Tuatara ‘Tu-Rye-Ay’, Panhead ‘Triple Eye’ and more…


Tuatara’s Tu-Rye-Ay

Life has a way of flying by when you’re a beer and music blogger who is also holding down a full time job, maintaining a relationship and battling though a winter of bad weather and illness. But, Beervana is just around the corner, so it would be remiss of me not to sit down in front of the keyboard to mention a few of the beery highlights that I’ve encountered since I last posted here.

Black IPAs had never featured particularly strongly on my beer radar; both due to their relative scarcity and the unfortunate subjective truth that I usually didn’t like them. But Epic’s latest version of their Apocalypse IPA impressed me mightily, and so too now has Tuatara’s most recent limited release beer, a black IPA going by the name of ‘Tu-Rye-Ay’.

Well, on the label this beer is described as a “Midnight Rye IPA”, but when a beer pours black as my cat’s fur, is light in body and wafts with an aroma of fruity hops then excuse me if I call a black IPA a black IPA.

However, the rye grain used in the malt does bring a spice and touch of sticky caramel to this ale, but it sits subtly behind the big fruity aroma and zingy freshness. Unlike the rasping roughness of some other rye ales, the first taste to the Tu-Rye-Ay in the mouth is of a clean, clear and a little pine-like resin as the hops wash through.

Then follows a big rush of tangy sweetness, with only a little bit of that stickiness I’ve come to expect from rye ales. The body’s light but cushioned, reminiscent of a porter but a lot more gentle – I’d almost call it feathery.

The predominant notes are from the hops, however – citrus and lemon honey sweetness, rolling together deliciously over the rich, warming dark body. And yet, despite clocking in at 7.5%, this beer doesn’t feel boozy warm – it’s light, refreshing, and distinctly easy to drink. It’s quite a delicious beer.

Very delicious, in fact. I might almost say it might now be my favourite hoppy black ale…

And the beer gets extra points for being promoted with this video; featuring the song the beer is named after and a whole bunch of brewers and Wellington bar staff showing that having a sense of rhythm isn’t necessary to brew or serve good beer!

The 8th annual Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge also took place recently. For this event the Malthouse, that stalwart Wellington craft beer bar, invites brewers to enter their version of (or interpretation of) the style of India Pale Ale that emerged from the West Coast of the United States to take the world by storm. It’s not necessarily an easy to define style beyond “lots o’ hops”.

Typically a West Coast IPA is bracingly bitter and a bit boozier than other IPAs , with the malt being boosted to help the beer remain balanced due to the large amounts of hops involved. But within that purview there’s scope for brewers to experiment, as was demonstrated by the 23 brewers who’d entered this year’s challenge presenting many different variations on the theme.Amongst the golden pale ales there were dark red rye beers, a brown IPA, beers whose hop profiles were resinous and sticky while others were light and fruity.

The event itself is always a fun night at the Malthouse, if you can get in – the doors open at midday, and by four pm or so the bar’s crowded with beer-enthusiasts looking to get a taste of hoppy wonderfulness, as well as many of the brewers themselves. The interest is intense, with the coveted Golden Gumboot at stake for the brewer whose beer most impresses a panel of beer experts.

The most successful beers inevitably go on to be highly sought out when they’re further distributed in bottles and kegs, and often the Challenge presents the punters their first chance at getting a taste of a superb beer that will become part of a brewer’s core range for years to come. It also comes with the chance of tasting a beer that didn’t work out at all, and sometimes that can be fun in its own right.

But that’s the nature of such special events, and you pay you money (for a small glass, if you’re sensible and want to try as many of these boozy drinks as you can) and take your chances!

Panhead's 'Triple Eye'

Panhead’s ‘Triple Eye’

Quite a few of the beers featured on the night of the Challenge have already hit shelves around the country, including Panhead’s ‘Triple Eye’. This beer is monstrous – both in label art and in character. It’s a terrifying 13% abv – a “Triple IPA” indeed!

