Have a look at the time this post has been added. There are no errors here – and the matter is made worse by the fact that I haven’t had any sleep yet. I can’t shut my damned mind up. I can’t stop thinking about what was probably one of the best 2 subsequent days in my recent life (aside from getting married and conceiving a child… of course).
There was an innocent exchange of comments with Greig McGill on my Ace of Spades blog post. The next thing you know, I’m stopping in to his place in the Tron on my way up to Auckland for a fortnight away from work. “You must be Joe” says the face with a warm beaming ear to ear smile. In an instant I felt welcome. I introduced my wife.
Greig briefly scurries around his awesome bar muttering “I wish I had more ale ready for you to try” – this was not a problem for me as I was more thinking about the imminent visit to the RCC!
Anyhow – after a bit of toing and froing, the beer engine was rinsed and primed. His Porter was carrying a little bit of condition as he served me that black pint: about one quarter head. I stuck my nose into the tan foam on got whiffs of Chocolate and Golding. He kept telling me that it was too sweet – brewers’ modesty I think, the Porter was quaffable to the last drop. The pint didn’t last 5 minutes – I was impressed. I asked if there was Fuggle in there and I was quickly corrected – not in an anal fashion either, this man is curt in a matter of fact kind of way. He roasted his own Marris Otter to make the Brown Malt in this beer – that is dedication to the hobby. His pint had depth and cleanliness – I wouldn’t have picked that it was only 4 days into the Corny “Cask”.
He was kind enough to try some of my homebrew. We tried my TTL clone, and moved on to the Yakima Monster. There was a brief exchange of homebrew methodology – and with that Greig asked “should we continue this conversation over a pint of Mayhem?” like there was no oddity to the phrase. Mayhem? Surely not. This obscure drop can’t be found south of the Bombay’s… it’s not even available in the "cradle of beer" – New Plymouth (wipes the sarcasm of his chin).
Anyhow a quick tailgate to the other side of town was met with Formica laden tables in the working mans club known as the RCC. Nothing flash here other than the fact the we are looking at tap fonts reading “Epic Pale Ale”, “Epic Mayhem”, “Paradox”. I was asked what mine would be, and reaching the answer used exactly the same amount of brain power as a monkey uses to peel a banana.
The full pint of Mayhem was a lovely golden colour synonymous with Epic Pale Ale. The nose was fresh hops with a floral and citrus kick: predominantly Cascade. I held the glass close to the chest for around 5 minutes before a braved my first sip. I savored the aroma for as long as possible, and as I warmed the beer, its aroma intensified. When I finally drank it I was surprised to not be accosted by intense bitterness. Initially, the sharp flavours of Riwaka quickly cut through any malt I was about to taste. It is then was softened by a pleasant floral taste only found in the US Cascade hop. Citrus ends the sip with a nice balance between sweetness and bitterness. I didn’t know whether to be offended by this or commend the brewer. I sat on the fence for about a minute or so. Greig asked me what I thought. I replied “Good on Luke for making a beer that is appreciated be beer geeks like us, and is yet approachable by the discerning Lion Red drinker”. I stand by that to this day. The hop flavours are outstanding but the beer does not offend the palate in the same way that US West Coast IPAs do – so good shit. Pat on the back.
The hop flavour was so strong that when I next had an Epic Pale Ale – I could only taste it’s malt flavours. I was surprised – but delighted at the same time. For a beer that I had only considered hoppy, I had overlooked how well constructed the malt profile is in this beer. No wonder it has won supreme beer of New Zealand aye?
Anyhow – tomorrow was to be a long day, so Christina had astutely decided that were to leave the RCC. There will be another time – I’m not done with that place yet. Thanks once again for your warm and welcoming hospitality, Greig and Alex – I had a real fine time.
So the Kumeu Wine and Beer festival was greeted by grey cloudy skies. Not long after the day had dawned, the grounds were awash with heavy rain. I was concerned that the turnout would be low with this rain in consideration. I arrived at 10.30am to the Croucher Brewing tent. I was quietly pleased to see that Paul and Nigel had already set up the bar – I remember that bitch being really heavy. It is a new one though, so even though my burley skills may have been put to good use with this, they were surplus.
Anyhow, I was repping my main man, Paul Croucher – if ever there were a more approachable professional brewer: in my mind it is him. Years ago when I had dreams of brewing New Zealands finest homebrewed Aventinus clone, it was Paul who replied to this wannabes email requests for a sample of Germanys finest Weissbier Hefe. I’ll never forget the generosity he showed me in those days, and will always be grateful. Anyway enough of the niceties – we were at a beer fest after all!
My first beer of the day was Croucher Pale Ale. This beer was showing fine form with an aggressive mouth feel. Paul was quick to divulge his secrets – and they were pleasantly met. The beer had a firm ester contribution on the nose with hints of citrus. Taste was dark Chocolate Malt Biscuits and a roar of cascade bitterness.
