Dates: 14th October – 20th October, 2013
Bottle shop: New World Thorndon, Wellington
- ‘Sassy Red’ Best Bitter, by Mac’s (a.k.a. Lion, 6 x 330ml bottles, $12.99)
- ‘Recognition’ Double Pale Ale, by Stoke (1 x 500ml bottle, $5.99)
- ‘Otis’ Oatmeal Stout, by ParrotDog (1 x 330ml bottle, $5.90)
As you may recall, a couple of weeks ago I made a total Dick of myself by walking into the Shining Mecca of single-bottles – New World Thorndon – and walking out with six awfully-generic (and just plain awful) German wheat beers. In an effort to get rid of the horrid taste of regret, this week I decided to try my hand at a spot of Redemption.
And as it turns out, I’m very, very good at it.
Following the Schöfferhofer debacle, I did some much-needed introspection – and figured out that I’m no longer prepared to spend my modest (read: slender) beer budget on dicey beer, just ‘cos there’s a lot of it. On the other hand, I love a post-work bottle of something reliably tasty – but one is fine, I don’t need eleven (since it’s a universal truth that no matter how much I imbibe, Kid A and Kid B still rise at 6am). Finally, I realised that I genuinely love experimenting with different beer styles and breweries – since the more I taste, the more I learn about what makes Great Beer Great.
(As an aside – that sort of experimental curiosity is a consumer trait which makes me ‘fickle’, according to Moa’s Chief Executive Geoff Ross – further empirical evidence of the cavernous divide between Moa’s num num beer and their douche-like business practices.)
The upshot of all this introspection was the decision that my weekly beer choices should include a moderate amount of something reliable, and a couple of bottles of something interesting and/or experimental. And in a very uncharacteristic move, I scored on debut.
Sassy Red is a Best Bitter-style beer with a solid malt presence, and actually-discernible floral hop character (**note to self: Take Better Tasting Notes**). It’s a Diamond in the moderately-priced-six-pack Rough – and my only criticism is that Lion don’t sell it in 12-packs, like they do my other Mac’s favey Hop Rocker. Only God Herself knows why we need 12-packs of the aptly-named Shady Pale – or 18-packs of Gold, for that matter – and yet bottles of Sassy Red remain exclusively available by the ½ dozen. But that’s a minor critique of a solid all-rounder – thanks to Sassy Red, my homeward-commute was made that much brighter by knowing I had a bunch of these waiting for me when I got home.
You know, along with my wife and kids and that.
Sassy Red was good – but the real Bucket of Win this week came with my single-bottle selections…and in order to talk about one of them, we need to re-visit a little bit of Beer Geek 101.
When making beer, the act of biffing mega amounts of malt into a brew has a couple of consequences:
- you create a strong malty ‘spine’ upon which other Party Tricks can hang;
- assuming you pitch enough yeast, the alcohol content will ramp up – since there’s lots of extra malt floating about for the yeast to chomp-chomp on (Pac Man-style).
The resulting beer tends to be high in alcohol – but commensurately bursting with intense flavour. This is because it’s built on a such a strong malt platform that vast quantities of additional flavours (like lotsa hops) can be introduced without upsetting the beer’s balance.
Which brings us to Stoke Double Pale Ale: a beer which punches so far above its Flavour Weight that I had to keep checking (and re-checking) the ABV. And I’m still not entirely convinced that the 5.5% espoused on the label isn’t a typo.
The hoppy aromatics were reminiscent of Epic Hop Zombie – a perennial favourite of mine, and thus a compliment not lightly bestowed. It was a smidge slimmer in terms of malt backbone and citrus notes than Zombie, but then it is 3% lower in ABV – so there’s bound to be some gaps in the flavour profile if you compare the two. But honestly – the gaps aren’t substantial, and at $6 for a 500ml bottle, this beer is outstanding value for money. You must give it knock if you see it in your local bottle shop.
But for now, we move onto ParrotDog’s Otis. Prepare yourself – it’s about to get freaky.
And slightly wanky. So stay with me.
There are certain pieces of music which take you somewhere else; to a place where Life’s Bullshit is transcended, and for those few short minutes you touch the Upper Level. I’m infinitely lucky to have amassed an Alamo-like cache of such music: from Radiohead’s Separator to Jeff Buckley’s What Will You Say, these tracks fiddle with me on a metaphysical level.
Otis is the beer equivalent of Thom Yorke’s warbling tones or Buckley’s rolling guitar. It’s transcendental beer: the kind that reminds you that Life Is Okay, And You’re Going To Be Fine. Simply put, it’s the best beer I’ve had all year – and I’ve had some stonkers. It lusciously coats your mouth with oodles of toffeed coffee (or coffeed toffee, for that matter), and is so silky-smooth that you’ll find yourself genuinely believing you could drink nine-hundred of them in a row and still not tire of its deliciousness.
I gotta tell ya: Redemption never tasted so good.