The Session #78: My Elevator Pitch for Beer

This is my first time participating in The Session.

On the first Friday of every month, a whole bunch of beer bloggers from around the world blog about one particular topic relating to beer, picked by that month’s host. August 2013 belongs to James Davidson of Beer Bar Band fame and he flicked me an email ages ago asking if I wanted to participate this time around. With two hours of my Friday to go, I decided I might have something to say.

The topic? Your Elevator Pitch for Beer:

You walk into an elevator and hit the button for your destination level. Already in the elevator is someone holding a beer…and it’s a beer that annoys you because, in your view, it represents all that is bad with the current state of beer.

You can’t help but say something, so you confront your lift passenger with the reason why their beer choice is bad.

30 seconds (or 250 words) is all you have to sell your pitch for better beer, before the lift reaches the destination floor. There’s no time, space or words to waste. You must capture and persuade the person’s attention as quickly as possible. When that person walks out of the elevator, you want them to be convinced that you have the right angle on how to make a better beer world.

Walking into an elevator and finding someone holding a beer – any beer – represents hope to me. If someone likes beer, no matter how boring, eccentric, pretentious, offensive – they like beer. And if someone likes beer, they have the capability to enjoy good beer and the community that surrounds it.

After a smile and a quick question or two about what they’re drinking and why, I would provide this simple advice: experiment.

There is an unimaginable range of beers available on the market these days. There are countless different styles, different flavours, different textures. There are beers that are made using vegetables, coffee, oysters. I’ve had a beer that tasted exactly like marshmallow banana lollies. Another like manuka-smoked bacon. And yet another like a slightly sweaty forehead with a hint of lemon. I’ve liked them all. Fizzy, flat, syrupy. Sour, bitter, sweet. There is no limit when it comes to beer. So why limit yourself?

And why not tell people about it? Talking about beer is a passion of mine – I like talking about beer about as much as I like drinking it, actually. And wherever there is a range of beer available, there are people who like to discuss beer, brewing, and their experiences.

There’s a whole world of beer out there – why not open yourself up to it? Experiment.

*****

Check out all the other elevator pitches here:  http://beerbarband.com/2013/07/09/the-session-no-78-announcement-your-elevator-pitch-for-beer/

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Beer of the month – July

July was a pretty hectic month for me.  Between work, moving house, being sick (yay for shift work), and helping the Society of Beer Advocates get out the Winter Issue of The Pursuit of Hoppiness, I actually had very little time to enjoy all that many beers.

But through some twist of fate¹, I did manage to make the SOBA Winter Ale Festival. It was held at a new location this year – Victoria University’s newly renovated Hunter Lounge², and was bigger than ever before. There was a huge selection of beer on offer, making it difficult to know just what to try in the short space of time. I stuck to the dark beers – it being a winter ale festival after all, and tried some wonderful gems.

Yeastie Boys’ Pot Kettle Black was on cask and tasting like it’s wonderful roasty, bitter self; Mike Neilson’s new Panhead Brewery made its debut with an Oat Stout – a full-bodied and well-balanced roasty, chocolate delight; while Liberty Brewing’s Never Go Back provided both a toffee sweetness and coffee kick that ended the evening perfectly.

But it was Kereru’s For Great Justice Porter that was the stand-out beer for me. At 4.5%, it was the lowest alcohol beer on offer that day – a fact I only became aware of at the end of the event while searching back through the programme during my own personal festival debrief³. For Great Justice went down like a beer of close to 6%, with a full body and smooth finish. It tasted of a chocolate brownie, with a rich, dark chocolate flavour and roast malt notes. While the description of the beer in the programme mentioned it has coconut in it, it’s not a character I picked up on – potentially due to my cold. But its flavour was not lacking without it, and For Great Justice made quite the impression on me with its sweet, chocolate notes.

While the weather forecasters are predicting an early spring, I’m determined to continue to drink the high quality of rich, dark beers on offer at this time of year, for as long as I can.

Kereru have a stall at Beervana next weekend – and For Great Justice comes with my highest recommendation.

