Attack of the Lager Lout

So regular readers (if I have such a thing) may have noticed a decrease in my posting frequency.  With the opening of Golding’s I’ve had a noted lack of time and will-power to write anything.  Speaking of which Garage Project Major Goldings was a smash hit with the 30 litres lasting about an hour.  The beer turned out kind of like a hoppy-wheat-ESB; quite drinkable and a little odd.

Anywho, posts are about to get even less frequent, as I’m off on an short beer-research trip to San Fran, taking in GABS on the way back.  This’ll probably be my last post for a few weeks, so I thought I’d better make it a good’um.

Those active on the more beer-y section of the Twittersphere may have noticed this conversation going down (click for a larger version):

Click for a full sized version.

Take a moment to read that, it’s quite the rant.  It’s something I’ve encountered before too.  Every now and again you meet a customer that insists that:

A) Pilsners are not lagers (they are), and
B) Beer Geeks are a some sort of breed of lager-hating fascist-nazis.

I experienced this several times at Hashigo, records of which exist here, here and here.  The usual complaint was that either the staff at Hashigo wouldn’t serve lagers, which was odd, because there’s always one on tap and several in bottles, or that we would mock anyone who dared order one.  Again this is odd because why would we serve something if we didn’t want people to order it?  Indeed the idea we would mock every person that ordered a lager is pretty ludicrous, because tap pils was our biggest seller. More to the point if I’d taken the time to mock every lager drinker, I’d never have had the time to get anything done in the day.

Anyway, back to the issue at hand.  My personal experience of this was much similar: a chap came up to the bar one busy weekend at Hashigo and ordered a lager.  We had some sort of pils on tap, and I recommended it to him.  “I don’t want a pilsner, I want a lager,” he said.
“Pilsners are lagers,” I said.
“No they’re not,” said he.
“Actually they are, you see it’s a matter of yeast…” and I launched into an explanation of yeast varieties and the taxonomy of lagers.  Hell, I’d have pulled out map and shown him Pilsen if he wanted to see it.

However, it wasn’t to be.  I noticed very quickly not only his attention but also the will to live sliding off his face.  Sometimes when you need to temper your enthusiasm when talking to non-Beer Geeks.  So I gave him the short version: “Take it from me mate, pilsners are a type of pale-lager that originated from Czech town of Pilsen.”
“Alright, I’ll take one of those then.”  And all was good again.

Or so I thought, until I went to go clear some glasses and walked past his group.  I watched him take a swig off his beer and grimace.  “Fucking bartender.  He tried to tell me pilsners are lagers.  They’re so full of shit here.”

Listen buddy, my anatomy is not equipped with middle-fingers big enough for the likes of you.  I was seriously pissed of at that guy, but I didn’t tell him that.  In fact I let it all slide.  Looking back on it, it wasn’t that he didn’t know about beer styles or didn’t share my passion and geekery.  In the end, I resented him because he insulted my professionalism as a beertender.  Beer is my passion, and I bartend to share that passion with other people.  I’m good at bartending, and if each day I can help a customer derive the same pleasure from beer as I do, then I consider that a good day.

Back on track now and to my original point: pilsners are lagers and anyone who tries to say otherwise is speaking out the wrong orifice.  But what about Beer-Geeks hating lagers?  Well, for starters  it’s not true; I’ve spent the last three years serving lagers to the beer community of Wellington.  Secondly, most craft breweries make a lager and frequently it’s their biggest seller.  So this assertion that geeks just don’t like lager is utterly false.

That said, there is another issue lurking in the background like a bad smell: accusations of snobbery.  Certainly I’m no stranger to being called a snob.  I’ve even occasionally worn the badge proudly.  But it’s never a nice thing to be called and I also think it’s quite unfounded in most cases and especially with Roland and Brother’s Beer.

You see I’ve noticed a curious phenomenon in over the years working in a beer bar: if someone comes into a bar and asks for something you don’t have, they frequently can take it as a personal insult.  This happens most often with the big branded green-bottle lager drinkers and can be quite vehement at times.1  On more than one occasion I’ve had said to a customer “Sorry we don’t have [Heineken/Stella/Steinlager/whatever]” and had people react as if I’ve told them to go fornicate with their own mother.  In most cases I try to recommend a nice alternative, but frequently the battle is lost.  They either splutter “what’d ya mean you don’t have [beer XYZ], you’re a beer bar, what kind of beer bar doesn’t have [beer XYZ]?” or occasionally, they just walk out.

