Monthly Archives: March 2013

Scott’s pick: The best beers of 2012

Text: Mr Horse

The last tasting for 2012 was held in December at the Hopgarden where the boys were joined by members of an informal beer club made up of academic staff from Victoria University. This was the first time the Thirsty Boys wished they had their own business cards….

The session was co-curated by Geoff (aka DJ Kanuk), who is in both groups, and Hopgarden manager Scott Boswell who was our charming host. The following notes were compiled by Mr Horse (H) and Greasylightbulb (GLB), although they peter out a bit towards the end as our writing got progressively more illegible…

1.     Emersons RSB

The 2012 take on the regular brewer’s reserve made in collaboration with Kieran Haslett-Moore from Regional Wines and Spirits

‘More malty and English influenced, in line with Kieran’s preferences’ – Scott

‘Pretty bloody nice’ – Adrian

‘A second-hand bookshop mustiness’ – Scott

‘Tinny finish’ – GLB

There was a lot of debate about the pros and cons of ‘the takeover….’ of Emersons by Lion Nathan. There was also a heated discussion between GLB and Gingerbeardyman  (GBM) about the varying experiences in Wellington’s beer bars, possibly the subject of a future blog…

2.     Anchor Steam beer USA

A classic ‘California Commons’ beer made by this boutique brewery which emerged in the 1970s. A lager with ale traits suited to warmer temperatures. ‘Steam’ was once a style but now is trademarked by Anchor… sound familiar?

‘Good shit. An indelible classic’ – Jesuit

‘Popular at my end of the table but tastes like a beer that’s been open to long’ – GLB

‘Its nice’ – Grant

‘I’ve had this many times before’ – American drinker from Vic with an indecipherable name

‘Theres something ever, ever so yeasty…ah I mean zesty!’ – Malice

3.     Garage Project Uber Alles

Another California Commons lager-style ale but, unlike the US version, Scott felt this had ‘heft’ with more hops and a malt richness. ‘Uber alles’ means ‘above all’ or ‘above everything else’ and is from the German national anthem…. Except it’s actually from a Dead Kennedys song. Don’t know why the beer is named after this.

‘It tastes like a hoppy pale ale so definitely a twist on the style’ – GLB

‘Light and spritzy, refreshing and dry’ – Scott

‘Hops up front but then nothing’ –  Jo

4.     Garage Project Red Rocks Reserve

An interesting 7% red ale from Garage Project which is their first bottled beer (made at Tuatara’s new plant at Waikanae). Brewed with real volcanic rocks from Wellington’s south coast using that hopfenstein technique so well documented on Youtube. Apparently Stone and Wood do it too to their Stone beer. It’s different to the previous batch, a more hoppy amber ale. Doesn’t seem to have the same hop characters, but is still smooth, well rounded and toffee.

‘Caramalised, toffee accented beer’ – Scott

‘Seemed better named than the last beer since ‘it’s red and has rocks in it’ – Jesuit

‘What about the ‘reserve’ bit though? ‘Maybe because the rocks were taken from a Marine Reserve?’ – Scott

‘A rocky beer. Love it!’ – Mr H

5.     Liberty Brewing Yakima Scarlet

A very popular big (7%) red IPA that was a hit with lots of drinkers and critics in 2012.

‘Citrus notes, caramelly, hoppy delirium…beautiful beer. More red, more restrained than the Tall Poppy’ – Scott

‘It’s not often Liberty gets called more restrained than anything” – GLB

‘Rich and caramel, burnt hokey pokey’ – Jo

‘Filthy, smutty, skank and dank’ – GBM

‘Oh, the beer? Don’t know sorry, we’re talking about our writing’ – Two Vic academics from media studies

6.     Kereru brewery Velvet Boot

A strong Belgian ale which some felt did not taste like an 8% beer. Its made by an American in Lower Hutt, New Zealand, who brews on a tiny scale at home, and prompted a discussion about the American influence on the New Zealand craft beer scene. An interesting mouthfeel, described by various drinkers as all of: waxy, rich, unctuous, cheesey, buttery and soapy. This brewer has fans in Scott from Hopgarden, and also Dan from LBQ, and everyone expects big things from him in future.

‘Seems to have a little less life than I’d expect’  – GLB. GBM compared it to a chemistry teacher ‘not interesting,’ or your gran who ‘says a lot, understands nothing.’ He added ‘Hints of curried wee.’

‘A possibly kinder comparison was ‘curried banana’ – GLB

‘Its what you smell when you open up a packet of candles’ – Malice

‘Stale?’  – DJ Kanuk

7.     Yeastie Boys His Majesty’s

Next up in  a ‘bling’ bottle, very festive strong Belgian style IPA (8.5%) from the Yeastie Boys, from a range designed to be a treat and shared,  drank now or cellared, a bit like bubbly. The His Majestys seem to be a bit English influenced?

‘This one has Belgian yeast, but ‘the cleaner side of Belgian’ – Scott.

‘Best beer tonight, a sassy complex beer: rich, cloying, chocolately-orange, evervescent’ – GBM

‘Quite a lot of malt too. Nicer than last year’s one, more drinkable’ – GLB

Some indecipherable comments re the connections with REM and The Smiths – The Jesuit and GBM

8.     Townshends Flemish Stout

Townshends from Nelson do their own twist on some UK styles, and this 7.5% limited edition stout with Belgian influences is a good example of their craft. The beer has been a hit this year with drinkers, brewers, and the hospitality industry. Everyone at our tasting was impressed as well. Responses included: ‘Stewed apple’, ‘marmite’ and ‘really good liquorice’, ‘molasses and tar’.

