Sunday, June 28, 2015

Brothers Beer

I have a love hate relationship with Brothers beer, ok scratch that. I don't hate Brothers beer, but sometimes I find myself extremely annoyed.

I love the vibe of brothers, especially when its only just full. I like the old school thunderbird toys dotting the bar, plenty of beer mags to pour over while waiting for friends and seventies style furniture retrieved from the grandparents batch.

Friday nights can be busy and after spending ten minutes in line I still don;t know what beer I want because I don't even know what beer they have. Thats right, no convenient beer list anywhere to be found. So what happens is every punter is forced to make in decision in the the 30 seconds in which they can actually see the tap labels. Of course brothers beer staff are awesome and will help people choose a beer, offer samples etc. BUT IF THERE WAS A BEER LIST with a brief description at least we would have some idea before we got to the bar and I wouldn't be stuck holding up the queue and feeling rushed because Ive only got 30 seconds at most to read all the tap labels and make a choice. They seem to have a point of pride about not having a beer list (WHY!?) or a helpful easy to update black board or one of these digital beer boards or this beer screen.

Brothers have a great beer selection but storage of the bottled beer is pretty bad, the place is hot in summer and international imports don't travel well best of times. If they sit and bake for 3 months over summer in that oven of a place you end up with some shit beer.

I love the fact that they make old school toasted sandwiches and tasty thin base style pizza's. The food's an after thought to the beer but its fun, good and easy for the bar staff to whip up in their micro kitchen! This guys actually make do with very little space and they've built up a huge number of regulars without having to do much in the way of marketing (and with no road frontage).

Brothers seem to be one of the few bars I've been to that doesn't feel the need to pump out poorly chosen top 40 hits at a decibel level that completely shuts down conversation. Sure those sorts of tactic make me drink my beer faster, but they also make me leave faster and never come back. Having the sound space to have a decent conversation definitely leads to the ordering of more beer to keep the good times going.

I'm looking forward to their new project opening in Mt Eden soon, hopefully more space and better storage of the bottled beer and hey, maybe even a FUCKING beer list.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Cheap Hearty Easy Tasty Eats

I've been challenging myself to save more money.

But hell, I'm used to a decadent life of drinking and eating. Thankfully the home-brew takes care of the drinking however food is another joy in life and I'm not about to downsize to ramen every night.

Here's a couple of my go to dishes when I'm on a budget. They are very easy and super delicious.

Red Lentil and Carrot Soup

Don't freak out. Lentils are actually awesome.

Bowl of red lentil soup looking damn tasty
Actual photo of the dish made by me, not some pretty picture from a magazine
1 onion, 2 carrots, garlic, (2 strips of bacon optional)
1 Tablespoon Paprika, Cumin, Turmeric (1/2 teaspoon chili flakes optional)
1.5 L Stock (chicken or vegetable, can replace up to 2 cups with water)
1 Tablespoons of Tomato paste
250g Red lentils
Salt and pepper to taste

Sautee the diced onions and carrots in some oil, whatever you have/like to use. Add bacon if you're that way inclined and garlic (to taste, about 2 teaspoons crushed is nice). Once the veges are soft add all the spices, then when they are nicely cooked add the tomato paste and stir for a bit. Finally add the lentils and stock, bring to the boil, turn down and simmer till lentils are nice and mushy.

So easy and makes 4-5 massive serves. Dish it up with bread or some greek yoghurt or sour cream. Whatever you have is good and even on its own its a stand out meal.

This dish is easily customised to your tastes, add whatever left over veges you have, put in more tomato paste, go nuts with the chilli, add herbs! Just don't leave out the red lentils they give this soup an amazing thick and satisfying texture .


This is basically eggs poached in tomatoes with whatever else you have lying around the kitchen.

Yep the actual dish as cooked on my stove. Real life baby.

2 eggs
Onions, garlic, greens
A bit of butter or oil to cook the veges in
1/2 can of tomatoes
Your favourite herbs/spices that go well with tomato

So just sautee up some onions and garlic and whatever other thinly sliced veges you like, maybe some peppers or some greens. I like baby kale/spinach. You can put in some spices, cumin maybe, chilli or herbs. (I like to spinkle some sumac over the dish at the end).

Add 1/2 a can of diced tomatoes and cook them for a bit, after a while make a hole in the tomato/vege mix and cracked an egg into the gap. Repeat, turn pan to low cover and wait till eggs are cooked.

So easy and looks pretty flash. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Bullying over Hop names

So I'm drinking the delicious Croucher St. Ella, a sweet easy drinking IPA hiding a dangerous 7% ABV. As of today you can find it on tap at Hopscotch. Its $18 for 1L but get in quick, those taps are ever changing!

The hops featured in the beer are Ella, developed in Tasmania. These are interesting hops, I'd love to see them used in a belgian beer or maybe blended with something a bit sharper. Not too massive in the aroma stakes but a decent amount of flavour.

