21 April 2014

Beer Necessities Survey 2009

Kieran Haslett-Moore

9/12/2009 11:24:00 a.m.

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Brewing up diversity
THE top rated beers from this year’s Beer Necessities Survey represent a near perfect cross section of brewing in New Zealand.
Represented in the top eight are New Zealand’s largest brewer Lion Nathan, one of the country’s biggest independent craft brewers Emerson’s, a small craft brewer, Croucher Brewing, one of the new generation of contract brewing companies, 8 Wired and a tiny farmhouse brewer, Peak.  
After the controversial Supreme Champion and runners up format of last year, this year the judging panel decided to instead highlight all the top scoring beers resulting in 8 top beers ranging in style from a light crisp lager, through to a “marmalady” malt accented strong ale.
These 8 beers portray the diversity of New Zealand brewing with beers that will suit many different tastes and situations.
This year we have included 10 broad style categories and we have continued last years practise of including a succinct style description at the beginning of each category.  
The beers were blind judged on their appearance, aroma and flavour with some thought given to their stylistic integrity.
The judges assessed the beers according to technical and stylistic criteria rather than according to their own subjective tastes. Often after competition results are announced judges are approached and asked why certain beers that many people may think are boring are awarded medals.
There are beer style categories which are not overly character full, a technically and stylistically excellent beer entered in these categories will and should do well.
The beers were all scored out of 5 with the panel coming to a consensus on which score each beer would get. Beers scoring less than 2.5 were not included in the write up while beers that scored 4 marks or higher earned inclusion in the top 8 Pack.
I would like to thank my fellow judges. While to many the idea of a days beer judging may seem like a dream job in practise it makes for an enjoyable but incredibly fatiguing days work. 
The overall standard this year was high with a clear majority of entry’s earning a mention and some fantastic beers making the Top 8 Pack. Brewing in New Zealand is becoming increasingly diverse both in terms of the beers that are brewed and the companies that brew them. I suggest we all drink to that!
Cheers,
Kieran Haslett-Moore


The 8 Pack

Emerson’s Pilsner ($5.75), Bookbinder, 1812 ($5.75) and Old 95 ($6.35)
Undoubtedly the biggest winner from this year’s survey is Emerson’s Brewing Company from Dunedin. Having taken out the coveted Champion Brewery title at this year’s BrewNZ it is perhaps no surprise that Emerson’s have done so well several months later.
Steinlager Pure ($2.50)
Lion Nathan has achieved significant success with its heavily advertised Steinlager Pure brand and the result here shows that behind the marketing there is a crisp clean well made beer.
Croucher Pale Ale ($3.99)
Croucher Brewing have been building up a reputation for their range of pale, complex, aromatic beers which they brew in Rotorua making them one of the few craft brewers to fly the flag for brewing in the North Island.
8 Wired Hop Wired IPA ($8)
8 Wired is one of the new generation of contract brewers who are using other peoples breweries to produce their beers. Unhindered by the commercial necessities of running a seven day a week 12 month a year business, theses brewers don’t need to brew everyday beers for mass consumption but rather can focus on producing remarkable special one off brews that are full of character.
Peak Great End ESB ($6)
Peak is a small farmhouse producer in the Wairarapa producing a wide range of organically produced beers. 

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Golden Lager
Typically: A clean, crisp, refreshing lightly malty brew with low hop character. 
Tuatara Helles ($2.95)
Pours a nice gold with good clarity but is lacking in head retention. Aroma features some lollyish candied malt notes, some green apple and a toasty note. In the mouth the beer is toasty and bitter lacking some “malt cushion”. 3
Founders Tall Blond ($6-$10)
Pours with nice clarity with a thin white head. Aromas of passionfruit and tangy green New Zealand hops combine with a sulphur note. In the mouth the beer is toasty and dry with more of the sulphur character and a dry slightly austere malt profile. 3
Steinlager Pure ($2.50)
Pours a light gold with good clarity. Sweet biscuity malt and a suggestion of sweetness feature in the aroma. In the mouth the beer has a firm malt accented palate with some nice weight and balance. 4
Macs Gold ($2.30)
Good appearance with a high level of clarity but poor head retention. Toasty malt with a hint of fruity esters feature in the aroma. In the mouth the beer clean, inoffensive with a slightly toasty sprizty finish. 3.5


Pale Wheat Beers
Typically: Crisp and spritzy with a big fluffy head. Special yeast strains and in Belgian style examples spices, create aromas and flavours which can include bubblegum, clove, banana, orchid fruit and tart citrus. Often intended to be served cloudy.
Tuatara Hefe ($2.95)
Pours a nice cloudy gold however somewhat lacking in head retention. Aroma features clove and banana with some nice orchid fruit. In the mouth the beer is a little muted lacking crispness and carbonation. 3