‘Tastes a bit sour, tastes as if it’s aged’ – someone or other (‘I can’t even read my own writing’ – Mr H)

‘Nothings fighting to be overheard and nothing is hiding in the corner’ – GBM

‘Outstanding’ – Scott

‘I’m all over this shit’ – GLB (by now our comments getting looser obviously)

9.     Dubuisson brewery Bush Noel

And finally Scott presented the now merry gathering with our last beer of a marathon tasting, appropriately a Xmas themed monster at 12% that had us all waxing lyrical in a rather incoherent fashion.

‘Horribly festive label, was expecting a crap beer, but its pretty good. Sweet and dark and potent’ – GLB

‘Faaaaaaarck!’ – Mr H

‘Like drinking oak trees’ – The Jesuit

‘Like wine, like Christmas cake wine’ – GBM

‘What you need to drink before Santa comes down the chimney’ – Malice

Mr Horses’s last words scrawled on his notes were: ‘And the everything fell apart…’

Tagged , , , , ,

BEER HAIKU # 34 Jungle Beer Tropical Wheat Pink Guava and Soursop

This was a surprising treat to usher in the first of the (almost) summer days. Hashigo Zake had it on offer in early December 2012. The lads all liked it but the ladypiemaker was most vocal.

It’s very delicious, peaches and yumminess…it’s like punch. It’s perky and upbeat…we are going to have a good day” (lady pie maker)

Jungle Beer-Tropical Wheat Pink Guava and Soursop

Barefoot Brewing Company, Singapore ABV 4.3%

Preamble ramble ramble

I want this in a juice box

Needs a warmer day


Foodmatch: “This is the type of beer you don’t have food with. You just drink it!” (ladypiemaker)


its a soursop from “you can eat this”

hai·ku (hk)

n. pl. haiku also hai·kus

1. A Japanese lyric verse form having three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables, traditionally invoking an aspect of nature or the seasons.

2. A poem written in this form.


Tagged , , , , , ,

Book Review: Beer Nation, The Art & Heart of Kiwi Beer by Michael Donaldson

Reviewed by guest blogger: Dylan Jauslin

Beer Nation: The Art and Heart of Kiwi Beer
Published by Penguin Books (NZ) 25/07/2012
Format:Misc., 240 pages

I was quite surprised when Malice from the Thirsty Boys asked me to review this book for their blog.  On reflection though, it made sense: none of them had read it or owned a copy.  Talking to a few more people in the beer community, something became very clear: damn near nobody has read it.

Beer Nation: click for publication details

This really is a shame because both as an introduction to and a history of New Zealand beer, I can’t recommend it enough.  Surprisingly little has been written about the New Zealand Beer industry, particularly in recent years and the beer community has been in need of a book like this.

Donaldson takes the reader through the history of beer in this country, starting in the nineteenth century and tracing its growth and evolution (or frequently de-volution), right up to today.  The history is perhaps what I enjoyed the most.  Having come-of-age during the craft beer revolution, I am more than familiar with recent history, but I gleaned many interesting historical facts.  For example Spieght’s was once a strong, bitter, and dry-hopped ale.  Who’ve thought?  Or that Tui, or as it was once known, “Wagstaff’s East India Pale Ale” genuinely was an IPA (albeit a long time ago).

What really struck me though, was how refreshingly partisan the book’s tone was.  Donaldson is clearly a man who enjoys good beer and is not afraid to call out the big breweries (and the Temperance Movement) on their role in blandifying New Zealand beer.  The chapters on the rise of Lion and DB paint a rather unpleasant picture of their history (Doug Meyers I’m looking at you).  Certainly I understand better why Dominic Kelly erects razor wire fences around Hashigo Zake when reps from either of the conglomerates come knocking.  I also have a new-found respect for the likes of Terry McCashin and the like, who dared wave their willies in the face of the corporate duopoly.

Perhaps the most telling sections though are the interviews with contemporary Lion and DB representatives.  Words like ‘beer’, brewing’ and ‘flavour’ conspicuously disappear in favour of terms such as ‘brand’, ‘label’, ‘marketing’ and once, scarily, ‘intellectual property’.[1]  My own views on these matters aside, Beer Nation is a joy to read, particularly the later chapters on the rise of craft beer; and these are the chapters where Donaldson’s passion for good beer really shines through.

If I had to criticise, and I do;[2] I’d say that these later chapters can be a little brief.  In particular, I found the section on Women and beer to be rather, well, cursory.  I got in touch with a few female beer-geeks (a higher proportion of whom had actually read the book unlike their male counterparts), and they said much the same thing, albeit in much stronger language.

This is however, a small fly in an otherwise excellent ointment.  If you or someone you know are looking to get into this craft beer thing you’ve been hearing about then Beer Nation might well be for you.  Certainly it made me thirsty.

**Dylan Jauslin is a bartender at Wellington cult beer bar Hashigo Zake. He writes The Bottleneck beer blog and co writes the Beer Column for Victoria University of Wellington’s student magazine “Salient”.

[1] Also, the word ‘premium’ features heavily in these sections, usually applied to green-bottle shite.  I’m going to start a vendetta against that word by labelling anyone who uses it to describe beer as cretin.  You have been warned.

[2] Seriously, my need to do so is almost pathological.  Just look at my blog.

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