Feel Good hit of the Summer

So after dropping the bombshell of my job change only a few days ago, today I started at Golding’s in earnest   Well technically I started yesterday, but I was on a first aid course, so I only really started at the new bar today. I spent most of the morning painting.  Then I did some painting.  After that, for a change, I painted.

Photo courtesy of Sean

I did not paint this though. Photo courtesy of Sean Golding.

So it seems I’m keeping day-walker hours for the next three weeks or so.  That gave me the perfect opportunity to have that mythical “Afterwork Pint” that all these normal people I know keep talking about.

I’ve also been keen to create an award for my favourite beer of the season, and since summer’s more or less over, I thought it’s about time for me to name it.  Coincidentally, being rather shagged out from a day of painting, the beer I decided to drink for my Afterwork Pint was also my pick of the summer.

So here it is; my ‘Feel Good Hit of the Summer‘ is:

8 Wired Brewing Co. Haywired
Haywired at Sunset, with my paintey hand.

Haywired at Sunset, with my paintey hand.

Approximately one out of three bottles in my recycling bin over the last three months has been Haywired.  This is roughly speaking, my perfect drinking beer.  It’s golden but the malt profile isn’t boring.  It’s hoppy, fruity yet bitter, but neither over or under hopped.  It’s low(ish) alcohol (4.6%) but not too low, so you can drink a fair amount of it easily.  As I say, it’s roughly roughly perfect for summer.  Thus it wins my inaugural ‘Feel Good Hit of the Summer’ Award.  Well done Haywired.

Coming out of the Wardrobe

I have an announcement to make that may shock and astound you: I’m leaving Hashigo Zake.  Actually this might not come as a surprise to many of you. Despite my trying to keep a lid on the news, it seems that half of Wellington already knows, and lately I’ve been in the surreal situation of having people I barely know coming up to the bar and congratulating me about my new job.  Anywho, the fact of the matter is that I’ve been offered the Manager’s position at a new bar, Golding’s Free Dive, which will be opening next month.

Now I will unashamedly say that to my mind, Hashigo is by far and away the best beer bar in New Zealand, if not Australasia and/or the Southern Hemisphere.1  Certainly it’s the geekiest and probably the bar that’s done the most to further the cause of good beer in New Zealand.  To a lot of Beer Geeks then, leaving Hashigo could seem a bit like leaving Narnia.  But as Milton’s Satan once said: “Better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven,” and it seems about my time to step out of the closet wardrobe and seek my fortune in the real world.2    

Of course I’m not suggesting that working at Golding’s is going to be a bad day in Tartarus, far from it.  On the contrary, I’m rather excited about the whole prospect.  You see, the core Hashigo team has been together now for three years, give or take and while they’re fantastic to work with, there’s also a great many chefs in that kitchen.  In this regard, Golding’s offers me the opportunity and challenge to help build a bar from the ground up: to help make it into a awesome little bar.

And Golding’s Free Dive is going to be an awesome bar: at once a free-house, serving good beer with no pesky ties to any brewery, big or small.  It’s also intended to be a dive bar (hence the name): a comfortable little out of the way spot where you can while away the hours, unmolested by the rowdy mobs it town.  There will be more details to come.

Now I’m heading into uncharted waters here:  I’ll be the longest running staff member ever to leave Hashigo.  I’ll also be the first staff member to transfer over to another Wellington bar and the first staff alumni to stay in Wellington (most in fact, leave New Zealand).  In this regard, the record is not great.  Two other staff have gone on to work at different bars, but neither of them lasted very long there.  And the reason is simple: Hashigo ruins people.  I’ve joked before that it’s somewhat of an ivory tower: working there is so good, you sometimes forget what working in the real world is like.  But as I said, the prospect of a new challenge is immensely exciting.  

