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Liquorland: Craft Beer tasting guide

GALBRAITH’S MUNICH BAVARIAN LAGER
Gateway

The brewery: Galbraith’s is the doyen of Auckland’s brewpub scene; the granddaddy pub that’s been pouring beer made on the premises for 25 years. In the old Grafton library at the top of Mt Eden Rd, it’s a homely, English-style pub of dark wood and carpet. Set up by Keith Galbraith in 1989, Galbraith’s was well ahead of its time – predating the craft beer boom by a number of years. Long-time brewer Ian Ramsay recently retired, leaving the production in the hands of young Sam Williamson, who is doing a brilliant job in keeping this brewery at the forefront of the craft scene.

The brew: When you think lager, you think Germany – after all that’s where the world’s most popular beer style developed about 500 years ago when a new yeast strain found its way into beer stored inside cool caves. Galbraith’s, Auckland’s famous brewpub located in what used to be a library, has long produced a traditional German lager, aptly named Munich Bavarian Lager. Made with genuine German malt and yeast, which delivers a silky clean and crisp finish, this is a classic lager as good as you’ll find from any of the major international breweries that dominate the lager landscape. And the best news? You can now get Galbraith’s Munich Bavarian Lager in a 4 pack of 330ml bottles – perfect for a party or an afternoon in front of the footy.

COOPERS EXTRA BEST STOUT

The brewery: Coopers is Australia’s largest independent brewery – having resisted a major takeover bid from Lion Nathan a few years ago. In fact it’s the only independent brewery anywhere in Australia or New Zealand that can truly claim to be continuously family owned and run for more than 150 years. The Adelaide-based brewery has been in the Cooper family all that time and the sixth generation is now running it. It’s highly-regarded for its bottle conditioned beer but is equally well known as a homebrew supplier – in fact, it’s regarded as the world’s dominant homebrew company.

The brew: Across the Tasman is not the place you’d expect to find one of the best winter beers around. But Coopers Extra Best Stout is plush with flavours of cocoa, coffee and hints of plummy, stewed fruit – perfect for the cooler weather. There’s also a hint of molasses and a barely traceable note of smokiness. For a dark beer this has a lively carbonation and a crisp finish. It’s got a good alcohol punch too, the 6.3% adding to the already creamy, rich mouthfeel. This beer is pitch black, with a wash of scarlet shining through – it looks fabulous in the glass with its foaming mocha head. Like all Coopers beers, this is bottle conditioned, which means there is live yeast in the bottle, ever-changing the flavour. Do allow this bottle to warm up a little bit before drinking – there’s much better flavour to be found than when it’s straight out of the fridge.

EMERSON’S LONDON PORTER
Artisan

The brewery: Brewer Richard Emerson was born deaf after his mother contracted German measles while she was pregnant but his disability means nothing when it comes to making great beer – Richard believes his body’s way of compensating for his deafness is to give him a sense of taste and smell that is superior to most people’s. A young Emerson fell in love with real beer while on a holiday in Europe and returned to New Zealand to start his own brewery with the backing of his family and a handful of friends. For years, the brewery was nothing more than Dunedin’s best-kept secret but soon the beers became too good for word not to get around. While the brewery is tiny by modern standards, the crew at Emerson’s never miss a beat and every classic brew that leaves the premises is among the best examples of its kind.

The brew: While Emerson’s is now 22 years old, there is a direct connection back to the first days: London Porter. This was the beer that launched Emerson’s and is as good as ever. With traces of cold coffee and melted chocolate and a slightly tarry bitterness underlying the sweetness this is the definition of classical porter and the definition of a genuine cool-season beer. Definitely drink this after you’ve left it out of the fridge for a while – that way you’ll get the best of the complex roasty flavours.