*****

¹ On the day before the festival, my netball game was shifted to a 4pm start, which meant I would only be able to arrive at the festival at about 5.30pm. But by the time I woke up from my morning nap on the Saturday (I was napping because I felt like shit, thanks to the combined effects of a cold and tummy bug), my netball game had been cancelled because of a double-booked court. I decided to head to the festival despite my illness, and one beer happened to settle my stomach and lift my spirits – so I stayed.

² The last time I set foot in the Hunter Lounge I was at the front of a mosh pit at a Shihad concert in first year. A very different atmosphere this time around.

³ I’m a nerd, I know.

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Beer of the month – June

While the majority of the beer drinkers I know drink pints of craft beer when given the option, I have always been a half-pint kind of girl¹. I do enjoy drinking a full pint² of beer from time to time, but generally, I order half-pints because it means I can try more beers in an evening than if I was drinking a full 400-568mls at a time. It also means I can keep up with my larger, male, beer-drinking buddies – I can finish a half pint in about the same time as the boyf can polish off a pint.

Last month, my home away from home, Hashigo Zake, made a change to their glassware. They have done away with their stemmed, 300ml half-pint glasses and replaced them with what they’re calling “the fancy” – a stemmed, wide-mouthed glass produced by the German company Spiegelau. It can hold more than their standard half-pint serve, and so they’ve marked all of the new glasses with a 300ml line.

I adore these new glasses. You have the option of holding the glass by the stem, or by cupping your hand around its bottom. It has a wide, round bottom, like that of a red wine glass, making it perfect for swirling – something I enjoy doing with pretty much any beverage³. There’s also a decent gap between the 300ml mark and the lip of the fancy, making it easy to enjoy the aromas of the beer without accidentally dipping the tip of your nose into the head of the beer. Basically, drinking out of a fancy is a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

The "fancy" - AKA the Stemmed Pilsner Glass from Spiegelau.

The “fancy” – AKA the Stemmed Pilsner Glass from Spiegelau.

My beer of the month was consumed out of a fancy. Nøgne Ø Sunturnbrew is a beer that I’ve enjoyed very much several times before. But I have no doubt that the new glass enhanced the drinking experience of the 11% brew.

Nøgne Ø Sunturnbrew is a smoked barley wine brewed every winter solstice by the Norwegian brewery. It’s got sweet, dark fruit aromas, with raisin and cherry coming through the caramel malt, and a peak smoke hit. The flavour is sweet and sticky, with brown sugar, caramel, raisin and a touch of roast. Then, just as you think the mouthful of flavour is coming to an end, a lovely, peaty flavour jumps out and cuts through the stickiness. As the beer warms in the fancy, which I had cupped in my hands, the flavours become more powerful, and they meld together oh-so well.

A bottle of Sunturnbrew - I have this one stashed away in my beer cellar.

A bottle of Nogne’s Sunturnbrew – I have this one stashed away in my beer cellar.

I enjoyed 300mls of the Sunturnbrew for a good half-hour before my glass was empty, and the only thing that stopped me from ordering another was knowing I had a netball game the next day. While the beer is difficult to find on tap here in New Zealand, it is available in bottles from Hashigo’s online bottle store, and it may have found its way to a few off-licences as well. The beer is one that ages well, and if you drink it at home you can choose whatever vessel you want to enjoy it out of.

I know I’ll be having another few before the year is out.

*****

¹ On second thought, perhaps the name of my blog is a little misleading… though “A Girl and Her Half-Pint” is not quite so catchy.

² Which, here in New Zealand, means a vessel holding somewhere between 400-568mls of beer.

³ Admittedly, I treat most beverages like beer – swirling my coffee, tilting my water glass when I pour it, sniffing my tea…

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Beer of the month – May

This month was an especially exciting one for me – it included a trip to Melbourne to enjoy Good Beer Week and the Great Australasian Beer Specatpular. It was a rather exhausting week actually, and it’s taken me another week to recover from the busy beery days and a particularly nasty cold I managed to pick up at the end of the holiday.

