Straighten Up and Fly Right.

Ah, cider.

Yeah, this is is a beer blolg: beer is the love of my life. But cider? Cider is my Mistress. My bit on the side. My sneaky, drunken-5am quickie. My on the D.L. hook-up. My…

Er, not sure where I’m going with this anymore…

Anywho, I love cider, almost as much as I love beer, and if I ever develop Celicas, I’m opening a cidery (or just moving next door to Peckham’s). And recently, the cider world has seen the resurgence of a name we’d almost thought lost for good: Crooked.

For those not in the know, a brief history (with apologies for any factual error I make here. I’m not a journo, I haven’t done research and this is based off what I’ve heard from people in the industry. My own sideline perspective tallies with what I’ve been told):

Once upon a time there was the Three River Cider label, a.k.a. The Cider House Orchard. The only reliable (sorry, I mean easily Google-able) record of this exists in the dark recesses of RateBeer. They went out of business, possibly before I had ever tried them. My theory is that New Zealand wasn’t ready for that sort of cider yet, but there is probably a better explanation. They were bought up and became Crooked. Incidentally, you should definitely check out that website before an actual designer with any sort of competency gets their hands on it.

Would you believe me if I told you the vulture is wearing plate armour and holding an axe just out of frame? Cos it's true.

Would you believe me if I told you the vulture is wearing plate armour and holding an axe just out of frame? Cos it’s true. Source

Now Crooked cider was great: bone dry and full of flavour. It didn’t just taste like fermented apple juice; you could taste the whole damn apple. The flesh, skin, seeds, stalks and all. And it was jam-packed full of weird (delicious) funky-yeast flavours. And it was hazy. Hazy as fuck. In short, Crooked was great.

Ok, so I’m going from memories here. Maybe time has greened those pastures. Crooked was a least interesting. It was authentic, and got me excited at a time when it wasn’t even guaranteed that cider would contain and actual fruit, let alone apples (oh wait, we still live in that time).

Now you can probably tell what comes next in the story: the Vulture went the way of the Dodo. Without putting too finer point on the matter (or talking too much shit about people in the industry), Crooked was mismanaged into the ground. But there was always rumours that Crooked was coming back. And finally rumours coalesced into bottles on shelves. Bottles which it took me about a month or so to recognise, because they now look like this:

IMG_20140319_210200

I detect the hoofprints of a Graphic Designer. It’s generic, but at least it’s dynamic. Definitely an improvement anyway.

So straight away, you’ll notice that it’s crystal clear. Crystal clear as fuck. That’s ok, many great ciders are filtered and fined. The back of the label is a little more ominous:

IMG_20140319_233027

Again, I detect the hoof-prints of a marketing person.

It says a hell of a lot, without telling you anything at all. Whatever. How does it taste?

Um, you know when an old band gets back together, but half of the members have changed, and it’s alright, but it’s just not the same? Yeah, pretty much that.

Yeah it’s dry, but not like the old Crooked. If old Crooked cut like a scalpel, then new Crooked is more of a bread knife. It’s lost it’s skin-and-stalks flavour too; it just tastes like apples now. And it’s clean; too clean. Gone is the yeasty-funky-barnyard character. In short it’s lost pretty much everything that made it Crooked.

But wait just a moment! You know how I said the label doesn’t really tell you anything? Actually it does: “100% NZ Hawkes Bay Apples”, with a little map showing you exactly where the Hawkes Bay is in New Zealand? But the old Crooked Cidery (and most importantly the orchard which grew their amazing cider apples) was in the Wairarapa!

Suddenly all is clear. This is a revival of Crooked in name only. The bottle also lists a business address in Wellington. This cider is probably made under contract in the Hawkes Bay, from apples grown in that region.

Now that’s kind of disappointing, but don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad cider. It’s made with real apples and it’s not back-sweetened into oblivion. It’s just hell of a lot shallower than it used to be. It’s gone mainstream. But new Crooked is definitely a lot better than the overly sweetened products of the corporate breweries. And I’d take it any day of the week over Rekorderlig. And if you take anything away from this, I guess it should be that. 

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Recycling Bin Bingo

My last photo-based bloooooog post was a roaring success. So much so that I’ve begun collecting more bottle shots for a follow up. I might even one day put together an exhibition…

It seems a lot of people get a weird sort of enjoyment seeing craft beer littering the street. It’s funny the shared experiences we have, but don’t necessarily talk about. It also seems something else we all do (and I suspect get a weird enjoyment out of) is check out other people’s recycling bins. I think the enjoyment comes from judging other people’s tastes. No doubt there is a Latin/Greek/German technical term for this.

Anyway, a lot of people suggested I write a post about recycling bins, and I thought: yeah, why not? It combines two of my guilty pleasures: rooting through people’s refuse and feeling smug and superior about it…

So basically, I wandered around my neighbourhood (Mount Victoria), snapping some photos of other people’s recycling and awarding scores as I saw fit. Now as it happened, it was the first recycling day after Sevens, which resulted in some interesting combinations. 

