So you will have noticed I’ve been absent for a looooong time. I have plenty of excuses – a broken laptop, working too much, laziness. But I think what it really comes down to is that it’s really difficult to pick up the blogging again after such a long break. And so the break gets even longer¹.
But here I am, I’m back. I’ve had some amazing beer-y experiences while I’ve been gone. There have been numerous beer festivals right across the country, and even in Melbourne, new bars popping up, fancy beer dinners, and I even got to be a trainee judge at last year’s SOBA National Homebrew Competition. Hopefully I’ll be able to share some thoughts about some of the above, though knowing my track record, I wouldn’t be holding my breath if I were you.
One thing I do want to write about though, is my newly-found interest in gin. I know gin is not beer, but this is a beer-related story, so bear with me. Right, so until a few months ago, April in fact, I did not like gin².
In March, the boyf and I made our annual pilgrimage to Marchfest in Nelson. Fabulous festival, amazing people, good beer and this year there was the most amazing weather. I even made my way to the music tent for the first time in my Marchfest-going history to hear some tunes by this talented dude. But I digress.
The day before the Marchfest festivities began, the boyf and I dropped in on our friends Fritz and Maria at their new distillery, Liquid Alchemy. Fritz and Maria have been involved in the Nelson beer scene for quite some time, and write the beer column for the Nelson Mail. Maria showed us around their wee set-up, where we got to admire their copper distiller, ask about, and smell, what was in their rum-filled barrels, and taste test some of their wares³.
We also got to check out their distiller in action, which was in the process of making a gint with fresh Motueka hops, picked off the vines that morning. It smelled amazing. The fresh hop gin was an interesting concept to us, and a completely unique idea according to Fritz and Maria – with so few areas in the world that actually grow hops, you need to be able to pick the hops, take them to a distillery, and make the hop-infused spirit all on the same day. That leaves very few companies right across the world in a position to be able to pull that off.
A month later, the boyf, some friends and I headed to the very remote Penzance Bay in the Marlborough Sounds for the long easter weekend. With no internet access or phone coverage, there is little to do but read, write, draw and play board games – all while enjoying a few beverages. Liquid Alchemy’s 1st Cut Fresh Hop Gin – Motueka was justready for sale, and so we bought a bottle to take with us.
After smelling the Motueka while it was distilling, I was interested in trying it, despite it being gin. The boyf prepared everybody a glass, paired with tonic and lime, and everyone, including myself, expected me to take a sip and then hand my glass to someone else to finish.
Friends Dylan, Steven (background) and I enjoying First Cut Gin at the Marlborough Sounds
But boy, was I shocked. Fresh hops are known for giving beers sweeter and sweatier characters than dried whole cone hops or hop pellets do And the Fresh Hop Gin was no exception. The Motueka hops infused the gin with sweet earthy notes, like pine, which complimented the floral and spicy notes in the gin, yet gave it a whole new character – one that reminded me of my beloved beer.
The bottle lasted the five of us just one night, but I was hooked. When we switched to the regular First Cut Gin, I realised I was able to taste beyond the alcohol to the floral and spicy flavours, and it was a rather tasty beverage⁴.
Liquid Alchemy also produced Nelson Sauvin and Wai-iti fresh hop gins . I’m yet to taste the Wai-iti, but the Nelson Sauvin version tastes of lovely lemon and sweet tropical fruits, with an earthy hop character base.
Something different and delicious change for beer and gin lovers alike!
¹ Though I just checked the date of my last post and it was September. SEPTEMBER! Fuck, I didn’t realise it’d been that long. At least there’s been some fabulous online beer reading on NZ sites like The Bottleneck, Beer Diary, and From Drinker to Brewer, among others.
² Okay I don’t actually like any spirits, really. Unless I can’t taste them. And then there’s no point in drinking them, so I might as well just have a beer. So I do.
³ The boyf LOVES his gin, and enjoys many other spirits, including rum and whisky, so the tasting was mainly for him. I did taste the gin and the rum – with tonic and ginger beer to help me through. They were nice, but a bit hot and spirit-y tasting for my liking. Funny that.
⁴ As long as the boyf isn’t making it with his favoured half gin/half tonic ratio – that’s just too much gin for me.