Not surprisingly, I enjoyed my beer of the month across the ditch during Good Beer Week. Perhaps what is surprising about it though, is that the stand out beer of May was just a plain old pale ale from an Australian brewery.

A week in Melbourne really did make me appreciate how lucky we beer lovers are here in New Zealand. While there were a lot of delicious beers in Australia, there were a decent number of duds too, and many of the more exciting beers, excluding the GABS offerings, were styles that have been around in NZ for quite a while¹.

So when I tried the Wig & Pen Pale Ale, on cask at The Courthouse Hotel, it really made an impression.  It was a simple pale ale, made exceptionally well. Brewed with American hops, it had an earthy, fruity aroma, and tasted of earth and citrus, with an easy bitterness on the finish. The malt was just as impressive, with a bit of roast, a bit of biscuit and a bit of caramel – something that could stand up to the hops and filled out the body nicely, but was very easy to drink. It was smooth, well-balanced and just plain tasty.

In a week where I tried a beetroot saison, a lemon myrtle ale, a white chocolate raspberry pilsner, a pale ale brewed with Dai Dai fruit, three different types of Christmas pudding ales, and countless imperial, smoked, coffee, chocolate, barrel-aged concoctions, there were very few good, simple beers with no tricks². So it’s actually the simple, but oh-so tasty, Wig & Pen Pale Ale on cask that made the biggest impression on me in such a busy, beery week. With this beer completely unavailable in New Zealand, for once, I’m jealous of all you Aussie craft beer drinkers.

There will be more to come about my Australian beer adventures in the coming days!

*****

¹ Black IPAs ,Red IPAs, drinkable sours…

² Though many of the beers in that list were very delicious. In fact, my favourite festival beer was one of those tricky concoctions – a barrel-aged, imperial stout from Prickly Moses in Victoira.

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A Homebrew Star

It’s every home brewer’s dream to have their beer made on a commercial scale. While many home brewers have recently, and successfully, made the leap to become a real life brewer¹, others dream of being handed the chance. While some try to impress local brewers with generous homebrewed samples, winning the coveted best beer award at the annual Society of Beer Advocates National Homebrew competition is what most of us really dream of. The prize? To have your beer brewed on a commercial scale at Auckland’s Hallertau Brewery. Big deal.

The winner of the 2012 best beer was Richard Deeble with his New Zealand Pale Ale entry. I was lucky enough to be an NHC table steward, and while our table didn’t get the chance to judge Richard’s beer, we did get to sample a selection of the NZ Pale Ale entries. And it’s no easy thing to brew a good pale ale. Of the 6-8 entries my table judged, we only gave out one medal, with all of the other beers too thin, too bitter or too faulty. So for Richard not only to brew a gold-medal-winning beer in that style, but to score the highest total score of the competition, he’s got to know what he’s doing. So I was really looking forward to tasting the commercially-brewed Deeble’s Pale Ale.

The beer went on tap in Wellington on Saturday, April the 27th at the Kelburn Village Pub, and there was quite a turnout. I bought myself a glass and managed to grab a seat with two Kelburn pub locals, Frances and Ted Verrity, and sat down for a taste.

Richard Deeble pouring his Deeble's Pale Ale at the Kelburn Village Pub.

Richard Deeble pouring his Deeble’s Pale Ale at the Kelburn Village Pub. Photo courtesy of Clare Keegan.

Deeble’s Pale Ale smelled like a pretty traditional NZ pale ale – earth, caramel, citrus. But I was impressed with the flavour – its earthiness was well-balanced by lemon and grapefruit characters, and the hops didn’t overpower the malt, with a good caramel kick to it all. At 5.9%, the beer was on the upper reaches of the style, but it tasted more around the 5% mark with a good body, but very drinkable. The beer was just a bit too sweet for my liking – I personally would’ve liked a slightly bigger bitter kick on the finish to balance that out, but I was impressed by Richard’s ability to pull off a tasty and easy-drinking pale ale – a pretty tough feat.

