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…’

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