8 Wired Brewing Company – ReWired Unchained

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The good old brown ale. It’s a deeply unfashionable style these days, it seems. It’s a style that doesn’t bring with it a swathe of bitter citrus fruit-flavoured hops, nor does it drown with the deep toffee-and-boozy fruit flavours of a strong dark ale. It’s not sparkling and golden, nor black and enigmatic.

No, brown ale is just a plain old brown. With a mild, slightly sweet nutty based and a little bit of fresh and fruity hoppiness. Easy drinking; not knocking any socks off, but delightful to sit with in the sunshine or at a table at the local.

But the brown ale is a style it’s near impossible to find on the shelves or on the taps of Wellington, New Zealand’s “craft beer capital.” Which is a shame, because I’d love to see more of it. Which would require more of it to be brewed, I guess.

Nonetheless, 8 Wired’s ‘ReWired’ brown ale has been a relatively frequent visitor to this side of Cook Straight, and while it may not be a ‘traditional’ brown ale, whatever that means, it’s certainly one of my favourite beers. A layer of roasted malty flavours underlie a robust hop flavour, a very soothing and fulfilling easy-to-drink ale, that doesn’t kill your taste buds or make you feel like weighed down like some dark ales can.

More recently, 8 Wired’s Søren Eriksen has been playing with the ReWired, producing what is called the ‘ReWired Unchained’. I first encountered this at Beervana ’14, and was quite blown away by the surprising range of flavours that were produced by barrel ageing this brown ale with a dose of Brettanomyces.

Now, it would be tempting to say that infecting the ReWired with Brett has made this ale funkier than a pair of brown flared cords, but that wouldn’t be true. Because, perhaps surprisingly, the combination ageing and infection has taken the beer not towards the funk and tartness of a saison or farmhouse style, but somewhere quite different.

Back at Beervana in August, I noted that the beer had developed a full flavour of caramel sharpened with aromas of cut grass and summer fruit. I was fortunate to find again late last month on tap in Golding’s Free Dive, and with a good measure in a tulip-shaped glass I was really able to embrace the full and complex flavours that the ReWired Unchained unleashed.

The initial aroma was of a cool, dry wash of a soft red wine washing over the nose and tongue, with a little hint of salt-and-vinegar lurking around the edges, speaking of the tartness the Brett was bringing to the mix.

In the mouth the red wine flavours came through even stronger; long, lingering, sliding sweetly down, leaving a taste of fruity plum and bubble gum flavours. Then, as the stronger tart wine-like flavours faded, the mouth was left with a residual warm sweetness, soft and fruity, resolving eventually to a taste I swear resembled a lemon sorbet.

Remarkable.

I enjoyed this complex and fascinating ale while perched at the Golding’s after a trip back from Christchurch, with a couple of travel bags at my feet and a bowl of pork crackling nearby. Ah, pork crackling; basically concentrated fat and salt. Not something you want to snack on too often, but when accompanied by a glass of something nice and refreshing, it’s one of the most life-affirming snacks I know. Very little is wrong with the world when you can relax with a good beer and a bowl of salted and double-cooked pig fat.

The salty, lip-smacking snack worked wonders with the ReWired Unchained. The wine-and-vinegar flavours of the beer cut through the fat-and-salt perfectly, and the mouthfeel as the sweet finish to the beer meet with the next morsel of pig skin was a sheer delight. When I ordered the snack I remarked that I really should’ve got the pork crackling with an IPA rather than the ReWired Unchained, but I was glad to be proved wrong.

Unlooked for, it became a taste combination delight. The beer stood up to the snack better than almost any other I’ve paired pork crackling with, and in turn the beer added a sweetness to the salty snack that it almost didn’t deserve.

Give the combination a try; if you can. And if you haven’t yet, get out there are track down some of 8 Wired’s original ReWired. If you have any preconceptions of what a brown ale might be cast them aside and give it a go; you’ll surely love it. And that beer needs more love.

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Hop Federation – Rakau IPA

Hop Federation Rakau IPA

Crafters & Co is a recently opened little place just on the south-west side of Wellington’s CBD. Situated on Victoria Street, just to the south of the intersection of Vivian Street, it’s a little bit further afield than the other craft beer bars of the capital, but it’s well worth the couple of minutes walk it’ll take to get you up there.