The next was Croucher Hef. Another well constructed nose with bread, banana and a hint of fruit – I couldn’t place it… Pineapple maybe? It must have been from the hops – I’ve never been able to get my yeast to do that for me. But then again – I’m just a homebrewer! The taste was to be expected, and was soft with another assertive mouth feel – how the hell do they do that? It was like a mineral type of fullness. Not sweet – or body in the beer… very difficult to describe.
I took a break from the 11am swill to serve a few customers – it was all good. The vibe was nice considering it was still pissing down. It was a hoot describing to the punters the flavour in the beer! They always ask “what could you liken it to? DB? Lion?” being able to say that the beer is unique – was a religious experience: definitely not preaching to the converted.
Anyway – earlier on, I had asked Steve (from Hallertau) to hold on to a bottle of my homebrew, because he had chilly bin ice exchangers for his beer taps. It must have only been 1pm when he came over with it for a drink. I poured him some first, then Paul, then me – I saved a quater of the bottle for Nigel: he wasn’t there at the time. As a home brewer – it is always nice to get constructive feedback on your brews by professionals. I was about to ask Steve what he thought… but he was gone. I was going to ask Paul what he thought – but a wave of customers came, and that was that… Oh well.
When I went to go find Nigel, I found him in the Epic tent with Steve… and Steve was getting the Master of hops to smell my beer… shock horror! I kept my cool as Nigel and Luke kindly gestured for a pour of their own, to which I willingly reciprocated. They seemed to like it, as the descriptors were flying; there were no negatively connotative verbs.
I strolled over to have a taste of #1 at the Hallertau tent. That shit was on form! The malt flavour was working and lingering – it was soft and pleasant. The Nelson Sauvin was subtle and rounded the sweetness nicely: good work. Statesman was smelling clean and slightly citrusy. The body was welcome, and I found no flaw in this bitch. Hops finished the palate again, and I was ready for more.
As I was telling Steve how good the beer was tasting today, I was introduced to Luke Nicholas. This was nice – and I was pleasantly surprised with how approachable he was. He asked about a few things – I was willing to comply. We chatted about Mayhem – how it was at the RCC, about Armageddon – and what I thought about it. I walked away feeling a sense of satisfaction – like a kid in a candy shop. After all – I have looked up to this man for a long time. There is a lot of hype on here about his beer – for good reason too I might add. Anyway…
The sun ended up coming out, and the beers were flowing. The vibe was excellent. I didn’t notice a single person who was there to get pissed. I had some Croucher Bohemian Pilsner. It was tasting fine. Nice grainy nose with some grassy hops and a hint of citrus. The palate was attacking again – like a 12 year old with a firecracker kicking around in my mouth.
I was lucky enough to have some Armageddon too. I probably overdid these – but I wasn’t in any mood to give a shit.
Overall it was a massive day. I met a lot of cool people and met up with a lot of my old chums from Auckland. I bought some Gem 2005 Chardonnay from Cory – this stuff was on form. I chinwagged with a friend of an Old Golf mate of mine… turned out this fella plays the Bass for Goldenhorse. You wouldn’t have thunk it – he too was very much approachable. It makes it easier I suppose when you are being introduced by Steve as the “guy who makes real nice home brew”. My feet were killing me, my liver was starting to complain – and my wife was getting sore feet too.
I drank a lot of good beer. In the end there was one real stand out. As the license had expired and the stalls were being packed, I bumped into Luke again. He asked me if I wanted to try something special. I said “go on then” it wasn’t hard to decide. He said “look at the label”. It was 2007 Epic Porter. I thought… “2007, that’s a bit old aint it?” I asked Luke if it was any good. He told me to try it and tell him what I thought. I was brutally honest.
I was expecting to be met with wet cardboard as I sank my nose into the glass containing some of the backest liquid I had ever seen. What found my nostril was the softest, most creamy milk chocolate aroma. I looked at the bottle: 5%abv… wha………..? It smelled like there was some seriousness in there, another brewing coup by this man: full body without excess alcohol. I had a sip. I looked sideways at Luke: was he trying to trick me? He approached the pour as if there was something wrong with this beer. In fact – it was some of the finest ale that had ever passed these lips. There was so much chewy texture in there, I was lost for words. I tried to savor the glass but in no time² it was gone. It was so rich and creamy and velvety and mocha espresso chocolatey goodness. Depressing in a way: I thank instantly of my Schwartzbier Lagering at home. It will never in its life taste anywhere near as good as this Porter. I was humble in thanks for the religious experience he had shown me, and we exchanged niceities as he called it a day. I fared Nigel Paul and his family well, and we too called it a day.
It was a day to remember. Thanks to all the excellent people there – and all the excellent brewers, without you all – days like this could not be possible: and for that I am honestly and truly thankful.