And then they send angry tweets.  Or post bad reviews online, calling you and your establishment snobs and wankers.  And what are you supposed to do in that situation?  You really can’t win.  What you should try to do is be polite and find them a beer they’ll enjoy.  Educate, don’t exclude.  And I think Brother’s made a fairly good effort to do just that (at least until the end, but hey, they’re only human) and I hope I do in that situation too.  But if they’ve already walked out, or like Monsieur Roland, won’t engage with the bar-staff, there’s nothing you can do.  They’ve excluded themselves.2

Now I’ve been thinking about this, specifically why this happens.  Why is it that some people take a bar not stocking a particular beer as badly as they’d take take an insult to their own mother?  I think the answer is a lack of understanding.  You see they just don’t understand a Beer Geek’s passion for flavourful, independant beers, and why they rail against bland corporate beer.  Not serving Heineken is to us a logical expression of our passion.  But to Roland’s ilk, it makes us mad, pretentious, snobs.  He just doesn’t get it and probably never will.

And you know what?  We’re all guilty of this on some level.  For example, take the British Cornish Pasty Association.  They’re passionate about pasties.  Ok, I can understand that.  But why do they declare carrots to be sacrilege in their official recipe?  That I don’t get.  To me that makes them mad, pretentious, carrot-hating pasty-snobs.  I just don’t get it and probably never will.

How about an example closer to home?  How about CAMRA then?  I will never understand what those guys have against carbon dioxide.  C’mon guys, some beers are better fizzy and cold.  Deal with it.  Frankly I think CAMRA (or at least elements of it) are a bunch of gas-and-lager-hating, elitist snobs.3  Is this starting to sound familiar?  I like real-ale as much as the next Beer Geek, but a slavish devotion to only cask-conditioned ales is to me frankly ludicrous.  I just don’t get it and probably never will.

So perhaps we’re all as guilty as Roland of not understanding each other’s passions.  Ok I take that back, we’re not because we don’t go making dicks of ourselves on Twitter.  And that I think, brings me sideways to the point I’m trying to make.  People have some odd passions and we all need a little patience and understanding with them.  Whether we be the expert Beer-Geek trying to explain why we don’t sell Heinie or the bewildered everyman who’s just trying to get a beer with a label he recognises.

Alright I gotta stop here, before I go full-hippie.  Peace and Love, ya’ll.

Also, pilsners ARE lagers, FFS!

  1. Although it can also happen with craft drinkers.  Not dyed-in-the-wool Beer Geeks obviously, but if I had a dollar for everytime I’ve heard an outraged “What’d ya mean you don’t have [Epic/Moa/Emerson’s/Renaissance/Green Man Tequila Beer]?”  Usually because it’s the only craft label they know and are comfortable with.  And no, I’m not joking when I say Tequila Beer.
  2. Although I did hear a rumour that this mysterious Roland allegedly works for a major liquor brand, which would put an entirely different spin on the whole thing.  I’m in no position to confirm or deny that though.
  3. Admittedly, my impression of CAMRA is probably poorly coloured by reading the comments sections on the Zythophile Blog and by small handful of members that have come into Hashigo and been utterly fucking rude, insulting, sanctimonious, knob-heads.  A large section of SOBA members are CAMRA members and good people.

Saluting the Major

So it’s been a big week for me.  The so-called ‘soft’ opening of Golding’s on Monday was a smash-hit, with the place packing out.  Since then it’s been busy every night and I’ve worked quite a few long days in a row.  The next big hurdle is the Grand, or what I like to call ‘hard’ opening tomorrow.  It’s looking to be another sell-out night, with half of Wellington inviting themselves along.  Feel free to pop along yourself, all are welcome.  Just don’t expect much in the way of elbow room.

An just to entice you down, we’ll be sticking a couple of treats on tap.  First of all, another keg of the Funk Estate/Baylands Brewery Big Red Ryeding Hood.  This was the darling beer of Monday’s opening: a big, malty, hoppy, rye-y IPA.  Very fresh and a little angry, but all the better for it.

The other beer, is something a bit different.  You see, I was at the Garage the other day (well, two months ago) and told Pete the Brewer about my new job at Golding’s.

Pete: “Congrats Dude.  Hey, we should make a beer for the opening,” said Pete.

Me: “You read my mind, Old Bean,” (or something like that).

Anyway, we got to talking and collaborating and so on.  Pete wanted to make something with lots of Golding hops (for obvious reasons).  I wasn’t so keen.  East Kent Golding is all well and fine as hop varieties go, but it’s not much fun in my opinion.  I wanted to do hoppy wheat ale.  As readers will know, I had a summer-romance with one a little while back.  Suddenly I had an idea.

Me: “What if we made an English Wheat Beer?”

Pete: “A what?”

Me: “What if the England had a traditional, native wheat ale?1  What would that be like?  Kind of like a bitter or a golden ale, but with a fair dose of wheat-malt and a clean British ale yeast”.

