Tag Archive: New Zealand


The New Zealand Whisky Company Dunedin Doublewood 15 Year

The New Zealand Whisky Company: Dunedin: Doublewood 15 Year (New Zealand Blended Whisky: 15 Year: 40% ABV)

Visual: Bronzed amber.

Viscosity: Quite fast thick streaks.

Nose: Sherried trifle. Drambuie. Treacle. Liquorice touch. Buttery shortbread. Marzinpan.

Body: Toffee. Raspberry. Twigs. Alcohol builds. Sour red grapes. Water brings out trifle, oak, custard and cherries.

Finish: Dry oak. Red wine. Strawberry jam. Water brings out oak and tannins. Sour red wine and cherries. Touch of apples.

Conclusion: This is whisky, but not as I know it. Join me as I take a fun wee trail into the unknown here.

The base feel, the toffee sweetness and general, well, whisky character is there. It is not a complete unknown. What is laid over that is an initially very sherry trifle character, very sweet and creamy.

This settles down into a darker feeling whisky, more sour wine and oaken character that comes with those kind of wine coming out from under that initial sweetness. Both the sweet and the sour takes show obvious red wine influence, but there are other touches such as the bright red cherries, sweet touches over an overall quite dry whisky. It shows a complex experience and range.

The alcohol feel is the odd part, in that initially I expected a kind of sherry character to it, but instead there is a kind of drambuie alcohol feel – it is here that it feels like it departs most from what I would expect of a standard whisky – an element that is not quite to my taste but doesn’t get in the way too much.

Overall it is very impressive. The different barrel ageing is a nigh completely different experience, but the base whisky holds well enough that it doesn’t feel like a gimmick. A sign that NZ can really have their own style of whisky and not just recreate what already exists. A good sign.

Background: Tried at Brewdog Bristol, this is a new one on me. Aged for six years in Bourbon barrels, then finished in French Oak New Zealand wine barrels (according to a quick google one source says Pinot Noir). That just fascinated me, so I grabbed a measure, wonder if craft beer sis has run into this one as she is a NZ fan.

Epic Armageddon IPA

Epic: Armageddon IPA (New Zealand: IPA: 6.66% ABV)

Visual: Burnished gold. Large mound of off white head that leaves suds. Some small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Popcorn hops. Light kiwi fruit. Resin. Slightly musty. Crushed malt biscuits.

Body: High bitterness. Custard cream biscuits. Bready. Tinned topical fruit. Large hop character. Toffee. Lemon sherbet. Froths up easily, carrying hop oils. Pineapple tartness. Lime notes. Marmalade.

Finish: Bready bitterness. Good hop character and resin. Mango juice with pulp. Dried apricot. Lemon sherbet. Hop oils. Gooseberry and pineapple.

Conclusion: Ok, an NZ IPA that concentrates more on the big bitterness than the tartness that you can get with NZ hops. Interesting. Risky as well, as it plays down what is NZ IPA’s big selling point. Let’s see how well this gets over.

Initial impressions is that it may have lost a bit of freshness on the way over to the UK – the hop character is impressively large, but just slightly musty – an element I normally run into in an IPA that has been around a few months. Even with that it is impressive with the level of hop bitterness and hop oils. Not to Stone Brewing level excellence, but considering Stone are the kings of hop beers, it does well to be compared with them.

The tart flavours, even though they are played down, are still here. There is more dried apricot sweetness that tart notes, which reminds me of American hops. The pineapple tartness comes in third in emphasis, just keeping everything fresh enough that the big hops don’t wear out their welcome too early.

As it warms it keeps a similar balance of flavour, but the fruit character does become clearer. It is impressive how they deliver that flavour without letting it get too sharp. Overall, even muted as it is by the journey this is a big IPA and well made. It can’t compete with the layered subtle complexity of 8 Wired’s Hop wired, it is more a straight up hop assault, but it is very good at that.

Not as good as Enjoy By IPA for sheer hop assault, then again that was fresh as can be, not as complex as Hopwired – but it mixes the two well enough to be a very good IPA to enjoy.

Background: Woo, Epic back in the house. Unlike most previous Epic beers this was not brought back from NZ for me by craft beer sis. Instead it is one of a batch of NZ beers that turned up in Brew Bristol. A fine shop that has a whole wealth of home brew stuff, including all the fun malts and hops. So, having had to come the slow way here it is slighter older than previous NZ beers I have tried, but still seems to be doing well. Drunk while listening to LukHash – Falling Apart. As I am still on a chiptune kick.