Pilsner
Typically: A type of lager which places a lot of emphasis on hop character. The New Zealand variant of the style tends to feature prominent fruity floral herbaceous hop aromas, a clean malt profile and a pronounced grassy bitter finish. 
Emersons Pilsner ($5.75)
Good clarity with poor head retention. Aroma features a prominent NZ hop aroma of passionfruit, citrus and some herbal notes. On the palate there is some nice hop flavour with more passionfruit and a bitter finish. A little more malt balance would be nice. 4
Croucher Pilsner ($3.99)
Pours with a slight haze and poor head retention. A touch of DMS and some slightly aged hop notes feature in the aroma. In the mouth the beer is slightly unfermented tasting and lacks nice malt profile leading to a big bitter finish. 2.5
Tuatara Pilsner ($2.95)
Pours a nice clear golden but lacks head retention. Aroma is a little tired lacking hop character with some candyish oxidised notes. A toasty firm malt palate with a dry bitter finish. 3
Macs Hoprocker ($2.35)
Good clarity with poor head retention. Aroma features sweet malt, some light hop notes and a little sulphur. In the mouth the beer has some nice New Zealand hop character and a slightly tired tasting finish. 3


Dark and Amber Lagers and Brown Ales
Typically: Dark and Amber lagers have a malt accented aroma with a bready toasty nutty malt driven palate. Brown ales might feature yeast and hop derived fruit notes on the aroma along with toasty malt notes and a nutty caramel malt accented palate.
Speight’s Distinction Ale ($2.35)
Pour a nice clear red with a slightly disappointing head. Aroma is dominated by fruity esters and a touch of alcohol. In the mouth the beer has a slightly watery texture, some toasty notes and a short clean finish. 3
Founders Generation ($6-$10)
Pours a tawny brown with good clarity and a quickly disappearing head. Aroma features some nice dark malt character along with some nice “stone fruity” hops and a touch of oxidation. In the mouth the beer is tired and oxidised with a thin mouthfeel. 2.5
8 Wired Rewired Brown ($7)
Pours a nice brown with a quickly dissipating head. Aroma features a big dry hopped aroma with plenty of citrus and some chocolate notes. In the mouth the beer has plenty of hop flavour but lacks malt profile and ends with a thin bitter unbalanced finish. 3


Bitter, Pale, and Amber Ales
Typically: Hop accented fruity ales with varying levels of toffee and caramel malt on the palate.
Emerson’s Bookbinder ($5.35)
Pours a nice red shade of amber with a quickly dissipating head. Aroma features passionfruit, some grassy citrus along with some toasty chocolate notes. In the mouth the beer continues as it does in the aroma with a hint of sweet malt before a slightly thin finish. 4
Macs Sassy Red ($2.35)
Pours nice amber with good clarity and quickly subsiding head. Aroma features barley sugar and a touch of toasty malt. In the mouth the over all impression is of a subdued beer with a rising bitter finish. 3
Founders Fair Maiden ($6-$10)
Pours a nice clear amber with a quickly subsiding head. Aroma features a complex blend of citrus marmalade notes, caramel, and a suggestion of sweetness. In the mouth the beer is a touch thin with a rising bitterness. Lacks hop flavour that the complex aroma promised. 3.5
Croucher Pale Ale ($3.99)
Pours a nice clear gold with a quickly dissipating head. Aroma features some fresh zesty perfumy citrus hop notes and a rich toffee note. In the mouth there is plenty of perfumy hop flavour with a big slightly early bitter finish. Good beer that could use a touch more malt balance. 4


India Pale Ale  
Typically: Stronger, bigger, more overtly hop accented pale ales.
Tuatara IPA ($2.95)
Aromas of grassy New Zealand hops with a slight metallic note noted by one judge. In the mouth the beer features toasty notes and a firm bitter finish but lacks hop flavour and malt balance. 3
Emerson’s 1812 ($5.75)
Pours a nice light amber with a quickly dissipating head. Sweet malt features alongside some tangerine and mandarin hop notes. In the mouth there are more citrus hops with a nice malt balance and a dry finish. Perhaps a touch small for the style. 4
8 Wired Hopwired IPA ($8)
Pours with some nice clarity and a healthy sustained head. A massive hop sack aroma with layers of floral and citrus and a touch of sweet malt gives way to a well balanced palate. Citrus hops and malt work together well with both making an appearance. Perhaps just a touch small for the style. 4
Epic Armageddon ($10.99)
Good clarity with a quickly dissipating head. Big dry hop aroma with piny note and some slightly sweaty tones gives way to a minerally slightly thin body. There is plenty of citrus hop flavour with only just enough malt to carry it. Some aged hop notes make themselves known in the finish. 3.5


