Tag Archive: New Zealand

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.

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.

Epic: Thornbridge Stout (New Zealand: Stout: 6.8% ABV)

Visual: Black with a reddish brown bubbled froth head of moderate size.

Nose: Dry roasted peanuts. Slight cream cheese. Black coffee. Very roasted with some treacle notes.

Body: Smooth, but bitter and roasted. Bitter chocolate. Some charring elements. A tingling hop feel.

Finish: Roasted and dry with good bitterness. Charring. Slightly earthy.

Conclusion: Stouts always seem to have one preferred element they concentrate on, be it chocolate, coffee, or in this case the roasted character.  It enhances it with quite the hop character and marries it to a decent chunk of roasted nuts.  Here I need to admit a touch of bias, as the more hoppy or roasted interpretations of the style tend not to be my favourite. It just feels too easy to misuse the hops and create an overly dry or rough beer without adding to the flavour.

Here it doesn’t do too badly, though it does lead to a very dry feeling stout. There is also nice bitter chocolate, but predominantly the beer seems to work to leave you thirstier than when you started drinking.

There are other familiar elements including that slightly soured cream cheese touch, or cloying cream maybe. It’s a slightly thick element that can be used to add refreshment to a stout if done well, or become annoying intrusive if not. Here it doesn’t add that much but does balance well with the roasted character.

Initially tried chilled, it is much better warm. It’s smoother and there is more of the deliciously bitter chocolate that offsets the roasted elements.  Chilling seems to down play the flavour and allow the hops too much free reign.

It is a drinkable beer, despite my general aversion to its chosen emphasis. Oddly if it was less roasted the smooth texture and chocolate would play well to create a beer I really think I would enjoy. As is it is a solid smooth stout but not great. A stout with more weight to it that the body would make you think, you can feel the liquid running down your throat with some determination.

Not bad, but not special enough to be enthralling, and not high quality enough to make it a gem, but still decent.

Background: Not, in fact, one of the New Zealand beer care package my sis brought back. This one hailed from Brewdogs guest beer section. Had a bit of a problem getting this one, but thankfully Brian from Brewdog helped sort it all out, much appreciated! This one is a collaboration between the British Brewery Thornbridge and the New Zealand brewery Epic. Both are pretty good breweries, if not in my all time favourite list, but each have put out some stonking beers.

Pink Elephant: Mammoth (New Zealand: English Strong Ale:7% ABV)

Visual: Deep blackcherry to red. Lace leaving slightly rouge froth.

Nose: Lightly bitter hops. Lemon. Some raspberries. Cinnamon. Some earthy hop. Sour cherry sweets.

Body: Smooth. Earthy for the main body, with raspberries underneath. Creamy and robust. Strawberry hints. Slight sour grapes.

Finish: Hops. Earth and bubblegum. Digestives. Peppery. Cake sponge.

Conclusion: A robust little big ale this one. Like Emerson’s IPA it is surprisingly earthy in hops for an NZ beer. This one however adds a big wodge of character to it, with subtle raspberry freshness and strawberry notes underneath. Even in the aroma the mix of tartness and earthy hops is enticing.

Main body brings it home with a smooth creamy texture. Here the bitter hops are given grip, but you never have to dig beer to let the understated fruitiness well up.  It is easy to let the thick earthy hops sit on your tongue, but please, roll this beer around and let the fresh fruit out as that is all it takes to turn this from a solid but dull body and make it quite the intricate beer expression.  That little change makes it such an enjoyable beer.

If I may linger on this point a while longer, it is probably that fact that a bit of investigation is required to enjoy the beer that really makes it stand out.  It is a simple challenge to seek out the extra flavour, and it rewards you quickly, but that interaction makes it very satisfying when it opens up, more so than if it did so uninvited.

The explored beer feels like a very grounded dessert, like someone has dumped raspberries on rye crackers. In a good way. If that makes sense.

It will never be the most showy beer, but the combinations of elements feel new and unusual, and it rolls out from that into a solid bitter finish. It is an understated gem in my eyes. I’m not sure if it will appeal similarly to everyone, and some may view it as merely decent, but this beer has definitely caught my fancy.

Background: Ok, rate beer says this is a brown ale, but Michael Jackson called it Strong Ale and the hop character puts it closer to English Strong Ale than American. Darn beer styles can be confusing.  As you can probably guess from that, this is one of the beers from Michael Jackson Great Beer Guide.  It’s another I owe thanks to my sister for as she brought it back from New Zealand for me.  Yay, thanks sis.

Yeastie Boys: Rex Attitude (New Zealand: Smoked Golden Ale: 7% ABV)

Visual: Light gold with a short lived rise of white bubbles.

Nose: Smoked ham. Peat. Erm, smoke. Very meaty. A friend noticed leather in it.

Body: Smoked ham again. Touch of iodine and salt. Barley. Chewable texture. Slight cheesy puff crisps.

Finish: Dry smoke and..kippers maybe? Brown sugar touch. Slight dry wood at the end. Hickory?

