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Just Another Beer Blog

Melbourne: Birds and Beers

I arrived in Melbourne last Friday and was quickly struck by two things: one, I have frickin’ amazing friends, and two, Australian birds are large, loud and odd.

I hopped off the airport bus and was whisked over to Richmond, where my friends, Fi and Mike are putting me up until I find a job (I told you they were nice). Once my luggage was stowed, we were off to Slow Beer, a craft beer bottle store with an on-license. That’s right, you can drink while oogling the beer – and there’s a lot of beer. Continue reading “Melbourne: Birds and Beers”

The Sky is Not Falling

This morning news broke that Lion Nathan have acquired 100% of the shares in Emerson’s Brewery. The news has had mixed receptions and I’d probably estimate a 30:70 split between positive:negative. I’m in the 30% and here’s why: Continue reading “The Sky is Not Falling”

Beer for Every Occasion

Sometimes you just want to fit more beer into your life. Like when you’ve only got a couple of weeks left in Auckland and need to finish your stash. At these moments, the traditional after work and dinner time drinking occasions aren’t enough. With this in mind, here’s a list of how to ‘beerify’ other occasions. Continue reading “Beer for Every Occasion”

Review: Coco’s Cantina

On Friday night I crossed one of the items off my ‘leaving Auckland’ list: Coco’s Cantina. And boy, do I wish I’d been earlier because it is awesome.

Coco’s has a bit of a rep for being incredibly popular and crowded, even bordering on boisterous. However, we didn’t find it so – we did arrive fairly early by Friday-night-dining standards and easily got a table, despite the warning on the website that you may have to wait for a one. The tables were close together, but not crowded, it was noisy, but not overly loud, and hip, but not pretentious so. It was cosy and comfortable.

I particularly like the way craft beer was presented – they didn’t boast about it, it was just matter-of-factly included because Coco’s is all about taste and therefore they have great tasting beer. On tap was Galbraith’s Munich Lager and West Coast Pale Ale. I immediately ordered the West Coast Pale, it being a contender for my all-time favourite Pale Ale, and nearly as quickly disappointed to discover a lot of the out-there hop flavour missin. But after a few more sips I discovered it was still a lovely beer – just more of an Amber Ale – and thoroughly enjoyable.

The elements that make up a great restaurant experience were there: friendly knowledgeable staff, great food (I can recommend the prawn pasta and the ravioli) and welcoming, relaxing atmosphere. If you haven’t been yet, get down there.

This would be a good time to mention Barb, my dinner companion of the night, has taken over the upkeep of the ‘Auckland Craft Beer on Tap’ website. Barb writes the Beer IQ blog and runs tastings under a company of the same name. The list is now located here – a big thanks to Barb!

Details: Coco’s Cantina, 376 K’Rd, Auckland, http://www.cocoscantina.co.nz

 

 

 

Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You

I’m gonna ‘leave you when the summer comes a-rollin.’ I’m off to Melbourne mid-November, for a chance of pace and place. I’ve got five weeks left in Auckland and then another four weeks in various parts of the North Island. It may seem a little early to be announcing it, but I’m looking to suggestions of things to do and beers to drink before I go. There’s three categories: the first two are ‘beer experiences’ – great pubs, bars, cafes or festivals that you feel are a must visit before I depart – divided into ‘Auckland’ and ‘The North Island Roadtrip’. The third category is Great Kiwi Beers – new beers that are about to be released or old favourites you feel I may have missed somehow. There’s already some items on the lists, but it would be nice if you could help pad them out a little for me:

Auckland Beer Experiences
Already on the list: Coco’s Cantina
As you can see, this list is a little light, I need some advice.

The North Island Roadtrip Beer Experiences
Already on the list: Pacific Beer Expo, BREW bar, mike’s Octoberfest, Montrose and the National Home Brew competition.
This list is already pretty packed, it’ll have to be an awesome suggestion to make it on.

