Friday, 23 October 2009

The Beer O’Clock Special Official Beer Tasting Thing

You’ve been challenged.  A few weeks back we were talking here or somewhere about beers of quality -- beers of taste -- beers you should get inside you – and young Willy opined that we wouldn’t know the difference between one brown muck and another.

And since on this blog we advocate taking nothing on faith (“nothing on face” as the great woman sort of told Mike Wallace), we swing into action to prove two things:

  1. That young Willy owes us all an apology.
  2. That we can indeed organise a piss-up, both within a brewery and without.

So a piss-up beer tasting has now been arranged.  And you’re invited.

The tasting will be Saturday week, 31st October and will be done over two rounds: the first session in a secret location that looks very much like the garden used for that taste-off shown on the right, where we’ll see if anyone can tell one mainstream beer from another; and the second up the road at Galbraith’s, where we can work through one (or several) of their tasting racks. 

Your tasting guide for the afternoon/evening/early morning will be the Mr Greig McG, the brew-meister and beer maven of Hamilton’s world renowned Ruakura Campus Beer Tasting Club.

Plan for the first round (and you can tell this has been written by an innumerate scientist) afternoon session: 5 jugs labelled samples A through G will be divided into “light” and “dark” beers. A list of beers will also be provided containing 8 choices. Participants may sample the jugs in any order, and must identify which beers from the list they are.

Entry fee is a six-pack of your favourite mainstream beer of choice from the following lists:

Round 1, part 1. "All That Glistens Is Not Gold"
       Any five of:
       Export Gold
       Lion Red
       Speights Gold
       Crown Lager
       DB Bitter
       Ranfurly Draught
       Victoria Bitter

Round 1, part 2. "Cheeky Darkies" (slight variation - not
       enough mainstream darks to have extras, so just mix and match)
       Any five of:
       Monteiths Black
       Speights Old Dark
       Mac's Black
       Monteith’s Black
       Cooper’s Extra Stout

For Round 2, “The Gold Standard,” we start with a glass each of either (depending on taste) the Munich Lager, the Bohemian Pilsner or the Grafton Porter to cleanse our palates, before getting on with he serious drinking tasting. 

Our beer meister suggests we just do this simply by working through the Galbraith’s tasting tray – which experience indicates will often require several trays in order to compare, contrast and record the fulll range of beers on offer. Discussion, abuse, and general merriment may or may not ensue (such things not being compulsory, you understand).

Volunteers will be be called for to write up the whole experience for next week’s Beer O'Clock post, and if anyone is still standing there will be a single malt tasting to follow.  Or maybe tequila.

The session promises to give new meaning to the expression “a blind taste test.”

If you’re interested, then drop me an email (at organon at with either “GOLDEN LAGER” or “DARK BEER” in the subject line and let me know what your beer of choice is going to be (first come, first served – so to speak), and I’ll let you know where it’s going to be.


  1. the drunken watchman24 Oct 2009, 08:28:00

    Am I missing something? or have you nouveaux riche missed the part where you test whether non-mainstream beers can be told from mainstream beers, or indeed from each other. Or is this just a tired old beat-up on mainstream beers?

    If I haven't missed a component, then this is a straw man's experiment.

  2. "nouveaux riche"?!!! For liking beer that actually tastes like it was made with hops and malted barley, instead of fermented dog urine?!!! Consider me a freaking yuppie then!

  3. Watchman: By all means post your suggestions to improve the beat-up, oops, the tasting. All suggestions gratefully received. :-)

  4. And as a follow up you could join us at the Great Day Out at the Alan Gibbs farm where Hallertau Brewbar Restaurant is supplying the beer and food.

    Go to:

  5. the drunken watchman24 Oct 2009, 18:45:00

    PC: It's obvious. Include all your samples, mainstream and non-mainstream both, in the blind taste, not just a selection of dog urine. I predict your conclusion will be that the 'dog urine' all tastes like 'dog urine'. Meantime, you will all wax favourably on the nouveau brews which were conveniently exempt from the blind taste test in an experiment designed to prove your point.