The hops lead the Triple Eye’s initial assault on your senses, with a big rush of lemony cheesecake sweetness, thick and chewy but with the aroma of fruit filling your nostrils. But then the thick sweet malt kicks in, carrying with it the massive flood of alcohol.

Stronger flavours emerge, at first the taste of sticky cough syrup. But then another flavour emerged, boozy and bittersweet, a flavour I hadn’t tasted for years and, in truth, a flavour I’d never sought out after one particular night where teenage me had drunk a whole litre of this spirit while hanging out on a suburban golf course.

Southern Comfort. I swear Panhead’s Triple Eye tastes like Southern Comfort!

I can’t say I’m really a fan of this beer, but it’s worth seeking out to give it a go (with a friend) if you’re a fan of insanely big IPAs. Not many other beers like it on sale in New Zealand at the moment!

Epic's 'No Agenda'

Epic’s ‘No Agenda’

Another interesting ale from the West Coast IPA Challenge was Epic’s entry for this year, their ‘No Agenda’ American Brown Ale. Though of course, this being from Epic and brewed for the Challenge a better description of this beer may be as a brown IPA.

It certainly is brown, and richly malty, with a lingering liquorice aftertaste. It’s quite well hopped but, speaking again to Luke Nicholas’ continual mastery of hops, the aromatic flavours here are used to boost and add a tang to the malty warmth of what is a solid, reassuring ale. It’s a brown ale, but not your grandpa’s brown ale – and it’s a pretty lovely winter warmer for these dark nights!

However, my two favourite ales of the West Coast IPA Challenge haven’t yet made bottles, and may never do. ‘The Flower Arranger’ by Fork Brewing – the brewing arm of Wellington’s Fork & Brewer gastropub – is light and beautifully golden in the glass, and caresses the air with a delicate, delicious scent of fruit salad.

Aromas of pineapple, grapes, sliced apple and orange draw you in, and then in the mouth that big delicious fruity flavour of passionfruit – that flavour so predominant in New Zealand IPAs – comes on superbly balanced on the lightly sweet base. Quite superb, quite beautiful, and recognised by the judges of the Challenge who awarded it the third place out of the twenty-three entrant.

The eventual winner of the Challenge was the entry from small Wellington brewer ParrotDog, who took out the Golden Gumboot with their ‘HighTime’ IPA – apparently named at the last minute because they’d decided it was “high time” they entered the Challenge.Apparently.

Suffice to say, ParrotDog went a little crazy with the hops for their entry, but what came out the other end was a near-perfect example of a superbly balanced and very drinkable IPA. The floral and fruity hops (yes, passionfruit again!) predominant, soaring over a pared back and vitally robust gentle malt. Despite the full hop flavours the profile sits squarely in the gently fruity part of the palate rather than sticky or harshly bitter.

At the end of the day, I wouldn’t be able to tell you which of The Flower Arranger or HighTime was my favourite – they both struck me as being near perfect examples of the style and, when sat side by side they also present a beautiful picture of golden beery joy. Gorgeous.

Flower Arranger and HighTime. Or is it HighTime and Flower Arranger?

Flower Arranger and HighTime. Or is it HighTime and Flower Arranger?


Tuatara Brewing ‘Black: Toasted Malt’

Tuatara Black ice cream floatIt was a dark and stormy night.

No, really, it was. And cold, bitterly so. The wind blowing in from the south was slamming right into the beachfront bach we’d hired in Raumati. But, inside, we were warm and comfy, all the heaters up full, enjoying that sense of comfort that only comes when you’re away from home, coddled together against the elements in a small, spartan building.

Of course, we’d expected that weather, taking a holiday on a Raumati beach at the tail end of winter. But we didn’t mind, not at all. It was nice to get away from home for just a bit – even if it wasn’t very far away – nice and close to my mother in her nursing home, so we could spend some quality time with her.

And, after dinner, when we’d taken mum home and put her to bed, it was time for us to relax, luxuriate in the warmth while the wind howled outside and the waves crashed against the shore, safe in our dimly lit retreat.

