Wanted – Sydney beer guide

Ok, I’m off to Sydney in 10 days and obviously I’ll be trying out some local beers.

I haven’t been to Sydney for 20 years or so, so I’m picking there will be some changes, especially around the craft beer scene.

So if you know your way around Sydney’s better beer bars, get in touch at martin@nzbeerblog.com. I’m in town from 16/11 to 22/11 and I’m always happy to catch up over a beer.

And there will be some changes here at nzbeerblog over the next few weeks.

I have a new job – for the next 18 months I’m a business development manager at one of New Zealand’s Crown Research Institutes. This comes after being self-employed as a freelance writer and markeing strategist for many years.

It’s a great job, but it means I will have less time to host tastings and to do my devoted and extensive research.

I will be travelling around the country and so I’ll be reporting back from the regions whenever possible.

Watch this space.


Martin Craig

The superpub and beer quality

It’s great to see the rise and rise of pubs with a great variety of tap beer. I’m a big fan of tap beer, on the assumption it is fresher than the bottled stuff.

But the combination of good variety and freshness can cancel itself out. More taps means a slower average turnover, which means less freshness. This led me to do some back-of-the-coaster number crunching…

Let’s assume draught beer is best consumed within two weeks of tapping the keg. A pub with 40 kegs on tap must sell 40 x 50 litres in two weeks to keep that minimum turnover. That works out to a minimum of 1000 litres per week, or 2000 pints per week.

But of course, the entire range of 40 draft beers is not going to sell at the same rate. So let’s make another assumption: 20% of those taps account for 80% of turnover. So the remaining 80% of the taps (=32 taps in a 40-tap bar) account for 20% of turnover – and should be selling out within two weeks.

So, (32 taps x 50 litres)/2 weeks = 800 litres per week accounting for 20% of sales. That indicates total weekly sales of 4000 litres. That’s about 8000 pints per week, or more than 1000 pints per day, every day, all week.

Now I know I’ve made many assumptions in these sums, and they inevitably affect the conclusions.

First, smaller kegs would reduce the minimum turnover needed.

Secondly, the 80/20 rule might not apply, especially if staff have the confidence and beer knowledge to encourage drinkers to try something different.

Third, brewers may well expect a faster turnover – if you assume a keg should last a week, then double the figures above.

Fourth, don’t assume the beer is stored in a cool room. Some bar systems flash-chill the beer while it pours, and kegs are stored at (summer) room temperatures. I don’t know how long that beer can be expected to stay good enough to sell.

So question the figures, add your own assumptions, and let me know what you come up with. But either way, there’s an argument to be made for a small-but-perfectly formed craft beer range – provided, of course, you have what I want when I want it (and a surprise or two).

© Martin Craig, October 2011. Reproduction with permission.

Anything could happen and it could be right now!

I’ve read that you will hear the best music of your life in your early teens, and three decades later I don’t disagree (although Miles Davis would have been wasted on the 15-year old version of me).

One of the most memorable records (12″, vinyl, 45rpm) of my mid-teens was Boodle Boodle Boodle by The Clean. Crap instruments, simple riffs, and a shit load more humour than most New Zealand music at the time.

So when the courier interrupted my breakfast this morning, with a box of Flying Nun Records 30 Year Ale, I was surprised and intrigued.

Turns out is is another Epic production, as Epic’s Luke Nicholas explains:

“A few months ago Flying Nun approached us to make an anniversary beer for them. I asked why? They said they were big fans of Epic beers, and would love for us to make a beer for them. They had made a couple of commemorative beers over the years and wanted to do a beer for the 30th anniversery, and have it available at the gigs they will have around the country during the month of ‘Nunvember’.

With such a privilege of being able to make a beer for a true Kiwi icon such as Flying Nun Records, we sat down and thought about what type of beer it should be. First we decided it had to be light in colour as we figure the majority of the people that are Flying Nun fans probably have never drunk craft beer, and would likely be scared of anything darker than the lagers they probably drink. But at the same time we still needed to give the beer the signature Epic character of lots of hops. Ultimately we wanted a beer that people would love to drink, and Flying Nun Records would be proud to have their label on the bottle.

So we decided we would make a beer along the lines of our flagship Epic Pale Ale, but with a whole new recipe. We changed the malts and the hops and ended up with this 5.5% abv Pale Ale. The ingredients we used were UK grown Maris Otter malt, and German Munich malt to give a subtle sweet biscuity malt background. The hops were US-grown Liberty (Hallertau parentage), Cascade and Falconers Flight (which is a proprietary blend of Simcoe, Sorachi Ace and Citra) and the new Australian hop Galaxy. The beer was dry hopped twice.

More information about the Nunvember gigs check out http://www.flyingnun.co.nz/stories/78

Cheers Luke and Flying Nun!