    However, again an uneasy feeling I have missed something, so obvious is my observation of experimental bias.

    Blair: Thanks for illustrating my point. Let the people drink dog urine, eh.

  6. Drunken Watchman, I wish you could make yourself available for the beer tasting next Saturday. I will take Ranfurly draft and if you manage to make it here to Auckland, then I will bring some Waikato beer for you (you know that I also like Waikato beer too which PC doesn't). So, if you can make the trip, I will take some Waikato for you. I noted that you didn't like the Ranfurly draft that I brought over last Christmas, but anyway, the blind beer taste is to validate if people are going by brand (prior knowledge with bias) or not.

  7. Erm, yes, I of course meant A through E. Innumerate indeed. My only excuse is I was typing it after a few pints at the Twisted Hop, and had revised it several times.

    DW: As FF pointed out, the experiment is more to show that the mainstream beers just aren't that different from each other. And it's more designed as a bit of fun rather than anything seriously intellectual. It is beer, after all.

  8. the Drunken Watchman26 Oct 2009, 07:34:00

    Greig: Sorry, must be me. I still dont understand why you wouldn't put all the beers into the taste test, instead of just those about which you have drawn a preconceived conclusion.

    Really dont get it. Nevermind, maybe it's the unintellectual brand of beer I drink. Besides, I really wouldn't want to spoil your fun.

  9. the Drunken Watchman26 Oct 2009, 08:04:00

    Falafulu Fisi

    Thanks for the offer Man, but declined.

    For some strange reason I don't get the point of the taste test - other than to prove a preconceived conclusion and/ or to have a rollicking good laugh at the poor taste of most of New Zealand.Were all the beers included in the test, then perhaps the rollicking good laugh could be shared around a bit, rather than hogged by the enlightened ones.

    Although Ranfurly is not my first preference (nor is Waikato, btw), I wouldn't say No if the occasion was right. I think calling you the drinker of 'dog urine'would say more abot my pretensions than about your taste.

    Good to hear from you and Enjoy!

  10. DW: I actually agree with you, but designed it this way for a very practical reason. Galbraith's doesn't serve much mainstream beer (and their license won't let us BYO), and you can't easily obtain much craft beer in packaged form around Auckland. If you can find it, guaranteeing its freshness isn't always easy. Hence, round one is at PC's place, and round 2 is at Galbraith's. I certainly don't intend to snort derisively. PC might - his choice! :)

    Just so you know, also, I *have* done this experiment with craft and mainstream beers in a mixed flight before. The results are what I expected, but there's always the odd surprise - closest in the craft beers emulating the mainstream. Emerson's Pilsner was once ranked lower than Export Gold, but a) the Emerson's bottle wasn't fresh, and b) upon repeat later, with the same group and a fresh sample, the result was overwhelmingly reversed.

    Out of interest DW, do you drink wine at all? Or spirits? If so, do you stick to one brand? A big part of doing anything like this, for me, is just to get people away from the beer == one brand mentality. If, afterwards, they honestly want to stick to it, fine. Their choice. But *informed* choice is a cool thing, and how can getting a bit more informed about beer in a fun environment be in any way bad?

    (Holy crap, the captcha is "vader")

  11. Oh, just one other thing... you say your beer is "unintellectual" - what beer IS intellectual? Beer is an awesome thing, but I'm not sure I'd associate it too strongly with intellectualism. Nor would I do so with any food or beverage. Literature, maybe! :)

  12. the Drunken Watchman29 Oct 2009, 11:03:00


    Yes, depending on circumstances I drink almost anything, except dog urine.And FF's Ranfurly (but only because of its lack of quality control).

    I would drink more wine except I consider every sip of wine a wasted sip of beer.

    My choice of brand depends a lot on price and practicality, again depending on circumstances. If I am doing a case a day, I don't have the will, time or means to hunt for individual 'craft' bottles.