OK here we go. Time to play the inaugural round of Craft Beer Recycling Bin Bingo!

THE RULES:

– There must be at least one ‘craft’ bottle or can in the bin to qualify.
– Points are awarded as I see fit. It’s completely arbitrary and unfair. Because that how I roll.
– Points are gained for having beers I perceive to be good in your bin.
– Points are deducted for having beers I perceive as bad in your bin.
– Bonuses and penalties are awarded for variety, rarity, quantity or as I see fit.
– Wine or spirits have no score, because I’m not qualified to make judgements on a lot of them.
– RTD’s are a big penalty.

Basically, a bin full of Mac’s or Monteith’s will score you zero, where as a bin full of Garage Project will score very highly. Conversely, a bin full of Budweiser will earn you a negative score. There is no upper or lower limit, but there is a theoretical perfect score: a bin full of Cantillon Gueuze and Lindemans Cuvée René, one of which is still full and appropriately chilled, with a beautiful crystal goblet glass, attached to a love letter from your estranged high school sweet-heart, being guarded by the cutest puppy in the world, who gives you cuddles whilst you drink it.

Yeah, that’s the perfect score.

Entry One: My Bin

For the sake of fairness, and as a calibration point, I thought I’d better include my own bin. I live with other people, so it has an interesting variety.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

1. My flatmate’s beer of choice, Emerson’s Pilsner +5 pts.
2. My favourite cooking beer, Wigram The Czar Imperial Stout +7 pts (obscurity value).
3. Hophugger Coasters Pale Ale +7 pts (obscurity).
4. Zeffer Dry Apple Cider +5 pts.
5. Monteith’s Gold 0 pts.
6. Dropped in our bin along with some wine bottles by a passer by, Cooper’s Sparkling +3 pts.
Bonus: Variety (5 breweries 1 cider) +20 pts.

TOTAL: 47 points.

A good starting score. Let’s see what my neighbours can do.

Entry Two: A Panhead Invasion

IMG_20140213_093730

Click to Enlarge.

1. Moa Original +5 pts. I considered introducing a Moa penalty for being dicks, but you know, barrel-fish.
2. Panhead Port Road Pilsner +5 pts.
3. Mata Artesian +7 pts (obscurity).
4. Difficult to see, but that’s a Panhead Quickchange XPA +5pts.
Bonus: Variety (3 breweries) +10 pts.
Bonus: Quantity (6 of one beer, 7 from one brewery) +10 pts.

TOTAL: 42 points.

Entry two is a firm contender, but my bin edges them out narrowly. Can the next bin knock me off top spot?

Entry Three: The Duality of Man

Click to Embiggen

Click to Embiggen

Hmm. I don’t think so somehow.

1. Tui Lager -3pts.
2. Moa Original +5 pts.
Bonus: Quantity (6 of one beer) +8 pts.
Penalty: Quantity of shit beer (a metric shit-ton of Tui) -5 pts.

TOTAL: 10 points.

Clearly there’s only one person of taste in this household, and they favour a six-pack of Moa Original.

Entry Four: Eclectia

Click to make big.

Click to make big.

Now here’s an interesting one!

1. Green Flash West Coast IPA +8 pts. A little hard to see, but it’s there. Rare imports score highly.
2. Panhead Supercharger APA +8 pts. The brave young Panhead is showing well!
3. Mac’s Hop Rocker 0 pts.
4. Blow me down! If that’s not a Mike’s Imperial Porter hiding under there! +10 pts.
Bonus: Variety (3 breweries) +10 pts.

TOTAL: 36 points.

Another strong contender, and very much a drinker after my own heart.

Entry Five: Hidden Gem

I almost missed this entry, then I saw a neck label with the words “RISK, DREAM” poking out.

Click make thing size upwards.

Click make thing size upwards.

1. I see you hiding there. Don’t play coy with me, you delicious, chocolaty-strumpet! Rogue Chocolate Stout! +10 pts. N.B. I’m not calling Debbie Buhler a chocolaty-strumpet; just the beer she’s featured on…
2. A shit-ton of Hagen Lager -3 pts.
Penalty: Quantity of shit -5 pts.

TOTAL: +3 points

I like this entry. It shows how just one bottle can make up for a mountain of crap beer. Clearly someone with decent taste came to visit.

Entries Five and Six: A Double Feature

Click to Shrink to Nothingness.

Click to Shrink to Nothingness.

Wahey! Jackpot!

Left:
1. 8 Wired Semi Conductor +5 pts.
2. Epic Armageddon IPA +7 pts.
Bonus: Quantity (4 of the same beer) +5 pts.

