Keeping it real … Real Ale
Firstly, I must say that my friends are the bollox! If it wasn’t for them then todays Beer Blogging Advent post wouldn’t be happening. Being the beer geek that I am has resulted in some amazing friends looking out for beers for me on their travels and holidays. Some of these friends have even become converted good beer fans because of this. So as a way of saying “thanks guys” I thought I would put together a blog post about the beers that I have been lucky enough to have been bought.
First up is my mate Clayton, fellow beer geek, certified BBQ God and all round nice chap! I guess this was more of “popping home to New Zealand to see family” then going on holiday. I would love to see New Zealand, one day hopefully I will and after this utter banger of a beer that Clayton brought back for me I want to go there even more. In 2011 in an old Jaguar workshop garage in Aro Valley, Wellington, there was a nano brewery being set up by brothers Pete & Ian Gillespie and friend Jos Ruffel. After years of working in much larger breweries they downscaled to a 50ltr brew kit and it was here that Garage Beer Project was born. The artwork they have on their bottles and cans are incredible, lots of bright artwork and tattoo style designs, including some top merch (a polo shirt with a grim reaper on a horse Ralph Lauren style… yes please!). Garagista IPA 5.8% was the beer that I was brought, it is a double dry hopped with New Zealand, Australian and American hops, resulting in huge tropical fruits, big mango, resin and pine flavoured IPA. It was stunning and I would go as far as to say one of the best IPA’s I have had all year long. I even chucked a splash of it in some guacamole that I was making at the time and it worked so well. I think Clayton either needs to go on another trip back home soon or we need to all go in on a big box of goodies from New Zealand soon!
My sister is one of the most frequent beer travel gift givers for me, whenever she goes away she tries to pick me up a bottle of beer. Recently she was in Gibraltar, she helped organise the Gibraltar literary festival as part of her job role at Blackwells Bookshop. Gibraltar is a place I would have thought would have been difficult to bring back a beery present for, however she brought back a bottle of Bushy Gibraltar Barbay Beer. Unfortunately this beer isn’t brewed in Gibraltar, it is in fact brewed on the Isle of Man (close enough!)! It does however have hops that are grown on Gibraltar in the beer. The beer was a very enjoyable, it was a big malty bitter which has strong brown bread and biscuit flavours. My sister has just returned from New York and rumour has it she may have brought a little something back for me…
Megan is one of my best friends, I know her through work, we both work in the travel industry and there has been a river cruise that we do I had been eyeing up for years that cruises from New Orleans to Memphis. So, when Megan was told she would be doing the trip I was pretty jealous! To help soften the bitter disappointment of now knowing I would never be able to go on this trip Megan brought me back some beers from New Orleans. Abita are a brewery from Louisiana who have been brewing for as long as I have been alive, opening in 1986, growing into a huge American craft beer brewery. The first of the beers I drank was Purple Haze, a lager brewed with real raspberries, pilsner & wheat malt and vanguard Hops. Pours a rose red that lives up to its name of Haze as the beer itself is fairly hazy. Although the beer pours a good head it disappears to next to nothing fairly quickly leaving just a white ring around the glass. Loads of raspberries on the nose along with a sweet lager aroma. Bit of fizz in the mouthfull with again lots of really smooth, sweet, raspberries. Very easy drinking and would be perfect on a really hot summers day.
The second beer was Big Easy IPA, the bottle had a paddle steam boat just like the one we use on our river cruise, the reason Megan bought it! Using Cascade, Amarillo, Centennial and Simcoe hops to dry hop this beer means you get that big punchy American IPA impact you expect. It is also brewed with Lemon Peel Pours a lovely glowing sunshine yellow with a big white fluffy head, soft resin pine aromas with hints of the lemon and really nice fruity bitterness which finishes with the lemon with hints of sherbet. It is really fresh and finishes nicely dry, feeling much bigger than 4.5%.
Last up was Andygator, a 8% Helles Doppelbock brewed using Pilsner malt, German lager yeast and German Perle hops. On part of the cruise there is a day trip to the swamp to go in hunt of ‘gators, but unfortunately this bottle of Andygator was the only alligator seen on the cruise, as they had no luck in their hunt. Pouring a dark gold with a big light head that leaves lacing around the glass, clean on the nose with a slight sweet syrup aroma. This beer really hides the ABV it does not taste 8% at all, smooth, slightly sweet, sticky finish with just a tiny bit of warmth from the alcohol. As it warms up you can get faint cereal flavours too. All three beers are well balanced and excellent beers.
One of the most surprising countries I have had beer brought back for me from is Colombia. My manager and friend Zach is one of my craft beer convertees (although it wasn’t too difficult as he fancies himself a bit of a foody and enjoys lifes finer flavours!). He brought a beer from Bogota Beer Company, Colombia is one of few countries in the world where a single brewery almost dominates the entire countries beer, Bogota Beer Company makes less than 1% of the beer for the country. Using the freshest ingredients and a new high tech German made equipment Bogota Beer Company have been brewing beer since 1997. Founder Berny Silberwasser was bored of the beer that Colombia had to offer so he set off on a travel to work around American and European breweries so he could learn his craft. Cajica Cerveza Rubia is a honey beer, it is a multi-award winning blonde beer that has been brewed with Colombian organic honey. It pours a pale yellow which is slightly hazy with hardly any head at all, on the nose it is all sweet sweet honey, not as much honey in the flavour of the beer which is good as the aroma is so power, its smooth, sweet and really easy drinking.
I used to work with my mate Nkemi, he does cool things like DJ, buy stupid expensive out there fashion items and hang out at boiler room music sets, thus making my street cred better just by knowing him. He had a DJ set at a music festival in Iceland and for my 30th birthday he brought me back a bottle of Borg Brugghus Surtur Nr.38 Imperial Stout. Surtur means the black or swarthy one which is the name of a fire giant in Norse mythology. They won gold in the 13th European Beer Star competition for a beer that had been brewed with a malt that had been, and I quote, “smoked over a fire of dried sheep shit”… Tasty! Holy shit this beer is incredible! Pours a perfect black with a huge head which starts off light sandy cream then gets more beige as the head comes to an end, the smell.. Oh the smell! Its milky coffee, chocolate powder, boozy wooden barrels, then the taste, fucking heaven! It is like melted chocolate and vanilla ice cream, 10.8% my arse, perfection, everything I want from a big dark Imperial Stout. Seriously if you can’t gather right now this beer is up there with one of the best I have ever had, I took a first sip then just looked at the glass like “wow you saucy little minx, I think I love you”! It was so good I woke Michelle up from her sleep so she could try some!
My mate Paul is a frequent beer gifter too so a huge thanks to him but I have drunk all his beers already so it didn’t make this post I couldn’t hold on to the Brooklyn Barley Wine it had to be drunk straight away!! I am so lucky that I have top mates, especially this past year when travelling has been non-existent but thanks to them they brought the beers to me.
Disclaimer – These beers were bought for me by friends and I didn’t pay for them, this hasn’t affected my opinions as they were all banging.