I managed to grab a couple of words with Richard as well, and was impressed to hear about his hopping schedule. He only started adding his hops with 15 minutes to go in the boil, and used Southern Cross as a flavour AND aroma hop, as well as using Pacific Jade to dry-hop with. I was surprised – Southern Cross and Pacific Jade are very popular among home brewers here in New Zealand, but usually only as a bittering hop. Bold move, but it worked!

This year marks my second year of home brewing², and while Richard managed to claim the top beer prize with just three years brewing experience, I feel I have a lot more to learn and a lot more experimenting to do before I might be lucky enough to do the same. But it doesn’t hurt to dream, right?

*****

¹ The Funk Estate quartet – Shiggy Takagi, Dan Lord, Jordan Evison and Dylan Shearer; two-thirds of the Parrot Dog crew – Matt Warner and Matt Kristovski; the Brewaucracy duo, Greig McGill and Phil Murray; all-round beer guru, Kieran Haslet-Moore of Southstar Brewing

² While the boyf has been brewing for about four years now, I’ve only started developing and brewing my own recipes over the past 18 months or so.

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Beer of the month – April

April has been a pretty great month for beer. It kicked off with Marchfest – 15 brand new beers from breweries in Nelson and Marlborough, poured all day at Nelson’s Founders Park. That was followed by Wellington’s Hopstock – eight fresh-hopped beers poured at 12 different bars around the city. And my beer of the month came smack bang in the middle of the two.

Marchfest 2013 was possibly the best one yet – the sun was out all day, the food was as delicious as ever and 10 of the 15 brews on offer were tasty enough for a second glass. But it’s what was on offer after the festival that really made an impression on me.

Marchfest 2013 - Saturday 6th of April at Founders Park. I was particularly taken with the pink glass.

Marchfest 2013 – Saturday 6th of April at Founders Park. I was particularly taken with the pink glass.

After a pint at the Milton Street Sprig & Fern, we went for a couple of beers and some food at the relatively new Rhythm and Brown bar on New Street.  New on the beer engine was a collaboration from Townshend and Liberty called Chatham’s Rise. The 5.7% pale ale was brewed using New Zealand Chinook and Cascade fresh hops, and went incredibly well with the cheese platter and Connect Four¹.

Connect Four!

Connect Four! At the wonderful Rhythm and Brown.

Chatham’s Rise was pretty much the perfect hand-pulled beer. It tasted of earth and grapefruit with a great caramel and roast malt body and a velvety-smooth mouth feel. The earthy hop character balanced the malt body well and after a day of drinking a very wide range of beers, it was just so tasty and easy all in one mouthful. I had two.  Maybe even three².

When it got too busy at Rhythm and Brown to continue to play Connect Four, or really even have a conversation³, the boyf and I walked around the corner to The Free House – the traditional Marchfest after-party venue. But when we arrived, things were clearly winding down and last drinks had just been called. So with that, we ordered one more beer – a Chatham’s Rise – and sat on the couches for a festival debrief.

Chatham's Rise pale ale from Townshend Brewery and Liberty Brewing Company. A perfect way to end the day.

Chatham’s Rise pale ale from Townshend Brewery and Liberty Brewing Company. A perfect way to end the day.

Just a few short days later it was available in Wellington as part of Hopstock, and while I didn’t manage to get around to tasting all eight of the beers, Chatham’s Rise remains my favourite fresh-hopped beer of the season, and my favourite beer of the month.

I’m looking forward to giving it another try on Friday at Hashigo Zake’s second annual fresh hop tap takeover – I can’t wait to find out if Chatham’s Rise will remain on top when up against seven other hop harvest beers!

*****

¹ It turns out I still really love Connect Four. And I think I surprised most of my fellow festival-goers with how competitive I am. I now happen to be the reigning Connect Four champion, and it turns out Chatham’s Rise is a pretty tasty victory beer too.