Anyway when I bought the beer I heard a little story. Originally the hops were called Stella but some big international beer brand decided to pressure Hop products Australia (HPA) into dropping the name.

What a bunch of dicks. I wish HPA had the balls, time and money to stand up to these guys. "Stella" could be a chicks name, a colloquial version of stellar, a reference to the stars and surely refers to something different (a flower no less) than the finished product that this beer company seems to be so vehemently defending.

So Croucher, having heard the story has named their IPA St Ella as a little bit of a efff you to the international brewery. Damn straight Croucher. Good call.

And its a good beer, it won gold at the 2014 NZ brewers guild awards. You should get some.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The New Zealand Beer Fest 2014

Last year I went as a patron, this year I had the chance to work behind the bar with an amazing team from Tuatara. 

The first session was easy, busy, but turnover was quick in the queues. Waits for a refill seemed short. There was plenty of time to talk about the beers. I didn't see much in the way of bad behaviour except at the very end where someone decided to give one of our glasses filled with hop pellets a nudge off the table, quite deliberately. But with the mess quickly taken care off and a lesson learned we took a break and topped up the ice in the jockey boxes for the next session.

The evening session was another world, I didn't see anything except a wall of people for 4 hours. Beer after a beer after beer got served, It was quite the buzz as we got into the swing of things and started.

99.9% of people were awesome. We got a lot of cheeky pleas for a full pour. But most people already knew the rules, I had a couple of requests for an extra 5mls to get the beer exactly to the 165ml line while the security guard was keeping a super watchful eye to make sure I didn't go a drop over. At first the "to line rule" had a margin of error, slightly over the line by a mm or two was passable, but then we got the hard word, "To the line only" no room for error. This was my first day pouring beer in this kind of situation, but even the more experience guys were having a hard time. So we got a couple of buckets to tip out any beer slight over the line. Now there can't have been more than 2L in those by the end of the day and that includes a few wrong orders and bad pours (all foam). So I don't know how much difference us serving a extra couple of litres over the course of the whole day would have made.

No sampling for crew either, I felt real bad turning down a sample of some delicious smelling vanilla porter in the first session, but the I didn't want to let the team down by being kicked out or filmed doing it by the council.

I left about 8:30, half an hour after service, it was emptying out but people were still eating and hanging out. It makes sense to have people leave in a more staggered fashion. I talked to the st johns people on the way out and they said they'd had a very quiet night so far. Nice to see the Red Frog team handing out water and snacks.

Overall it was a fun day, I'd do it again in a heart beat, the only bummer was having to walk out of the festival after a hardout 11 hour day to get my first beer.

If I was attending next year (if it goes ahead next year) I would definitely go to the morning session. I don't think I could handle the crowds of the evening.

A different marketing strategy might help too, by simply calling it a Beerfest a lot of people do think of beer halls and massive steins of lager. (I lost count of the times I was asked if we had any lager in the 2nd session!) By promoting in more as a "craft" beer tasting event perhaps people would be more satisfied with small serves and not just arriving with the aim of consuming as much beer as possible. But can the Beerfest survive as it is, trying to be all things to all people?

I haven't heard yet if the festival passed the councils stringent new liquor rules, so if anyone has any info on what the council and police though of the evening I'd love to hear it!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Auckland bars improving, but more education needed.

A couple of weeks ago I handed over some of my hard earned dollars for the privilege of trying a beer I was completely unfamiliar with.

De Molen Donder & Bliksem (thunder and lightning) has such an appealing name, it jumped off the beer list, how could I not try it. "Bring me a bottle of your Donder and Bliksem" was met with a bit of a blank stare and then a "huh?" so I pointed it out on the beer list.

First attempt a retrieving the beer from the back room was a failure, oops wrong beer. Second attempt was on the money but then travesty. This bottle conditioned pilsner style beer was unceremoniously dumped into the glass, trub and all. The bottle then promptly whisked away, which was a shame as I was wondering how fresh it was.

A bartender should know when a beer they are serving is bottle conditioned. They should also know how to pour a beer, this guy didn't even pick up the glass, he may have just upended the bottle for all the finesse he used. Now I'm not opposed to haze or even a cloudy beer, lots of beers are just like that. What I don't like is having all the trub in my glass as well. Distinct lack of head too (detergent residue in glass or does the beer just have poor head). Now I don't know if the beer is just poorly brewed or old or badly shipped and stored but overall this beer didn't feel at its best.

Nice to have an extensive beer list, bit sad if you don't know how to present them. I am kicking myself because I didn't have the guts to say anything about it. If only I'd read the guide to refusing a beer, maybe I would have had more confidence! 