It’s a unique (for Wellington) combination of a cafe, craft beer bar and bottle store, offering good cafe-style food and ten craft beers on tap, which can also be used to fill flagons or you can buy a bottle of good beer to take home from their well-stocked walk-in fridge. In the bar they offer beer from the taps in a range of different glass sizes, and all beers are priced by the size of the glass, not by the strength, or reputation, or price-point of the beer itself; thia makes Crafters & Co one of the cheaper craft beer places in town.

Alongside the bar is another Wellington first, a small brewery where you can, for a reasonable fee, buy the ingredients and assistance for you and a few friends to brew your own beer in a well maintained, well-cleaned kit. They’ll then store it while it matures, before you bottle it and take it home.

The decor is quirky and comforting, suiting Crafters & Co’s location in the more bohemian Cuba Street – Aro Valley end of the city. Rustic wooden benches fill the front part of the small bar, offering a view out onto busy Victoria Street, while around a corner are a handful of low tables in a dimly lit, relaxed environment, under a ceiling covered with a wooden lattice that adds visual interest as well as useful sound dampening. Knick knacks and funky objects de art abound, and if you felt the need you could also pick up some locally made craft chocolate or beard oil take also take home.

Crafter’s & Co has a few faults, though. It’s a bit of a cave when you’re out of sight of the big open doors, and I like drinking in the open air while the sun is shining. The food is great but the service is slow, and the only bottles they sell for the FYO are those bulky expensive glass ones. I have a deep affection for those reusable bottles, I do, but I’d like them to be sold alongside cheaper, lighter, plastic flagons. But it’s early days, and what I’ve seen on the bar on my handful of visits so far has me hoping it’ll just continue to improve.

On my first visit I checked out a couple of beers for the first time as well, including the ‘Rakau IPA’ by Hop Federation. Hop Federation beers hail from Riwaka, the heart of New Zealand’s hop country at the top of the South Island, and are brewed by Simon Nicholas, who opened his own brewery after some time as Hallertau’s head brewer. Hop Federation beers, with their distinctive simple, colourful, stylised hop-on-white background labels and tap badges have become more and more frequent around Wellington, but they haven’t always leapt out at me when I’ve given them a try.

The Rakau IPA, however, was quite attention grabbing. Brewed for the 2014 Marchfest in Nelson, this beer featured a huge flavouring of Rakau hops, a new variety getting the attention of some more adventurous brewers. The beer gave off a distinctive aroma of sweetness, of toffee and a effervescent lemonade, but once in the mouth an initial sweetness was soon washed away by a massive wave of intense hop flavours.

Maybe it was Crafters & Co’s studenty-vibe and location close to the hippies of Aro Valley, but when describing the flavours and aftertaste that the Rakau IPA presented to me I kept going towards words like “sticky”, “herbal,” and “skunky”. There was also a fresh, crisp flavouring of pine needles, a naturally “green” flavouring that spoke to me of the freshness of the hops that had gone into the beer.

Ultimately, the beer reminded me that hops aren’t too distantly related from another green, strongly-flavoured herb, with more noted relaxing qualities!

This IPA was well balanced with a sweetness and fullness that helped to rein these very strong hop flavours in, tipping the beer more towards the fruity and floral than the astringent and cloying – though the full sweetness of the beer’s body did give it a bit of a sticky sensation, leaving the hops clinging to the taste buds for perhaps a moment too long.

Hop heads would love that, though, the slow burn and rasping aftertaste of a strongly hopped beers, so while it may not be to my taste, I wouldn’t call this characteristic a fault.

The Rakau IPA, drunken in a new relaxed environment, was a pleasure. And it’s made me reconsider my experiences so far with Hop Federation; I’ll be keeping an eye out to try more and more of their beers as they cross my path.

Black Dog Brewery ‘Malinois’

Black Dog's 'Malinois' with my actual pen-and-paper beer diary. #geek

Black Dog’s ‘Malinois’ with my actual pen-and-paper beer diary. #geek

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!

The keg of Malinois, sitting directly below the hand pull.

The keg of Malinois, sitting directly below the hand pull.

