We want the flashiest phone, the thinnest tablet, the latest music playing device, [1] the most space-age running shoes and cars which can at least pretend to help the environment.

This week’s blog theme is that “new is not necessarily better.” [2] I will start by talking about movies but then move onto the topic of beer. As Colin the Handsome Yet Softly Scottish Publisher occasionally reminds me, I am contractually obliged to talk about beer at some stage in every post.

Here is a partial list of modern films which every right thinking person can agree were – objectively speaking – terrible: The Green Lantern, The Watch, Alex Cross, any film with Ghost Rider in the title, No Strings Attached, any film with Meryl Streep in it, however many Smurf films they have cinematographically vomited out so far, every Twilight film obviously, Killing Bono for the criminally misleading title, Killing Chris Martin for not being made, Mars Needs Moms, and Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. [3]

I recently watched a 2005 movie which was quite excellent but has been unforgivably subsumed by deluges of remakes, reboots, extended franchises, blatant copies, movies based on video games, movies based on concerts, movies based on comics, movies based on graphic novels, [4] people becoming movie stars because their friends inexplicably became famous, paper thin plots to excuse 2 hours of CGI, rushed 3D technology and everything with Ashton Kutcher as a star.

The movie in question was Into the Sun, yet another classic blockbuster from future Oscar winner Steven Seagal. He took his typically modest approach to movie making – content with simply being the star, story writer, screenplay writer, executive producer, as well as composing and singing three songs on the soundtrack. [5]

If you have seen any Seagal film ever you will be familiar with most of the plot – Seagal is a former special forces ace turned law enforcement officer, has exactly the same haircut as always, he is both an expert swordsman and crack sniper, he speaks many languages (including, at times, English), despite being a lawman he is well connected with organised crime, he is a martial arts master despite not being shown on screen running much anymore, everyone is always saying how awesome he is, virtually every woman is in love with him though only a few will get some sugar, his boss does not like his methods but likes his results, the baddies have no redeeming qualities and are required to act as obnoxiously and stereotypically as possible, the final scene has convoluted reasons why everyone does not have a gun at the same time, everything is solved in a whirlwind of blood, and there are no legal consequences for mass murder.

In other words, it is fantastic. What with daily doses of the Crowd Goes Wild, the New Zealand premiere of Sharknado [6] and an on-going season of lesser known Seagal masterpieces, Prime TV was on quite the roll.  Yet the country is tuning in to see New Zealand’s Got Talent, The Mentalist and Hawaii Five-O.  We have become distracted by the glittery and the sparkly and the saturation advertised.  Sometimes we need to go back to the classics and appreciate how they may have even improved with time.

It is the same with beer. Craft drinkers are always on the hunt for the newest, the hoppiest, the freshest, the most innovative, the weirdest, the best – I will plead guilty to that on multiple counts.  I will confess to also being pretty tap focused – my standard opening question to bar staff is “what is new and hoppy and on tap?” – but it is worth remembering that Malthouse has a seriously fine beer cellar.

There are a small number of beers which actually benefit from a cellaring process – changing flavours, aromas, alcohol and even viscosity over time. Chimay Blue is probably the best known example of these beers and every serious beer drinker should partake in a vertical Chimay Blue tasting at some point in their life. Tasting beers from different years next to each other highlights the changes in character which range from the subtle to the extreme. Here are a few highlights from the current cellar.

First up is a rare cache of 8 Wired Grand Cru 2011 (10%) – a far out beer even by brewer Soren Eriksen’s high personal standards. This is the 8 Wired Sultan Belgian Quadrupel style aged for 16 months in old Pinot Noir Barrels with Brettanomyces and Pediococcus (crazy yeasts). After “more or less forgetting about” the brew for a while, the slightly sour and definitely funky beer was blended with a Flanders Red “kinda” beer then aged in the bottle for another couple of years.  There are notes of caramel, plum, red wine, soy sauce, pine, sugar and pure funk.

