Wild & Woolly ‘Basilisk Spiced Berliner Weisse’ and Mikkeller ‘It’s Alive Chardonnay Barrel Aged with Mango’


So far I’ve mentioned some of the sour and un-beer-like beers I encountered at the X-Ale mini-beer-fest; now time to mention two of the nifty spiced and fruit-flavoured beers that were also on the menu.

First up, Wild & Woolly’s ‘Basilisk Spiced Berliner Weisse’.   Now, I’ve got absolutely no idea who Wild & Woolly are.  Questions asked about the brewery were met by answers along the lines of “he was just standing there a second ago”, “he’s around here somewhere,” and “Llew, you know?”

A bit of Googling[1] revealed little more apart from an upcoming Craft Beer College tasting at Hashigo Zake, which looks quite interesting…

But, moving along, next was the question of the beer’s name.  Was it something to do with the mythical creature whose gaze turns its victim to stone?  At 3% abv, getting quickly stoned didn’t seem likely.  Was it something to do with the flavourings, which included kaffir lime leaf, lemon zest and Thai basil?   Questions along those lines were also met with “ask the brewer, he’s just over there.”  “I’m sure he was there a second ago.”

By this point, the brewer seemed as mythical as the basilisk.

But I was sure about the beer.  Damn delicious.  Absolutely full of the sharp, tangy flavours of the lime and lemon.  Like sniffing a fresh lime leaf, the aroma made me smile, lifting the spirits straight away.  In the mouth it was hugely fruity, a round sweetness followed by a superb tartness.

Another one of the X-Ale beers I’d have loved to enjoy outside on a hot summer’s day.  And, at 3%, you could sit with a number of them on a long afternoon, watching a former national villain become a hero by scoring lots of ‘runs’ at sportsball.[2]

Based on the 100 or so millilitres I had of this Basilisk at X-Ale, it’s earned a tentative place in my beer dictionary against the word “refreshing.”  I’d like to try more, to see if it will cement its place.

At the higher end of the booze scale, but no less fun and fruity, was Mikkeller’sIt’s Alive Chardonnay Barrel Aged with Mango.’    The 8% abv carried aloft a big, full sweet aroma of fruit and Chardonnay sharpness, and in the mouth it was absolutely full of mango flavours.  Chardonnay often carries that flavour, anyway, so aging this sour beer in the wine barrel with a some of the fruit itself just brought the whole round and sweet, and slightly acidic flavour all the way forward.

Like a bite of the fruit, it was big and bright up front, nearly eye-watering, but faded to a hugely sweet and delicious aftertaste.  Like a boozy, bright mango spritzer.  Of sour beer.



[1] “And all this time I thought ‘Googling yourself’ meant the other thing!”

[2] Yeah, I don’t pay attention to cricket, sorry. But some things as important as this week’s news even sneak into my awareness!


Kereru ‘Karengose’ and 8 Wired ‘Pilsner re-fermented with Brett’

X-Ale II

Kereru Karengose

I love sour beers.  And I would love to see more sour beers on New Zealand shelves, but at the moment we’re still in that great heady rush of hoppy ales.

Yet nearly every brewer I’ve talked to about sour beers also exclaims their love of drinking and experimenting with them, and of plans advanced to one stage or another to get one out there for drinkers.  But, often, there’s a hint that they know the beer might not find an audience with many drinkers…

Which was one of the great things about X-Ale; brewers able to have a crack at, play with, have some fun with some sour variations, knowing that there’d be drinkers waiting at the other end for the keg they end up producing.

A few weeks ago I’d been out in Upper Hutt visiting Kereru Brewing when Chris Mills, the head pigeon[1], told me that he’d prepared for X-Ale a sour seaweed ale.  I was immediately excited, interested in how the saltiness and sometimes glutinous umami of seaweed might work in a beer, especially a sour beer.

So, it was one of the first ales I went to when finally down in Hashigo Zake, last Saturday.

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Southern Tier Crème Brûlée Stout

Good beer photography is always a tricky prospect in Hashigo Zake’s moody lighting, especially if you’re using the camera on your phone and have had a few.

So, as I mentioned in the previous post, X-Ale 2014 was held last Saturday.  A ticket-only, closed-door mini-festival of fifteen extreme, unusual and one-off beers, held in an underground bunker while the Sevens chaos began again outside.

It was great fun.  If Hashigo Zake hold it again, I’ll go again.

But where do I start, with fifteen notable beers to write about?

You start at the end, of course.

I’d been holding back on the Southern Tier Crème Brûlée (9.6%) for the entire afternoon, having heard so much about it before hand.  “Our very last keg” of the beer, to be precise – Southern Tier having decided to stop exporting their beers for some reason.[1]

I certainly wasn’t disappointed.  Brewed with vanilla amongst the ingredients, this imperial milk stout was spectacular and delicious, and it truly lived up to its name.

Big, bold and dark, topped with a head that looked just like whipped cream. Lifting the glass to the nose brought a huge delicious aroma of caramel poured over a rich vanilla ice cream.  The first sip completely filled the mouth with thick sweet custard, milky and rich, buffeted deliciously by the sharp burnt flavour of a freshly made caramel sauce.

Indeed, as I drunk it, my sense-memory more slid back to my favourite childhood desert. Brown sugar, slowly caramelized with a vanilla bean in a pot, poured over rich, fat, New Zealand vanilla ice cream.   And this was those flavours, in a glass, including the slightly harsh burnt sugar after-taste of a very natural, very rich caramel.

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