Tuatara Bavarian Hefe

Tuatara: Bavarian Hefe (New Zealand: Hefeweizen: 5.0% ABV)

Visual: Pale cloudy yellow. Thin white head.

Nose: Light raspberry pavlova. Dried banana. Cloves. Wheat. Bubblegum. Dough. Palma violets.

Body: Lemon. Slight sherbet. Barley and honey. Dried banana. Bubblegum. Coriander.

Finish: Light ground up peanuts. Banana. Vanilla. Wet feel.

Conclusion: Not bad. Despite being called “Hefe” this, however, doesn’t rock the full hefeweizen character to my mind. Flavour wise it is pretty close with nice banana and clove notes, but both to the eye and in mouthfeel it cleaves closer to the more filtered Kristalweizen style.

In fact the kristal influence does seem to show up in the weakest parts of the beer – with a slightly neutral malt tone in the middle of the whole thing; A kind of absence of character that the beer needs to fill before it can be what it could be. Despite that weakness they manage to pack around that a decent set of notes – a light coriander spice that calls to the Belgian wit and a nice lemon freshness.

Overall I think I will have to paraphrase my craft beer sis who put it best – it isn’t bad, but it is something that you get because you can easily find it in a NZ supermarket, not because it is one of the better beers. Thanks craft beer sis!

There, that saved me having to think up some pithy way of rounding off the notes.

Background: New Zealand beer! They have a nice wee craft scene over there, so I have been glad to see more of their beers turning up over here. This one grabbed from Independent Spirit. I am aware that I have it in the wrong kind of wheat beer glass, but it is only 330ml so looks silly in my big german weisse glasses. Incidentally the bottle looks kind of like a ribbed dildo, though that was not the only reason I bought it. Weisse beers were one of the first things that got me to try different and tasty beer, so I have long had a soft spot for them.

8 Wired Semi Conductor

8 Wired: Semi Conductor (New Zealand: Session IPA: 4.4% ABV)

Visual: Lemon yellow. Small white head that leaves white suds. Low carbonation in the body.

Nose: Peach and orange. Kiwi and prickly hops. Touch of brown sugar and dry malt.

Body: Grapes. Unleavened bread. Bitter. Soft texture. Gooseberry and pineapple. Toffee malt. Prickly nettles. Apricot and peach. Vanilla.

Finish: Unleavened brown bread. Some charring. Grapes. Pineapple. Kiwi. Nettle prickle. Apricot. Dry.

Conclusion: 8 Wired and hops. 8 WIRED AND HOPS IN AN IPA! Well, hellloooo nurse. This is a very soft and gentle beer. Well, it feels soft and gentle as a texture and base flavour , hop wise it prickles with bitterness.

Now, it, of course, cannot live up to the sheer joy and weight of hopwired and superconductor. Its bigger cousins have the advantage of having larger range to play with. Here the flavour is a mix of soft toffee malt and vanilla, to juicy fruit and slight tartness, that styling that 8 wired excel at.

Now, for all this is sounding awesome so far, there is a very noticeable drawback that seems to have been brought in by the session style. There is a not exactly unpleasant, but not enticing unleavened bread style mid body, that becomes a harsher burnt charring at the end. It feels like a side effect of unhandled hop bitterness, kind of like the runoff from the main body. It isn’t terrible, but it doesn’t help the session style, and is far from the polished masterpiece that make up their other IPAs.

Still, it is very easy drinking for the bitterness, and it is still well done for flavour. It does the job ok, but does highlight the problem in trying to make a good session IPA, a style that is still a bit of hard sell for me.

Background: An IPA, from 8 Wired you say. On tap. Seriously I could not order my schooner fast enough. Or my 2/3 of a pint for those of you who hate the term schooner. Yeah, 8 Wired have a very good rep with me. This was drunk while chatting with friends in the midday sun outside Brewdog Bristol. I still hold that session IPA is an odd term, but that fight may be long lost. Oh, and the term for someone electronically breaking into a computer system is cracker not hacker. #stillfightingoldlinguisticbattles.

8 Wired Mighty Imperal Ale

8 Wired: Mighty Imperial Ale (New Zealand: American Strong Ale: 11% ABV)

Visual: Deep cherry red. Dash of off white head. Head becomes larger and somewhat toffee edged when I filled up the glass with the last of the bottle.

Nose: Smoke. Smoked bacon. Fruitcake. Caramel. Shortbread. Thick. Cherries and cream.

Body: Thick. Salt touch. Smoked meat platter. Toffee. Very smooth. Lots of cherries and cream. Vanilla. Somehow rough edges right at its core. Oak.

