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Friday
Jan212011

Beer Blogs - Established, New and Newer

Phil Cook's Beer Diaryis approaching its seventh year of operation and is, in my opinion, criminally under-read.  It is knowledgeable, witty and provocative, always unafraid to offer an opinion on everything from global trends, being in the mood for wheat beer and the lack of balance in my Twitter avatar. * Here is a sample of his "tastings and ramblings and whatnot":

Good old bloody-great-big Imperial Stout. Where would we be without you, then, huh? There are occasions where something as big and lovely and just-about-terrifying as this are just mandatory. Like here, catching up with a good friend and his family, in something of a now-weirdly-traditional Boxing Day Second Christmas.

Having just celebrated six months of posting, NZ Beer Blog by Martin Craig has caused an immediate impact with his mix of reviews, opinions and arguments.  I consider his posts to be well-written and find myself nodding far, far more than shaking my head.  The sample I have chosen was from when he decided to enter a mainstream beer into a home brewing tournament:

Thre were 294 entries in the competition, and 266 scored better than Ranfurly Station Pale Ale.  So, more than 90 percent of the entries in this year’s SOBA National Homebrew Competition rated better than Ranfurly Station Pale Ale, a commercial beer available at bottle stores and supermarkets around the country, and currently being heavily advertised on TV.

Finally, I've started a new Kiwi beer blog over at Beer and Brewer. As the title "First"suggests, this is the first post of what will be a regularly updated look at beer in New Zealand and around the world. Feel free to have a look and leave a comment.

The plan here is to blog at least weekly.  I intend to produce some regular features - highlighting the best on the beer blogs and analysing how beer is covered in the media ** - mixed with other stories of the week.  Some will be longer analytical pieces, others might be snippets or collections of things I just thought were interesting.  It is definitely going to be a bit of a mix and I, for one, will be interested to see exactly how it develops over the year.  Hopefully it will encourage some conversations and even debates in the comments section below.  As I have found out many times, not everyone agrees with everything I write.  This is a very good thing.

Cheers

Neil Miller

* I know Phil is a fan of the footnotes.  He was referring to the "Add More Hops" image I use which, ironically, I stole from his boss.

Friday
Jan212011

Beer Haiku Friday - Help

Today's beer haiku sums up the plight of many on a Friday afternoon in a cubicle farm.  It is titled simply "Help":

Help me forget these
Spreadsheets and presentations.
Beer? Yeah, that will work.

Glass Tip- The most excellent maltworms at Beer Haiku Daily

Thursday
Jan202011

Beerly Writing - Wellington on a roll and the top ten of 2010

In late December I published my top ten list of New Zealand beers for 2010.  This is always fun to write and is always the most debated column of the year.  There were five new beers on the list which was headlined "The pick of the beers this year":

My now traditional column about the year's top 10 beers involves perusing tasting notes, results and articles. It's not easy comparing a beer I had on a rainy July night with one I had last week in the sun.  Clearly, my preference is for hoppy, bitter and strong ales, but other styles are represented.

In my first Wellingtonian column of the New Year, I reflected on Wellington's potential claim to being the Beer Capital of New Zealand in "Wellington beer on a roll":

Wellington is sometimes referred to as the unofficial craft beer capital of New Zealand.   This claim is occasionally questioned by people from Nelson, Blenheim, Christchurch and even, strangely, Auckland.

Certainly, each of those centres has far more breweries than Wellington. In fact, we have just one, the successful Tuatara operation in Reikorangi, which puts us on a numerical par with Arrowtown, Geraldine and Urenui.