A perfect night for a float with stout.

I’m not sure when I first heard of the idea of serving a stout with ice cream. Sure, Phil Cook’s enthused about them for quite a while, but I’m sure I was aware of them – had drunken them – before then. Or maybe that’s just because, as a concept, the drink just works. Just makes sense. A dry, bitter-sweet stout solid and dark, mingling with sweet, rich ice cream. It just sounds delicious.

So, given we were up the Kapiti Coast, it was appropriate to go local with the ingredients for this wonderfully luxuriant drink. Paraparaumu’s own Tuatara Brewing have recently released a trio of limited edition bottle-conditioned stouts, all with the ‘Black’ name. There’s a dark chocolate version, and one made with coffee but neither of them impressed me as much as the ‘Toasted Malt’ version.

By itself, the Black Toasted Malt is a beautiful mix of complex rich maltiness, bursting with chocolate and toasted bread flavours, which underlies a huge fruity hop flavour, lashings of bitter orange aroma and long, cleansing bitterness.

But, then, add a dollop or two of  vanilla ice cream from Kapiti Fine Foods. The ice cream froths and foams, turning the beer’s head into a airy dreamy cushion. And, as you raise the glass to your lips, the frozen ice cream gentle nuzzles against your lips as the dark beer swirls around it into your mouth, carrying with it a creamy sweetness.

This Tuatara Black is strong enough, especially with its bitter toasted flavours, to survive the rich sweetness of a fine creamy ice cream. The natural vanilla flavouring of the dairy dessert is a perfect match for the chocolate and orange notes of the stout. And each mouthful is different, as differing amounts of beer and ice cream mix together with each sip, until by the end of the glass it’s all a creamy, gorgeous messy mixture of the two, rich and complex flavours melding together into a grown up’s milkshake of delight.

Making this stout ice cream float was a moments inspiration. I’d bought the beer for myself, and the ice cream to have with a delicious chocolate brownie we were planning to have as a late night treat. But there, in the little bach, warm against the winter’s storm, splashing the ice cream into the beer made perfect sense. And sensually, it was a perfect flavour combination.

However, be warned: stout ice cream floats have a particular side effect. Especially if you have facial hair…



Tuatara – Delicious Neck

Delicious neckI had reason to be in Hamilton a fortnight ago. It was quite an educational visit, and many things were learned. I learned that Hamilton zoo has a wonderful bird enclosure (well worth visiting). I also learned it’s nearly impossible to buy a 1.5l of tonic water in the centre of the city on a Saturday night.

I also discovered that people in The ‘Tron dress up for the movies on a Saturday night. Maybe that was due to the cinema we went to – The Lido – was doing its bit to be a bit posh (bloody nice ice cream, there, by the way). Whatever the reason, I did feel a bit under-dressed turning up in jeans and a hoodie (and, as it was warm inside, the hoodie was soon removed to reveal a ParrotDog t-shirt).

We were at the cinema to see What We Do In The Shadows, the horror-comedy-mockumentary from Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement. It’s a good film, funny, hilarious at times. I also learned I was probably the only Wellingtonian in the cinema, as I was the sole person pissing themselves with laughter when it was revealed that the only bar the vampires had a standing invite into was The Big Kumera.

Yeah, that was definitely a “had to be there” joke. But anyone who spent any amount of time in the seedy, shoddy Big Kumera, with its stench of Red Bull and vodka and desperation, carpets sticky with something unmentionable, you’d know that a handful of vampires working the room would definitely not be out of place.

In association with the movie, Tuatara put out a very-limited edition beer, the ‘Delicious Neck’ “Immortal Pale Ale”. And a bloody nice beer it is too. Quite soft and lemony, with a delicious, cleansing, fresh bitter aftertaste. While Tuatara often take their inspiration from the west coast of the USA for their hoppy beers, this was a bit more restrained. Almost more in the style of an English pale ale.