Finish: Liquorice. Dry smoke. Drying feel. Light cream. Salt touch. Chocolate. Meat platter.

Conclusion: Now this is an interesting work. Smooth cherries, vanilla and fruitcake in a very layered, decadent silken style. Then, against that, there is a heavy oaken, salt touched and hugely smoked meat style that is actually quite punishing and thus utterly unlike the underlying sweetness.

So, that means the beer is a mess, right? Somehow, no actually. The layers, in their two distinct groups are layered carefully over each other. The weightier elements seem to sink through permeating everything over time. So the beer starts sweet but smoke touched and slowly builds to a rock salt and smoked meat crescendo.

That extreme smoothness of texture means that all the rough edges it has must come from the flavour and it certainly uses them well, mixing the flavours where they meet to create contradictory sensations.

The best part of the beer is the build up, the slow progression. About three quarters of the way in it peaks too early, and, while still good, the rest of the beer doesn’t have the same feeling of rich contrast or the promise of more to come.

So, 50% a beer of sheer joy and class, about 25% of peaked awesome, and 25% of merely ok. I’ll take that

Background: 8 Wired are probably my favourite of the New Zealand craft beer scene at this point, and that is a fairly skilled group of brewers. As is often the case, Brewdog’s guest beer section is facilitating my 8 Wired needs. Not much else to add to this one, was listening to Scroobius Pip’s/B Dolan’s Soldier Boy (Kill Em) while drinking.

Bumaye

8 Wired: Bumaye (New Zealand: Imperial Stout: 16% ABV)

Visual: Black. Rim of suds.

Nose: Raisins. Figs. Fruity red wine. Brown sugar. Hint of smoke. Dates. Fruitcake. Coconut. Treacle. Nougat.

Body: Syrup and treacle. Charring. Liquore texture. Bitter chocolate. Coffee notes. Nougat. Spiced fruit notes. Cherries. Truffles. Red grapes. Cinder toffee.

Finish: Very bitter chocolate. Glacier cherries. Shortbread. Coffee. Bitter red wine. Brown sugar.

Conclusion: So it’s that time again, insanely high abv, barrel aged Imperial Stouts. Ok, I’ve got a lot to say on this one, so give me a moment to sit down and compose my thoughts. Though mainly the sit down part. My alcohol tolerance has gone with age.

This things tastes like those cherry liquore filled bitter chocolate sweets you can get. Very harsh at first, but richly rewarding. The massive bitter chocolate even manages to push the pinot noir influence into second place for influences on the beer and that is saying something. Not to say that the barrel ageing isn’t influential, especially in the aroma, it just isn’t the number one influence.

Speaking of the aroma…daaamn.. seriously if anyone can make a beer that tastes like this smells then I will love them for at least five minutes. Maybe even six. There are dark fruits, coconut, red wine, nougat. It is like someone took all my favourite Imperial Stout elements and put it in one haze floating over the beer.

The body just can’t live up to that. Sorry, it just canna. It is great though, nougat through chocolate then down into a finish of red wine…through chocolate. I did mention chocolate has a big influence right? On the other hand there are so many elements that make it almost triflesque with the fruit and wine rising up, but a trifle layered in chocolate fondue. That analogy also just about fits with the spiced side of the fruit you get. Presumably someone had soaked the fruit for the trifle in rum, because, why wouldn’t you?

It is spicy, dark, refined and heavy. Great, even if not quite what the aroma promised. When you accept what it is you find something not entirely unlike an alcoholic Turkish delight and lovely at that. Albeit with much more bitter chocolate.

I very much enjoyed this, the closest comparison I can find is the 666 version of hel and verdoemenis, though I would say this is the sweeter take. This happily manages to stand alone on its own two feet, maybe not the best, but as the unique thing it is it manages to make itself the best in a crowd of one.

I’m glad I’m sitting down. Wow that was good beer.

Background: 8 Wired have been my favourite brewery from NZ for a while now, so when I got the chance to get my hands on this Pinot Noir aged Imperial Stout, well of course I did.

C4 Double Coffee Brown
8 Wired: C4 Double Coffee Brown Ale (New Zealand: Brown Ale: 8% ABV)

Visual: Chestnut red brown. Moderate coffee coloured large bubbled head.

Nose: Roasted nuts. Massive rich coffee and milky coffee. Creamy. Shortbread. Slight cheese puffs.