Hallertau – ‘New Zealand Wild Ale with Horopito’

New Zealand Wild Ale with HoropitoSo, there I was, in Auckland, on a typically four-seasons-in-one-day Sunday, with no plans for the afternoon. A perfect time, then, to head out west towards Riverhead, to the Hallertau Brewbar and Restaurant.

I’d always been meaning to get out that way every time I’ve been up to Auckland over recent years, but had never quite been able to make the trip. But on this Sunday it was a quick easy drive into the green farmlands starting to flush with spring, to Hallertau’s big shed nestled within an orchard. The complex features a restaurant, bar and the brewery itself, which brews beers not just for Hallertau, but also Liberty as well as a few other contract brews (including, at times, Behemoth), all under the same roof.

The place was bustling, families and small groups all having had the same idea – a bit of a drive with some good food and drink at the other end. But we found a space at the bar, which was an open bench in the centre of the shed. Behind us was an array of busy tables, and before us the shiny stainless steel of the kit of a working brewery. It’s always a delight, being able to sit and drink a beer mere metres from where it had come into existence.

I asked our friendly, knowledgeable bartender for a rundown of the beers, and as soon as he mentioned a sour beer I stopped him in mid-flow and ordered one. I love sour beers, and will try any I come across, always keen to taste what the brewer may’ve done with some tempestuous yeast; with results that can sometimes be wonderful, sometimes not.

The sour beer in question was Hallertau’s ‘New Zealand Wild Ale with Horopito’, the champion Media Brew from this year’s Beervana – a beer that had run out at the festival itself even by the time I got to it about halfway through the Friday session. I was excited to finally give it a try.

It arrived in a small glass (“because the flavour is very strong”, it was explained), and it almost glowed with a pale golden colour, the still beer capturing the wood of the bar and the shining steel of the brewery nicely. The aroma immediately revealed two of the special ingredients and techniques that had gone into making this beer; strong scents of gooseberry and dry, slightly sour white wine displaying the unique wild yeasts used to brew the beer, and the subsequent 18 month aging in Sauvignon Blanc barrels.

No carefully selected and stringently controlled yeasts were used to brew this beer. Instead, after mashing, the tun was left uncovered for a night while fans blew in air from the orchard outside the brewery, allowing the mash to be inoculated with natural yeasts from the local environment. Using wild yeast is always a risk, but happily for Hallertau fermentation brought about a full, natural sour flavour, along with a comforting softness, resulting in a beer that shared more characteristics with a good natural cider than a pale ale.

The white-wine barrel aging further emphasised those dry, crisp, sour flavours and then, prior to kegging, horopito (or “pepperwood”) leaf was added, leaving the final beer with a slight warm peppery-ness at the very edges of the palate.

In some respects this wild ale didn’t taste particularly like a beer; its flavour combinations would probably challenge and disgust many beer fans. But for me, as a drinker who loves to find new flavours that can be created through the chemistry of brewing, it was a joy, each further sip revealing spice, wine and cider flavours that were most unexpected, and very lovely.

And, not just me. The friend who accompanied me on this little trip, who is not a beer fan at all, took one sniff, then one sip, and declared that she’d finally found a beer she loved. This was a declaration so momentous, I immediately surrendered the half-glass that remained, helping myself instead to the Hallertau cider she’d ordered, which was also quite delicious.

But we did leave with a litre of the New Zealand Wild Ale in a rigger, with which I can confirm that the ale goes down a treat with pâté, pesto, cheddar, brie and blue cheese. Wine and cheese? No, beer and cheese – and a dry, sour beer like this is perfect for a cheese board.

Highly recommended, but this ale is rare and only available at the brewery bar out in rural West Auckland. Worth the trip.

Garage Project ‘Hāpi Daze’

IMAG2308(1)I have a Sunday routine. I wake reasonably early, do a bit of housework, then walk the five or so kilometres into town to the Harbourside Market, down by Waitangi Park.

En route I’ll stop by either one or other of the supermarkets to see what good, inexpensive protein is available. Once at the markets I’ll then grab a bite to eat from one of the food stalls – I particularly like the venison hot pot eaten with a bread roll from the bakery stall nearby. Then, a quick visit to the Waikanae Butcher’s truck (I strongly recommend both their haggis and their Cajun sausage), before the market proper to load up on fresh vegetables and fruit.

