Today is National Doughnut Day, among other things, and time once again for The Session, in fact our 28th such outing. This time our host is Brian Yaeger, who writes at Red, White & Brew. His chosen topic is “Think/Drink Globally,” which he described as follows:
In honor of Global Craft Beer Forever, I propose everyone writes about the farthest brewery (including brewpubs) you have visited and specifically the best beer you had there. Again, not your favorite or any old brewery you’ve been to, but the one that is the longest haul away, be it by airplane, car, ferry, rickshaw, whatever. (If you blog about beer but have never been to a House of Brewing, get on it!)
Then, the last part, since this exercise gives us an excuse to drink beer, do one of the following:
- if you brought home a bottle while visiting the brewery and have it secreted away, crack it open.
- if you don’t have any left from that visit but the particular beer is available where you live (or if not your fave from said brewery, another brand from it), go get one.
- otherwise, find a local beer of the same style and do a little compare and contrast.
Well it certainly isn’t to hard to figure out the farthest place I’ve traveled so far for a beer was to New Zealand. The whole family went there for two weeks last year around this same time, plus my in-laws, too. We had a great time, and stayed most of the time in a beach house north of Auckland in the middle of nowhere. And since a lot of New Zealand feels like the middle of nowhere, that’s really saying something. We explored caves, went on hikes, lounged at the beach and tried our damnedest not to hit anything driving on the wrong (for us) side of the road. There were sheep everywhere and the joke is that there are more of them than people in New Zealand, and it’s not hard to believe.
The last few days were spent in the capital city of Auckland, where there was more beer, I’m happy to say. Though, sadly, only a minority was actually worth drinking. I did an article on beer in New Zealand for All About Beer. There were several decent breweries, the best I tried were from Emerson, Epic, Galbraith, and Hallertau.
Of those four, I spent the most time at Hallertau, as they also sell bottled beers and owner Stephen Plowman and Luke Nicholas (who brews the Epic Beer line) and I opened a couple dozen ebers so I could get a good cross section of the islands’ beer. Here’s what I wrote about the place in All About Beer:
Near the edge of the city limits, in Riverhead, is Galbraith’s polar opposite, the Hallertau Brewbar & Restaurant. Opened just three years ago by Stephen Plowman, the restaurant is thoroughly modern in both décor and cuisine, with an emphasis on local ingredients wherever possible. The menu includes esoteric fare as well as new takes on traditional dishes, and everything tastes homemade and delicious. The brewing equipment, though much less modern, and looking as if designed by MacGyver, still manages to create some terrific beers. Plowman makes an interesting range of beers, and likes to play around with his seasonals. His regular beers include a Kölsch-style ale, an American pale ale, an Irish red and a German-style Schwarzbier. His seasonal offerings have included an Imperial IPA (big, hoppy beers are a veritable rarity in New Zealand), a Belgian-style Tripel and a Saison flavored with Manuka tips, a local shrub sometimes also called a tea tree.
But by far my favorite of his beers was an experimental beer he was making, and I bought a couple bottles of it to bring home and age. Here’s what I wrote about it at the time:
But Plowman’s most ambitious beer may also be his best. His Porter Noir is a barrel-aged beer, which may be the first beer in New Zealand to use Brettanomyces. He brewed a strong Porter (6.6% abv) and aged it in local Pinot Noir barrels for four months before bottling. In the bottle, Brettanomyces was added and left to condition for another six months, before being released for purchase. It’s a wonderful beer, with rich, complex flavors of thick figs, raisins and the like, with strong Brett horse stable character. I can’t say for sure whether or not the people of New Zealand are ready for a beer so vastly different from their popular, but insipid, draught style. But ready or not, here it comes.
The second time I tried it, with Vinnie Cilurzo, from Russian River Brewing, here’s what I found:
Dark in color and a very thick tan head. The nose was marked by characteristic barnyard aromas with just a touch of malty sweetness. The nose was slightly less pungent than the sample I had in New Zealand, but Vinnie and I both declared it to be quite tasty. The Brett character married quite nicely with the nutty, malty porter flavors.
So let’s see what a year has done to it. The Bretty barnyard is still there, possibly even stronger, at least as I remember it. It’s still very malty but seems more complex to me as well, with all sorts of aroma and tastes mixing about on the nose and on the tongue. Dark fruit and some spiciness predominate, but there’s more there, too. I don’t know if Plowman is making new batches of this beer, but I certainly hope so, it’s definitely one of the most adventuresome being made in New Zealand.
I realized that I never posted photos from the New Zealand trip because I was saving them for the All About Beer article, but it’s been a year now, so I think it’s okay to post some of them now. So here’s a gallery of beer-related photos and also some non-beer related photos, in case you’re curious about what else we saw when we were there. [Note: the photos have no captions because I didn't have time to put them in before leaving for Monterey. I'll try and put them in Sunday after we get back, so check back Monday if you want to have more information about what's in the photos.]