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Just Another Beer Blog

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November 2011

Wedding Beers

The other night my sister informed me that I was excited about her wedding. Fortunately, we were chatting via Skype chat and the slightly sarcastic reply was taken seriously. See, despite my time spent at a bridal magazine, I’m not a wedding girl. The only thing that excites me about weddings is flowers, food and beer. At this stage she’s not having flowers, so I’m a little disappointed there. However, her fiancé is a chef, so the food’s going to be marvellous, and, if Dad and I have our way, the beer will be just as good.

Very early on, sis informed me ‘We won’t be having any of that fancy stuff that you and Dad like. We can’t afford it.’ When I duly reported this back to Dad, the silence last so long I thought he’d dropped the phone. It stretched on and on and then a small but firm voice simply said ‘No’. Since then, we’ve decided the beer shall be our concern and we’ve been debating the best way to organise it. Bottles or kegs? Local fare or bring in favourites? A variety of breweries, or just stick to one? Go with what guests will be comfortable with or wow them with something different? Then there’s the logistics of it all to be considered.

It’s all rather academic at the moment though, because the wedding’s not until February 2013. In the intervening time, Emerson’s will release six seasonal brews, a dozen new micro- and nano-breweries will start up, 8Wired will create several Trohpy-winning beers and who knows what sort of mischief the Epic boys will get up to. The brewing scene is evolving so fast in New Zealand, it is impossible to predict what it will be like in 18 months’ time.

The long wait though, does give Dad and myself a chance to gather information and learn more about beer at weddings.  We both have a bit of experience in weddings and a fair amount of experience organising small events with craft beer, but haven’t really combined the two. We’ve got a year to research, plan and learn from other people’s weddings. So what are people’s best tips for craft beer (or beverages in general) at weddings? Or large events? Suggested styles, serving formats and sourcing? What did you enjoy about other people’s weddings?

Don’t be shy and remember, your interesting stories and advice will be helping me through less enjoyable wedding-related activities. You see, I promised to take my sister wedding dress shopping up here in the big smoke – and I hate wedding dresses. But, I do know of three bridal stores within a three block radius of Galbraiths… so it won’t be too bad!

Not By Half

‘Can I have a half of the Stonecutter please?’
‘We only do halves of the Speights, Mac’s Gold and Guinness.’
‘Oh.’
‘Would you like a full?’
‘No thanks.’
I didn’t want a full, I was driving. And it’s Stonecutter. It’s a 7% ABV Stotch Ale. It’s not like I asked for a half of a Radler. It’s a big-flavoured, big-hitting beer and I didn’t want a whole.

‘Where’s your beer?’ the guys asked me as I returned to our table.
‘They don’t do halves of the craft beers.’
‘What do they do halves of?’
‘Speights, Mac’s Gold and Guinness.’
‘Why only those?’
‘I don’t know.’
They turned it over it true pub-conversation styles and came up with a few theories, then quickly discarded each one. Tossed theories included: a lack of correct glasses; extra labour or training of staff; and loss of profit. All of these theories may have worked if they didn’t serve any halves, but they did of the mainstream stuff. Eventually one of the lads gave up and went and asked.

‘What did they say?’
‘It’s not keyed into the till.’
‘What?!’
‘It’s not keyed into the till, so they can’t charge people for it.’
‘That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard.’
‘I know.’
‘Don’t they have a bloody misc key?’
‘Yeah, but then their staff would have to know how much they are.’
‘But they charge the same for a pint of the craft, any craft.’
‘I don’t know, I’m just the messenger!’

Now this scenario could be many things. You could look it as the fine-tuning of the Auckland craft beer scene, which we all contribute too. You could see it as a bunch of beer geeks being, well, pedantic beer geeks. You could perceive it as host-irresponsibility.

But on the whole, it just all seems…silly.

Through the Gateway

In my last post, I introduced my flatmate Shelley to iStout. She adored it. She put the bottle on display in the kitchen (a very rare thing in our ridiculously tidy flat), so that she would remember what it looked like and buy it. I thought she was happy with her new-found taste in beer.

Then she greeted me on Sunday night with ‘You suck’. Apparently it was all my fault that she’d be craving iStout all weekend. She’d gone to the supermarket, but the only Stout they had was six dollars a bottle and she knew that I’d paid a fair bit more than that and figured it wasn’t a very good one. My general lack of beer stocks in the flat was also remarked upon.

This afternoon, I received a phone call from Shelley at the supermarket, asking whether she should get Cascade or Young’s Double Chocolate Stout. Before I knew it, she was home, pouring us a bottle each the Young’s. ‘It’s nice enough,’ she decided, ‘but it’s not iStout.’

It appears I’ve made a convert – a slightly indecisive and fussy one, but a convert nonetheless.

In the midst of my self-congratulating, I began to think about new beer converts. We beer geeks spend a lot of time talking about gateway beers, but what happens when our newbies are through the gate and into Beerland? Here they must navigate supermarket aisles and liquor store fridges that seem to offer either an overwhelming amount of choice or very little at all. There’s a whole new nomenclature to learn and different brewers to discover. Then there are literally thousands of beers to taste and make decisions on.

Fortunately or unfortunately, the only way to explore Beerland is to jump right in and get tasting. But there’s small things we can do to help the beer grommet along. Be willing to share your beer and knowledge with them. Encourage them to join a SOBA or a regular beer group so they can learn from other people’s successes or mistakes. Have patience if the person in front of you at the taps takes a long while making their decision.