Of course, my decision to leave Hashigo wasn’t easy.  I’ve been there for over three years, more or less since the beginning, and it’s been a fairly major part of my life over that time.  I’ll miss it dearly, so to ease my transition and cheer myself up, I thought I’d reflect on a few of the things I’m not going to miss about Hashigo:

  • My workmates.  They’re bastards to a man.
  • The regulars.  Wellington’s description was accurate: they’re “scum of the earth.”
  • Explaining what ‘Hashigo Zake’ means. That got old fast.  
  • Sake.  New Zealanders are cretins when it comes to this subtle and noble drink.3  
  • The historic plumbing.  It’s shit with shit.

Right, well that’s cheered me up.  Now I guess I should go on to talk about what I will actually miss about Hashigo:

  • My workmates.  Bastards to a man and like family to me.  
  • The regulars.  Wellington’s description was accurate: “scum of the earth… what fine fellows they are.”
  • The staff discount.
  • The pies.  Hashigo’s pies are a thing of beauty.
  • The credibility.  I don’t wish to sound arrogant, but Hashigo has a good name in both local and international beer circles, and occasionally it’s worked as a handy introduction at breweries and other bars.  I’ve always been proud to say “I work at Hashigo Zake.”

One of the things I’m probably going to miss the most though, is the feeling of being on the cutting edge of beer in New Zealand.  As I said before, Dominic and the Hashigo Crew have done so much to further New Zealand ‘craft’ beer in the last three and a half years.  Whether it be campaigning in the Radler case (or a myriad of other IP abuses), arranging international collaborations, donating obscenely generous amounts of labour to beer festivals, setting up local beer festivals, broadening local tastes by exposing New Zealanders to the international beer scene, supporting (frequently unknown) up-and-comers like Garage Project, ParrotDog and Funk Estate, or arranging distribution for local breweries.  Hashigo was a game-changing in the New Zealand beer scene and they continue to push the boundaries wherever they can.  I’m proud to have been a part of it.

But I am also stepping back from all that.  Golding’s will be serving good beer, but it wont have the same geeky edge.  We’ll always be a few steps behind.4    That’s fine though.  In fact that’s as should be.  Golding’s will be less about geeking-out and more about chilling-out, in a cool place, with good people and good beer, which is something we all need from time to time.

I’ll close now by saying that I hope that all those out there who I’ve served enjoyed having me as their bartender as much as I enjoyed serving them. And I know that I leave a lasting legacy at Hashigo; something that has made Hashigo a better place: The Boston Pork Pie.

[Image Pending]

Think of me next time you eat one.

Zum Wohl!

  1. You don’t have to agree with me on that, but I’m not the only one that thinks this.  And before you ask, no I haven’t sampled them all.  Neither have you, so shut up.
  2. I’m quite proud of that literary juxtaposition.  Just saying.
  3. At best they ask for good sake (pronounced sar-key for some reason) hot when it should be chilled or at room temperature.  This is like asking for your pinot gris to be warmed up.  At worst they shoot it and then rowdily proclaim “Phwar!  That’s rough!”  Well, maybe if you didn’t shoot hot alcohol, it wouldn’t burn so much.  No, actually at worst they ask for sake bombs, which is an insult to both our beer and sake.
  4. But on the other hand, there is also a another benefit to leaving Hashigo: I can now go there and enjoy it as a customer.  Fuck yeah!
  5. I’m well aware, there will be a lot of variance on that one…

8 Wired Grand Cru

DSC_0686Beer: 8 Wired Grand Cru
 Quadruple/Blended Sour
ABV: 10%
From: Hashigo Zake
Date: 26/02/2013

Yes.  Oh mother-loving yes.  I want this beer in my mouth.  All the time.  It’s so utterly excellent.  I want to carry around a CamelBak full of this beer.  I want an IV drip bag constantly hooked up to my veins.  Full of this beer.  

I wish clouds were made of this beer.  So that when it rained, it rained this beer.

Ok, ok.  I’ll review it properly now.

So as you night have guessed, I really like this 8 Wired Grand Cru. Which is why I’m doing my best impression of the only scene worth watching in Beerfest.1   

My beer is slightly crooked.

My beer is slightly crooked.