Very easy to drink, and thankfully with a moderate alcohol of 5.2% and moderate amounts of hops, it’s one you can drink a few off without getting off your face or losing the ability to taste for the next two days. I’d like to see more of it, I can see it as a good beer to spend an evening with at a pub, but it’s a very limited release and there may not be much of it left around.

But if you do see a bottle of the Delicious Neck in a supermarket, bottle store or a bar near you, grab it. It’s a good beer, and the label art and spiel well worth the price of admission too. Just like the movie it’s linked with. Two good New Zealand endeavours that deserve success.

Tuatara ‘APA’ (Aotearoa Pale Ale)

IMAG1383I’m all about pointing out that this whole “beer love” thing is jut a bit subjective. But, even within that, there’s layers of subjectivity. Subjectivception.

I mean, what makes up a best beer? A favourite beer? A loved beer? Not for drinkers “generally”, but for each and every one of us. If we had to choose our five desert island beers, what would we choose? And why would we choose them?

Would we choose rare hard-to-find beers, a beer that maybe we’d tried once and were blown away by? But, forced to drink that beer as one of the few left to us until our dying days, would we get sick of it?

Do we choose a full-flavoured, interesting beer that we’ve drunk quite a few of, that we know and love?

And, if I were doing my “five-beers-to-last-the-end-of-my-life” list, I’d probably make up my list with four of the five beers being either rare or interesting or unusual.

But I’d also choose Tuatara’s APA – the Aotearoa Pale Ale version, full of New Zealand grown hops such as Nelson Sauvin, NZ Cascade and Wai-iti. Because, amongst all the tea beers, the hop monsters, the smoked ales, the rich barrel-aged porters I love a good solid, flavourful drinking beer. Like this.

Something I love – and I mean, really love – about the Tuatara APA is its ubiquity. At least down this end of New Zealand’s North Island, you can find the Tuatara APA in either bottles or on tap in quite a number of bars and restaurants. Maybe, even a majority of them (but, admittedly, I don’t tend to visit an entirely representative sample of bars etc, being a beer geek). But, more often I’ve not, over the last two years or so I’ve found that most bars and restaurants I’ve visited have stocked this beer; even bars owned / contracted to the big two.


Because it’s damn good, perhaps?

There’s this big old waft of pine and citrus from the top, and in the mouth it is full, sticky, with grapefruit hops and lip-smacking sticky toffee. It lingers with a big long freshly citrus aftertaste, and that delicious sandpaper-like rasp that a good hoppy beer gives once it’s gone down the throat.  That sensation that just makes you want another sip.

But it’s not overpowering, not too fist-full-of-hop punchy or sticky-sweet aftertaste.  It’s a hoppy beer – a very hoppy beer – but it manages to be acceptable to those who love the hop and those who prefer to taste their breakfast the next morning.

But, I’m sure the quality of this NZ-hopped, American-style pale ale doesn’t explain why it has become so prevalent. That’s surely down to the way that “craft” has become “mainstream” and how Tuatara have managed to insert themselves into the public awareness as a local craft brewer through promotion and good sales work. Which means bars (including contracted bars) and restaurant owners who, deciding to surrender to a bit of this “craft beer market” know of, have heard of, have seen (and, perhaps, drunk and enjoyed) this beer, with its striking blue, red and white tap / label art.  (And, perhaps, with less stupid sexism like another “wants to be large” competitor. Ahem.)

And, I’m sure calling it an Aotearoa Pale Ale hasn’t hurt, either!

And we all who like nice beer get the upside; getting to have this excellent beer with food, with mates, all over the shop. And I’m grateful for it.

It’s also available in six packs at supermarkets and local bottle stores, which is something else I just love to see. Because then I can take a box home and, when the autumn weather allows it, pull some out, put them in the fridge for a bit, then go sit out on the deck with a book, some music, and some nice beer.

Which is really what it’s all about, isn’t it? Nice beer; when and where you want it? I’m all in favour of the rare, the unusual, the challenging; but more often than not I just want a nice beer, at a time when I want a beer.

And with their Aotearoa Pale Ale, Tuatara nicely fill that niche.