I recently had a birthday and initially, I couldn’t be bothered organising any sort of celebration for it. But after realising I had to work that afternoon, giving me all of about four hours to mark the day between waking up and going to work, I decided it might be nice to actually celebrate with a few beers the next day.
Helpfully, Hashigo Zake, aka my home away from home, had organised for the Liberty Brewing Tapliferation¹ that same Friday evening. On tap were five of Liberty’s finest beers – Summ!t, C!tra, Alpha Dogg, West Coast Blonde Citra and Yakima Scarlett. But the main draw card was a cask-conditioned version of Yakima Monster, brewed by the Liberty brewer, Jo Wood, at Galbraith’s, which was available from the cask and also on hand pump. What better way to celebrate a birthday²?
The fact that Hashigo Zake had managed to get a cask of the beer was pretty amazing. Galbraith’s has been doing what they’ve called the Great Brewer Cask Ale Series since May last year. Every six to eight weeks or so, Galbraith’s invites a notable craft brewer to Auckland to brew a cask ale on its kit, while the previous brew is launched at the bar that same day. The Liberty brewer, Jo Wood, brewed a whole-cone hopped version of his Yakima Monster, AND managed to convince Keith Galbraith to let one 20 litre cask make its way to Wellington to be served at Hashigo Zake³ – much to the delight of the Wellington beer enthusiasts. Forty litres of the Monster was also transferred to kegs to be served on hand pump at the bar.
With the cask arriving with the special guest, Jo Wood, the Tapliferation began without the star (brewer and beer). So I began my evening (actually afternoon at this stage) with a half-pint of the Liberty /Galbraith’s Yakima Monster from the hand pump. And it pretty much blew my mind.
The 6% beer pours a very clear, golden-amber colour, with a creamy white head. It smells of earth and fruit – grapefruit and a hint of lemon – with a slight sweetness, which my best guess was a hint of caramel. It tastes of earth, oranges, grapefruit, and a hint of vanilla, before making way for a drying, dirty bitterness on the finish – which reminded me of freshly-cut grass on a summer day. It’s fresh, easy to drink and just all-round lovely. I actually remember⁴ turning to the boyfriend and saying “I doubt the cask version can top this.”
But when the star arrived (the cask in this case, NOT the brewer), it stood head and shoulders above the hand-pulled version. And while the hand-pulled version blew my mind, I went entirely to mush when I took my first sip of the cask-conditioned Yakima Monster. Dispensed from the bar-top via gravity, it even looked different.
It pours a dark, honey-golden in colour with a very minimal off-white head, with a beautiful haze and no bubbles. It smells sweet, with pineapple, passionfruit, grapefruit and mandarin. It tastes (and smells) a lot fruitier than the hand-pulled version, with a bouquet of citric fruits on the flavour, with mandarin and passionfruit the most prominent, and an earthy, bitter finish. It also, somehow, has a bigger body and is just as drinkable as the hand-pulled version. It’s just so wonderful.
I am SO gutted it is no longer available for drinking in Wellington, considering it is pretty much my beer of the-year-so-far. And all of my friends (“what do you recommend?”) loved it. Or at least said they did. And while pretty much all of the Liberty beers are great, this is the first one to really get my heart racing. Be careful Jo, I fear beer enthusiasts the country over are beginning to grow some pretty serious beer-crushes on you…
¹ Tapliferation – what the fuck!? Apparently it was a play on tap proliferation, but as Phil Cook says, ”It seems like it’s going somewhere, and then doesn’t”.
² The boyfriend’s comment when I mentioned the birthday plan: “Oh good! I was hoping to get the night off so I can hang out with Jo, so this gives me the perfect excuse!” Sometimes I think he loves Jo Wood more than me…
³ It is the first, and so far only, time that one of the Cask Ale Series beers has been served outside of the Galbraith’s bar. I’m pretty sure.
⁴ Please remember at this point that it was my birthday night (albeit an evening late as I was working my actual birthday), so there are, in fact, a few parts of the evening that are now quite hazy… NOTE I have a terrible memory in any case and many parts of my life are now a hazy blur, despite my being sober for the vast majority of it.