MOA FIVE HOP
Artisan

The brewery: Thanks to an audacious share float and some “out-there” marketing techniques, Moa has become one of New Zealand’s best known and more mainstream craft breweries. The brewery was started by Josh Scott, a trained winemaker, son of renowned Marlborough winemaker Allan Scott, keen on cross-pollination of ideas, such as using champagne yeasts in some of his beers. The business was taken over by the folks behind 42 Below Vodka who created a storm when the brewery was launched on the sharemarket in early 2013, though Scott is still onboard as executive brewer. The name “Moa” (New Zealand’s giant dinosaur bird) also derives from the region, as in the early days Josh hand delivered brews to archaeologists working on a Moa bone dig near the brewery.

The brew: Moa Five Hop is one of those beers that possibly needs a new name – the implication is that this is a super-hoppy beer. It’s not – it’s a brilliantly made English-style extra special bitter, which means it does have good hop character but the bitterness is earthy and subtle, hiding just behind the lovely weight of malt. Anyway, a name change would just cause confusion because this beer has a dedicated band of followers who love its honey sweetness, warm, generous mouthfeel and sip-again bitterness. A gem of a beer.

EPIC APOCALYPSE
Artisan

The brewery: These days Luke Nicholas is a brewer, beer judge and lately, a blogger under his self-styled Luke’s Beer blog. Nicholas started out at the gone-but-notforgotten Cock and Bull chain in Auckland and when a chance came to branch out on his own under the Epic label eight years ago he grabbed it. His beer is made under contract at Steam Brewery in Auckland. Nicholas is an unabashed hophead and churns out as much of his hop-driven, American-style, big IPAs as the market wants. He has defined the art of making American West Coast-style IPAs and favours American hops for his challenging styles.

The brew: Epic loves a good beer name and preferably one with an end-of-the-world feel. We’ve had Armageddon, Mayhem, Hop Zombie – and now Apocalypse: a black as night India Pale Ale. Traditionally an IPA is relatively light in colour - hence the name - but a recent trend towards making these beers darker adds a chocolate-coffee undertone that goes exceptionally well with certain citrus aroma hops, such as Cascade. So think chocolate-orange, or chocolate grapefruit. With this beer that is complemented by stunning layer of pine fragrance that jumps out of the glass. The malt is sweet, backed up by typical Epic bitterness levels to produce a highly complex, rewarding brew.

PARROTDOG BLOODHOUND
Artisan

The brewery: ParrotDog, apart from its wonderful name, can lay claim to being the only brewery run by three guys called Matt – Warner, Kristofski and Stevens. What started out as a Wellington university student homebrew enterprise developed a cult following three years ago at Beervana when the team’s signature Bitter Bitch took top honours in the People’s Choice awards. Now they’ve got their own brewery in Vivian St, right in the heart of the city.

The brew: Between a traditional IPA and a Black IPA there’s a growing body of beer known as Red IPA. Again these work on bringing notes of cut grass, passionfruit and pine to a malt base that accentuates caramel and biscuit. It’s a stunning combination and one well thought out in ParrotDog’s wonderfully-named Bloodhound. Toasty and warm with a hint of just-warm fruit loaf, the sweetness is soon overtaken by a well-weighted bitterness that makes you yearn for another sip.

MONTEITH'S BARREL AGED PORTER
Artisan

The brewery: Stuart Monteith left Ireland for the Central Otago goldfields armed with a brewing recipe and a reputation for trouble. When he was arrested for not having a licence and fined six pounds, he refused to pay and ran away to the West Coast where he took over the Phoenix Brewery in Reefton. The brewery bore his name until 1927 when it amalgamated with others in the area to form Westland Breweries. DB took over in 1969 and when, in the mid-1990s they decided to rebrand the brewery, they chose the name Monteith’s.

The brew: Aging beer in barrels is not new but it’s taken a new twist thanks to the craft boom. Brewers have used old rum, whisky and bourbon barrels to add character to their beer but because we’re in New Zealand, the tendency has been to use wine barrels – particularly pinot noir barrels – to create a vinous twist to a traditional beer. Monteith’s Barrel-Aged Porter achieves that effect wonderfully. The rich, coffee and chocolate malt flavours that define porter are given a fruity, berry twist thanks to the pinot. Some dry-hopping adds to the complexity.

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