The Brewers Guild Certificate in the Craft of Beer is a good start for improving awareness of craft beer but I wonder how many full time tertiary hospitality courses include a segment on proper beer serving? However I suspect many people who work in the hospitality industry haven't had any kind of formal training apart from on the job learning. Nothing wrong with on the job learning but you are limited by the abilities of your mentor, if they don't know any better then you won't get taught any better.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Sunshine Brewery - Gisborne Gold

So I picked this up for 2.99 at my local Pac'n'sav. Sunshine brewery was sold last year to 4 new owners one of whom owns Vintners Ltd (Mark Young). Vintners is a national wine distribution and marketing company and they have also taken over distributing Gisborne Gold. Thats probably how it managed to get a spot on the shelf at Wairau Pac'n'sav, home to a usually dismal selection of craft beers. 

Gisborne cold is a crystal clear honey straw colour with abundant carbonation and a serviceable white foam head. Head retention is excellent as thousands of bubbles keep it going right till the end of the glass. Sunshine in a glass alright.

I love the hop profile, its quite surprising for a lager. Not too much is given away on the nose but there is a lovely grapefruit bitterness with an underlying smoothness of tropical fruit. The malts are lovely and crisp with hints of toast. It finishes with the hops and a refreshing bitterness lingers. It just feels like a fresh beer, sometimes I get a real musty/dusty flavour from some of the mass produced lagers but Gisborne Gold just screams refined crispness. This is a very drinkable beer. Much better than anything you'll find in a green bottle sold by the dozen at Pac'n'save thats for sure.

At 4% ABV and super drinkable is a perfect lawnmower beer. Will definitely be a summer favourite if I could find it in reasonably priced six packs.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Green Flash - Green Bullet

Who can be sad about beer for christmas, unless you get sick and don't even feel like a beer till 4 days after christmas. I've been plenty sad about all the beer I can't drink. Plenty sad.
Today I feel well enough to crave an afternoon beer and thankfully my clever husband picked up on all my subtle hints and bought me a delicious selection of beers from The Beer Cellar for my christmas treat. However my decision to start with a small bottle may have slightly backfired as the Green Bullet is 10.1% alcohol, but it wears it well, great colour with an innocently white foamy head.
Aroma is skunky, but not in the common use of the word regarding beer. It reminds me of things I was fortunate/unfortunate enough to smell in my youth. A similar weed of the same family whose aroma sometimes presents itself in certain beers. So its got a dank, vegetative smell. Heady and earthy.
Taste is grassy, spicy, slightly floral and sweet. Its heavy and hard going. One must sip the beasty slowly least one angers it, this beer require respectful drinking by my short self. Full malt body holds it own against the bitter hops, half way through the glass and with more warmth the pine flavours start to wade through the heavy malts and alcohol and hints of caramalised pineapple add to the experience.
Even with some alluring flavours this beer is taking me forever to drink. Its just a little too much of everything. A fitting brew for the season where over indulgence seems to be the order of the day.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Croucher - Patriot, American Black Ale.

In the fading light of a Monday evening a cool bottle of Croucher Patriot waits, while I clean the kitchen, a beer waits. While I make an urgent phone call while my husband cleans the kitchen, a beer waits.

Well wait no more Patriot, I've been eyeing you up for days now and its time to imbibe! Really sturdy dark red/brown colour, slightly tan head that persists and leaves lovely lacing and adding a perception of creaminess to the beer. 

I think I was expecting this to be super hoppy, American themes in labelling is usually a dead giveaway. Hop aroma is mild, a little citrus with some earthy pine aroma's. Some great malty notes coming forward too. Sweet, subtle hints of shortbread and toasted grain.

So what is this? I honestly don't know. There's great piney bitterness on the finish with hints of bittersweet chocolate and coffee. There's orangey grapefruit with biscuity malty goodness. There's a delightful zing on the tongue and an irresistible urge to drink more and more. Is this the wonder that is black IPA? Its confusingly delicious and there's a nice hoppy buzz to be had from not sharing the bottle. At only 5.5% its easy to enjoy by yourself on a warms summers eve.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Kegerator Drip Tray Bargain

My kegerator in the garage has been making a bit of a mess, there's two stains on the concrete right under the taps from wayward beer. It's enough to make my husband give me that look, y'know the one.  Where they look at you sideways and grumble "suselorrrrre.........". So I've been looking for a drip tray but the options online were well over $100 and I'm on a budget. Lab technician salary plus Auckland mortgage doesn't equal the financial wonderland I thought it would. 

So I couldn't believe my luck when I found this while out shopping for a hacksaw. A magnetic tool tray   at Wairau Bunnings for $14. Thats right $14. Its got super strong magnets and a rubber back so you don't scratch your fridge. Easy  enough to reposition but strong, it wont be knocked off without some serious effort. It's 31cm wide and just in case you want one too I found it near the socket sets in the power tool area.