Circ-imbibing New Zealand in 34 varieties of beer or so

Ken writes:

As some of you know, I harbour ambitions to start a microbrewery in Dublin, so one of the things I was keen to do on our recent trip was to research what New Zealand craft breweries have to offer. Cue some impromptu documentation. Unfortunately, the photos are none too good (thanks to the limitations of my phone’s camera–although there may have been occasions when my eyesight was equally blurry).

As you might expect, overall it was a case of the good the bad and the ugly. The standout brewers for me were the Stoke Brewery, Mike’s, and the Hallertau range. By ‘ugly’ I really only mean interesting. I tried a couple of extremely highly hopped beers, Epic brewery’s Pale Ale and Mike’s Imperial India Pale Ale, the last of which was practically hallucinatory. There was a memorable smoked ale (Smokin’ Bishop) and a manuka blossom infused ‘Captain Cooker’, that was delicious but too rich to drink in large measures.

Emerson's 1812 India Pale Ale

Emerson’s 1812 was the first beer I tired. Unfortunately, it suffered from being too warm when I tried it, both the beer and the day, and I don’t think I got a full sense of it’s potential. My rule of thumb is that the brightness of the beer best matches the brightness of the day. It’s hard to appreciate the complexities of something dark and malty on a hot sunny day and a bright crisp and dry lager is merely gassy and unsatisfying on a cold winter’s night. Emerson’s 1812 says it’s a hoppy pale ale, but it really didn’t taste especially hoppy to me.

Next I tried Tuatara Brewery’s light lager ‘Helles’.

Tuatara brewery's Helles

Later I tried their Hefeweissbier ‘Hefe’.
cloudy wheat beer from Tuatara brewery

I’m afraid neither beer appealed to me. The lager was a little on the sweet side for my taste. And while I really like cloudy wheat beers, perhaps for their sweetness, I didn’t think the wheat beer flavour came through very strongly in this example and it wasn’t strongly carbonated enough.

Aotearoa brewery's Mata Manuka golden ale

This apparently award winning beer didn’t appeal to me either.

NZ craft beer collaboration beer

I was really looking forward to trying this collaborative effort brewed under the leadership of Auckland’s Epic Brewing Company. Unfortunately, Like Epic’s own pale ale, I found it too bitter to be genuinely enjoyable.

Cassels & Sons ESB

The interesting thing about this brewery is that they brew in a wood-fired copper. I have no idea if that affects the taste at all, but it sounds cool. Yum.

Kaimai Brewing Company's Golden Rye Ale

Kaimai Brewing specialises in brewing with Rye; the only New Zealand brewery to do so. Yum.

Stoke Brewery's smokey Ale
Stoke Lager

Stoke's Oatmeal Stout

I also had their Stoke Bomber Kiwi Pale Ale.

Stoke brewery are the outfit that was formerly Mac’s ales before that name was sold to the big multinationals. I found myself having more and more of their beer. All very yummy.

Hawke's Bay Independent Brewery Pilsner
Yum. (This photo also appears to display what lovely youthful skin I have on my left hand).

Yeastie Boys
Great name. The beer, well, it was interesting. These guys contract their brewing out to the Invercargill Brewery, which seems like a very canny way to start a brewery. All you do is come up with the recipes on your regular set up at home, then have it brewed and hope it sells well enough to cover everyone’s costs.

Wanaka Beerworks Old Flemish Dark
These were seasonal creations only available until the end of 2011, so I’m glad I got to try them before they ran out. The Old Flemish dark in particular was very yummy indeed. The other interesting thing about these guys is that they will brew bespoke beers for special occasions wedding anniversaries and the like and bottle them up for you as souvenirs etc. That’s very clever. It’s a service only the ‘little guy’ can provide.

Renaissance Brewing Company American Pale Ale
Renaissance's Stoncutter Scotch Ale
Renaissance's Pale Ale
Doesn’t this last one look especially delicious? I think these beers are beautifully presented and I note that they’ve gone for large 500ml bottles where most of the other beers I’ve tried in NZ are around 330ml or so. All the renaissance beers were yum, but the APA didn’t strike me as especially characteristic of the style.

Hallertau Schwarzbier
Hallertau Porter Noir
Halletau Kolsch
Hallertau Red Ale
These guys vie with Stoke’s for my vie for best New Zealand microbrewery. I only tried the four pictured beers but they were all. really. satisfying. yummy. beers.

Green Man Pils
Green Man Lager
I confess I don’t really know what the difference is between a lager and a pils. I think a pils is a kind of lager, but I don’t know how it’s supposed to differ from the other kind. You can’t readily see from the picture but they are different beers.

Epic Lager
A hoppy lager
Epic Pale Ale
Epic Pale Ale is a mouth-puckeringly bitter hop bomb. I could barely drink it. The other insanely hoppy beer I had over here was Mike’s Double India Pale Ale.
Mike's India Pale Ale
Without a doubt I preferred the Mike’s beer which had very heavy hop aromas, which for me are the reward for drinking a very highly hopped beer, as well as an enormous amount of malt to stop it getting too bitter. I also recommend (but neglected to photograph) the standard mike’s ale.

Moa blanc wheat beer
Yum. Pretty funny website too (I only said ‘pretty funny’).

3 boys oyster stout
The day was too hot when I drank this, so I missed the best it had to offer. It wasn’t as nice as the Porterhouse’s oyster stout in Dublin, though this could be due to the tasting conditions.

Boundary Road Lager
I tried this and the ‘flying fortress‘ Kiwi Pale Ale. The lager was perfectly satisfying if that’s your thing, but the pale ale was quite tasty. yum.

smokin' bishop

Captain Cooker Manuka beer
Delicious in small doses. It’s an interesting idea. The beer attempts to recreate the first beer brewed in New Zealand by Captain Cook. I don’t know if it contains hops, I expect it does, or if it’s made with a sort of manuka gruit.

So that’s about it. Lots of yummy beer and lots of ideas for small breweries. I’ve got my thinking cap on.

5 thoughts on “Circ-imbibing New Zealand in 34 varieties of beer or so

  1. Helen Conrad-O'Briain

    Lagers are not musical – Pilsners are.
    You should have a large stein of Pils in your hand while singing the Hunter’s chorus from Freischutz.

  2. ken

    There are indeed a few, but they would want more elaborate descriptions of the beers. Unfortunately, I didn’t write any tasting notes down, and this is a case where a picture just isn’t worth a thousand words.

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