And then, home to cook!

But once finished the market it becomes very easy to stop by one of the many good craft beer bars that can be found when you walk from market end of town to where my bus passes, on Willis or Victoria St. So many bars, but some choose not to be open Sunday lunchtime, but more do. And if the sun is shining and the air is warm, almost inevitably by the time I’ve carried a load of produce from one side of town to the other I’ll be feeling the need for a sit-down and a drink.

And, hey, they buses only go every half-hour on Sundays, so there’s always a bit of a wait.

So it was the other weekend. I’d scored an inexpensive kilo of beef cheeks and picked up a big load of onions, leeks, celery, garlic, carrots and potato to cook them with, and after reaching my bus stop, the sun was shining, I was sweating a bit, and my bus was another fifteen minutes away. And right next to this particular bus stop is The Taphaus. Which has tables perfectly positioned to sit outside and keep an eye out for the bus.

And on tap that particular Sunday, The Taphaus had Garage Project’s ‘Hāpi Daze’. At the sight of the tap badge I’m pretty sure I broke into a grin. Because this hoppy golden ale is perfect for a refreshing beer in the sunshine.

Hāpi Daze is bright, light, and fruity, and at 4.2% abv it won’t derail any plans you may have for the rest of the day. A hop aroma sparkles deliciously off the top of the glass, while the light, sweet body rolls around nicely on the tongue before the refreshingly bitter finish trails away.

Hāpi Daze (Hāpi being the Maori word for ‘hops’) showcases off a range of New Zealand hop flavours – I can pick out the familiar flavours of passionfruit, grapefruit and the leaves of a lemon tree. But it’s all in moderation, all in balance. It’s not a hop bomb but a lovely gentle golden ale, with the sweet golden malty base solidifying the more fruity, expressive notes to create something quite special.

Now, that’s my idea of a bus stop beer. A pause to catch the breath, to plan out the afternoon’s cookery, and to consider that The Taphaus – which has had some problems over the years it has been open – seems to be turning a corner towards putting the quality of the beer first. Admittedly, I tend to only pop by there when waiting for a bus at that particular stop, but over winter I’ve found my infrequent visits have seen the bar and the service – and the knowledge of the staff – improve each and every time.

It’s a competitive market, selling craft beer in Wellington. And, and beyond the delight of being able to sit in the sun having a quiet beer a metre from a bus stop, what I’m seeing at The Taphaus is bringing me back to stopping by there for the beer rather than just the convenience. And being open on a sunny Sunday lunchtime with a refreshing, easy-drinking, tasty beer like the Hāpi Daze; that’s worth a second or third visit.

Or even, a second or third pint, but not that day – because the bus had arrived, and these beef cheeks won’t braise themselves…

Beervana ‘14

A cluster of North End’s rare and delicious Blanc De Houblon, in Beervana 2014 glassware, with tasting notes and other beer-geek sundries.

The last week and a half has featured a lot of life lived, including some great new music and good beer drunk at the source at breweries in both the North and South Islands. But those things were all just the entrée to the main event: the 2014 edition of Beervana, New Zealand’s biggest beer festival.

And, lo, it was good. Very good. The best Beervana I’ve been to yet.

This year the festival had expanded to take up almost all of Wellington’s Westpac Stadium’s concourse, and the resulting spreading-out of the crowds and bars was noticeable and delightful. I encountered almost no bottlenecks, the crowds far less jostling than in recent years, and lots of seating and spaces to sit down, enjoy the beer, chat with friends, and take some notes.

I guess a complaint could be made that it was now too big. I simply didn’t make it down to the Portland Bar before session’s end. But that was my fault, for deciding to spend over half of my session seated with friends near the Beervana, Festive Brew and Media Brew bars, sampling the beers based over on the newly expanded “Harbour Side” of the Festival. And I did get to try the Portland Beers later, when I worked that bar for the fourth and final session, so it wasn’t as though I missed out entirely.

It goes almost without saying that there was some truly excellent and / or interesting beer available too – but this is a beer blog, so I’ll list some of those that stood out for me.

