It was a nice autumn day on Saturday (May 21 2011) when I rocked on down to The Local Taphouse in Darlinghurst (for the third time that week) for the Kiwi SpecTAPular. 20 taps of beer from New Zealand awaited me, and so did I queue of die-hards at the door. Luckily I knew the two most die hard (Jez and Sam) who happened to be at the front of the line, giving me both company for the line wait and the rest of the day as well as access to the front of the line.
Included after you’d paid your gold coin donation for entry (donated to the NZ Brewers Guild Earthquake Recovery Fund) was a nice little guidebook (which you can see with my notebook to the right) with tasting notes and info on all the beers as well as other nice information about beer and such. I decided to go through the beers on offer in number order since it was easiest and the order was chosen to facilitate such endeavours. The setup for the day was quite good, paddles of five 60mL samples for $7.50 (with a $10 deposit on the wooden paddle) as well as the usual half and full pint glasses for varying prices. There was also a kiwi themed menu on offer, all in kiwi spelling: “fush and chups” and such.
Note: paddles are being reviewed from left to right
1. Harringtons Rogue Hop, a 5% NZ pilsner. Light in colour and aroma, with classic pilsner hop aromas. The taste was very fresh, with a dry fruitiness and a lingering bitterness. Very easy drinking, and it would be great on a hot day, a classic “lawnmower beer”.
2. Sprig & Fern Harvest Pils, another 5% NZ pilsner, this one with a subtle passionfruit hint on the nose. The taste was light, with an initial dry bite and then classic Nelson Sauvin hop flavours of passionfruit (much like a Sauvignon Blanc) that lingered on the palette but there wasn’t much bitterness.
3. The Twisted Hop Sauvin Pils, yet another 5% NZ pils, this one had very little aroma, and the taste was passionfruit with soapy hints. Some upfront bitterness that faded quickly. Overall it was quite disappointing.
4. Mussel Inn Whit Pig, a “manuka wit” coming at 4.8% with a bit more colour than the previous beers. The aroma was very woody, like a sawdust filled workshop with some yeasty characters. The taste was a mix of initial rich manuka honey sweetness and the coriander spiciness you get from a classic wit that lingered. One of my standout beers.
5. Emerson’s Bird Dog a 5.5% pale ale. The nose was all pine tree, just like a classic cascade hops loaded american pale ale. Malt with a light piney-ness was how I’d describe the flavour, with a moderate level of bitterness. It didn’t blow your head off, it just ticked all the boxes to be an easy drinking pale ale.
6. Golden Bear Hanky Panky another pale ale, but lighter at 4.4%. The nose was very light, just some sweetness and grassy notes. The taste was…. meh. Watery and grassy and really not much going on at all.
7. Founders Fair Maiden a 5% american pale ale with not much happening when it comes to aroma. The taste was crisp, with hints of caramel biscuityness and some generic bitterness. Better than the last, but still not great.
8. Tuatara APA, oh look another APA, this one at 5.8%, the nose was all piney american-style hops and the taste was divine. Pine with an earthiness that lingered, like you’d picked up and handful of dirt and pine needles off the forest floor and had a chew on them.
9. Moa Five Hop a 6.2% ESB/Strong Ale according to the notes. The nose was dominated by Nelson Sauvin passionfruit notes. The taste was quite sweet, with caramel, vanilla and an oakey woodiness, all of which lingered with a solid bitter backbone.
10. Yeastie Boys Rex Attitude a peat smoked golden strong ale coming in at 7%. To quote the Seinfeld episode The Limo…. “the peat, ah the peat.” Seriously there isn’t much else to say, although there was also a petrol kind of scent on the nose. Those who drink single malt whiskey said it tasted like Laphroaig. Very unique.
11. Townshend JCIPA stepping up to the India Pale Ale stage, this one being in the English style at 5.8%. The aroma was light and sweet, with an initial hit of citrus and creaminess. The taste was dominated by sweet caramel maltiness with a lingering earthy bitterness. It didn’t really stand out though, which is weird because english style beers are usually my favourite.
12. Brew Moon Hophead IPA a 5% IPA, this had a sweet aroma with a hint of hops. The taste followed this, being sweet and malty with some pine and fruit hop notes in the background.
13. Croucher Brewing Patriot an American Black Ale or Black IPA (it’s complicated and I really don’t care) of 5.5% ABV, this obviously stands out for its dark colour in this set. The nose was all roast, and the flavour was also roasty, but balanced out by classic american hop flavours.
14. Renaissance Stonecutter, a 7% scotch ale with a classic dark amber colour, the aroma was very yeasty. Couldn’t really tell if it was marmite, vegemite or some other mite, but you get the idea. The taste was very similar, but with hints of dark fruit. Didn’t like it at all because of its mite-ness. It did get me singing though.
15. 8 Wired Hopwired, back to a lighter colour for this 7.3% New World Kiwi India Pale Ale. The nose was a tropical fruitsplosion, and the taste was like all those fruits dumped in a bowl of cream. Very drinkable, and definitely one for those who say they “don’t like beer”.
16. Epic Hop Zombie an 8.5% Double IPA, that is supposedly “New Zealand’s hoppiest ever beer…. but you wouldn’t know it. The aroma was sweet and fruity, and the flavour was a mix of caramel malt and tropical fruit. Superb, and spoiler alert: my favourite of the day.
17. Cock & Bull Monks Habit a 7% red ale with a nose dominated by malt with hints of sultanas. The taste was sweet and malty, almost milo-like, with a backbones of raisins and lingering bitterness. Another standout.
18. Three Boys Oyster Stout, and now on to the dark end with this 6.2% stout. The main aroma was an almost bittersweet dark roast, with hints of salty fish. The taste was sweet and roasty with a solid meatiness in the mid palette.
19. Invercargill Pitch Black, a 4.5% stout with colour to match its name and all I could smell was roast. Tastewise it was very dry and roasty with hints of coffee and chocolate.
20. Mike’s Imperial Porter, the last beer was an 8% imperial porter. The nose was roasted malt with what seemed to be a lavender scent. The taste was dark fruit for days. Loved it, as you’d expect.
Overall it was a great day, sure there were some duds, but you get that. Epic Hop Zombie was my number 1, but Mussel Inn Whit Pig, Tuatara APA, 8 Wired Hopwired, Cock & Bull Monks Habit and Mike’s Imperial Porter weren’t far behind, and the Yeastie Boys Rex Attiude was worth it as a unique experience.
Finally, I’d recommend getting down to the next SpecTAPular in early July at either the Darlinghurst (Sydney) or St Kilda (Melbourne) locations, since it is held simultaneously at both. The theme will be USA beers, and if you’re at darlo, feel free to buy me a beer since it’ll be my birthday.