Pete: “I see.  Sounds interesting.”

Me: “We could hop it with lots of Goldings.  It’ll be like a English/German hybrid: British hops and yeast, but with German wheat malt.”

And so it was settled.  We booked in a brew date (no mean feat, considering how busy they are at the Garage) and off we went.

I turned up on brew-day at some ungodly hour (9am. That’s ungodly by my standards).  Pete was in the middle of brewing a batch of ANZAC on the big kit.

Pete: “Hey Dude, I’ve been thinking.  I like this English/German hybrid idea.  Lets expand on that and use a combination of English and German hop varieties.”

Sounds good to me.  We got down to arguing the malt bill.  I was keen to do a split malt bill 30-40% wheat with the rest Golden Promise, but Pete disagreed.  He reckons too much wheat can be a bit ‘yucky’.  I’m only a causal home brewer, and he’s the experienced professional, so I bowed to knowledge and experience on that one.  We went with a Golden Promise base, and 15% wheat.  Pete also wanted to drop in a bit of Caramel and Aroma malts, to make it a little more Englishy.  That fitted in with the concept, so I was down with it.

We milled, we mashed, we re-circulated.  All very standard stuff:


I had my best brewing-face on.

Brewing faces may or may not contain beards.

Brewing faces may or may not contain beards.

I was a little concerned about the mash sticking, this being my first time using wheat.  I was there for the first Summer Sommer brew, which had an awful stuck-mash, that time from rye.  I could just envision a 10-hour brew day, but my fears were unfounded.  Everything went smoothly.

Like silk.

Like silk.

After running off, we got a healthy boil going, and started adding hops.  The same triple combo was used throughout the whole process: East Kent Goldings, Challenger and Hallertau Tradition.  A small  bittering addition was followed by generous late editions of all three hops.  I was measuring the hops, so I made damn sure they were properly generous additions.

As before, all went smoothly.  We boiled, we chilled, we pitched.  Yeast-wise we went with Wyeast Yorkshire Ale, a fairly clean and attenuative strain.  Soon the beer was tucked up cozily in a fermentor, bubbling away.  Easy as.

What wasn’t easy was coming up with a name.  Naming beers is tricky and often done poorly (I swear one day I will write that naming guide).  We kicked around a few names like “Free Diver” and “Dive-Bomber” but nothing quite seemed to fit.  Finally we settled on a suggestion of mine: Major Goldings.  This is both a tribute to Golding’s Free Dive, Golding hops, of which there are major amounts in the beer, and the British/German style mashup (because you know, wars and shit).

I haven’t had a chance to taste it post dry-hop, but early indications are that it’s refreshing and slightly bitter golden-ish ale.  4.3% ABV, light but full.  Now a word of warning.  There is only 30 litres or so, this being a pilot-kit brew.  It’ll be going on at Goldings on Friday, mid afternoon.  It will not last the night, so get in quick if you want to try some.

See you on Friday.  And remember  Beer is Love, ya’ll.

Sean and Pete

Pete and Sean, a pair of beardy-beer chaps.

  1. I’m ignoring the fact that they actually did and still do, sort of.

My Alcoholic Kitchen: Chickenosaurus Rex

So the other day I had beer-can-chicken for the first time.  And it was pretty good, but I’m not sure the beer did anything to the chicken.  Certainly I couldn’t really taste it.  Now I was in the company of beer geeks at the time (aren’t I always?) and we got talking about how to make the chicken taste more like the beer.


Godspeed, you mad bastard.

We generally agreed that a good strong-flavoured beer would be best option, but what to use?  I wasn’t going to waste a good Imperial Stout or Barleywine on cooking.  I toyed with the idea of using more La Trappe but then someone suggested the obvious: Yeastie Boys Rex Attitude.  But of course!  So simple but so genius!

Now I have an interesting relationship with Rex.  I both love and hate it, sometimes within the space of the same glass and sometimes simultaneously.  Overall though, I’m fond of Rex.  Not because I like drinking it, but because it’s utterly-nutterly-butterly bonkers.  It’s unique and it’s insane and for that I’m glad it exists.1

So I resolved to making rex-beer-can-chicken.  Now there’s an obvious problem with this plan, which is that Rex doesn’t come in cans.  I got around this simply by purchasing another canned drink, emptying it and filling it with Rex.  For aesthetic reasons, I wanted to use a can of something really shitty, like Lion Red, but I was at the supermarket, and I could only really get cans of fizzies, so I went with lemonade.


There’s no way this can go wrong.