TOTAL: 15 points

Right:
3. A little hard to see, tucked in there, but that’s an Epic Pale Ale +5 pts.
4. Moa Original (very popular choice) +5 pts.
5. Bugger me! Do my eyes deceive me, or is that an Emerson’s Southern Clam Stout? +15 pts (obscure, out of season vintage). Someone’s been dipping into their cellar!
6. Heineken -3 pts.
7. My finger got in the way of the lens. 0 pts.
Bonus: Variety (3 breweries) +10 pts.

TOTAL: 32 points

Unfortunately these bins had different address on them. If they’d come from the same house, they would have the combined bonuses would have knocked me off the top spot.

Entry Seven: A Contender

IMG_20140227_085846

Big Size.

Oooh, lots going on here!

1. ParrotDog Flaxen Feather +5 pts.
2. Three Boys Golden +5pts.
3. Three Boys Pilsner +5pts
4. Samuel Adams Boston Lager +2 pts. I’m pretty indifferent about Sam Adam’s beers really.
5. Haha, almost missed you there! Cheeky Emerson’s Bookbinder hiding behind the grape juice. +5 pts.
Bonus: Quantity (5 of one beer) +6 pts.
Bonus: Variety (4 breweries) +12 pts.

TOTAL: 40 points

A bold showing, but just a little too safe to come out on top.

Entry Eight: Simplicity

Size increase for clicking.

Size increase for clicking.

I sense a determined lack of compromise in this drinker’s taste.

1. Three Boys Pilsner. +5 pts.
2. Emerson’s 1812 Pale Ale. +5 pts.
3. ParrotDog BitterBitch +5 pts.
4. ParrotDog PitBull +7 pts.
5. Garage Project Beyond The Pale +10 pts.
Bonus: Variety (5 Beers, 4 Breweries) + 15 pts.

TOTAL: 47 points

Oh so close, buts it’s a tie!

Entry Nine: WTF?

What is this shit? I don’t even know.

IMG_20140213_094919

You don’t want to go any closer.

1. Tuatara Pilsner +5 pts.
2. Wildside ‘Cider’ -10 pts (RTD penalty).
3. Some shit from Foundary Road -5 pts.
4. Broken plate glass -20 pts.
5. Mac’s Great White 0 pts.
6. Rekorderlig -1,080,945 pts.

TOTAL: -1080975 Points.

Oh dear. I just don’t know what to say.

I like to think that you can get an insight into people from their drinking habits. Well, if by their recycling shall ye know them, then the owner of this bin should probably be arrested for being a public menace.

Whomever you are, I hope I never meet you, for my own safety, and yours.

Reflections:

So there you have it. It’s a tie between entry eight and myself. Now the only reason it’s a tie is because I had a greater spread of breweries in my bin; and this only happened because some random dropped a Cooper’s Sparkling Ale in there (along with some wine bottles) after it had been put out on the street. The fact is I do most of my drinking in bars after midnight, So it’s surprising my bin was so populated at the time.

In other regards, this was a really interesting exercise. I went into it with quite a few expectations that soon proved to be misplaced. For example, being so close to Regional, I expected to find a much greater mix of breweries, and a more eclectic mix of beers. For example, a few obscure Belgians. The only one I found however, was a single bottle of La Trappe Tripel, in a bin that didn’t make it into my final series.

In fact the interesting beers that I saw that didn’t make the final entries included:

– Yeastie Boys Gunnamata
– Hallertau Statesman and Luxe
– Renaissance Stonecutter
– Appletree Elderflower Cider
– Left Coast The Wedge
– Beer Here Ryefix
– Lakefront 25 Anniversary Brandy Barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin Lager (that would have been a solid +25 Points).

Many notable breweries that you might expect to find in the recycling of a well-to-do suburb, such as Liberty or Croucher, were nowhere to be found.

I think there are a few factors to be taken into account here. First of all I suspect the Sevens significantly drove up the amount of crappy lager that was drunk in the neighbourhood. Second of all, the presence of Regional (and perhaps ParrotDog Brewery as well) would mean that a considerable proportion of beer being drunk at home would be in the form of riggers and flagons (certainly that’s my prefered way to drink at home). This probably meant that a good slice of the craft beer consumed in Mount Victoria wouldn’t leave traces in recycling bins, as people reuse their riggers. From an environmental standpoint, I approve of this.

Another interesting observation I made is the significant quantity of Moa Original being drunk. Moa seem to be making a push to move volumes locally (I’ve seen a lot of it for very cheap in supermarkets), perhaps due to the big short-fall of sales last year. I have no Idea if the approach will payoff, but adopting the strategy of selling quantity at a low margin makes me uneasy. After all, that is what the soulless corporate breweries do. As Lear said: Oh that way madness lies.

Finally, and perhaps most interestingly is the volume of Panhead being drunk. By in large, the most common small brewery I found was Tuatara by a considerable margin (followed by Moa), but following that very closely was Panhead. For a brewery less than a year old, that’s pretty damn remarkable. Well done, Mike, Anna and the rest of the Panhead crew.