Harrington’s Tasting – book now

Next Wednesday Harrington’s Breweries is sponsoring the AGM for Wellington IT group, Unlimited Potential.

I’ll be speaking about Harrington’s, its products and history. And, of course, Harrington’s has generously provided beers from its diverse range.

Anyone is welcome to attend, and it’s free. Just register here. Unlimited Potential is Wellington’s leading network for IT professionals (and more than a few of them are craft beer fans too).

Harrington’s tasting, 5.30pm Wednesday 26 October, Deloitte NZ, 10 Brandon St Wellington

The Worst Beer Tasting EVER! has sold out for next week at Regional Wines & Spirits. There has been strong interest, and Kieran and I may be holding another WBTE again soon, this time scheduled to allow beer bar staff to come along and advance their beer knowledge. Let me know if you are interested in attending another event.

And don’t forget the Great Pacific Beer Festival this weekend, on the Wellington waterfront, sponsored by the ever-eclectic Hashigo Zake!

Beer is better than wine – it’s no fantasy!

From the NZHerald today:

“Drinkers of wine, sherry and port may be unknowingly breaking the law and consuming small doses of the party drug fantasy, an illegal class B drug.

“National Addiction Centre director Doug Sellman said it seemed likely that some wine contained GHB, and called for more research.

“‘It raises the bizarre conclusion that many wines in New Zealand may, in fact, be technically illegal.'”

Just don’t tell him that hops is related to dope.


Martin Craig martin@nzbeerblog.com

Worst Beer Tasting – EVER!

Yep, I’m offering you a very limited opportunity to experience the Worst Beer Tasting – EVER!

Regional’s Kieran Haslett-Moore and I are presenting Beer 102 – Identifying Beer Faults and Off Flavours at Regional Wines & Spirits on Friday 28 October from 6pm.

This tasting is a (hopefully) unique opportunity to experience some of the most common beer faults and flaws, including oxidation, light strike and everything else you don’t want to find in your beer.

This will be invaluable for home brewers, aspiring beer judges, and bar staff want to know more about what they’re selling. It’s a one-off session and strictly limited to 30 places.

And don’t worry – we will end the night something decent, tasty and clean to clear the palate!

Bookings are available here from tomorrow.

Martin Craig martin@nzbeerblog.com

Check it out: Wellington Craft Beer News, a host of craft beer information and news from the very busy Andy McKenzie.

Wellington’s Big Beer Quarter

Wellington has a new craft beer precinct. Three new craft beer bars, with more than 100 taps between them, opened recently, all centred around Manners Street and all within a three-minute walk.

The Taphaus is on the corner of Victoria and Dixon Streets. The site was a curry joint for years and the decor still shows the Indian origins. Two large brass elephants overlook the bar. Rumour says they are too heavy to move, and they may soon be painted pink.

The Taphaus has 52 beer taps, including five hand pumps. The range covers New Zealand craft beers, several UK imports (with Brewdog on the way) and a handful of international lagers. The food is typical pub food with lunches from $10 and dinners for $12-$17.

There’s an awkward relationship between the bar area and an area of tables that looks like it’s still part of the curry restaurant. But the Taphaus has great natural light and a broader beer range than several cities. The bar is long and it’s easy to see what’s available.

The Fork & Brewer opened a week ago upstairs in Bond Street. This site has some craft beer history – the Loaded Hog operated here about 20 years ago and was one of the first Wellington bars to avoid the Big Beer Duopoly. Since then the site has hosted the Ruby Lounge, Syn and Hell Pizza.

It’s a big space and is refit has obviously been expensive. The bar area is large and shaped like a barrel. Forty three beers and ciders were on tap yesterday, with no hand pumps. The range is very strongly centred on New Zealand craft brewers, with a couple of crafty Australians available, and no mainstream lagers on tap.

Food is an important part of the Fork & Brewer offering and dinners range from $24-$32. Punters can sit at the bar, on a long leaner, in booths, or at tables overlooking Victoria Street. There is also a large balcony that gets great sun on summer evenings.

The F&B is still brand new – you can smell the varnish when you walk in. A microbrewery is on its way and will be installed right at the top of the stairs. The F&B needs better information about the beer range, because the curved bar means you can’t see what’s on tap without going for a short jaunt around the bar. Tasting notes are available but they don’t include the full range or mention prices, and I overheard two guests questioning the lack of prices yesterday. A big blackboard would help punters see what’s available.

F&B is run by the same team that gave us the Malthouse, and it has a distinctly different, more formal image. Staff are well-presented and attentive, and keen to learn about the full beer range. As for the name – it’s a Fork & Cringe!

The Little Beer Quarter is the third beer bar on the precinct. It’s tucked away on Edward Street, across Victoria Street from the Taphaus. Little Beer Quarter is intimate, funky and attracts a younger crowd than its bigger neighbours.

