Tuesday, 18 December 2012

The 12 beers of Christmas

2102 was the year of craft beer—the year when craft beer was everywhere. Even in Lion Breweries’s portfolio.

So what was my own personal 12 beers of 2012—beers I noticed1—beers with a summery tinge2—beers above and beyond my usual favourites3—beers I’ll be making a special point to track down and consumer over the summer?

  1. Harrington’s ‘Rogue Hop’
    'An organic pilsener, this surprisingly hoppy pilsener is perfect for summer. Seen about in a few shops now in surprisingly affordable slabs. And if you’re visiting Christchurch, visit the brewery and load up some riggers to take home in your spare suitcase. I know I have.
  2. Garage Project’s ‘Day of the Dead’
    Why would you add chilli to a porter? You’d only ask that question before you’ve had one of these. The one exception to the rule that beer only has four ingredients.
  3. Yeastie Boys’sRex Attitude’
    A beer that truly grows on you, in every sense.  In 2012 it finally made itself indispensable.
  4. Little Creatures Pale Ale
    While bumptious NZ beers tried the extremes, Little Creatures kept making damn fine well-crafted pale ale. And in 2012, with Lion acquiring the company, you can suddenly find it in every good bottle store in the country. And even some of the bad ones.
  5. Epic ‘Message in a Bottle’
    If this is truly a recipe from days gone by, as the advertising argues, then it’s easy to see the days went by very well indeed. Hard to get, but worth the effort.
  6. Epic ‘Zythos’
    Another bumptious beer by the Hop Hooligan. I recently made the mistake of drinking an Epic Pale Ale straight after one of these. There are few other beers that can make an Epic Pale Ale taste ordinary. This is one.
  7. Emerson’s ‘Bookbinder’
    I discovered the perfectly-crafted session beer, and it is called Bookbinder. Well-tested now over several sessions (hic) I have hopes that with Emerson going mainstream you might soon find this everywhere. (One can hope.)
  8. Hallertau ‘Statesman’
    This is an old favourite I’m gratefully discovering on tap around the traps—most notably at Ponsonby’s Golden Dawn. So good it makes you want to suffer Ponsonby to enjoy it—or better yet, to drive to Riverhead to drink it straight from the brewery’s mouth.
  9. Mountain Goat India Pale Ale
    One I enjoyed in Melbourne this year.
  10. Feral Brewery’s ‘Hop Hog’
    Another Australian, the name says it all.
  11. 8 Wired ‘Fresh Hop Wired’
    Wow. The original hard-to-find-but-worth-the-effort.
  12. Leigh Sawmill ‘The Doctor’
    A flavourful fellow, I predict generous helpings fresh from the brewery door will adorn our Christmas table this year. And moisten much of the after-match. We will, after all, be just down the road…

Cheers, and what are your 12 beers of Christmas, 2o12?

1. Some for the first time, some I just noticed properly this time.
2. By which I means beers with a summery tinge that taste like beer. Which excludes your DB Summer Ale.
3. Take a bow Epic Pale Ale, Galbraith’s Resurrection, anything else by Renaissance or Three Boys…


  1. A few "surprised to see" beers on that list, PC. The Doctor must be improving. It's been undrinkable every time I had it, so I gave up on it about a year ago. Time to revisit!

    Here's mine (not in any real order):

    1. 666 Brewing Gabriel - I share a brewery with Graeme of 666, and he makes incredible beer. He also has the same tiny capacity as I do, so you'll probably have to head to Hamilton (Gothenburg, usually) to get this.

    2. Yeastie Boys Plan B - this and the next beer are tied for my "beer of the year". So deliciously sessionable, and the "Belgian" notes aren't overdone, as they often are by so many NZ brewers.

    3. Liberty Yakima Scarlet - this beer defies description, but has lashings of everything a hop or a malt lover could want. The smell alone is enough to sustain one's sense of joy even in the face of any 3 news piece.

