Black Dog Brewery, on Blair Street, has become a favourite place over recent months. I work down towards the railway station at the other end of Wellington’s waterfront, and putting in my earphones and going for a brisk walk is a favoured way of unwinding at the end of my working day.
Black Dog provides a good destination, if the urge takes me to have a beer before continuing to walk home or to divert back through to catch a bus. Sitting in their spartan-yet-comfortable drinking area, with the kit in which the beer is brewed right there on full show, is quite lovely. There’s a certain something about drinking a beer within metres of where it has been made; almost always brings out the best in the beer. For me, at least.
Black Dog’s ‘Malinois’ is one of my favourite of the beers this brew-pub serve; an effervescent saison / farmhouse style ale, bright and sprightly, with a tart sourness chasing the soft nuttiness of the body. And when in there recently, I and a friend were quite excited to see that the Malinois was being served on hand pull, as well as through the more usual carbonated lines. Doing a side-by-side, tasting how the beer responds to the different methods of serving, is always an interesting experience.
Unfortunately, the Malinois doesn’t quite work when served through the hand pump. While it was cute to see the little mini-keg sitting there below the pump, the served product didn’t quite translate well to the softer serve. The hops were made a bit more astringent, the natural effervescence of the ale softened so much that the spice and tartness of the body was subsumed by a walnut-like flavour.
But it was an interesting experience, and there was no room to be disappointed, because with the beer also available from the carbonated keg I was soon able to enjoy the beer’s best characteristics being shown off. Because with the additional C02, the beer’s crisp and sharply tart aroma really lifts off the top of the glass, while in the mouth the bubbles dissolve beautifully, carrying a sweet softness that fades deliciously to a long, slightly-soured aftertaste.
Not every beer suits coming off a hand-pull. Stouts, porters, bitters and many IPAs suit the treatment nicely, but I’ll put a saison like the Malinois in the “yeah, nah” category. But, good to see Black Dog doing something a little bit different with one of their more interesting beers. I’m all in favour of beery experimentation!