Some of my close friends were mildly shocked when I divulged that I was still a Hashigo Zake Beer Tasting virgin at the age of 54. For sure, I have flirted dangerously with 8-Wired, frequently been under the Brew Moon and have encountered several Epic adventures, but the invitation to the recent Hophead’s Picnic was always likely to prove to be a life-changing experience.
Yes, I had been saving myself, waiting for the right moment, the ideal attraction and had taken precautions (a late lunch comprising copious amounts of bacon and egg pie). But, gosh, all those exotic sounding, masculine characters, like ‘Pliny the Elder’ and ‘Mike’s Organic Double’ – would I fall hopelessly under their spells, or remain decently objective and selective?
I sat nervously on the couch with my legs crossed awaiting the first encounter – a blind date of all things! The fellow turned out to be none other than Dave the Friendly Barman’s ‘US Limitation’. He called it a minimum, but it was big enough for starters for me at 4.5%. A dead ringer for Hallertau Minimus, wearing a medal round the neck bearing the inscription ‘Silver NHBC 2010’, this new Kiwi-kid on the block has potential alright.
Next up was a visitor from Mendocino, California called ‘Anderson Valley Boont’. This guy wasn’t quite what I expected and was very up front with his sweetness. Dominic mentioned that Andy Deuchars from Renaissance had a fling with him for a while, so no wonder he tasted like a malteser. A mixed up dude for sure, as later on he got very dry and seemed unbalanced. Apparently a 6.8% ESB, so I took this to mean Especially Silly Boy.
Arriving without a visa was another Californian who seemed familiar. Although a bit of a mouthful, ‘Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Hop Harvest’ was easy to take a shine to. Then of course I realised why – he had that bit of Kiwi freshness in him. The opposite of Boont, this Chicokid was sooo balanced and I really wanted to get my lips around some more.
Flying the flag for Europe was ‘Mikkeller Nelson Sauvin’, all the way from Denmark. Apparently there was some Kiwi in this fella too, but Dave the Friendly Barman let on that this old geezer might leave a bit of an odd taste in the mouth. Jeeps, I nicknamed him Mukkeller, not my type at all. If want to suck on a band aid, I go to the medicine cupboard not the bar.
‘Russian River Blind Pig’ – now there’s a name to get the juices flowing. Forget any thoughts of Rasputin though, this fine young West Coast American smelt so fresh and fruity I couldn’t wait to have a taste. He didn’t disappoint, reminding me of Hopwired, another love of my life. At 6.1%, not the biggest boy in the lineup, but hey, it’s not always abv that matters.
Next it was time to spice up the evening with a touch of the oriental, courtesy of ‘Baird Suruga Bay’, from Japan. I recall spotting him before, hanging round the bar in Hashigo Zake, but tonight he seemed a lot more mature, almost bland in comparison with the ‘Pig’, although he was impeccably dressed as always.
There was a distinct tingle in the air when ‘Russian River Pliny the Elder’ showed up. If ever someone deserved the tag imperial, then this 8% big boy would be the one. I can see why my friend Neil Miller is so besotted, but I reckon Pliny’s one that could easily take advantage of you, especially as he appeared to slip into the country unnoticed.
Great to see a Kiwi that’s taken on a new lease of life in recent times closing off the picnic in style. The ‘Naki monster – ‘Mike’s Organic Imperial’ – put a few of the foreign upstarts firmly in their place. Hard to believe this guy is already on his third subtle makeover, courtesy of brewery neighbour Jo Wood and he’s definitely more approachable now. Show me the way to Amarillo baby.
Outside in the breeze over a cigarette, I reflected on my experience.
Oh how the world has changed in the last few years – there’s now such a choice of nationality, intensity and style! These are happy days indeed for a craft beer slut in Wellington and I can’t wait for a few more blind dates at the Regional’s Beer Options later this month. Catch you there – I’ll be the one wearing a SOBA cap and a skirt 10cm above the knee.
Nick Page, Editor
Note : Use of sexual innuendo in the above may be the result of preparing this article whilst still under the influence of Chinook, Amarillo, Simcoe and Nelson Sauvin.