This week's Beer O'Clock post sees the return of beer writer Stu:
Recently, PC's two favourite politicians, Helen and John, fired their opening shots in what is bound to be another relentless tirade of worthless (and very breakable) election-year promises. I won't promise anything for Election 2008, but I will give you a few of my hopes for the upcoming beer year:
- I'd like to see some decent beer in a restaurant or two. Restaurants have been dragging the six-pack for sometime now and I'm demanding a lot more of them. You should too. Frankly, a well-matched beer is at least the equal of any wine when matching with food (especially the buttery and/or spicy dishes that we love to dine out on).
- Please, please, please, NZ brewers: It's time we started to see a wider variety of styles being brewed right here at home. Too many New Zealand craft breweries produce beers to compete with the big players, and more still produce lesser imitations of well known craft beer icons. I'd like to see some of our best brewers really get out there and take a risk. There are so many styles that have not yet been explored in the local beer industry (more on this in the coming weeks and months, as I take a trip through the many beer styles of the world and wonder why our brewers aren't brewing more of them).
- Is 2008 the year we'll see an expansion of the Epic range? Epic Pale Ale burst onto our shelves a couple of years back with a shed-load of hops. It was a taste awakening for many casual beer drinkers, and continues to be so for those only just finding it. Brewer Luke Nicholas recently left his longtime post as head brewer for the Cock and Bull chain of pubs to take over sole charge of the Epic beers and brand. He's tentatively released a couple of white labels under the Epic brand but we're yet to see the widescale release of beer number two. Rumour has it that a hoppy pale lager is on the way...
- A new flag bearer for great tasting craft beer. Richard Emerson (Emerson's) and Luke Nicholas (Epic and until recently, as noted above, Cock and Bull) have been tirelessly waving the flag of great beer for a few years. Others have come and gone, risen and faded, or simmered away promising big things. With success at last year's BrewNZ being split among some of the lesser known microbreweries, there is a possibility that either Three Boys, Renaissance or the huggable Steve Nally of Invercargill Brewery will take up the flag and wave it higher.
- DB stepping up and making a decent beer for a change. Beer for beer, Lion trumps DB in every department. The balance and subtlety of Stella Artois has it all over Heineken. Mac's Hop Rocker gives Monteith's Pilsner the hoppy run around. Mac's Sassy Red is in a class that no DB has ever (in my lifetime) been within shouting distance of. DB seem keener on producing over-priced alcopops, like Radler, than in making a beer with any sort of depth of character.
- Of course, being election year, I'd like to see a political party campaigning on a decrease in the excise tax on alcohol. That's the tax cut I'd most like to see (and probably the one we are least likely to get). At least I'd like to see them answer why it is that all beers pay a higher-level of excise tax (per litre of alcohol) than the average bottle of wine?
Most of all: I'd like to see all New Zealand brewers sending me [and your editor] beer for evaluation. The best of the best will make it into the limelight of 'Not PC', while the ones that don't make the grade will receive invaluable feedback from one of the country's most dedicated students of beer. Call me on 0274186639 for shipping details - and I'm sure PC, in true Libertarian spirit, will not tax me a single drop.
All the best for 2008. Have one for me.
Slainte mhath, Stu