Week 24: An Arsehole and A Growler

Dates: 9th December – 15th December, 2013

Bottle shop(s): Countdown Botany Downs and Liquorland Howick, Auckland

Beer(s):

  1. Semiconductor Session IPA, by 8Wired (1.25L [ish…so only charged 1L price], $11.99)
  2. Asahi Super Dry, by Asahi (3 x 330ml bottles, $6.00)
  3. Steinlager Pure, by Lion (3 x 330ml bottles, $6.00)

Total: $24.00

To be honest, I think living in Wellington has turned me into an arsehole.

And I lay the blame squarely at the feet of New World Thorndon and Regional Wines and Spirits; collectively, they’ve lifted my expectations about what a beer-buying experience could (and arguably should) be.

This week I was on the prowl for a new local bottle shop, having just moved into our new family whare in East-ish Auckland. During my search, I found two separate ‘Growler Stations’ – ostensibly making me on the prowl for a growler, which just sounds all kinds of wrong, so we’ll move swiftly on – and while the two stations appeared similar at face-value, once I started to dig I found an important contrast.

I wandered into Growler Station #1 with one of my trusty 1.25L riggers – the same used earlier in this blog to contain Garage Project’s drool-inducing Pils ‘n Thrills. I made sure that I flashed the big fat GP sticker to the staff member that came to my aid – partly to prove that it was, in fact, a beer receptacle; and partly (okay, mainly) to make him jealous over the previous contents of the rigger. (Arsehole, remember.)

But as it turns out, my GP rigger was unwelcome at Station #1. I was told by the Growler Attendant (*giggity*) that only glass or aluminium can be filled at the station – both of which were, of course, available for purchase. When I asked the obvious and universal question Why, his answer was that beer ‘Just Keeps Better’ in glass and aluminium – which at best sounds non-empirical, and at worst just flat-out smells like bullshit.

Aside from the fact that beer from a FYO station is destined for consumption within a day or two – mooting any role that the vessel might play in the quality of a product consumed within hours of filling – I’m also pretty sure that Tracy Banner’s outstanding Nelson-based craft brewery Sprig and Fern would have a thing or two to say about plastic being a grossly inferior storage medium. After all, their multi-award-winning beer is distributed nationally to bottle shops exclusively in plastic riggers.

Making someone buy a glass or aluminium vessel before they can use your FYO system creates a completely unnecessary barrier to those who may wish to make use of it – and my abrupt Exit, Stage Left from Station #1 is the case-in-point. And that’s a crying shame, because FYO is an awesomely affordable way to encourage the twelve-green-bottles-for-twenty-bucks crowd to try something new.

And also an opportunity to make profligate growler puns.

Which brings us to Station #2, Liquorland Howick. My experience at LH was the polar-opposite of that at Station #1, and I made a point of saying-so before I left. My GP rigger was welcomed with open-arms – as was the arsehole attached to it – and the staff even remembered a Twitter exchange I’d had with them a few months back. Now that’s my sort of company.

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Speaking to the LH folk, their FYO taps were directly inspired by trips to Wellington – and it shows. They’re firm believers that what’s happening in the Wellington ‘scene’ isn’t the exception to the rule – it’s fast becoming the rule. By putting in a craft beer FYO station in the ‘Burbs of East Auckland, LH have placed themselves ahead of the curve – and should be congratulated and supported for doing so.

Having ranted about my growler trouble for six-hundred words (I could keep going with these puns all day – until someone abruptly and appropriately punched me in the face), I should probably make mention of the beer that filled it – namely 8Wired Semiconductor, a highly-sessionable IPA that is making a lot of friends in beer circles. And that comes as no big surprise; it’s uncommonly good stuff. Fistfuls of delicious mango, mandarin and other summer citrus delights smack you in the nose and palate, but that’s where the violence ends – at 4.4%, you could safely sip the evening away on the stuff and wake up sans-regret. Given the rate that craft beer folk are pitching the flag for this beer, I truly believe that Semiconductor could be New Zealand’s answer to Little Creatures Pale Ale, or Stone and Wood Pacific Ale – namely, a style-defining, beyond-reproach Classic. And now that it’s available in four-packs, it’s even easier to get your hands on – so go do that. Right now.

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I’ve completely run out of space (/steam) to spend any time discussing the other beers for this week, so here’s the ten-cent tour:

In one of my explorations, I discovered a surely-this-is-illegal Reduced-To-Clear stand in a local Countdown, and picked up a couple of mainstream lagers. The Asahi tasted like what would happen if a pale lager had a fight with a spice rack – and the spice rack won. I guess it’s kind of like Monteith’s ‘Summer Ale’ in that respect (and yes, those quotation marks are viciously sarcastic).

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Quaffing Steinlager Pure in the Hot, Hot Sun was actually Fricken’ Great. Pure is simple, clean and kinda-creamy – it’s not epiphany-inspiring stuff, but it’s certainly a solid mainstream alternative to Heineken and Stella.

And there we have it – my longest post to date. I should mention that this is the penultimate week of my wee experiment – how the Twenty-Something weeks have flown!

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