This year’s Festive Brew was themed to commemorate 100 years since the outset of the First World Way by means of requiring the brewers to use two ingredients integral with ANZAC biscuits: rolled oats and golden syrup, and with encouragement to use additional ingredients such as flour, coconut and butter or more.

It was a challenging brief, and ended up with most of the beers I tried tasting much the same, but it was apparent why Behemoth took home the trophy for their ‘Brave Bikkie Brown Ale’. This 6% abv brown ale nailed the brief completely; with a rich aroma of biscuit baked with coconut and golden syrup, and a rich, sweet and chewy mouthful carrying a dark roasted oats and coconut flavour. A beer that not just tasted like an ANZAC biscuit, but was deliciously drinkable too.

Over at the Media Brew bar the brewers and their collaborators brewed to the theme of “Spring”, with the requirement to include at least one “intrinsically or native New Zealand ingredient”. This led to many interesting and, sometimes, delicious flavour combinations – but truth is I’m not really that keen on beers that taste like cold roast lamb gravy.

Imperial AT-AT PilsnerBut other variations existed – Beer & Brewer Magazine’s Neil Miller and Kereru Brewing made a huge 11% abv pilsner that somehow managed to deliciously combine the aroma of malty Weet-Bix with the flavour of a full, sweet, citrusy Belgian Ale – all under the suitably geeky name of ‘Imperial At-At Pilsner’. Meanwhile, the fellows from the Beerhive Blog worked with Monteiths to create a ‘Raspberry Lamington Wheat Beer’. And it was; sticky, sweet and full of coconut. Though, personally, I tasted more Fluffy Duck than a red coconut sponge cake. But, perhaps that is the “Food of the Unicorns“?

But moving away from the themed one-off beers is where I really began to find my festival favourites. Ever-favourites North End Brewing really impressed with their complex yet refreshing ‘Blanc De Houblon’. This Belgian-style ale had a fascinating contrast between an aroma of lemongrass, bergamot and clove above a flavour of grapefruit and liquorice. Bitter and tangy, lingering long, the complexity playing through the mouth long after you’d swallowed. I’d love to see more of this ale available, but it’s expensive to brew and the yield is small. But, oh, delicious.

I’d never heard of Napier’s Zeelandt Brewery before Beervana, but their Dunkelweizen was my surprise of the day. This dark Bavarian wheat beer wafted an incredibly intense banana and clove aroma, but delivered a soft, effervescent soufflé of chocolate and caramel on the palate. I’ll look for this one again.

And then there was the ‘Rewired Unchained’ from 8 Wired. I adore Søren Eriksen’s Rewired Brown Ale, and this barrel-aged version, loaded with funky Brettanomyces, was just delicious. The tartness of the infection somehow turned the robust brown ale into something full of caramel, while pushing the hoppy aroma of cut grass and summer fruits even more forcefully above the beer. And it was a pleasure to congratulate Søren personally, as he stood behind the bar pouring his beer.

But if I was to be forced to commit to a favourite beer of the festival, it’d have to be a beer I didn’t get to try more than a few mouthfuls of. As I wrote above, I didn’t manage to make the Portland Bar at the other end of the concourse during the one session I attended as a drinker; but before the doors opened for the session I was behind that bar I was able to try what was on offer. And one, the ‘Volta Saison’ from Gigantic Brewing Company just blew me away. Fruity, spicy, and vibrant. Fresh, with an aroma of lip-smacking sour fruits, and a taste of spiced fruit punch and lingering tartness.

It caught my attention immediately, but for me the true reflection on its character came as I served it during the hours that followed. If ever I was given the opportunity to suggest or recommend one of the Portland-sourced beers to a punter, I’d recommend the Volta.

Some people were eager, some wary, some had never heard of the style or tried a Saison before. But each time I encouraged someone to take a punt on the Volta, they’d sniff, then taste and a huge grin would cross their features. Some even returned to thank me for the recommendation, or for a second serving. And that made me happy – if more people expand their horizons and get to taste a good saison (which can be difficult to find in New Zealand, unfortunately), then I’d consider that a success.

