Whoops, a week without a blog! My apologies; but I came down with a bit of a cold, and then was out of town for a conference. But, we’re back.
Of course, flying in-and-out for a two-day, one-night conference can often be a bit challenging when it comes to getting some nice and interesting craft beers. We were at Rydge’s Latimer Christchurch, just a hop-skip-and-a-jump away from The CBD Bar, with its range of Cassels & Sons on tap. But I wasn’t able to get away from the evening dinner and socialising at the conference venue for long enough to check it out.
Oh well, no matter. Because five years into this craft beer thing, I’ve found I’m able to sit back and enjoy a “mainstream” beer now and then, when beer seems the drink to have and other options aren’t available. And learning to taste fully and taste properly over the years works just as well with your green bottle beer as it does with a fine hand-crafted ale. Even if the results sometimes aren’t that flash.
And not to mention I’m often trying a beer for the first time ever; even if it might be one of the more ubiquitous beers in the country.
Like New Zealand Breweries’ ‘Steinlager Pure.’ A late afternoon flight back to Wellington, sun streaming in through the window, there seemed to be no better time than to try this heavily promoted and seemingly very popular beer than there, on that Air New Zealand flight.
And, what do you know, there’s a lot to like about this beer. Starting with the packaging. The slim green can is gorgeous, subtly playing with colours and textures for a look and feel that’s quite unique. I’d love to see more craft beers sold in this style of can; it feels a bit special, looks quite sophisticated and, being a can, stores beer better than bottles.
The beer itself looks quite nice, pale and lively. The aroma’s subtle but confident, grassy hops lingering above the glass enticingly. And the taste wasn’t as bad as I might’ve feared – clean and crisp, nice bit of sweet biscuit in the base. But the bitterness in the mouth was a bit off; a bit rough, and it left a harsh metallic note as it faded. But was the beer offensive? Not by any means.
And, while I would dearly love to see better beers served on our nation’s airline, as I sat sipping that beer, with some post-rock playing loudly in my ears while I watched the clouds roll away towards the Southern Alps, I felt perfectly content.
The night before I had got a bit sniffy towards the drinks menu at the Rydges. Sure, I understand they’re probably tied into contracts and the like but, come on, setting aside an area on your menu for “bottled craft beer,” and all three were Monteith’s beers?
Would it really hurt to get even just one Christchurch brewed beer onto that list?
Nonetheless, there was no better moment to give one of Monteith’s “craft” beers a go, so I chose the ‘Double Hopped IPA.’
“A bold IPA, with a concentrated malt flavour and sweetness. The higher alcohol gives real warmth, which is boosted by the crisp high bitterness. Dry hopped with cascade hops to give a big floral aroma flourish.”
So said the label. And, you know, they weren’t wrong. It was very sweet, and the 7.5%abv was obvious and warm. I picked more peach than floral flavours in the hops – as I said, very sweet, and felt very soft and fruity in the mouth.
It even looked a bit peach-coloured in the glass. But that could’ve been the nearby heater, warming against the night’s cool air.
Overall, it was good for the style, but not great. A bit too sweet, and flipped to a burnt, stewed fruit bitter aftertaste on swallowing. Not very balanced – if I had a choice I’d choose almost any other Imperial IPA over this offering from Montieth’s.
But, it wasn’t bad, not by any means. Competent, and probably pointing itself squarely at those who want a full-flavoured sweet hoppy beer but don’t want to cost or the complexity that comes from the likes put out by Epic or Liberty.
And, screw it. It’s good to see the big boys getting into some more interesting beer styles, and doing them well. All credit to them. And I’d like to try more of Monteith’s “Brewer’s Series” if the opportunity presents – in particular their ‘Barrel Aged Porter.’
Rest assured, however, my drinking of that will be to make a comparison to the porter aged in pinot noir barrels made by Hallertau…
 Sitting in the window seat of a plane, playing some big spacious music while I look down on scenery or even just clouds is one of my happy places. Not everyone loves flying, but I really do.↩
 Hallertau’s produced their delicious aged porter for years now under the name “Porter Noir.” Back in 2012 Dominion Breweries set about trademarking that very name for this Montieth’s barrel-aged porter. They abandoned the name, however, claiming they weren’t aware of Hallertau’s long use of it. But only after they’d sold their porter under that name at the 2012 Beervana. Hmmm…↩