Ten Great Kiwi Beers 
Already on the list: nothing yet
(I’m limited this to ten – I ain’t made of money, folks – although I’ll probably end up trying more than ten new beers in the next couple of months).

All and any suggestions welcome (except maybe Tiger) and I’ll attempt to document the experiences and the beers.

I ain’t jokin’ woman, I got to ramble. 

Hype

I have been pondering hype for a while now. How do you create hype? Can you even create hype or is it only something that occurs naturally? What make some hype strategies work and others fail?

First things first. I would define hype as a heightened excitement or interest in a product or event that results in selling more of the product or event tickets. Today I’m going to look at three campaigns that aimed (or are aiming to) hype their beer, if they are succeeding and why.

Case Study One: Boundary Road’s The Resident
The ‘craft arm’ of Independent Liquor, Boundary Road recently sought publicity by bringing Brian ‘Spike’ Bockowski over from the States to help introduce new ideas into the (apparently languishing) New Zealand beer scene. Spike helped Boundary Road develop three new brews: an IPA, Pilsner and a Red Rye Ale.

Tactics: social media campaign, including a new website, lots of Facebook coverage, press releases and a video (with more than a few mis-truths).

The Verdict: possible success in mainstream. Unfortunately I don’t have access to the sales figures, so I can’t tell you how well it is selling. But, because of Independent’s contacts, they’ve managed to get quite a few facings in all of the supermarkets I’ve been to lately and their packaging is eye-catching. Quite a few non-beer geeks I know have commented positively on it and there’s a fair amount of interaction on their Facebook page. I don’t know if anyone’s ‘hyped’ about it, but they are getting people’s attention. It’ll be interesting to see what they do next.

Case Study Two: Whatever the hell Hancocks are up to
The week after Beervana, Hancocks was apparently going to release a beer that will change beer in New Zealand ‘from conception to consumption’ – or at least that’s what one of their marketing consultants assured me would happen. The beer is still yet to make an appearance, despite the claims from the marketing dude of a massive release, with ‘the best t-shirt’ ever.

Tactic: the marketing guy targeted beer bloggers (I wasn’t the only one he approached), talking up his product in the hopes that they would then blog about it and create hype. Hype would then seem natural – we would (ideally) be curious about this mysterious beer, anticipate it and jump on any information that became available.

The Verdict: Not working so far/ too early to tell. I am curious about what they’re going to bring out and I’m writing about it, so they are getting some publicity out of it. But I’m already poised to think negatively of it. Why? Because I was trapped in a corner by a marketing guy who wouldn’t tell me anything about the actual beer or who was going to brew it, but just kept repeating the same buzz words, and telling me how well they were going to publicise it and how cool the t-shirts were going to be. Unfortunately, my suspicious nature has been aroused and now look, I’m telling everyone. Added to that, it’s been a few weeks since Beervana and there’s no sign of the beer. I might be wrong, it could be awesome. But more likely it will be a castle of brandwank built around a keep of terrible beer.

Case Study 3: Epic Hop Zombie
If you’re reading this blog, you already know about Epic Hop Zombie and that the third, much-awaited batch was recently released*.

Tactics: 1) Create an amazing beer. 2) Give it one of the best beer names in the world – not only is it a cool name, but it also is incredibly easy to write about. You can build many metaphors off it – it’ll eat your brains, leave you a shambling wreck – in short, it’s a copy writer/ beer reviewer / blog writer’s dream. 3) Launch it with a rock star tour of two of New Zealand’s best brewers. 4) Make a kick arse, instantly recognisable t-shirt. 5) Don’t make very much of this amazing beer (for perfectly legit reasons).

 

The Verdict: hype was successfully created and it sold lots of beer. The first batch of the third release sold out in a week and back orders had to be placed for the imminent second batch.

Conclusion
It is possible to create hype – but you’ve got to have a great product. You can have the coolest t-shirts in the world or the flashiest video, but if no one wants to tell their mates how amazing the beer is, you’re not going to get hype. This is not to say that Hop Zombie would’ve hyped itself – the names and tees certainly helped – but the level of hype needed an awesome product.

