Friday, April 27, 2007

Beer O'Clock: Munchner Dunkel

Christchurch’s tiny Wigram Brewery scored a major coup this week, with it’s German-style Munchner Dunkel dark lager awarded a rare gold medal at the Australian International Beer Awards.

A couple of years ago when Wigram won one of their first awards (a packaging gold medal for their aviation-themed branding), I would have told most people that the beers inside were pretty poor. Now, a couple of years on, they just seem to be getting better and better each time I taste them. At BrewNZ last year they picked up some medals for the quality of the beer, rather than the labels, and they now appear to be going from strength to strength.

The Munchner Dunkel has always been my favourite Wigram brew. It pours a very dark chestnut colour, almost black to the untrained eye, and offers up a subtle concoction of grains that hint at dark chocolate, hazelnut, crusty toast and coffee. The hop presence is very subdued, unlike many of the trendy pale ales that currently receive all the press, and lends just a light bitterness to this easy drinking malty lager. After a couple of years of hop-dominated gold medals, it’s really quite nice to see a malt-dominated New Zealand beer picking up a gold medal.

Wigram’s latest medal winning effort is even more remarkable given that last year I visited the brewery and was quite shocked at it’s rudimentary nature – it’s a 'Burt Munro' type of operation, number eight wire stuff, and certainly not what we’d call a “showpiece” brewery. I guess this goes to show that make a great beer is the brewer, and not just his tools.

Their beers are becoming increasingly available, with a good presence in Christchurch and Wellington’s supermarkets and bottle stores, and even in the 'Tapas' café/bar in Carterton. Perhaps this accolade will even see them crack the barren wastelands of Ponsonby Rd.

Slainte mhath, Stu

PS, Dominion Breweries so-called ‘Export Gold’ won NZ’s only other gold medal in the Australian Style Lager category, a category essentially made up to give the big breweries' bland beers a prize to win. So that's the 'gold' part of the label explained; anyone ever seen it for sale in an export market?

LINKS: Wigram Brewery
Munich Dunkel style explained
Munich Dunkel on Ratebeer
Australian International Beer Awards

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