Tuesday night, I was joined by 10 others to explore what New Zealand Craft beer could offer. The theme was English style vs Kiwi ingenuity. This was because we were at Galbraith’s Ale house, home to some of the finest English style beers in New Zealand. Not only that, but they also offer a fine selection of rotating guest beers. I took this opportunity to run a fun little competition. I had the group rate the beers using a judging sheet I adapted from the Western Home Brewers (thanks Joseph!). The group gave points for appearance, aroma, palate, flavour, and an overall score. While we were tasting, I told the group to use all of their senses to really taste the beer and explained where the different flavours come from – malt, hops, or yeast and the differences in beer styles.
We started with a classic: Bob Hudson Bitter, a session beer that is a true favorite of many (including Steve Plowman, from Hallertau in Riverhead, who claims this as his desert island beer). Bob was followed by Munich lager. For comparison, we tried our first guest beer: Croucher Pilsner. Now I will be the first to admit that I am not a big fan of lagers in general. I find most have an aroma of bananas or bubble gum that I find unappealing. But this Pilsner was a beautiful beer. Nicely balanced and malty. It was let down by the cloudy appearance but the flavour was a winner.
On to the Ales. I had wanted to serve the Liberty Mash-up which I had tried earlier that evening when I arrived to set up for the tasting. Unfortunately, between then and when we were ready to taste, it had run out! Alas! I sung the praises of Liberty beers and informed the group where they could find C!tra (Liquorland, New Market) and instead we tried Racer X IPA from Bear Republic. Okay, they are not Kiwi, but I didn’t have a guest alternative in this style and, besides, I really wanted to try it. The point was to compare this IPA to Galbraith’s IPA – Warminster, which is a special recipe available for a short time. Wow, this was a great beer. Very different from the Racer X. Warminster was, across the group, highly rated.
We finished off the tasting with something completely different: Big Smoke, the cask series ale brewed by Soren Eriksen of 8-wired brewing. (See my previous post about this beer – I happen to love it). My point was to show that beer doesn’t have to taste like you expect beer to taste. There are styles out there that exhibit smoke or chocolate characteristics. Other beers that are almost like wine or port with the raisin or plum flavours. Some hops that are similar to Sauvignon Blanc wines in aroma. There was a wide range of reactions to this beer with a couple people loving it and a couple, well, not so much.
So what about the competition? I added up the results and got an average for each beer. Then took the average of the average for Galbraith’s house beers or the Guest beers. Results follow – out of a total of 50 possible points:
Bob Hudson = 23.6
Munich = 27.9
Croucher Pils = 31.6 English Style = 28.9
Racer X = 23.6 Kiwi Ingenuity = 28.0
Warminster = 35.1
Big Smoke = 29
The evening was lots of fun. I had a great time being able to talk about a topic I am passionate about. I had some great feedback too with several people saying they would go the the next event.
Thanks to those who came out to the event. Thanks again to Galbraith’s for letting me do the event.