Body: Rich rounded coffee mixes with bitter coffee. Big hazelnuts. Bitter chocolate. Some milky chocolate. Slight cheese yeastiness. Kiwi and grapes in the coffee.

Finish: Very bitter coffee. Roasted nuts. Bitter chocolate. Slight mature cheese dusting. Kiwi fruit. Vanilla.

Conclusion: If you have looked through the notes above you may have noticed that I have basically just been listing coffee and chocolate, with whatever qualifying adjectives I can find. Pretty much all the flavours come from those two root elements, but describing it as such really doesn’t do the beer justice. In the style of Beer Geek Brunch Weasel the coffee is an element distinct in itself that can be dissected and analysed as much as the beer can.

There is a fruitiness to the coffee, subtle vanilla notes to the bitter chocolate. Rich and rounded they are backed by the understated base beer which adds nuttiness and a very slight note of mature cheese, an almost yeasty feel that is texture more than anything else.

I am very impressed by how they do this, the brown ale part of it is much closer to the American interpretation of the style than the tarter UK take. It is sweet, frothy and very malty and doesn’t have the acidic touch you can get in the UK.

It all comes together in a way than means that the small number of elements have a fractal complexity below and a luxurious style. It is utterly smooth and just builds to a wonderful symphony of flavour.

I wish I had enough experience of coffee to describe it better. So instead I will concentrate on that odd, very light cheese like element that starts out intriguing and becomes a vital element. It is a yeastiness style around which the coffee builds and this means that the beer character is kept intact so you don’t just feel you are drinking alcohol coffee. Overall this is a show of excellence in a crowded coffee beer market.

I love this beer.

Background: Picked up from Brewdog’s guest beer selection, this sounded a bit special. Coffee has been used in a lot of imperial stouts, but not so often in the oft overlooked Brown ale to my knowledge. 8 Wired have done pretty solid by me so far, so I put in some Nine Inch Nails and broke this open.

Moa Tripel

Moa: St Joseph’s Tripel (New Zealand: Abbey Tripel: 9.5% ABV)

Visual: Utterly still despite my best attempts on pouring. Grain yellow.

Nose: Candyfloss. Tangerine. Fruit sugars. Brown sugar. Blackpool rock. Strawberry yogurt touch at times.

Body: Smooth. Banana and custard. Blackpool rock. Passion fruit. Kiwi. Tangerine. Candyfloss. Almost raspberry pavlova and light pineapple. Golden syrup.

Finish: Raspberry sweets. Barley. Brown sugar. Some bitterness. Brown bread. Passion fruit. Light spice touch.

Conclusion: This tastes like an aged beer, possibly it may be. I really don’t know, these beers can take a long time to reach the UK. All I know is it has been in my hands under a month. Despite that the beer is so smooth to the extent of night feeling light on the tongue, and is utterly still of body. Both elements I associate with aged beers.

Anyway, despite the very light feel in texture, the flavours delivered by this are huge and fruity. The strength of flavour definitely belies the weight of the texture touch. The flavours are very NZ hop fruity, and the main Tripel elements seem to be used more as a base for this. For the Tripel traditional elements you have banana like sweetness, candy floss and brown sugar, with just some hints of Belgian yeastiness, however these are definitely secondary.

What booms instead are fruit sugars, pineapple, tangerine and passion fruit. You get other fruit at the edges, but frankly that is still a massive amount to have up front. In this it feels very similar to the highly hopped barley wines, with nods to the Tripel style distinguishing it.

As often happens with non Belgian takes on Belgian styles I find myself having to fight expectations. This has little of the yeastiness or that rough cut gem feel that you get with a lot of Belgian takes on the style, instead leaning more towards a smoothness of character that I expect of USA interpretations, and that does make it feel even more barley wine like.

As a beer in itself it is dangerously drinkable for the abv, it has but a light shimmer of the strength that is actually present within. It isn’t my favourite Tripel, I would say Rulles does the fruity style better without losing the base nature, but it is still a delicious and different take – dangerously light but full fo flavour. I do prefer more hard edges to my Tripels, but it would be churlish to deny that this is a fine drink.

Background: I had to put off drinking and reviewing this one for a while. I had got a few Moa beers for my sis and her husband for Christmas, and while I was at it I got one for myself. Reviewing them would kind of give the game away. Anyway, Christmas has passed and so the beer is broken open. Picked up from Independent Spirit. Yes, again.

Superconductor
8 Wired: Superconductor (New Zealand: IIPA: 8.8% ABV)

Visual: Hazy amber, off white dash of bubbles for a head.

Nose: Fudge. Pineapple. Hops. Digestives. Slightly closed in the hop character. Dried apricot.