Grand Cru is red-brown, with low carbonation and no head.  It smells kind of like port and plums, with a hint of something cheesy.  Flavour is sweetish, but not overly so, with strong raisin and plum character, a hint of chocolate, and a sour note that cuts through the cloying Belgian yeast character.  In short, it’s massive, it’s complex, it’s balanced, it’s beautiful.  

Grand Cru started life as The Sultan, 8 Wired’s Quad, aged in pinot barrels and blended with a Flanders Red.  By coincidence, I happened to taste each of the constituent beers, when I snuck into Søren’s cool-store two years ago.2  I have firm memories of the Red, which was super cheesy and sour.  Hints of this beer come through very clearly in the Grand Cru, cutting through the big, sticky, cloying character of The Sultan.  

I risk being a bit of a tease with this review, as I had Grand Gru on tap.  Readers will probably never see it on tap anywhere, but don’t despair; bottles should be available somewhere, at some point.  I don’t know where, but if you do, grab one.  Taste the clouds…

In other news:

People active in the beer-social media, may have noticed this video from Hancock & Co./Glengarry.  I was going to sling poo at Hancock’s, but it’s clear from that clip, that they are perfectly capable of crapping in their own nest without my help.

Others have promised to write about the dis-ingenuousness of the brand (founded last year in 1859).  And the quality of their beer (I’m not touching that topic).  Maybe I’ll write about that soon.

I would like to dryly observe however, their use of the term ‘entry level’ beer, and how they equate it with ‘small’ flavours (read bland).  I think this topic deserves a longer post, but I would like to point out that ‘entry level’ often seems to be used by breweries (read marketing/brand managers, and I’m not just looking at Hancock’s here) to deflect criticism from the beer community.  Usually this is done using the argument “you’re a ‘beer-geek,’ you don’t like it cos it’s not hoppy/17% ABV/obscure/whatever.”

To that argument I have one thing to say: Bookbinder.  Actually I have many things to say (Three Boys Golden, Townshend Bandsman, Mussel Inn Golden Goose, pretty much every Pilsner brewed in this country…), but Bookie will do.  Bookie is seriously ‘entry level’: simple, uncomplicated, unchallenging, beautiful.  What it’s not is small.  Ok, it is 3.7% which is small, but it’s also characterful.  And it’s loved universally by the uninitiated drinker and the experienced ‘beer-geek’ alike.  

Bookie proves that just because you’re beer is ‘entry level’ status, doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyed by all.  Nor does it mean a company can get away with bland or faulty beer and call it ‘craft’.     

  1. That movie seriously sucked, but the scene where they describe the best beer in the world is utterly hilarious and (almost) makes watching the film worthwhile.  If you don’t mind watching it in an eye-rapingly awful aspect ratio, then it can be found here.
  2. One of the most surreal and geeky moments of my beer career.  Standing in a cool-store tasting beer ageing in different barrels, with two heavy-weights of the craftbeer world: Søren Ericsson of 8 Wired and Kjetil Jikiun of Nøgne Ø (apologies for name dropping).

Book Review: Beer Nation, The Art & Heart of Kiwi Beer

THE THIRSTYBOYS are a mob of Wellington beer enthusiasts often seen at local beer events, usually tucked away in a corner composing Haikus. This is the post I wrote for them as a guest blogger.


Reviewed by guest blogger: Dylan Jauslin

Beer Nation: The Art and Heart of Kiwi Beer
Published by Penguin Books (NZ) 25/07/2012
Format:Misc., 240 pages

I was quite surprised when Malice from the Thirsty Boys asked me to review this book for their blog.  On reflection though, it made sense: none of them had read it or owned a copy.  Talking to a few more people in the beer community, something became very clear: damn near nobody has read it.

This really is a shame because both as an introduction to and a history of New Zealand beer, I can’t recommend it enough.  Surprisingly little has been written about the New Zealand Beer industry, particularly in recent years and the beer community has been in need of a book like this.

Donaldson takes the reader through the history of beer in this country, starting in the nineteenth century and tracing…

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