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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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Porter Night

Boxing Day bought a new set of beers – the porters. I was thoroughly looking forward to porter night – I love porters and the line-up was three of my favourites – Harrington’s Wobbly Boot, Moa Noir, and 8 Wired’s The Big Smoke. We decided for the sake of symmetry we should have a forth player and luckily Dad found a bottle of Invercargill Brewery’s Pitch in a cupboard (a stout, rather than a porter, but it was a rather casual tasting.)

Despite my big hopes, the night started out badly. I was an idiot and had brushed my teeth while Dad was setting up, as I forgotten to do so that morning. Really bad idea – the first few sips were not nice. Then Dad somehow managed to choke on his first sip. Then there was the problem of temperature (see following blog). After our false start though, we settled down to our tastings.

Harrington Wobbly Boot (Christchurch)
The head disappeared rather quickly, causing Dad to remark that it looked like a glass of coke. Although it didn’t have a lot of initial flavour, I found it had a lovely after taste. Dad disagreed, finding it bland and thinking it should have been colder.

Moa Noir (Blenheim)
The Noir, like many other Moa beers, is difficult to pour as it froths rather a lot (my sister in hospo verifies is not just my incompetence at pouring a beer, but the Moa). I’ll forgive it though, because it is lovely to drink, a bit hoppier and bitter than the Woobly Boot, while still maintaining a lovely malty after taste.

8 Wired The Big Smoke (Blenheim)
The Big Smoke is just that – big and smoky. Dad claimed it smelt better than it tasted, which I strongly disagreed with. I loved the taste, the smoke and the hops and the complexities. Dad said if I liked it all that much I could have the rest of the bottle and should go to Bamburg, home of smoked beers. I accepted said bottle and put Bamburg on the to-do list.

Invercargill Brewery Pitch Black (Invercargill)
Pitch Black had a strong Marmite smell (yeasty?) which, to me, is not a bad thing. I was disappointed with the speed at which the after taste disappeared though.

So what did we learn from our porter night? First and foremost, it wasn’t really a porter night – Wobbly Boot is a porter ale, Noir is a dark larger, and Pitch Black is a stout. This wasn’t a flaw though – it simply taught us more about darker beers. Second, summer is not a good time to hold a porter night – it’s simply too hot. Again not a bad thing – we’ve decided we’ll have to organise a mid-winter porter tasting!

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