lagoon. We had great views of the harbour, with sunshine and a bit of a northerly sweeping the balcony from time to time. The large second storey room was well organised with six serving stations, four of them in a central hub. A merchandise stall sold T-shirts, posters, and branded glasses and hats. A food stall kept the punters fed. The event programme was single sheet of paper with a map, menu, beer list and acknowledgements. It’s all you need.
The menu included spiced beer nuts, Kranski sausage in ciabatta and slightly heavier fare including lamb burgers, butter chicken curry or cashew nut and eggplant coconut curry. I had two Kranski’s with caramelised onions and garlic aioli…good tucker and just the right size to manage with one hand. Only a one minute wait.
For those that knew, there was some disappointment that the Japanese and Singapore beers planned for PBE didn’t make it. (Actually, I noticed that the ship on the poster had a few less kegs on its bow than last year). However, as Tom pointed out, there was several PBE exclusives and previews that more than made up for this absence. The range of styles and flavours was pretty good overall – from Crème Brulee, to apricot, chocolate, kumara and of course coconut and kava. There were curiosities for even the most cosmopolitan beer geek. The strengths of the beers covered a spectrum from the light to the very heavy. By my count, half of the 32 beers were over 7% with four at 10%. Four beers were from Australia and the rest were from New Zealand and the United States.
Predictably, I was looking forward to the kava coconut beer from Garage Project – a local brewery. For me it was the beer that spoke most to the spirit of this event. Although the Kereru Kumara brown Ale could have been successfully pitched as a beer with an ancient Pacific voyaging connection. There was a lot going on around the kava coconut brew. When served, drinkers received a “tiki” stamp on the hand. They could also buy kava coconut t-shirts and posters. Some punters were nervous about trying the beer too early in the session. For a couple of us it was the second beer of the day. We thought the coconut dominated this brew in both smell and taste, but it wasn’t overwhelming. However, it was quite difficult to isolate any specific kava aroma or flavour. One knowledgeable beer geek, with furrowed brow, thought he detected a slight tingling of his lips after his first taster. That said, the kava coconut beer was most drinkable. I enjoyed it, I had three. The anticipation and novelty of this brew made it worth waiting for…let’s hope there is another edition.
I think there were three hundred tickets sold to the Saturday afternoon session (2pm-7pm). I was told I got the third to last one when I picked it up on Tuesday. The space was certainly full. The crowd was an eclectic mix of men, women and even children. It was clear there were people of a diverse age range, different backgrounds and wide interests. There were international visitors from Canada (on holiday) and footy fans from Brisbane over for the Phoenix vs Roar game. There were many locals and familiar faces, even a few brewers and beer aficionados. The crowd gave off a good vibe. There was a tolerable din, but no need to shout. It was a pleasure to enjoy a few decent beers and take in the atmosphere.
The PBE should have a long life. The brand has a geographical point of difference that encompasses an ocean of possibilities. It can only expand. The PBE has a commitment to the new, and the experimental that any brewers or beer geeks worth their hops will surely support. It’s just the right size now, it’s not too big, it’s intimate and comfortable. It will be interesting to see how it develops. A further frontier to explore could involve inviting brewers to brew a Pacific inspired beer to feature in a special section – a~la kava coconut or referencing some explorer or event in the region’s history. I’d donate a prize for that…
Beards and beer
This year, I thought it would be a bit much to write a full review of all the beers our group tasted. Last year’s two-part review took me freaking hours to write. To spread the load and offer a range of perspectives, Greasylightbulb and I decided to ask the bearded beer geeks of the Great Pacific Beer Expo (PBE) to nominate their best beer of the day and share their impressions of the (PBE) experience. Their commentary and images follow below. If you click on the first image you will get an annotated slide show, otherwise scroll on down.
Note: Thank you to everyone we approached for sharing your thoughts and putting your beards out there.