Friday, December 05, 2008

Beer O’Clock: Best of 2008

Stu from Yeastie Boys, SOBA, and all points in between looks back at NZ’s year in beer…

Fresh from a busy week (starting a new job, releasing a new beer and cycling 320km last Saturday) here are my top ten New Zealand beers of 2008*:

  • Cock and Bull Monk's Habit - Lots of hops and malt, and a little strong for the drivers, but this beer is balance beersonified. Becoming hard to find (if not impossible) outside Cock and Bull pubs, which is a crying shame
  • Emerson’s Bookbinder – Still the best beer name in New Zealand and, although I still pine for a return to the English malt of its origins, it is the number one widely available session beer in New Zealand. At 3.7% you can have two pints and drive home.
  • Epic Pale Ale - New Zealand's most consistently true-to-origin (and award winning) American Pale Ale. And for those of you who love to mix-n-match, this beer is now available in single 500ml bottles. 
    Invercargill Pitch Black – Sweet and sexy. This is the beer that black ale lovers are thinking about when they crack open a bottle of beer. Puts the mainstream black beers to shame and tastes fantastic in a pie filling.
  • Invercargilll Smokin' Bishop - The second year of this annually-released smoked bock was even better than the first year, and that's saying something. With this and his “Boysenbeery”, Steve Nally is making a name for himself as the very best off-centred beer maker in New Zealand.
  • Moa Original – Very special. A fantastic combination a sweet malt, smooth bitterness, and mouth-filling yeasty goodness (and it comes in a nice bottle too!). 750ml bottles or bigger please (the smaller ones are filtered and pasteurised, leaving them short of the balancing yeasty goodness). Drop the champagne at Christmas and put one of these bottles on the table.
  • Renaissance Perfection - More guts and a little less refinement than Epic Pale Ale, which is often the way I like it. Sweeter, hoppier, and more bitter. The most improved beer (and brewery) of the last couple of years.
  • Renaissance Elemental – The beer world’s equivalent of a big tannin-balanced red wine. Sweet malts carry berry fruit, dark chocolate, a little toast, a neat fruity hop flavour and resounding bitterness with a long ashy finish.
  • Tuatara Porter - Subtle and sexy. Lighter, drier and easier to drink than people are expecting from a black ale and is a fantastic showcase of “ale” with its delicate fermentation fruitiness.

What else in 2008?

  • It’s the year we said goodbye to Colin Paige, the head brewer who brought Mac’s back from the brink of ‘Monteithsian’ collapse (with beers like the outstanding Brewjolais, sassy Sassy Red, the oh-so-drinkable Hop Rocker and the much missed Wicked Blonde). Colin’s off to Asia to build something fresh and enjoy some warmer weather.
  • Galbraith's (right) and The Twisted Hop remain New Zealand’s best brewpubs - two great venues with outstanding beers for the lucky locals in Auckland and Christchurch. Aucklanders are doubly lucky as they have the relaxed atmosphere and interesting beers of Hallertau just a short drive away.
  • The best new business venture, and a winning solution to the “where do we bloody get these beers you rave on about?” question that I’m constantly asked - www.beerstore.co.nz

* DISCLOSURE: This list could change subtly on any day of the week but will never include my own Yeastie Boys beers, simply because they transcend all ‘best of’ lists.  ;-)

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