Conclusion: To re-appropriate a phrase from Mick Foley and apply it to beer. Most beers are like a circus variety act, lots of elements and if you don’t like one, say the acrobats, then you will like anther, say the animals. This then is the beer equivalent of watching a guy get shot out of a cannon 20 times. No variety, but a lot of shock.

It’s basically smoked meat and peat all the way. Slightly dry and medicinal at times, but yeah basically just peat air and chewable meaty body.

To be frank any golden ale character, or heck any hop character is lost before the peated malt influence. The texture is the main discernible “beer characteristic”. So not a complex beer then, but it is actually fun. I wonder if this is somewhat like what a non oak aged “Bitch Please” would taste like?

I’m actually enjoying my time with the beer. The weird texture makes me wonder if a touch unusual yeast isn’t being used, which gives it an extra dimension the hops can’t manage(And would be very appropriate given the brewers name)

Probably not a beer to have often as it is very single note, but it is a resoundingly fun rejection of your standard expectations of Golden Ale, or in fact just an ale in general.

Background: Part of the kind gift package of beer my sister brought back from New Zealand. This was one of her suggestions, a golden ale made entirely with peated malt. Intriguing. Plus it has a dinosaur on the front, which as anyone who read the recent q and a session I had knows means I am well inclined to it. Heavily peated malt tends to be a a mainstay of Islay whisky of which I am quite the fan.

Three Boys: Wheat (New Zealand: Belgium Wit Beer: 5% ABV)

Visual: Pale and cloudy with a light lemon curd colour. Large mound of white bubbled froth.

Nose: Sour. Lemon zest and coriander. Crushed orange. Crisp wheat. Tart apple juice. Very fresh.

Body: Quite tart. Apple pie. Lemon curd. Cider. White bread. Light hop bitterness. Touch of cream.

Finish: Tart lemon and apple. Dry. Fresh white bread. White wine. Slight hop bitterness.

Conclusion: I’m always wary of non Belgium interpretations of wit beers. It seems so easy for a brewer to make a beer that misses the point of a wit, making them too sweet, or hopping them so they don’t seem like a wit, or just plain making them dull.

This is dry yet citrus fresh, just slightly bitter and with only a merest whiff of cream sweetness working against what is otherwise the most mouth freshening experience. Oh yes they got the point with this one.

The citrus flavour is all orange and lemons (No, not the bells of Saint Clemens), with the body holding that very true. With that you also get a light wheat and hop tingle, that bleeds through into a quite dry finish.  For a bit of a surprise it lays on apple tartness which just makes it that touch more acidic and refreshing. Not to mention makes it that touch more interesting.

For the all important question, is it better that Mikkeller’s “Not Just Another Wit”? The answer is, well, no.  However the more reasonable abv on this one makes it a much more easy to drink beer. Combine that with the freshness and you have a great summer refresher of a beer, one you can have more than just the one of.

Set for thirst quenching sourness and flavour, dry yet sippable. A very easy to appreciate beer.

Background: I owe my sis massively for bringing these back from New Zealand.  This one was on from 1001 Beers You Must Try Before You Die (Incidentally does anyone else thing beers you should try books should top out at the one to two hundred mark, over five hundred and you’re just being indecisive.) Anyway, I’ve hit the heavily hopped beers from the selection already and I’m now onto the lighter coloured beers part of the set. I’m keeping the heavy and dark beers for the ends as I figure they will survive much better.  Definitely enjoying this little patch of the NZ beer scene so far. Annoyingly my Internet is playing up at the mo, so reviews and updates may be intermittent until I get an engineer in.

Emerson: 1812: Hoppy Pale Ale/IPA (New Zealand: IPA: 5% ABV)

Visual: Reddy red with an off white bubbled head.

Nose: Earthy hops. Malt drink. Nettles. Slight fruitcake character underneath.

Body: Solid bitterness. Tart crab apples and yet quiet earthy. Slight toffee. Cinnamon. Quite a slick texture. Red and white grapes.

Finish: Earth, hops and bitterness. Quite crisp. Slight white grapes. Lemon. Touch of spice over time.

Conclusion: The name of this beer has been changed from IPA to Hoppy Pale Ale, but from all the notes and research I have done this is definitely the same beer, one that no less that Michael Jackson recommended.

It’s a beer that could almost be mistaken for a UK IPA as it has a good chunk of earthy hop character to it. However it’s backed by a grape like freshness and fruitiness that is combined with a slick body and crisp finish to give something that bit different.  It provides a very refreshing character to a hop style that is normally quite heavy and can occasionally be leaden.

Oddly it has a grape fruitiness, rather than,erm, grapefruitiness which is the more common style for a NZ IPA.  This makes it fresh but not tart, and really helps balance the flavour as well. It is like they took a UK IPA and restyled it for refreshing drinking in the sun rather than a wet UK summer.

Heavily earthy beers and I don’t always get along, and every now and then the earthiness gets a bit over present here, but for the most part it is an excellent refreshing IPA and doubly interesting for going against the usual NZ style.

More for casual drinking and thirst quenching than examination, but it doesn’t lack for flavour despite that. Nicely done.