Moving away from the beer, there was so much else about Beervana 2014 that I loved. The festival’s always provided great food, but this year was better than ever. The Fire Truck impressed with a fragrant pulled-goat curry served inside a soft warm sourdough bread roll, and while I again lamented the lack of a good range of fresh green options, the smoked chicken Caesar salad from Boulcott St Bistro was superb.

But then there was the Portobello mushroom ‘Double Down’ from Grill Meats Beer; two big grilled flat mushrooms sandwiching a filling of Halloumi, beetroot relish and a crispy fried onion fritter. Amazing; and a great way of providing a vegetarian option that met the popular demand for salty and fatty ‘beer festival food’.

Even the festival glassware for 2014 was a step above – a robust and pretty plastic tasting glass was provided, ensuring punters would be able to take them home without breakage. Tulip-shaped, and slightly bigger than the maximum 250ml serving, it allowed aromas and flavours to develop fully.

And I haven’t even mentioned the plentiful supply of water, and the big, well-stocked merchandise stand at the middle of the concourse’s arc. Or the four new beer / brewery t-shirts I now own…

It was a great weekend, and I enjoyed my time on both sides of the bar. Would Beervana again!

First beer of the day - the Behemoth 'Brave Bikkie Brown Ale', with the author wearing a suitable t-shirt.

First beer of the day – the Behemoth ‘Brave Bikkie Brown Ale’, with the author wearing a suitable t-shirt.

Yeastie Boys ‘Punkadiddle’

IMAG2065I do enjoy drinking beer outside.

Maybe it’s because I’m not too much of a fan of a bar that’s very crowded and noisy inside – years of playing in or watching live bands in small rooms has damaged my hearing a bit, and when there’s a lot of hubbub, babble and music in a crowded bar, I often can’t make out a word that is said to me.

Maybe it’s because I’ve a few friends who are smokers, and so sharing a beer with them almost inevitably means drinking out in the (not-so) clear air.

But, mostly, it’s just I like the feeling of being in the fresh air, being able to see the sky while I sup a nice drink and chat with friends.

Being a hardened Wellingtonian, provided there’s some cover and a bit of hopeful shelter from the wind I’m happy to be in the outside area of a bar in all seasons. Sure, I’d prefer warm summer or dry autumn, but chilly winter and damp spring are fine, too.

But it does help if the bar does have some heating to take the chill off the August night air.

I’m a particular fan of those fire table thingys. You know, the tall ones with a gas flame in a central well, that you can stand around (or sit on a high chair at), with your beer in front of you and the warmth from the flame gently warming both you and the beer against the chill winter air. (Googles – ah, they’re called “fire pit tables”! See, you learn something every day!)

My beloved Bin 44 used to have one of those tall gas fire pit tables, but it stopped working a while back. But this week, when I arrived for a quick after-work beer before heading into town, I was delighted to see a shiny new table had arrived, with a happy orange flame dancing from the well.

To celebrate, my friend and I ordered two pints of Yeastie Boy’s ‘Punkadiddle’. It’s a lovely wee drop, and one that at 3.7% won’t throw your evening into a spin if you have a few. It’s described as an “English Red Ale”, and while it is certainly red in colour I get more of a sense of it being a well made, sessionable English bitter. It’s got a lot of sweet and fruity hops coming off the top of a well rounded, almost nutty malty base, a combination of flavours I tend to associate with a traditional bitter.

But, the malt’s doing something a little bit else, which I guess is the Red Ale element; there’s an almost-sourness. Not unpleasant by any means, but a play between the hops and the reddish malt turns out a flavour that reminds me of a slightly old walnut; where the oils have gone slightly rancid, but not so much that they ruin the delicious nuttiness flavour.

As the glass warmed though, warmed by the dancing flame, this nice little beer just got more charming, the flavours melding smoothly into something almost like a light and fluffy pecan pie; but less sweet. I love a beer with a good taste of nuttiness, and the easy drinking Punkadiddle certainly gave me that flavour.

A great beer to drink while chatting with a friend beside an open flame, fending off the cold of a Wellington winter’s night, watching the run pour down onto the Queens Wharf plaza.


P.S. And, on the subject of Bin 44, congratulations to their Duty Manager Kieran O’Malley and his partner Abigail on the birth of their daughter Eden. Cheers, Kieran, Abigail and little Eden!