Stouts, Porters, and Black Lagers

Typically: Stouts and porters are dark toasty roasty ales with hints of chocolate and espresso flavours. Black lagers combine bitter chocolate and mild espresso flavours with a crisp clean lager character.
Island Bay Brewing Co Classic Black ($2.95)
Pours a clear dark shade of brown with a quickly disappearing head. Aroma features a lovely mocha character with some nice light fruit notes. In the mouth there is plenty of roasted malt flavour with a slightly harsh edge all carried by a nice medium body. 3.5
Founders Long Black ($6-$10)
Pours a nice dark shade with a healthy sustained head. Aroma features an attractive blend of chocolate and espresso. In the mouth the beer is somewhat thin bodied, with a sweet malt impression and a rounded finish. Could use some more hops. 2.5
Macs Black ($2.35)
Pours a nice black with a quickly dissipating head. Aroma features nice dark malt, some fruit esters, a light hop note and some diacetyl. In the mouth the beer is thin bodied and a touch harsh with a prominent roast character. 2.5
Tuatara London Porter ($2.95)
Pours a nice clear dark shade of brown with a sustained healthy head. The aroma features a nice combination of dark malt flavours and late hop character. In the mouth the beer is a touch thin with some nice vanilla like creaminess and a rising late bitterness. 3


Strong Beers
(Belgian Ales, Strong Ales, Strong Stouts)
Typically: Full bodied, malt accented and high in alcohol.
Tuatara Ardennes ($3.45)
Pours a nice clear gold with an attractive sparkle. Aroma features a nice blend of sweet pale malt and spicy clove character. In the mouth the beer is big and alcoholic with a slightly unsubtle balance between the alcohol character and the malt weight. 3
Moa St Joseph Barrel Reserve ($8-$10)
Pours a hazy gold with a quickly collapsing head. Aroma features a prominent grapy white wine note, with some spicy clove characters and a hint of warmth. In the mouth the white wine character is prominent with some clove notes and a warming sweet finish. 3
Emerson’s Weizenbock  ($8.25)
Pours a clear dark amber with a healthy big sustained head. Aroma features creamy vanilla, warm esters, and banana. In the mouth there are heaps of warm fruity esters, cloves banana and a big rich creamy finish. 3.5
Peak Great End ESB ($6)
Pours a hazy amber with a sustained head. Aroma features bruised orange and mandarin and a big slightly wild tangy note. In the mouth there is a strong brisk zesty hop flavour but is lacking in some malt character. 4
Moa Five Hop Barrel Reserve ($8-$10)
Pours a hazy amber with a quickly collapsing head. Aroma features a nice balance of caramelised malt and grassy floral hops. Palate features rich malt, marmalade notes and a long dry rising bitter finish. 3.5
Emerson’s Old 95 ($6.35)
Pours a nice amber colour with a healthy sustained head. Aroma features a nice balance of orangey hops and caramel malts with a touch of aged cheesy hop character. In the mouth a big marmalade character is prominent with rich malt and a big bitterness coming through quickly. 4
Moa Dark Reserve ($8-$10)
Pours black with a quickly dissipating head. Aroma features hot alcohol, and big fruity esters. In the mouth the beer is very sweet with fruity esters and a big warm finish.  2.5


Flavoured
Typically: Atypical  
Wigram Harvard Honey Ale ($6-$7)
Pours  nice clear golden with a thin white head. Aroma features honey and sweet warm malt. In the mouth the beer is thin and cidery with a sweet finish. 2.5
Mussel Inn Manuka ($9.50)
Pours a clear amber with a quickly dissipating head. Aroma features heathery notes, ginger and rose petals with an overall impression of Turkish delight. In the mouth the beer is gingery and a touch astringent with a thin mouthfeel and a late bitter finish. 2.5


Low Carb/Alcohol
Typically: Lack body, flavour and appeal compared to fuller bodied stronger beer- invented to appeal to the ‘health-conscious’ modern market.
Macs Light ($1.70)
A highly spritzy soda water like mouthfeel. Some Diacetyl (see faults box), a neutral balanced palate and a short tart finish. 2.5
Macs Springtide ($2.30)
Aroma features some D.M.S. (see faults box) along with some nice fruity esters. In the mouth the beer is tightly balanced with a dry spritzy finish. 3.5



Score key:
All beer judged out of 5.
5= a truly exceptional beer
4= a very good example of the style
3 = a good beer
2.5 = an average beer
Scores of 2 or less were not reported.


Faults:
Diacetyl: A natural by-product of fermentation usually removed by the yeast. It creates buttery, butterscotch like aromas and flavours which brewers usually try to avoid.
D.M.S.:  A form of sulphur that is usually seen as a fault in beer. Typically it creates aromas and flavours of sweet corn, or cooked cabbage.
Oxidation: Beer can develop harsh cardboard flavours when it comes into prolonged contact with oxygen
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