All in all, the number one step should always be: create great beer.

 

* Or it was when I first wrote this post. Then I waited to see what Hancocks’ beer was going to be like. And waited. And waaaaited.

Are we becoming Beer Snobs?

Every week Taranaki’s The Daily News publishes a column called ‘The Daily Brews’, which reviews a beer. It’s passed around from staffer to staffer and sometimes to a volunteer. Last week Matt Rilkoff won/lost the game of Daily Brew roulette and chose Tiger, giving it a glowing review for being flavourless and therefore easy to drink and match with food. This in itself wasn’t too bad – everyone’s entitled to their opinions, after all. What was mildly offensive was his dismissive, negative manner towards craft beer. The opening two paragraphs read:

Awash as we are under a tsunami of complex and haughty craft beers it is often forgotten they make up just a fraction of the beer people actually drink.
Not only are craft beers prohibitively expensive, they are usually so intensely flavoured they feel like a three-course meal rather than the egalitarian amber you want to drink with your mates around a barbecue.

Unusually, The Daily News then opened the column up to comments on the website – and holy moley did people comment. All up there were 71 comments, the vast majority of them negative.

I hate to say this, as it’s not going to win me any friends, but I think we over-reacted. I say we because I was one of those commentators. But as the comments started to build (often just rewording what earlier comments had said), it started to  feel not so good. It started to feel mean and bullying. We became, as a group, just what Matt had accused us of – haughty.

We’re not going to make any converts with this attitude. One of the nicest things about the beer community is the welcoming nature and the willingness to share information in an equalitarian manner.

In a way, I think it was the internet. People are not at their best on the internet where they can’t read the faces of the people they’re talking to and no one will recognise them later. We don’t do it intentionally. But I think if a bunch of us had been talking to Matt in a pub, not many of us would’ve spoken to him the way we did. I think many of us would’ve commented as Jess did, with her constructive comment:

Hi Matt, on a purely constructive note, it sounds like maybe you just really like lager. In which case, no problem, but that doesn’t mean the Craft Beers in New Zealand can’t service your requirements. There’s lots of delicious craft lagers, which similarly do not have overwhelming hop flavours etc. You might like to try some of them – Tuatara Helles, Townshends Te Laga, Epic Lager, and Three Boys Tres Amigos Cerveza, to name but a few – before deciding that craft beer is too intensely flavoured for you to enjoy’.

For this reason, I’d like to invite Matt down to Thirsty Thursday at Montrose. There’s craft beer on tap, and they should have a great lager for you to try. If my Dad’s there, he’ll buy you a beer (he’s the older chap with the white, short beard). If Jo from Liberty Brewing is there, he can talk to you how beer is made, how important it is to have the right ingredients and why the end product seems (to you) expensive. Shannon Ryan will probably be there, a home brewer, who can chat to you about making your own beer, if you really want to save money. And what’s more, if you don’t like the beer you’re drinking and can explain why – none of them will care. They’ll probably find it interesting.

This is the way I’d rather the beer community was. Welcoming, interested, and sharing. Not a bunch of internet bullies.

And as for the rumours that Matt was simply trolling – well, we’re certainly not doing ourselves any favours in feeding the trolls.

Beervana: Surprises, Regrets, and Victories

Beervana in bullet points – lazy but effective.

Surprises:

  • I found a cider I liked: Zeffer Slack Ma Girdle. West Coast’s Dave Kurth (owner of the coolest jumper on BOTH Beervana days) insisted that I try his and it was freaking delicious. So much so that I may considering doing the unthinkable and buy some cider.
  • Harrington’s taking out Champion Brewery – apparently I’ve been underrating Harrington’s and I think I’ll have to give them another go. Also, Wigram taking out two trophies – I’m ashamed to say I’ve never tried any of their beers, something else I’ll have to remedy.
  • I went the entire weekend without getting a hangover. True story.