Glass Tip - The Wellingtonian

Cheers

Neil Miller

Monday
Jan172011

South Island Beer Festival - 12 February

Friday
Jan142011

Beer Haiku Friday - Awakening

Today marks the end of the first week back at work for most Kiwis and it is fair to say the streets look like they are getting busy quite a bit before 5pm.  To mark that, today's Haiku is called "Awakening":

Truant office drones
Escape to the beer garden.
Indian Summer

Glass Tip - Those excellent froth-blowers at Beer Haiku Daily

Cheers

Neil Miller

Friday
Jan142011

Beerly Writing - A taste for rail ale

This is actually a travel piece but it is about a train trip to a brewery.  It is titled "A taste for rail ale" and first appeared in the Dominion Post in August 2010:

The laconic guard at Wellington Railway Station calls it The Tui Train. Once a month, beer-and- rail buffs travel on the famous Silver Fern service to Mangatainoka, for lunch, a brewery tour and drinks at the town's most famous business.

Disclaimer - I had nothing to do with the picture and I'm pretty sure it wasn't taken on my train!

Glass Tip - Stuff

Cheers

Neil Miller

Friday
Jan142011

Exciting plans at Wanaka's Beerworks brewery

Dave's first brews were launched in September, 1998. However, as most of this country's small brewers were finding out, it wasn't an easy time to try to sell premium-priced, flavoursome craft beers to Kiwis whose beer experience was mostly of the cheap, bland, mainstream variety. For an immigrant with a broad American accent, running a one-man business in a conservative small Otago town was doubly difficult. The beers did sell, but slowly.

While the locals needed convincing, New Zealand's beer judges didn't. In 2000 Beerworks' aromatically hopped pilsener lager, Brewski, took the supreme award at the New Zealand International Beer Awards. However, despite that success, sales of the three beers – Brewski, Cardrona Gold (an amber, Vienna-style lager) and Tall Black (a roasty, dark lager) – remained slow.

Since then, as more and more Kiwis have developed a taste for craft beer, the situation has gradually changed and for the last few years Dave has faced the opposite problem; keeping up with demand. Today, he concentrates on supplying local outlets and the beers are rarely seen further afield.

Although they are of contrasting styles the three beers have much in common. All feature the same Kiwi hop – the lemony-tasting Motueka variety – and are fermented with the same lager yeast, an American strain noted for its cleanness. They also share a rich, sweet malt emphasis that sets them apart from the majority of lagers. A fan of full-bodied, malty beers, Dave argues, "the malt is expensive, so why not taste it?"

Now, after almost 13 years of brewing, bottling, kegging and cleaning – mostly working on his own – Dave has sold the brewery and plans to take a well-earned break. Having flown down to Wanaka to spend Christmas with family, last week I took the opportunity to catch up with him and to meet Beerworks' new owners, Dave and Susan De Vylder.

Over a beer in the brewery's tiny tasting room I discovered that Dave De Vylder is from East Flanders in Belgium and Susan, who is of Swiss parentage, comes from Moeraki in Otago. The couple met in Belgium but are working in Switzerland where Dave is brewing at a small craft brewery.

Having spent holidays with Susan's parents in New Zealand and enjoyed trips to Arrowtown, Queenstown and Wanaka, they decided they wanted to live here. The couple couldn't believe their luck when they heard Beerworks was for sale.

Trained in Belgium and with an in-depth knowledge of brewing, Dave's credentials soon became obvious, but I was even more delighted to discover that his passion for beer is matched by that of his wife and we soon found ourselves discussing their plans for the brewery.

Local drinkers will be relieved to learn that Beerworks' three current beers will be retained – albeit with a few minor tweaks, but of more interest to those of us who live outside of Otago are the couple's plans for a series of monthly bottled specialty beers which will be distributed throughout the country. Many of these, perhaps unsurprisingly, are likely to have a distinctly Belgian accent: "We want to bring a little bit of Belgian beer culture here." My ears then pricked up at talk of a Kriek (cherry beer) based on the Flanders sour red ale style, and another modelled on a hybrid of Orval and Duvel. The couple also plan to introduce special stemmed glassware to suit the different styles. It all sounds very Belgian and very promising.

Although the De Vylders took ownership of the brewery last week they have now returned to Switzerland to complete existing work contracts, with Dave Gillies agreeing to continue brewing as usual until their return next June.

Full Story GEOFF GRIGGS - Manawatu Standard