    Although I don't mind sampling around, I don't consider sticking to one brand unenlightened. A bit like buying one brand of milk, or bread for your whole life. Or unflavoured water. I don't consider that something worth railing against, and I find pretentious such concern for what is (subjectively)seen as someone else's poor taste.

    'Unintellectual' beer is me taking a shot at the 'overthinking' (as you once called it) that is springing up around beer. The lack of wine-like posturing used to be one of the things I liked about beer.

    I recently heard a particular wine described as, among other meaningless epithets, 'non-threatening'.WTF?

    BTW, I note there was some discussion about favorite beers not tasting as good abroad. Whoever wrote that piece figured it was due to circumstances. I reckon it's called formaldehyde.Staleness too, probably. Some beers bottled for export are loaded up with preservatives for the long journey. In the Philippines, San Miguel is reputed to be relatively preservative-free - because the stuff is drunk as fast as it can be brewed. But buy a bottle of San Mig in Hong Kong, it will likely make you puke.

    Have a nice time on Friday.

  13. the Drunken Watchman29 Oct 2009, 11:10:00

    BTW Greig I dont remember seeing anything (in the original taste-test proposal) about the second round of 'craft' beers being tasted 'blind' - hence my objection that the experiment was skewed.

  14. This is probably one of those conversations best had over a pint of said beverage.

    If I could make one suggestion though it would be this: Let other people make beer intellectual if they choose to. I'll certainly do so also when it suits me. It shouldn't be any skin off your nose. My goal is to get as many people drinking beer as possible. I want them to be knowledgeable about it too. Informed choice means (in my opinion) that they are more likely to choose the more flavourful, complex beer over the mainstream relatively bland beer. This will drive demand, and thus increase availability of the sort of beers I would like to be able to buy without having to hunt high and low for them. Pure selfishness, you see? :)

    There will always be a place for the bland thirst quenchers as long as there is demand for them. As you pointed out, it's expensive and inconvenient to put together a mixed dozen craft beers for a "just drink the damn beer" session. :) I solve this by brewing - always plenty of decent stuff to hand (he says modestly).

    I think it's important to remember that people discussing something they are really passionate about in-depth is not posturing. If someone sees that sort of discussion as posturing, I think the problem lies with the observer. I do know what you mean though. I've seen it a lot with wine. Beer-posturing seems mostly limited to green-bottle, label-out-for-all-to-see, "look at me, I have an imported beer" drinking. I've not really seen people drinking local or imported craft beers for snob value. There's not much point. To get snob points, someone else would have to recognise it, and know it is superior. Not really likely at the moment. I'm sure there will be beer snobs. I'll welcome them. It'll mean SOBA/Brewers's Guild/passionate drinkers etc. have promoted craft beer enough for it to be recognised and perceived as having snob value! No, I still won't want to talk to them at parties. ;)

    I think I'll give up attempting to defend the experiment as particularly scientific. It's just supposed to be an eye opener. The first part is blind as the contention was that one mainstream beer is significantly better (or more identifiable) than another. The second part is just a general tasting - meant more to open the eyes and tastebuds of those who have never had craft beer before. I already foresee problems due to the fact that most Galbraiths ales are served "warm and flat" (12C ish and naturally conditioned - low levels of carbonation). This will be enough of a shock to people that it may put them off for life. I'm relying on being able to talk people past that point to looking for the flavours.

    Another note for anyone having read through all that: It seems I have to be back in Hamilton for the evening, so my participation may be a little more dry than anticipated. I shall certainly partake in the blind taste part, but might depart Galbraiths after a short stay and not much beer, lest the long arm of the law find me over the limit. Apologies, but I am still looking forward to it, and also to meeting some of you for the first time.

  15. I keep doing this "and another thing" schtick! :)

    Anyway, one of my favourite Wellingtonians (and that's a big call, as I love many of them) just posted this over on the Malthouse blog. It's quite apt, and as usual, says things far better than I ever could.


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