First an announcement: Wellington Public Address Get-Together on Friday March 19, Emma and I (and possibly Keith and Graeme) will be at the Basin Reserve in Wellington to watch the first day of the first test between Australia and New Zealand. And we would love for you to join us. And if cricket (or lying in the sun enjoying the day) ain't your bag then well be heading to Hooch afterwards (from 5pm) for many, many drinks.
Go write it down in whatever you use as a calendar or diary. Done? Choice.
Watching the cricket on Saturday, at Beerfest, was rather strange. It was bit like the world's biggest pub. We were staring at a massive image projected on a concrete wall, drinking some of the best beer brewed in New Zealand, and there were still people chanting "[Aussie bowler]'s a wan-kah!"
Did I mention, that beer was goooood!
While Jed (who you may remember from last year's Beerfest shenanigans) went to see the beer-food matching seminars I wandered off to get my first beer of the day. I'm still unsure how fortunate it was that Epic was the first stand I went to.
It was definitely fortunate in that I got to try Luke's new Thornbridge Stout (seen above) with it's thick coffee flavour and Epic's trademark hoppiness. Then, at Luke's insistence I washed it down with an Armageddon. I was glad I had decided to cook myself a large breakfast that morning.
This was beginning to feel like last year's event. In fact the streams were crossing substantially. I even bumped into the same journalism students.
I talked to Stu the Wellington Yeastie Boy (that's the brewery, not a horrible nickname) over a His Majesty 2009, of which only a few rare bottles remain. I wanted to know if my music industry analogy of a year ago was correct. He confirmed that it was except that he was quite happy with his distributor.
And these guys are a bit like rockstars. From the Kiss-like stage show of Epic (including a tweet-wall) to the quieter surrounds of Renaissance. And in front of each stand, a mosh pit full of drinkers wanting to either try something new or to pick the brains of the brewers.
Beer nerds. That's they're called. Stu had just done a tasting in the Waikato for a group of agricultural scientists who were dying to get their hands on his yeast. But it's not just real scientists; it's also the home chemists who want to know what goes into each mash. Some want to be the next Renaissance or Crouchers or Epic others just want to create that one great beer they can share with friends.
And there are always niches. Brian Thiel at Renaissance told me about their unusual bottles. Naturally bigger bottles (a glass and a half) make the purchaser feel better for buying an expensive beer. But the real trick is keeping them short. Three Boys make tall bottles which means supermarkets have them on different shelves (too high, or too low) whereas the Renaissance stays at eye height.
I did eventually make my way to the tasting sessions. Sadly Brian's venison never showed but the beer was good (and when I later tried a full glass against the venison it did go well, but the meat was too bland). Luke matched his Armageddon with Rogan Josh perfectly while Stu's Nerdherder went with vege pizza nicely (quietly I think it would've been perfect with Hawaiian pizza because it needed a tiny bit of salt that the ham would've provided).
We're heading for the age of the session beer. Alcohol levels are coming down without losing that strong taste that drinkers enjoy. The brewers are keenly aware that the World Cup is coming along and that there is going to be a lot more beer drinkers in the country and beer tourists. Beer is now competing with wine for the tour business. But beyond that drinkers want to try more than one beer in a sitting, and if they are all full-flavoured 8% beers then that is going to be a very short session.
Beers of note:
- Epic Stout – a thick coffee flavoured hit that's not officially for sale until the 5th of May, but there will be a preview keg at the Malthouse in Wellington on the 15th of March(?) to go with the seasonal release of Epic Mayhem.
- Yeastie Boys His Majesty –wow, I can see why there isn't much left of it. At 6.4% it's not as strong as it seems either.
- Renaissance Paradox Blonde – always a nice drop in the sun
- Golden Ticket Summer Babe – this was a surprise and I didn't know quite what I was getting when Stu poured it. A nice light summery beer and well worth it if you can find some. And Jed told me later it's named after a Pavement song.
- Croucher's Cherry Bock – It looked like a stout but tasted like black cherries mashed into a spicy beer. My surprise favourite
Enough with the serious beer stuff. Beerfest is only partly about beer nerdery, it's also a summer festival (hence "fest"). I managed to catch the Checks in full rock strut. And the crowd were lapping it up. And there no grumbles about sitting on the concrete or the lines for the food (although, as always the food was the biggest let-down).
The best part was the lack of munters. I saw one guy being escorted out at the end of the day (while we were watching the cricket) and one other guy was asked to leave Paul Croucher's tasting session. And even as we left the crowd was better behaved than most rugby crowds.
Congratulations to Andrew for another great event, and the sunshine didn't even ruin it.
Mike's full gallery is here.