My approach is different.  I simply congratulate them.  I congratulate them on having been able to try all ninety plus distinct styles of beer.  There are very few people in the world that can honestly make that claim.  Without exception, they splutter something to the effect “well, of course I haven’t” to which I respond “ah, so you simply don’t like all the beers you have tried so far. * I’m sure there is a beer out there for you and I’d be happy to help you find it.”

I recall one corporate beer tasting event where a very proper woman in her 50s told me beforehand “I don’t like beer.  I’m only here to accompany my friend.”  I respectfully welcomed her to the session ** and asked only that she try each beer put before her.  To her credit, she did and at the end she enthusiastically cast her vote for Delirium Tremens, a 9% strong Belgian Golden Ale, on the grounds it did not taste like anything like what she thought beer tasted like.  Chalk one up for the good guys.

In this post, we highlight two beers which each showcase what beer can do.  One is a pulsating hop-bomb, the other a bourbon-infused malt monster.  Both tip the scales at well over 6% alcohol and both, coincidentally, are on tap at Malthouse now.

First up is the welcome return of 8Wired HopWired IPA (7.3%) created by noted Danish brewer and current New Zealand poker champion Soren Erikson. ***  This beer made a stunning debut at number two in my top ten beers of 2010 and is likely to make a strong showing again this year.  It was broadly inspired by the American West Coast IPA style but uses Nelson Sauvin and Motueka hops for aroma and flavour, and Pacific Jade for bittering.  The solid malt backbone is provided by Gladfield Pale Ale Malt and two types of crystal malts.

Soren writes on his blog “The recipe is exactly the same [as last year] but the hops are from the 2010 harvest.  Hops are like any other crop (grapes would be the most obvious example), there is an element of vintage variation.  In most beers this variation is hardly noticeable because the hops play a secondary role as a flavour component and is mainly used for bitterness.  HopWired on the other hand, is all about the hops and the vintage variation will shine through with nothing to hide behind.”

To me, it seems fresher and juicer than last year with lashings of tropical fruit – passionfruit, sharp citrus – and an irresistible bitter finish.  I find it very drinkable indeed.  It seems I am not the only one with Tony Garstang (Masterton) and Peter Crosland (Wellington) moved to poetry by the beer.  Here are some highlights from their epic poem “An Ode to HopWired”:

He focused on flavour,
He focused on hops,
The ale was pale,
And the taste it was tops.

The pundits they claimed,
It was lime on the nose,
And besotted old soaks
Did break into prose.

The second featured beer is Harrington’s Big John  (6.5%) which is making a rare appearance on tap in the Capital.  This is a beer which has been tasting really great for a number of years now.  It was first made in limited quantities over a decade ago and was originally aged in bourbon barrels.  Head brewer Carl Harrington says it is “a damn shame” that they are currently unable to source suitable barrels and have reluctantly stopped using the technique.  Instead, the beer is infused with Kentucky Bourbon to impart some of the oak, vanilla and (frankly) bourbon notes which make this beer so special.

Poles apart from HopWired, Big John is delicious in its own way.  It is a sipping beer which throws a spicy, burnt toffee nose.  The body is full with the bourbon notes accompanied by touches of spice, raisins and prunes before a lingering, tingling finish.  Harrington’s was a finalist for the Champion Large Brewery at the Australian International Beer Awards 2010 and this is one of their finest offerings.

Finally, Malthouse is now selling stylish branded 2.5 litres flagon ideal for off-sales and transporting good beers to bad parties.  They arrived last week and at just $22 are proving popular.  Flagons can be ordered over the bar.

* Which given the beers some of them had tried was hardly surprising
** Basically, her cheque had cleared
*** Technical difficulties mean we must apologise for the lack of the proper funky ‘o’ with a slash through it (Wikipedia unhelpfully notes “the name of this letter is the same as the sound it represents”)
**** Marvelous stuff but I’m not sure ‘afired’ or ‘accolations’ are real words


Beer Writer
Real Beer New Zealand
Beer and Brewer Magazine