Little Beer Quarter has 12 beer taps, no hand pumps. The range is all New Zealand and Australian craft beers, and it’s easy to see the options because there’s a great big blackboard beside the bar. LBQ also sets the standards for tasting notes – the information is good, the layout is clear and it gives the prices.

Beer is available to takeaway, with a 2.5 litre flagon available for about $45. Food is typical pub grub and ranges from $15-$21 for lunches and $21-$27 for dinners. A discount is given on beer for SOBA members.

LBQ is a funky little joint that feels lived-in. It has a younger, more feminine feel than many craft beer pubs, and that will attract the younger women who are becoming a significant part of the craft beer market. The interior design is op-shop chic, and it is the only bar of the three with a fireplace. I’ve found it a welcome refuge on cold spring nights, and my only concern is the blindingly bright florescent strip sitting inside the bar fridge that is at odds with the bars snug ambiance.

LBQ is a bit harder to find than the Taphaus or Fork & Brewer, but it’s worth the effort.

This part of town had no craft beer bars a few weeks ago, and now it has three bars with 107 taps. It will be interesting to see how they change the craft beer scene here. Wellington has just declared itself the Craft Beer Capital, but this is a major increase in supply and it will need strong demand to keep all three bars open.

The bars will also need good turnover right across the ranges – there’s no point in stocking 40+ beers if eight of them are responsible for 80 percent of your sales and the rest are sitting there going stale. Good, clear information is critical, as well as staff who know their beer and encourage customers to try something new.

Meanwhile, it’s a great time to be a beer fan in Wellington.

©Martin Craig, September 2011. Reproduction with permission.

US brewer apologises for offence. NZ brewer doesn’t

US brewery drops reference to Maori King

An American boutique brewery has dropped the title Maori King for one of the beers following criticism of the name.

The brewery, Funkwerks of Colorado, says it did not intend to disrespect the Maori people or their culture by calling the beer Maori King and has now changed the name of the beer to Southern Tropic.

Funkwerks’ co-founder Brad Lincoln says the brewery came up with the name because it was using Rakau hops – a new variety of hops unique to New Zealand – in the brewing the beer.

Tainui kaumatua Mamae Takerei has called the name insulting, and said the brewery should have done its research before deciding on it.

© RadioNZ 2011


Brewery takes aim at Pakistanis

An Auckland brewery’s marketing campaign fronted by Black Caps star Daryl Tuffey has been labelled “offensive” and “insulting”.

The Moa Brewing Co’s marketing, which is signed off by Tuffey, described it as a “Genuine all-rounder for Moa Beer”. It also details an offer to consumers for one free case of beer for every 10 purchased.

It likens the deal to numerous incidents involving match-fixing scandals featuring the Pakistan cricket team.

But it has been slated by Dunedin-based former Pakistan cricket international, Kahlid ‘Billy’ Ibadulla.

“I think the whole campaign is in a very bad taste. It does not reflect well on New Zealand,” Ibadulla says.

“It is quite insulting and quite offensive. That’s my view.”

He said of Tuffey’s involvement: “It is disappointing, especially coming from a former test player. It will not reflect very well on New Zealand Cricket.”

Tuffey and the Moa Brewing Co both stood by the campaign, saying it was based on proven facts.

“We are not out to offend anyone,” says Tuffey, who has been employed by the brewery for the past two months.

Moa Brewing Co marketing manager Sunil Unka added the brewery did not set out to “offend anyone”.

He says that it had been “successful in drumming up new business for us”.

The Moa Brewery Co has its brewery in Blenheim and head office in Auckland.

© Auckland Now

Have you had anything to drink this evening, sir?

Well, yes, I have

Friday: Tuatara Helles, Tuatara Pilsner, Tuatara Hefe, Tuatara IPA, Tuatara Porter, Tuatara APA, Tuatara Ardennes (hosting a Tuatara tasting).

Saturday: Tuatara Pilsner, Tuatara APA, Yeastie Boys Lady Marmalade, Moo Brew Pale Ale, Epic Barrel-Aged IPA

Sunday: Three Boys Pilsner, Emerson’s Pilsner, Matson’s Pine Tree Black, Feral Karma Citra

Hey, what can I say? It was my birthday weekend!


Radler case put into context

Tomorrow (Saturday) afternoon, my mates at This Way Up are taking a look at the radler case.

They’re speaking to an intellectual-property lawyer, and also looking at other controversial IP cases, including Fonterra’s trademarking of Vintage.

It will be broadcast on RadioNZ 101FM at 12.30 tomorrow 27 August. If you miss it you can listen online here.

And if you spot anyone wearing a fabulous NZBeerBlog t-shirt, give him a nudge and remind him to pay me for it!

Martin Craig

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