Next is my least favourite beer ever from the Impish Brewer Luke Nicholas but which has proved bafflingly popular with the general population who are not fixated about hops.  Malthouse has Epic Epicurean Coffee and Fig Stout 2011, 2012 and 2013 (8%). One of the modern masters of hops uses caramelised figs from Turkey, Sidamo coffee beans from Ethiopia and toasted coconut from the Philippines. The resulting beer is complex and layered with flavour descriptors including honey, coffee, chocolate, sticky fig pudding, oats, coconut and dessert in general.

One of the most famous beers ever was Thomas Hardy Ale, a strong barley wine of global repute. In 1968, a Dorchester pub called the Trumpet Major was being refurbished. It was also the 40th anniversary of Hardy’s death. Local brewery Eldridge Pope made a special strong ale to honour the occasion. The Ale did not appear again until 1974 but was then made as a vintage annually right up until it was discontinued in 1999 because it was uneconomic. 
 
O’Hanlon’s Brewery in America later acquired the rights to brew the ale which had always enjoyed a strong following in the States. O’Hanlon’s produced annual vintages from 2003 to 2008 before ending production for pretty much exactly the same reasons as Eldridge Pope. The brand has recently been resurrected by some Italian brewers though the jury is still out on their beers because they take so long to go from brewing to drinking. [7]
 
Malthouse has O’Hanlon’s Thomas Hardy (11.7%) vintages from 2004 to 2008 available. These beers age well for up to 25 or even 30 years and change dramatically in that time. That makes tasting notes largely a matter of speculation but key flavours in these mahogeny ales are likely to include caramel, raisin, molasses, chocolate, old leather armchairs, port, fine cigars, vanilla, toffee and a whiff of whiskies drunk a long time ago.

Having extolled the virtues of aged beers, it is time to plug a brand new brew. Galbraith’s The Drop (5.5%) is a fresh hopped beer produced for Auckland’s Fresh Hop 2014 festival. Malthouse has obtained one keg and one keg only and, at the time of writing, Colin estimates there are 21.3 litres of it left. Drinkers on UnTappd suggest it is very hoppy (Southern Cross hops) but also very English with plenty of firm malt balance. The Drop will not last long…

Next time, we drink to the mighty and majestic Pukeko which will this year be crowned New Zealand Bird of the Year for a second time. I’m going to front the campaign myself.

[1] Whatever you darn kids are listening to things on these days…

[2] This is not to be taken as “old is always better” as that argument is easily debunked by old milk, Jim Anderton and the 1975 Austin Allegro. 

[3] This is really a thing – it makes Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter look like an Oscar winner in every category.

[4] Graphic novels are comics for people who think they are too cool to read comics.

[5] Even Will Smith considered this level of involvement to be excessive and Steven Seagal does it for EVERY SINGLE ONE of his fine films.

[6] Most romantic movie EVER.

[7] I had not heard that Thomas Hardy was back and I’ve included the link below without in any way endorsing what may come from this new venture.

Cheers

Beer Writer
Beer and Brewer Magazine

Links

Steven Seagal Emotion Chart – http://tinyurl.com/o5en5tu (One of many examples of this fine infographic)
Epic Beer – http://www.epicbeer.com/
8 Wired – http://8wired.co.nz/
Thomas Hardy (O’Hanlons) – http://tinyurl.com/9z5c94w
Thomas Hardy (New) – http://www.thomashardysale.com/wordpress/
Fuller’s – http://www.fullers.co.uk/
Galbraith’s Alehouse – http://www.alehouse.co.nz/ 
Malthouse Facebook – www.facebook.com/pages/Malthouse/7084276173
Malthouse Twitter – www.twitter.com/#!/malthouse 
Malthouse Taps on Twitter – www.twitter.com/#!/MalthouseTaps 
Neil Miller on Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/#!/beerlytweeting
Beer and Brewer Magazine – www.beerandbrewer.com/