While I’m sure beer geeks will do their best to be welcoming, I do wish a bit more was being done in the retail and hospitality industries to help beer grommets on their way. In my local Pak’n’Save cheese section, there’s an excellent sign that briefly explains the different varieties of cheese. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have one in the beer aisle as well, looking at different styles? On my last visit to Liquorland Newmarket, the manager took the time to help me with my beer selection and answer my questions. Wouldn’t it be lovely if every liquor store had such a person on hand?

Beerland is an exciting place, but it can also be confusing with it variety and choice. Hopefully, with a few cheerful guides and helpful signposts we can make it a little more welcoming and encourage people to stay a little longer – or move in permanently!

The Brewer’s Buddy

I know it’s not the done thing to sell something via a blog but 1) I’m fairly sure many of you will be interested and 2) I’ll reward you all with a proper post immediately afterwards.

Home brewers can be a little accident-prone and forgetful. One friend broke a hydrometer and a thermometer by standing on them – during the same brew. Another flinches every time his wife opens the kitchen draw, afraid she’ll break some of his kit. And then there’s the mate who looks sheepish whenever you ask what his starting gravity was – he can never find a pen.

Well, I decided to try and put a stop to some of this. As some of you know, I’m a part-time sewer and thought the perfect solution would be a brewer’s wall-hanging organiser (or Brewer’s Buddy).  The resulting design is below.

There are skinny pockets for thermometers and hydrometers, flat pockets for notebooks and airlocks, small see-through pockets for washers and plugs and larger pockets for taps and all manner of other things! Along the bottom, there’s loops for mash paddles and spoons and along the top, two strong lops to hang the Buddy from the door or wall of your brew shed / garage / man cave. And if you spill something on it, just pull out the dowel ends and chuck it in the washing machine – it’ll come out good as new!

The Brewer’s Buddy is available on the online craft store Felt and will shortly be available on Etsy, if you want to pay in US dollars.

 

I Love Stout: Past, Present and Future

Yes, it’s a day late for International Stout Day. I got halfway through writing this last night and my flatmate asked me to ice a cake for her. It was a very complicated cake. 

I love Stout. I don’t know why and I’m not about to guess; I’ve given up working out why I like things (why is blue nicer than orange?). To celebrate International Stout Day, I’m going to take a look at Stouts of New Zealand past, present and future.

Past
One of the best and worst parts of loving craft beer is its ephemeral nature. Some beers are one-off brews, the result of a collaboration, some experimentation with weird ingredients or made to make a special event. These beers often have a lot of extra thought and effort put into them and it shows through in excellent brews. Vasta’s Velvet was one such fleeting moment of goodness. It was one of the Galbraiths’ ‘Cask Ale Series’, where brewers from around the country team up with the brew team at Galbraiths (Keith and Ian) to re-do one of their beers in the cask ale style. For Vasta’s Velvet, Carl Vasta of Tuatara Brewing came up and they brewed a version of his Polar Beer Stout. And it was beautiful. Off the hand-pump, it was smooth and roasty and delicate and chocolately and awesome. Paired with Galbraiths’ Stout Beef Burger, it was even better. But alas, it was a one-off brew and we shall never sup it again. I’m glad I got to try it while it lasted.

Present
For my present beer, I wanted to have a Twisted Hop Nokabollokov and talk about how I hope this remains a present beer. I hope one day the Twisted Hop crew are allowed back into their quake-ravaged brew bar and, if they’re not, that they can continued to find other places to brew like they do currently. But Liquorland Newmarket had run out. The Newmarket manager thought there might be one bottle at the Parnell store, but he was fairly sure that the Parnell manager was going to drink it himself  (can’t blame him really).  I’m happy to report that despite the manager’s slightly apologetic ‘We don’t stock many Stouts’, they had many others to chose from and I ‘settled’ for an 8wired iStout.

As part of my International Stout Day celebrations, I was generously sharing this bottle with my flatmate who has never had a Stout before. I cracked it open when she arrived home from the gym and poured it into a tulip glass. ‘It’s very dark,’ she commented, not suspiciously, more curiously. ‘Why is that?’ I explained about the malt being roasted for longer and therefore having a darker colour. She said that made sense and took a sip. ‘Oh wow.’ Another sip. ‘That’s really nice.’ Another sip. ‘Seriously, what’s this called, I think I’ll buy some.’ Before I could take three sips of my half, she’d finished hers and asked if there was any more. I think I’ve converted at least one person to Stout. I declare my International Stout Day a success.

Future
So what’s in store for Stout in the future? More of the same delicious and a bit of experimentation.  Hopefully, we’ll still be able to buy great Stouts like Nokabollokov, iStout, Three Boys Oyster Stout, Emerson’s Clam Stout, Epic Thornbridge Stout and whoever else I’ve temporarily forgotten.* Hopefully, we can convert more people to these tasty drops and the liquor store managers can proudly announce they have a full range of Stouts. Maybe, I’ll even be able to got to a restaurant and have a stout with my dessert, an absolute decadent luxury.

And, just like with any of our beer styles, there is and will be a fair amount of experimentation with Stouts. For International Stout Day, Epic brewed a coffee-fig stout, a version of which took away the Media Head-to-Head Brew competition at Beervana earlier this year. With caramelised figs in the wort and dried hopped with coffee beans, this stout is sticky, sweet and moreish.

So that’s my International Stout Day. Great memories, great beer in hand and looking like great things in the future.

*Forgotten is not necessarily a bad thing. There’s nothing better than re-discovering a beer.

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