  • Drain the can of lemonade/other beer/whatever.  Drink this with ice, Gin and a squeeze of lemon (optional).  
  • Season your chicken with a little oil, salt and fresh-ground pepper.
  • Fill the empty can halfway with Rex Attitude.
  • And er, well…  Shove it up the chicken’s bum.  Yup.
  • Stand the chicken on the end of the can.  Now I had trouble keeping the chicken upright, so I used a couple of bamboo skewers to keep it standing:
I'm probably not.

Do you ever find yourself wondering if you’re completely ‘normal’?

  • Now roast it in the oven/bbq for however long (according to weight) at whatever temperature (according to oven/bbq or whatever).  

I was going to drink the rest of the Rex, only needing half the bottle to fill the can.  But then a thought occurred to me: gravy.  I got busy preparing some spuds.  Very quickly, I knew something was different from a normal roast chicken.  A smoky, slightly burning smell started permeating the kitchen.  I think it was just some spilled Rex on the roasting pan boiling away, because it disappeared fairly quickly (or I got used to it). It was sort of pleasant, but also vaguely reminded me of stale second-hand smoke.

Anywho, an hour and a bit later and after putting on the vegetables, the chicken was ready.  I pulled it out and set it aside to rest.  Frankly, it looked a little scary.


I dub thee “Chickenosaurus Rex”!

I then got busy with the gravy.  Now I’ve heard it said by Christians that if God gives you a gift, it’s your duty to use it in the service of the Lord.  If this is true, I should probably give up beer-tending and become an Evangelical Gravy-Preacher, because my gravy is god-damn magical.  I’m known amongst my friends as the Gravy Wizard and I’m frequently contracted to make gravy at parties.

Now lets get one thing straight.  Repeat after me: “Gravy does NOT come from a packet”.  Got that?  Cool.  Here’s how I made gravy:

  • Take your pan with all the lovely drippings from the roast.  Pour them off if there’s a lot sloshing around in the pan.  Otherwise, put it on the stove top and turn it to low.  
  • Sprinkle flour into the pan a little at a time and whisk it about until you’ve soaked up all the liquid.  It should make a thick paste when all the oil has been soaked up.
  • Once the flower is looking all nice and browned, add more liquid a little at a time, while whisking to thin it out.  I used Rex.  It turned out I didn’t need to save the rest of the bottle because there was still some left in the bottom of the can from the chicken’s bum.
  • After a lot of whisking, the gravy should look nice and glossy.  If you’ve whisked it enough, there shouldn’t be any lumps.  I seasoned it with a little soy sauce, lemon juice and fresh-ground pepper.

So how did the Chickenosaurus taste?  Well, only the meat nearest the can had picked up the Rex flavour.  That was probably a good thing though, because it wasn’t particularly a good combination.  It wasn’t bad per-se, but it did kind of taste a little like I’d used cigarette ash as a spice rub.  Oh well.  It was a neat experiment and we lives and learns, doesn’t we?  On the other hand…

The Rex gravy was delicious: rich, subtly peaty and a little tart from the lemon juice.  It was great on the chicken but I suspect it would be even better on beef.  So the experiment was worth it in the end.  Rex gravy: I’m going to remember that one!

I’m not entirely sold on the whole beer-can-chicken idea.  The meat was very moist, but I suspect a broth or even a brine would work just as well.  Next time I might just baste the chicken frequently in beer.  Maybe a Rauchbier like Smok’in Bish or Smoko.  Then again, they do have guinea fowl at More Wilson’s.  And quails.  And I was looking at those extra small energy-drink cans at the supermarket…

  1. I’m also very fond of Rex Attitude for another reason.  If you give it to someone who’s never had it before, they’ll pull a funny face.  But also, be they beer geek or complete novice, there’s roughly a 50-50 chance they’ll love it/hate it, which is pretty remarkable.  Although I have seen more than one beer geek type pretend to love it so as not to lose face in geek circles, then abandon or dump it when no one is looking…

Green on Grey

Last Monday I had to be somewhere super early.  When I say super early, I mean 8:30 am.  Now I know a lot of you will be snorting into your pints “that’s not early.”  Well bear in mind that when your normal bedtime is 3 am, you have to sleep until 11 just to get your solid 8 hours.

There’s a reason we call you guys Day-Walkers.

Here’s a poem I composed on the bus, sometime around 8:15 am.

Sitting on the bus.
It’s too early for me.
I feel like shit.
It’s too early for everyone.  

The weather is grey.
The people are grey too.
Everyone’s grumpy.
No one smiles.  

Except for one:
A girl with green hair.
Sitting three seats back.
Rocking out with headphones.

She made me smile too.

I know this isn’t isn’t a beer-related post, but what’s the point of having your own piece of internet if you can’t do what you like with it.  Anyway, I’m cooking up an alcoholic post as I speak so look out for that soon.