and, while Google generally loves Garage Project, it can get confused about their beer names and beer styles.  Sometimes I will type in the style of a new Garage Project beer (say, “Texas style brown ale with chili and cactus in it”) [1] and get the digital search equivalent of “Say what?  You sure you typed that correctly dude?”

 Saying that Garage Project is innovative is akin to saying that Kieran Reid is a good rugby player, Hone Harawira is not coping well with the 2014 election results, or Jaden Smith would receive considerably fewer acting and recording contracts if his dad was not Will Smith. All these statements are technically true but each is a dramatic understatement.

The Garage Project range of beers is huge, particularly when you consider they only started brewing in 2012. They made 24 different beers in 24 weeks, almost 40 in their first year and the pace only seems to have quickened of late. Maths is not my strong point at any time but I think even the great Doctor Sheldon Cooper would have trouble keeping up with their production. RateBeer reckons there are close to 50 Garage Project beers but I’m certain they have missed a few. 

Sometimes I speculate only founders Pete Gillespie and Jos Ruffell could possibly have tried all the Garage Project beers. However, then I realise that argument underestimates the loyalty and passion of their many fans who seem to snap up everything produced. 

Over a few pints of Trip Hop the other day I (half) joked that Pete Gillespie could pee in a barrel, throw in some Brett yeast, age the beer in a port barrel with smoked kippers for a year and people would throw money at him to buy a magnum of the stuff. [2] For the record, I am not advocating that this beer should ever be made or imply that Pete would even consider making it. It was a rhetorical flourish.   

Casting my eye over RateBeer’s (partial) list of Garage Project offerings, I believe that I have sampled almost 25, around half, which is pleasantly surprising. It also probably explains why I have only tried two of the five beers which will be covered in this blog post. Malthouse currently has one of them in bottles and four others in the distinctly stylish Garage Project cans.

The bottled beer is Garage Project Wabi Sabi Sour (7.7%). It is a pretty standard strong golden beer which has been soured by multiple strains of semi-wild yeasts and bacteria then conditioned on Yuzu [3] (Japanese citrus fruit) and honey dew melon. Nation, I am kidding about it being pretty standard – the rest is all true. 

When the Garage Project team themselves call the beer “challenging and interestingly different” then there has to be something serious funky happening in the bottle. I’m not sure whether to kiss Wabi Sabi or hide under the table until someone else drinks it. Interestingly, Wabi Sabi is not on the RateBeer list which lends credence to my theory that not all the GP beers are listed there. [5]

In terms of cans, Malthouse has Garage Project Texas Tea Brown Ale (6.2%) which received a burst of publicity for being part of the best beer and burger match in the recent Burger Wellington contest. [5] Now, it looks like a traditional brown ale (namely – boring and wearing a cloth cap) but it has a crazy Texas twist – habanero chillies and prickly pear (a type of cactus). The beer starts out pretty normal – chocolate, smooth, sweet – then waves of chilli and the sharpness of the cactus. [6]

In the fifth and by far the biggest Burger Wellington contest the Best Burger/Beer Match went to the The Holy Cow Burger by Cafe Medici served with Texas Tea by Garage Project. Even just reading the description of this burger tested my pescatarian resolve – “100% Black Angus patty with dry-smoked local bacon, Kingsmeade Wairarapa Jack cheese, caramelised onions and craft beer mustard on a Clareville Bakery sourdough bun.”  

Texas Tea is on the RateBeer list.

As is Garage Project Garagista IPA (5.8%) but strangely I have not tried this beer even though it has been described as fitting an Imperial IPA into an IPA. The backstory goes that Enzo Ferrari once scornfully labelled the start up, garage based Formula One teams of the 60’s as Garagista’s. They built their cars lighter, faster and beat teams with far greater resources, all from small garages. Garage Project, for relatively obvious reasons, identifies with that spirit of challenge. [7]

This beer went through several iterations and experimentations but the current batch has notes of passionfruit, citrus, hop resin and dry grass. Garagista has a firm, assertive hoppiness so while it is not quite the hop bomb we are becoming so familiar with, it is flavoursome, drinkable and, dare I say, sessionable.

Garage Project Hapi Daze (4.8%) is a definitely sessionable golden/blond ale which appears on both RateBeer and my list of Garage Project beers tried.  I recall notes of feijoa, tropical fruit, fuzzy peaches and a distinct floral character (particularly up front).  It has the (I think) desirable characteristic of tasting bigger than it really is in terms of straight alcohol by volume.

I have been enjoying a fair number of Garage Project BEER (4.8%) lately. It was one of my first Neil’s Beer of the Week (#NBOTW) over on Twitter and I really must get back to doing that more often. BEER got the nod because it is a simple pilsner that is just incredibly well made, bitter but balanced, smooth and satisfying.  BEER is a triumph of the brewer’s art – the lack of a gimmick is almost a gimmick in itself for Garage Project.

Reflecting the beer’s stripped back philosophy, the can artwork is suitably minimalist, miles away from peaches with control problems (Angry Peaches), American attack helicopters (Death from Above) or skulls with hops in their eye sockets (Day of the Dead). Oh, and it does appear on RateBeer.

Next time, we drink to Grace Jones’ lawyers for being such good sports about me mangling her only famous song in the title of this blog post.

[1] This is not an entirely hypothetical example, as will become evident.

[2] I believe this is how Russian River Supplication sour beer (the infamous bat whizz beer) was first created.  I have no proof.

[3] As you do.

[4] I know.  I’m surprised too.

[5] The contest was sponsored by Garage Project and their beers were part of the entries which won Best Burger and Best Burger/Beer Match.

[6] Not a sentence I ever thought I would write in any context.

[7] Particularly the bit where the Garagista’s started winning against the big boys.


Neil Miller

Beer Writer of the Year 2014

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