Polarised results from an eclectic beer tasting

Last week I held a sold-out beer tasting at D4 here in Wellington. The beers all came from D4’s tap range, and so there were some unusual and eclectic matches.

The first pairing was Erdinger Weissbier and Coopers Sparkling Ale. Coopers Sparkling was the first craft beer I tasted, many years ago, in Australia. It’s a malt-based golden ale, but, with its cloudy pour and thick white head, it is definitely in touch with its wheaty side. I wanted to see how it compared with a wheat beer, and the tasters’ consensus was that Erdinger was more distinct and, in this company, the Sparkling Ale seemed like a compromise.

The second pairing was more of a contrast – Maredsous Blonde and Tuatara Pilsner. The idea was to demonstrate the difference between the traditional Belgian abbey styles and the more modern lagers. Tasters also commented on the difference in hops, and picked up some subtle sweaty New Zealand aromas coming from the pilsner. That rich, sweet Belgian flavour in the Maredsous was too much for some, but overall this contrasting pair polarised the tasters.

The third pairing was a head-to-head of local American pales ales – Tuatara APA vs. Epic Pale Ale. These were the go-to beers for many of the tasters and most people in the group could tell them apart at first taste. Tuatara was the favourite of the two – tasters thought it was more balanced and complex than Epic PA. This isn’t surprising – Epic says its PA is a single-hop beer (US Cascade), while Tuatara says it uses Cascade, Simcoe and Amarillo. The feeling was that Tuatara APA was introduced last year and represents a “Mark II” APA compared to Epic’s pioneering example.

All up, it was a good, noisy night with lots of healthy beer discussion and debate. There was a range of tasters, including an experienced and respected homebrewer/blogger, and some beer-tasting virgins. As always, the first-timers made a valuable contribution by asking questions the beer fans were too cool to ask out loud!

The final vote was definitely polarised and reflected the unusual combinations we tasted. Epic Pale Ale was the favourite for one taster; Erdinger Weissbier had six fans; and Tuatara APA was the favourite on the night for ten tasters.

Thanks to D4 for hosting the event and providing beer and food. Thanks, too, to Coopers and Tuatara for giveaways and prizes.

And an extra big ‘Cheers’ to everyone who came along and made for a fun night at the pub.

Wow of the week: This comment on Tuatara Pilsner, from Ratebeer.com. “Just as I was thinking I hated NZ hops, I tasted them in a beer where they actually worked. Amazing aroma of passionfruit and taste of passionfruit seeds. Some creeping bitterness, soft and subtle. A few other flavours appear on the periphery – applesauce, mango ice cream. A real delight.” High praise, but especially when it comes from a Plzen resident who has rated 4000+ beers and describes Bohemian pilsner as his favourite style.

And if you want a cheap jug of Tuatara pilsner, try One Red Dog on the Wellington waterfront. A big (2l approx) pitcher for $20 on the right day. Just check that you get a clean glass to enjoy it from.


© Martin Craig, February 2011. Reproduction with permission.
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