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June 2011

Too Much Talk

Last Thursday I was lucky enough to attend the launch of Punkin Image Ltd pumpkin ale at Hamilton’s House on Hood bar. Punkin Image Ltd is the creation of Greig McGill and Phil Murray, two Hamilton homebrewers who liked their beers so much, they wanted to make enough to share with everyone and formed Brewaucracy, a brewing company. Their first commercial brew was Greig’s pumpkin ale, which was contract brewed at Liberty Brewing Co., a nano-brewery in New Plymouth. They produced just 150 litres, and it’s good stuff, shown by the keg selling out in just over three hours on Thursday night.

Now if you’re a beer geek like myself, that whole first paragraph probably made sense; if you’re a New Zealand beer geek, it’s also likely you’ll have heard of Liberty Brewing or know of Greig or Phil. However, to the average person, there were a lot of unanswered questions in there. How do two homebrewers just decide to start a brewery? What is a brewing company (or nano-brewery)? And what, in god’s name, is pumpkin doing in a beer? To answer:  some homebrewers have enough skill (and in some cases, capital) to develop a large-scale brew recipe; a brewing company is a company that pays a brewery with spare capacity to produce their beer; a nano-brewery is a very small (yet undefinable) brewery; and, for the record, pumpkin tastes pretty good in beer.

While I find all over this rather interesting (enough to drive to Hamilton), I really have to remember that other people simply aren’t that interested. This isn’t a criticism – it’s similar to the way I don’t care how my computer works, why my fridge stays cold or why certain petrol makes my car run better. I want my computer to work, my fridge to chill and my car to run, but I’m not interesting in the way any of things things can do the things they do. The same can be applied to craft beer – many people like that the beer tastes good; why and how it does, isn’t so important.

I reached this conclusion on Saturday when Dad and I took some of his friends to Hallertau. They’re not craft beer drinkers – the last time we went out, they downed a large amount of Sol (yes, with lime). But, with a bit of guidance (which really equated to nothing more than me saying ‘Try this one’), they were quite happy to try something new. One of them liked the Kolsch so much, he bought a dozen to take home.

What I’m getting at is that sometimes, us beer geeks just talk too much and overload people with information. For a lot of people, the taste of craft beer speaks for itself – there’s really not a lot we can add to it.

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A Guide to Auckland Craft Beer

A little while ago (okay three months), I put up a post about how I was going to add an extra page to this blog that could act as a resource to finding craft beer in Auckland.

Well, I’ve finally gotten around to doing just that. In the tool bar above, you’ll see ‘Auckland Craft Beer Bars’. It’s my rough guide to Auckland craft beer. As you can see, there’s a couple of <<still researching>> entries, which I intend to remedy pretty soon, and I’ve probably got a few things wrong. Please feel free to tell me if I’ve got some details wrong or (worse still) I’ve missed someone out. I’ll do my best to fix it as soon as I can.

We may not have a Malthouse, Pomeroy’s, Moutere Inn or Eureka – but what we’ve got here in Auckland is getting pretty good and with our support will get better.

Please send any corrections or additions to rosalindaymes@gmail.com.

Gateway Beers

A ‘gateway beer’ is a term borrowed from drug terminology – it’s a beer you use to convert a friend, loved one, or a complete stranger a craft beer. My curent gateway beer is Emerson’s Bookbinder, which I discovered completely by accident. After a dinner, I left one in a friend’s fridge and two days later received a text message: ‘Whatever it is you left in my fridge is amazing.’ She’s been keen to try new beers ever since.

I use Bookbinder because it’s not challenging. It tastes markedly different from mainstream beers, but it doesn’t slap you around. My Dad agrees with this tactic – ease in the newbie in gently. He was discussing this tactic with Phil Murray in House on Hood who, while he sees the usefulness of starting with a comfortable beer like Bookbinder or a mild-but-sweet Belgian, also likes to take people out of their comfort-zone. For a tasting, he took his fiancee’s parents on a virtual tour of their tongue, comparing a Lambic with to an acidic white wine, a Smokin’ Bishop to a whisky and a New Zealand hoppy-as-hell IPA to show how hops have a flavour as complex as wine. The reactions were of complete amazement, that beer, previously known as that fizzy yellow stuff, could contain so many flavours.

So which makes a better gateway beer? A good version of what they normally drink or something completely different? Ultimately, it comes down to who you’re trying to convert and how. In a way I think not so much the choice of beer, but the situation in which they try it is important. A wine-loving foodie will be more susceptible to a beer and food matching tasting, a lad who loves his lager to beers in the lounge with the boys. For me, I think I’ll continue to use my guerilla fridge tactic – this way many of the things which may put the newbie off, such as price or someone watching them intently for a reaction, are removed and they are free to simply enjoy a good beer. And a few sips in, I think it’ll hit them: whatever I left in their fridge is amazing.

This post was written with the help of Phil Murray and a bottle of Tuatara Helles

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