Body: Good big bitterness. Digestives. Hops. Light custard. Tangerine. Pineapple. Grapefruit juice. Grapes. Fruitcake base. Toffee. Dried apricot.

Finish: Growling bitterness and hops. Pineapple. Elderberry. Grapefruit juice. Toffee.

Conclusion: A New Zealand hopped IIPA, five words and it is already right up my alley. Ok, technically NZ and USA hopped, but it’s an NZ beer, so I’m concentrating on that part. Heavy in hops and kicking out the bitterness in a very much “I hardcore you” mold.

Lots of fresh pineapple and grapefruit citrus notes, intensely and challengingly so in fact. The hops are similarly intense with bitterness that rates as impressive. Underneath there is the expected toffee and malt base but it plays second fiddle to that overriding hop action. Some IIPAs seem over sweet and lose the hops to that sweetness, no risk of that here.

On a technical scale I would say it isn’t as good as their stand IPA, Hopwired. It isn’t as balanced or rounded. Then again, considering that hopwired is pure awesome that isn’t much of a criticism. It is a full on assault IIPA. Intense, maybe a tad single minded, but it remembers to bring the flavour.

Despite the single minded assault it does have a decent amount going on though, lovely digestive biscuits and huge citrus flavour, so single minded but not single note. There are definitely more rounded IIPA’s but it is no slouch.

The base is understated, more rounding in the excesses and following out the finish than anything else. The toffee and malt outlast the hops though, so at the end they can finally earn their place in the flavour spectrum.

While not as rounded a beer as some others it is a delicious fresh hop kick and despite the mass of citrus it never feels too sharp. In fact over time it softens rather than rises, and the base again starts to earn its way.

Not the best but a very proficient IIPA.

Background; After I raved about the excellent hopwired IPA my sister mentioned that the same brewery did an excellent Imperial IPA called Superconductor. Now, over a year later, I finally found it in the UK. So I bought it. and drank it. Expectations were high after hopwired and I was really looking forwards to it.

Harrington: Big John Special Reserve (New Zealand: Dunkel Bock: 6/5% ABV)

Visual: Very dark red to black. Near white dusting of bubbles.

Nose: Smoke and lots of roasted nuts. Some cashew nuts as well. Some charred barbecue bits and oak. Black cherry comes out as it warms.

Body: Smoke and liquorice. Some bitter chocolate and traces of toffee and black toffee. Malt loaf as beer warms.

Finish: Bitter and with smoke. Blackcherry. Moderate roasted and hop character. Toffee. Bitter chocolate.

Conclusion: Another beer that is far too easy to over chill it seems. When I first tried it, the beer seemed pretty bland with smoke and roasted emphasis. However having made this mistake with beers before I gave it a bit more time to warm again and returned to it.

It was still pretty cool, but with that bit of extra warmth we got malt loaf and black toffee coming out alongside black cherry  that all mixed with a bit of the more traditional toffee sweetness.

The little experiment with heat did do a good job of discerning the two main flavour roots you will find in this beer. The pleasant fruit and toffee against smoke and charring. So not a complete waste of time waiting for it to warm then.

The beer is never particularly refreshing, the combination of characteristics results in it being quite dry for the most part. The smoke and oak that are the cause of this work as the base of the beer and you do have to do just a touch of digging to get the other flavours evident. It is a very firm base to work from though and if you like the slightly smokier and more charred style it gives a lot back here.

Oddly there was an occasion or two where the texture seemed slightly thin, which was odd considering the strong flavours it uses. It wasn’t particularly often though, and the beer definitely has enough character to ride through those moments without ruining the flow.

Not perfect then, even warm you can occasionally lose the more subtle flavours before the smoke. However with the toffee, bitter chocolate and the like just below the surface it is worth persevering to get the most out of the beer as there is a lot to enjoy here.
So a complex beer, one with a few flaws admittedly, but while that keeps it from being a great beer, it does nothing to stop it being very good and enjoyable.

Background: Last of the New Zealand beers my sis brought back for me. As always, many thanks. I wasn’t quite sure of these beer had been barrel aged or not from the bottle description. Looking into it, it seems that early versions of it were barrel aged, but after a while they couldn’t get hold of the bourbon barrels. This, instead has had bourbon added to the brew late on in the brewing process.  Incidentally Rate beer says this is a scotch ale, to which I call no chance.  As a black lager base I went with Dunkel Bock as a choice, which oddly it seems is what ratebeer lists for the non special reserve version of the beer.

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