Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A wee celebration

There was a wee bit of good news in the beer world recently, when DB announced they were relinquishing their 'Saison' trademark. The press release read:

DB Breweries is in the process of cancelling the registration of its Saison trademark with the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ). The company has held the trademark since April 2002.

DB Breweries’ general manager marketing Clare Morgan says the decision to cancel the trademark was a logical one given the company hasn’t produced Saison for a considerable time.

“We haven’t brewed Monteith's Saison for six years and we have no intention of re-launching it to the market as it no longer fits our current Monteith’s portfolio. The brand was very well received when it was first launched but we ceased production in 2003.”

Saison is not a very popular beer in this part of the world, but since SOBA began to fight DB over their trademark of beer style 'Radler', Saison too has grown a bit of a following. SOBA members and beer lovers have began an informal 'Stuff You DB'campaign, by boycotting DB products and drinking Saisons and Radlers from other breweries.

Wikipedia says saisons were traditionally refreshing, low-alcohol pale ales brewed seasonally in farmhouses in Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium, to refresh farm workers during harvest season. These days, saisons are brewed all over the world with an average range of 5 to 8% abv and are generally refreshing, light summer ales.

Golden Bay's Mussell Inn has got in on he act with the release of their White Tiger Saison 5.7%ABV.
It pours a golden, honey colour with an off-white head and gives off a strong citrus and malt aromas. It tastes of citrus fruits, particularly lemon, with a light, refreshing biterness and there's a smooth roast malt flavour in each mouthful. Perfect for spring with our changeable weather.

Nøgne Ø Saison 6.5%
This version of the Belgian beer is brewed in Norway and is now available in New Zealand - well, one bar in Welington. Hashigo Zake stocks a good chunk of Nøgne Ø beers, and Saison is one o their stand-outs.

It pours a hazy gold with a massive white head, and gives off a smooth caramel aroma. It has very strong flavours, with caramel, orange, lemon, malt and a touch of hop with every taste. The hop is fresh and citric, which balances the malt-driven caramel well and doesn't over-power the other flavours. It is a perfectly balanced brew with fresh and refreshing flavours. Delicious.

Now that DB have taken one step in the right direction by relinquishing their saison trademark, we will hopefully see more of the refreshing style in breweries and stores as we move into summer. And, with any luck, it might not be too long until we beer lovers can have radler back to.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

My winter escape

Winter. It’s not exactly everyone’s favourite season. But I love it. Winter is the best excuse for drinking smooth, dark ales to warm you from the inside out, and intensely hoppy brews to ward off that dreaded cold.

Unfortunately, this winter I have been too preoccupied with keeping warm and healthy (well, attempting to anyway) to share my very beery thoughts. No longer. I managed to survive winter relatively unscathed, thanks to some full-flavoured concoctions from many of my favourite kiwi brewers. And here are three reasons why winter was not so bad afterall.

Renaissance Elemental Porter 6% ABV
Elemental is my favourite Renaissance brew. The aromas are every girls dream – strong coffee, dark chocolate and a touch of roasted malt. The flavours of this black brew do not disappoint either. The first mouthful brings a big coffee hit, followed by a rich dark chocolate flavour and cocoa. Dark malt comes through at the end, slightly burnt to leave a bitterness on the palate and balance the subtle sweetness lingering from the chocolate. The perfect warming beer on a cold winters evening.

Epic Armageddon IPA Batch 1 6.66% ABV
More balanced than the 2008 version, Armageddon 09 has mega hops with a decent malt body. The hops are fruity, with a big citrus nose, and taste incredibly fresh. They are bitter, almost peppery, and linger for hours – everything Epic is about. But what impressed me most about this batch was the underlying malt character. A strong roasted malt flavour could be tasted in every sip, but did not take away from the big hops at all. If anything, the malt accentuated the flavour of the hops. No cold or flu could mask the big flavours of this beer, can’t wait to see how the 2010 will match up.

Yeastie Boys Pot Kettle Black 6% ABV
It’s not hard to see how this beer won a trophy at BrewNZ. Pot Kettle Black is not a rich, dark and warming ale or a fresh, hoppy beer – it’s both. And it does both incredibly well. My preference is to drink a hand pulled PKB, but I only got around to writing notes on the bottled version… whoops! But it is impossible for this beer to disappoint, It pours pitch black with a brown head, and smells of coffee, berries, roasted malt, hop, a bit of smoke, and dark chocolate. The flavours start off sweet, with dark chocolate and smooth caramel malt to warm the insides. This is followed by a black coffee bitterness, a bit of smoke, a subtle dark fruit flavour, and a strong, bitter hop finish which lingers. I am continually amazed at the sheer amount of flavour Yeastie Boys can pack into every beer - look out for Plan K and His Majesty. A well deserved best in class.

So although the winter blues have passed us by, keep the winter brews handy for those chilly spring nights when you need a bit of warmth and flavour. And look forward to hearing more from me.