² You’ll understand if you’ve ever been to Marchfest. By about 8pm, every beer begins to merge into one glorious haze…

³ An acoustic duo, while incredibly talented and playing all the right songs, were oh-so-loud, and there were so many people packed into the place that coming back from the bar was a ten-minute ordeal. Clearly, Rhythm and Brown was THE place to be.

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‘Twas the Saison

We have had a wonderful, wonderful summer. Hot, dry days and warm, calm evenings – perfect beer-drinking weather. And as the days have been getting shorter and cooler, I’ve been thinking back to some of the best drops of my summer.

One style that has perhaps made the biggest impression on me over the past few months is the saison. The saison rose to NZ-beer-fame back in 2011 when it seemed every second brewery¹ released their version of the zesty, fruity, spicy, beer style.

The saison is a farmhouse ale that originated in the French-speaking part of Belgium. It was brewed in the cooler months and stored until summer when it was drunk by the farm workers. One of the best things about the saison is that no two are ever the same. They’re zesty, sweet, tart and funky. Mmmm…

Hallertau’s Saison aged in chardonnay barrels was on tap at Hashigo Zake for a short time last month and I managed to enjoy several glasses of it. I generally like saisons – their sweet-yet-tart character is a winner in my book. But this was next-level good. It was dry, tart and tasted of grapefruit, lemon, plum, sweet grain and a good bitter kick. Oh-so-delicious and oh-so-moreish – and at 5.3%, I didn’t feel guilty about going back for more.

Garage Project recently brewed a Farmhouse Ale of its own. Mon P’tit Chou² is a 5% ale brewed with Belgian malt and French hops. It was released at the beginning of March and kegs were floating all around Wellington for weeks.

My little cabbage, No cabbages were harmed in the making of this beer. Picture courtesy of Garage Project.

My little cabbage, No cabbages were harmed in the making of this beer. Picture courtesy of Garage Project.

However, my timing was off. I was arriving at bars hours after the kegs had been drained. So as soon as a keg went on at Hashigo, the boyf bought me a two-litre rigger and I was able to enjoy it in the comfort of my own home. It was a lovely honey-orange colour and tasted of lemon, lime, earth, a touch of caramel and a bitter finish. It was tart and dry and tasty, but it could have done with just a touch more sweetness to boost the body and round it out.

But my favourite saison of the summer season was the very rare Arthur – a 6% ale brewed by Hill Farmstead Brewery in Vermont. The beer was courtesy of Phil Zander, who’s a law student and the beer man for Wellington’s Bruhaus and Tap Haus bars. Arthur was one of the beer-y treats he brought back after spending several weeks in the US state.

Meet the wonderful Arthur. 6% and very handsome, don't ya think? Photo courtesy of David Wood

Meet the wonderful Arthur – 6% and very handsome, don’t ya think? Photo courtesy of David Wood.

I immediately loved the beer because it was called Arthur, named after the brewer’s great-uncle. I name my beers as if they were people³. But there was so much more to love! It was almost the perfect saison. It was dry and zesty, with lemon and pepper flavours, a touch of sweet grain and a good dose of tart, yeasty, funk. It’s depressing to think I may never get to try this beer again. It’s also depressing to think I wasted part of my share after spilling my glass on the table in the most spectacular fashion. I somehow managed to head-butt my glass while laughing at whatever Phil and the boyf were saying. I had managed to consume a good half of my glass by the time of the spillage and I managed to save some of what was left in the glass, but some good beer was absorbed by paper towels that day. Sigh.

I’m sure there’ll be plenty more delicious saisons to enjoy in the coming months too. But right now, I’m looking forward to what the surprise style of the winter will be.

*****

¹ Yeastie Boys – Her Majesty 2011, Invercargill Brewery – Sa!son, 8 Wired – Saison Sauvin, Golden Bear – Pirate Peach Saison.

² Mon P’tit Chou is a term of endearment in French which translates to “my little cabbage”.

³ Andy, Matilda, Beatrice. They’re just names though, they’re not actually named after anybody. Many people think I’m strange to give my beers people names, but really, how normal is it to give a beer any name? Surely ‘Andy’ is not as weird as ‘Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster’.

 

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