Background: Brought back from New Zealand by my sister, for which I thank her. Its great being part of a travelling beer fan family. There are a few more NZ beers from that trip still awaiting sampling.  I’m a big fan of New Zealand hops, which tend towards the citrus and tart.  As mentioned in the Hop Zombie review, since getting fresh highly hopped beers from New Zealand are so rare, I’m trying them as quick as I can to enjoy while they are still fresh.

Epic: Hop Zombie (New Zealand: IIPA: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Quite pale gold with good sized white bubbles and some carbonation.

Nose: Gooseberry and a mix of resin and hop oils. Vanilla hop character. Some earthy hops. Cake sponge.

Body: Good bitterness. Vanilla and toffee hints. Gooseberry and slightly tart with it. A slightly thick and yeasty feel. Elderberry. Cake sponge again. Almost floral at times.

Finish: Toffee and growing heavy hop bitterness. Dry rye crackers. Some sour grapes. Yeasty. Resinous.

Conclusion: New Zealand hops tend towards the tarter end of the fruit spectrum. You know? Grapefruit, gooseberry and the like. Imperial IPAs tend towards massive sweet malt backbones to offset hop bitterness.  Thus I was intrigued to see what this beer would be like, my first true NZ IIPA. I had a little kinda preview in Scotland’s Hardcore NZ, but this is the real thing.

This is a bit more subtle than I expected. Now anyone who has drunk this beer will probably be looking at me like I have two heads right now, so please, let me explain. The bitterness is formidable, yes, and very welcome it is so.  There is bitterness hinted in the aroma, solid in body and kicking in the finish.

So what do I mean? Well the fresh tart hops tend towards the gooseberry and elderberry end of the scale, fresh but not the full on grapefruit assault that some NZ hops can bring. These are then nestled with the bourbon toffee like sweetness to create a fresh sweet base that is promptly used as a hop delivery system. Thus it is not as shockingly tart as expected, but still effective.

It reminds me in a way of Pliny the Elder in that it feels like ramped up IPA, unlike a lot of IIPAs that feel like a completely different style altogether to their lower abv cousins. It does make the beer dangerously easy to drink, especially with smooth yeasty character mid body that puts me in mind of the smoother Belgium efforts.

Flavour wise then it like a sessionable* version of I Hardcore You, all the freshness but none of the harshness. I am quite taken by this beer.  Initially I felt incorrectly that it needed a bit more harsh kick, as I reach the end I realise what it needs is another bottle and a full one at that.

A lovely drinkable hoppy IIPA.

Background: “Send More Hops” the words emblazoned above the label and a reference to “Return Of The Living Dead”, that was about the point I really wanted to like this beer. Yes I’m a zombie fan.  This beer was a gift from my sister, for which I give much thanks. This is doubly cool, as New Zealand beers can take a hell of a long time to reach our shores normally and the subtle flavours of very highly hopped beers can be lost quickly so a chance to try this rare high hopped beer fresh from NZ is a rare treat. I was going to save this beer, but the chance to try it fresh was too good to miss.

* Yes, yes I know at 8.5% it is nowhere near a session beer, I’m talking flavour alone here.

Renaissance: Stonecutter Scotch Ale (New Zealand: Scotch Ale: 7% ABV)

Visual: A dark cherry red. Dusting of brown bubbles.

Nose: Malt, toffee and shortbread. Liquorice. Mix of black and red cherry. Slight lime jelly. Slight smoked meat as it warms.

Body: Black cherry, slight tart. Smoked malt. Dried meat platter. Very malty. Light toffee.

Finish: Smoked meat and dry feel. Smoked bacon maybe? Dry malt. Smoke in itself. Slight fruit sweetness. Quite bitter but not hoppy.

Conclusion: I hate this beer. Nay just kidding. My sister recommended this so she is probably reading the review and I wanted to give her a shock. I am so getting punched for that one and I deserve it.

It’s actually remarkably nice. Why am I surprised? (and no it’s not because my sister recommended it, good taste in beer seems to run in the family, mostly) Well scotch ale is   a hard style to do right and very easy to make too sickly sweet or liquorice dominated, which gets old fast.

How does this beer avoid it? Well smokiness mainly. The beer has all that black cherry, malt, toffee and liquorice you would expect but there is this lovely dry smokiness backing it up. Sometimes the smoke is there to such a degree that it brings the image of smoked meat to mind, and that is just marvellous.

This is a great idea, and keeps the beer grounded and dry, preventing any possibility of the sickly sweetness overtaking it.

Flaws? Well that body doesn’t hold the same range as the aroma. A pity as the beer shifts as it warms, running the gamut of sweet toffee, shortbread, smoke and cherries. If the main body could keep up with that then it would be exceptional.

Still that is a minor thing, and the body isn’t exactly lacking. It looks like the scotch ale style I used to look down on is getting a new lease of life these days. Between this, AB07 and Robert The Bruce I’m really starting to enjoy them. It is still hard style to do right and for that I give Renaissance a lot of credit.

A lovely smoky, dry yet sweet scotch ale.

Background: Recommended by my sister who is a fellow fan of quality beers. So I decided to give it a try when it turned up in Brewdog‘s Guest beer selection. I often have reservations about the scotch ale style, but a few high quality recent examples have led me to re-examine the style.

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