    4. Tuatara Double Trouble - big, boozy, hoppy, dry, and utterly delicious. Yes please.

    5. Brewaucracy Clock Watcher - suffering the same issues as number 1, and deliberately and immodestly tooting my own horn, I was extremely proud of this sessionable little "kiwi best bitter". It'll be back, hopefully more widely available, in 2013.

    6. Galbraith's Bob Hudsons - I might be one of NZ's only beer geeks who hasn't been a big fan of Galbraith's increasing range. Bob's though? It just never lets me down. A true desert island beer.

    7. 8 Wired Hopwired - SO much has been said about this beer, I'm not sure I have anything meaningful to add. If you've not had it, get it.

    8. Yeastie Boys Rex Attitude - as much for the look on the faces of others as for my own delight in it's peaty, balanced, slightly spicy deliciousness.

    9. Shunter's Yard Station Master IPA - the guys who own the brewery shared by 666 and Brewaucracy. This full flavoured and complex IPA straddles the lines between UK and US and is utterly delicious.

    10. Invercargil B-man (nee Biman) - crisp, refreshing, almost mainstream, but just perfectly flavoured with a really nice malt character.

    11. Good George "Of The Jungle" NZ Pale Ale - a sticky tropical fruit salad delight, and sub-5% for quaff-ability.

    12. Epic Larger - I didn't much care for this giant 8.5% imperial pilsner the first time around. This new batch might actually not differ much, but for whatever reason, I've now seen its true beauty!

    My prediction for 2013: More session strength beers, less hop monsters, and a few Berliner Weisses (trust me).

    My wish for 2013: Someone, somewhere, PLEASE make a good example of a Russian Imperial Stout? Sorry 8-wired, too sweet, too hoppy. Sorry Moa, too thin, too carbonated, too weird. Anyone else?

  2. "There are few other beers that can make an Epic Pale Ale taste ordinary. This is one."

    Good grief! I have a bottle of Zythos at home, now I'm scared to drink it because the rest of the beers are the Pale Ale...

  3. @Greig:

    Doctor is very drinkable, especially when picking up riggers at bargain prices straight from the (new) brewer's door.

    Liberty Yakima Scarlet. Ah yes, forgot about that one.

    A few other things there to check out, Ta.

    @ Richard: It's all about getting it in the right order. You have to work UP to the Zythos.

  4. I'll be drinking Saigon Red, a great quaffing ale. Get it here in the corner store for about 30cents a can. Can get most beers here, on tap for about 2 bucks, Oh, and if you come across a happy hour or four, cocktails for 3 bucks.

    Maori Christmas everyone.

  5. Any of those mentioned that does not tase like I stuck my head in a sack of hops?

    I mean, don't get me wrong, I love me a hoppy beer, but not every. single. time.

    It is the one truly dissapointing thing about NZ craft beers: no balance. It is a pissing contest to see who can make the hoppiest beer.

    Balance: sweet vs bitter. Malt vs hops. Refreshment vs Mouthfeel. Caramel vs esters.

    Not in NZ. We have one recipe: thin, pale, 4% abv and hop the hell out of it. May as well be the corporates doing it.

    The one with the chili sounds interesting though, and I think you actually mentioned a porter.

  6. Dolf: I agree with you, except for the 4% thing... Can't think of many hop bombs sub 6% really. That's another of my complaints. I think it'll take a while for craft brewing to really grow up in NZ and start focusing on balanced, drinkable beers. There's ALWAYS room for the crazy one-dimensional "stunt beers", but they should be the exception, not the rule.

    Most of the ones in my list are drinkable, and balanced. Even the hoppy ones. Give some a try. Start with Bob Hudson's if you're in Auckland. Then B-man - easy to find.

  7. My oldest son gave me a nice bottle of Tuatara Double Trouble for Xmas. Very hoppy and I recommend it. It went down well in yesterday's heat.


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