Regrets:

  • Not taking a photo of either of Dave’s jumpers. Luckily someone else (Jayne Lewis) did. The other one was just as cool.
  • Wearing girl shoes on Saturday. Four blisters later and I had to give up a free iStout to go home and put my feet up. Bad, silly, girl shoes.
  • All the people I didn’t get to talk to! I’m not saying I was trapped talking to uninteresting people (I certainly wasn’t!), but more that there is simply not enough time to catch up with everyone – there’s simply too many interesting beer people and not enough Beervana!

Victories:

  • Feral Watermelon Warhead – this definitely lived up to the hype it created at GABS. So  refreshing, so unusual, and the perfect slow-it-down-a-bit beer.
  • The Festive Brews – namely Three Boys Coconut-Milk Stout, West Coast Sour Berry Black and Liberty’s Rennals Towards Muriwai (although I prefer its alternative name, ‘Ladies Beer’). All of these had both great bodies and interesting flavours that left me wanting more. I really hope I can get more of all three up here in Auckland.
  • The food at LBQ. Or the Hop Garden. Or at Beervana itself. Seriously, if I lived in Wellington I’d be even curvier than I am now. Recommendations: The Four-Wheel Drive Pizza at LBQ (blue cheese and steak), the chocolate sour cherry tart at Hop Garden (especially with Invercargill Brewing’s Pitch Black Boysenberry), and the dumplings from Beervana (I think they were from Dumpling House and are available outside of Beervana).
  • BEERVANA! Once again it was a massive success and big three cheers  to David Cryer, his team and all the volunteers!

In Flavour of: The End of Dry July

It’s finally arrived: the last day of Dry July. This, I promise, will be the last time I post about it – the usual agenda of beer, beer events and beer culture will resume. But before that, a quick word on non-alcoholic drinks.

They’re terrible. Not all of them, but the vast majority of non-alcoholics are overly sweet and rely on sugar for flavour. While there are some good ones out there (see the Top Five below), most bars don’t offer any of them, relying instead on whatever comes out of the soda gun. I was disappointed that my favourite pub, Galbraith’s, doesn’t even list their non-alcoholic drinks on the menu.

Now I know I’m asking a lot – I already want bars and pubs to offer amazing beers and delicious food – and now I’m requesting they could stock some decent non-alcoholic options for times when you don’t want to imbibe alcohol. But if cafes can do it, why not? The Phoenix range is quite good, as is Charlie’s (especially the old-fashioned lemonade) and I hear in Wellington they even have craft fizzy drink – Harvey Boys.

It’s probably not something I’ll campaign on – I’d rather put my time into beer. And speaking of beer, in one last effort to raise some dough for the Dry July cause, I’m auctioning off my first beer. I’ve set up a TradeMe auction where the winner can decide what my first beer in 32 days will be – will they use the power for good (promote a great beer) or evil (torture me with a mainstream lager)? If you’d like such power, place your bid here.

 Top Five Non-Alcoholic Drinks:

‘Hot Ginga’ – Skalinada Cafe, Mt Wellington
A gorgeous hot lemon and ginger drink that was the perfect temperature and a generous size.

Charlie’s Old Fashioned Lemonade
While many commercial drink makers have forgotten to put the ‘lemon’ in ‘lemonade’, this little beauty is deliciously sour.

t Leaf Earl Grey Blue Flower
I’m a big tea drinker, especially Earl Grey, and this is one of my favourites. And you know it’s good because the Yeastie Boys used it to make their Gunnamatta beer.

Phoenix Organics
I like nearly all the Phoenix drinks – they’re sweet, but not overwhelming so and rely more on the fruit for their flavour. If I had to pick two favourites, it’d be the Honey Cola and Apple & Guava juice.

Chai – Circus Circus, Eden Village
To be honest, I’d had an hour and a half sleep when I drank this and all I can remember was it was hot and comforting. But I’ve got it on good authority it tasted amazing too.

 

 

 

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