I find it strange, but fascinating, how sometimes the beer drinking moment can elevate, or spoil, any beer.
One of my most memorable beers of the past few years is drinking a cool, crisp, well-hopped Heineken (yes, Heineken), in the Cook Islands. The temperature was in the mid to late 20s and my family and I had just been snorkelling in the lagoon at Aitutaki. I hadn’t even got out of the water before our snorkelling tour guide thrust the beer in my hand, and I just stood in the lagoon, guzzling down the crisp, tasty liquid.
My beer of the month for February left just as big of an impression on me – though has considerably more flavour than a Heineken.
It all happened in Christchurch last weekend. The second annual Great Kiwi Beer Festival was being held in North Hagley Park on the Saturday, and being a Christchurch girl, it was a good opportunity to head to my hometown and experience some good beer-y times – especially since it’s held in the exact same spot as where I used to run my school cross-country every year.
I’m a strange person however, in that I rather enjoy the beer volunteering experience¹. So to Christchurch I went, and spent three days helping to set up the Hashigo Zake World of Beer tent, pour beer at the Hashigo tent, and pack down the Hashigo tent. And boy, did I deserve my beers each of those nights. The big night though, Saturday, was what really took it out of me, The sun, the dust, being on my feet for hours on end, the physical labour², and interacting with the hundreds of people who came to my taps – it was all just plain exhausting.
So by the time I made it to Pomeroy’s³, I was ready for… well, something with some punch. Not wanting to have anything too alcoholic⁴, I started with the tasty 4.6% Haywired from the ever-talented Søren Eriksen of 8 Wired and joined the Hashigo crew at an outside table. And while it was the favourite of everyone I was drinking with, it didn’t quite hit the mark for me. It was slightly too bitter and not hoppy enough all at the same time. On paper it should’ve satisfied – under 5% ABV, hoppy, full-bodied, refreshing… it was one of those beer moments gone a little awry.
At the bar, I noted the Epic Mayhem was listed as on tap, and as my current go-to beer, I figured it would be a great beer to have while I planned my next beer move. But the friendly bar tender informed me that Mayhem had just finished, and had been replaced by Dale’s American Amber. It had been a while since my last Dale’s Amber, and a quick scan of the beer list confirmed there was plenty of lighter beers and strong beers, but not much in between the two.
And it turned out to be a fabulous decision. There is nothing sexier than a red beer, and Dale’s American Amber is a beautiful red-amber with a cream-coloured head. It smelled of fruity American hops and tasted fresh and fruity too, with sweet citrus flavours like mandarin and grapefruit coming through prominently. It had a delicious, piney, earth kick to it too, good bitterness, and it was all balanced out by a great malt body with a touch of chocolate.
It was sweet, it was bitter, it had a great body and it turns out that it was exactly what I needed after my big day in the heat. Hands down it was my most memorable beer of February, and the whole satisfying experience was topped off by running into the lovely Dale at the bar. I’m looking forward to trying his Marchfest offering, Dale’s Extra Special Bitter, in Nelson in just over a month!
¹ I actually asked the Beervana crew if I could volunteer for my second “free” session last year – I tried plenty of beer in my one free session and I got to hang out with all of the awesome brewers for three full sessions behind the bars. Awesome.
² I have a desk job, okay?
³ Arguably the greatest bar in NZ…
⁴ That would’ve been a sure-fire way to either put me straight to sleep or to get incredibly rowdy – either way it had huge potential to get me thrown out of the pub…