Thursday, February 19, 2009

Something old, something new.

Recently, I was lucky enough to try a bottle of Emersons Old Cascade which my boyfriend, David, had bought directly from the brewery on his recent travels to Dunedin. This is a special release beer, based on Emersons Old 95 English old ale, which we suspect, with its stark packaging, is only available from the brewery itself. The Emersons Old Cascade is a new take on their old English ale, with the addition of cascade hops, known for their distinct citrus aroma and flavour.

As I have not yet had the opportunity to taste the Old 95 brew, David is going to write his opinion of the original version, and I will then offer my thoughts on the newer, limited release, brew.

Emersons Old 95
Truly an old style ale, this one tastes distinctly English.

The aroma has a peach and apple fruitiness, and a yeasty bready malt underneath. The bitterness in the flavour threw me off, as it isn't balanced very well. Some apple fruit is there and a slight malt sweetness which slightly takes the edge off the bitterness, but not much.
Full bodied, bready and a warm alocholic finish make this a nice winter beer. Just a bit too bitter for my liking.

Emersons Old Cascade
The new addition of cascade hops to the Old 95 appears to be a positive one, then.

The white label beer has malty aromas, with a strong caramel character and floral hops. Malt is the first flavour on the tongue, but is soon overtaken by the smooth fruit and floral hops. There is a a subtle citrus flavour present from the cascade hops, and caramel, vanilla and a hint of banana to sweeten on the finish. This combination is almost chocolatey and makes for a very drinakable ale.

It looks like this was the balance of bitter and sweet that David was hoping for with the Old 95 - Old Cascade is incredibly enjoyable with its smooth, balanced flavours and hoppy aftertaste. Highly recommended.

Friday, February 13, 2009

It must be love.

Valentines Day. The day we are supposed to share our love for one another and all that carry on. When we are supposed to pretend we like wine so we can share a bottle over dinner and flirtatiously argue about who gets the last drop. But really, Valentines Day is the the perfect excuse to share our love for beer by introducing our significant other to the wonders of the different brews. It's also a great excuse to venture into new territory: lambics and fruit beers.

Lambics are fruit beers made in Belgium. And fruit beers are beers which have had fruit (real fruit, none of this artificial apricot stuff you find in NZ summer ales) added to them during the brewing process. Although this may seem unusual to most ale and lager drinkers, the result of this is that the finished product tastes more like a sweet and sour wine than beer. But beer it is and the best part is the girls love it.

Most New Worlds have a small collection of fruit beers on their shelves, Timmermans is always a hit, but if you really want to set the scene for flirtatious encounters as the evening progresses you will need to visit your closest liquor store for a look at their 750ml ranges.

I was lucky enough to find a very rare 750 ml lambic known as the 2004 Boon Framboise Mariage Parfait. With its pretty pink labelling and pink-brown colouring, what girl could resist?

It smells of sweet and sour raspberries.The flavours are incredibly intense. Raspberries are prominent at the beginning of each mouthful, followed by a lot of fizzy sourness. Mmmm. Although there is a slight alcoholic metallic taste at the end of every gulp, which is not the most pleasant, the sourness ALMOST masks this and you are left with a lingering berry sweetness afterward, which just makes you want more.

The sourness is pretty dominant in this beer, and although I am a fan of sour lambics, this Framboise lambic would benefit from some subtle sweetness to mellow the intensity of the beer. My pick would be to serve this beer (and most framboise beers as they tend to be more sour than most lambics) with a gorgeous chocolate or creamy dessert, where the sourness of the beer would be balanced with the sugary characters of the sweets.

And if you prefer to be alone this valentines, you get the whole bottle to yourself - who needs flirting anyway?

NB: Framboise - Raspberry
Kriek - Cherry
Peche - Peach
Fruits de la foret - Fruits of the Forest
Gueuze/ Geuze - traditional lambic style

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

God Defend New Zealand

And so it is Waitangi weekend. Tensions are high in NZ Politics as John Key is "manhandled by protesters" at Waitangi. The Kiwi public are just as restless, but only beacuse a long weekend of gorgeous weather, the NZ Rugby Sevens and a lot of beer drinking lies ahead. And what better way to celebrate our country, our people, and our sporting teams, than by drinking New Zealand beer. Why not even take it a step further and drink beer not only made in New Zealand, but brews which make a point of declaring themselves as a New Zealand beer through and through.

Finding this kind of beer is harder than you may think. We have our local beers which celebrate our regions (Waikato Draught, Canterbury Draught, Speights), and those made by New Zealand companies, but celebrate an international style (any Pale Ale, Pilsner, Bitter or Strong Ale). So I have selected three beers which assert themselves as New Zealand beers in both their style and labelling: Monteith's New Zealand Lager, Matsons Silver Fern, and Wigram Brewing Company's Spruce Beer.

Monteith's New Zealand Lager pours a dark golden with thin white head. It has quite a malty nose, with subtle citrus aromas coming through and a touch of yeast. From the first taste, you know this beer is going to be a great companion for the long weekend. Malt and citrus flavours, particularly orange, immediately burst through, with a beautiful hoppy kick on the finish. It's clean and smooth, with a lot of flavour and a sweet malty aftertaste.

Although the beer doesn't smell like anything special, Monteith's New Zealand Lager has a lot of flavour and is incredibly drinkable, especially when sitting in the summer sun. Plus, the bottles have fern shapes moulded in the glass - perfect for our Waitangi celebrations.

Matsons Silver Fern pours, in contrast, quite a pale golden with a fluffy white head, which quickly dissolves. The aroma consists of a honey-like sweetness with a grassy hop character - evocative of our agricultural roots. The flavour is quite sweet, with smooth honey notes coming through, but the floral hops add bitterness to balance this out.

A touch on the sweet side, though this makes Silver Fern an incredibly drinkable lager, with a bit of a grassy flavour left on the palate. A bit harder to find in the North Island, but widely available in the South (you lucky things), well worth a try if you get the chance this Waitangi weekend.

And, if you're after something a little more adveturous, try Wigram Brewing Co.'s Spruce Beer. The label describes it as being 'based on Captain Cook's orginal recipe as first made in Dusky Sound, New Zealand, 1773.' It is flavoured with two of New Zealand's native resources: 'spruce'(rimu) and tea tree (manuka). For those beer drinkers really wanting to be patriotic this Waitangi weekend, this is the one to try.

Wigram's Spruce Beer pours an amber colour with a decent tan head. It smells quite musty, with manuka shoots and herb very dominant on the nose, almost as if you're walking through the New Zealand bush in the rain. Definitely not unpleasant, but not what you'd expect from beer! The flavour is a lot cleaner, however, with the manuka coming through nicely, complemented by a malt base, subtle herb flavours and a vanilla-like sweetness - too light to be honey or caramel. It does also seem to have quite a woody character to it near the finish though, and a strange yeast and vegetable finish which is not the most pleasant on the palate.

I must say, I have not tried another beer like it. Despite it's unusual qualities, the earthy characters seem to work and you are left wanting more. And more.

This Waitangi weekend take your beer drinking and New Zealand-ness a step further by enjoying one (or more) of these purely 'Kiwi' beers while watching a great day on the field for our Sevens boys, a second Black Caps victory in Melbourne, or just sitting around the barbie wandering if more "manhandling" is going down at Waitangi.

Happy Waitangi Day!

NB: "Manhandling" quotes taken from