2011 in Review

Regular readers of our column may have noticed a conspicuous lack of space devoted to extolling the virtues of the best beers, bars, and festivals. There is a good reason for that, namely there is no accounting for taste. We have always tried to provide enough information and context for people to make up their own minds about what they like.

Several weeks ago we opened a bottle of La Folie, which we imported from the US to share with friends. Produced by Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing Company, the sour brown ale is one of the most highly rated beers in this style, with over 1000 people giving it a perfect score on ratebeer.com. We are big fans of sour beers and were curious about the reaction of a table full of beer geeks.

We poured samples for the 10 people and waited. After the initial screwing up of faces, the discussion began. Not one person wanted a second pour, as the consensus was that the beer was one dimensionally too sour. We agreed. We had brought the beer back to NZ as an example of the extreme sourness that we found in the States. We personally prefer a more balanced approach to sours with a range of flavours showing through. The bottle is still sitting in the fridge, half empty. There is no accounting for taste.

With that in mind, we have tried to capture some of our most memorable experiences and observations of the last year. Your taste may very.

The first thing that comes to mind is the Christchurch Quakes, and the resilience of the brewers, working together to keep the labels alive in a challenging environment. The more fortunate breweries like Harrington’s and Three Boys extended themselves to keep many of the others going. The recent opening of Dux Live and the announcement of future Twisted Hop venues are great news.

We had many memorable beers this year, with Mussel Inn Black Pig, Moa Imperial Stout, McCashins Gruit, and 8 Wired Saison Sauvin being just a few examples. Of course there was one beer to rule them all: Rex Attitude forever changed our thinking about what a beer could and should be about, and in the process garnered the Yeastie Boys world-wide publicity and an award for innovation. (An imperial version, xeRRex has recently been released.)

Closer to home, Nelson has continued to add beers (and ciders), breweries and outlets. Still, many outsiders are unaware of the offerings here. The establishment of the Craft Brewing Capital industry group to promote the region and its beer should help increase our visibility. (And may have inspired Wellington to do the same.) Regular events like Marchfest and the Moutere Inn Showcases provide important opportunities for sampling less available beers.

We had a few big disappointments this year, including the persistence of prohibitionist attacks on reasonable alcohol consumption and the inability to get the much anticipated Batch 18 in Nelson once it was finally released. And as if anyone else needs to say it, the Radler decision allowing misuse of intellectual property law for ownership of a general beer style.

Of course we are also looking forward to the coming year. Can the explosion of new breweries, beers and outlets continue? Will the craft beer scene in Auckland kick into gear? Will hop domination give way to barrel aging, wildness and sourness? Will Mike’s Double IPA make an appearance in Nelson? Will we see the high quality of beer/food pairings at Beervana become the norm around the country?

Originally published in the Nelson Mail.

About Fritz and Maria

Fritz and Maria have been living, drinking and brewing together for over 20 years. As beer commentators and educators they strive to create a beerocracy where people exercise their palates by voting for quality in the marketplace. Their interests include the personalities, business, and culture of craft beer worldwide. As distillers for Rough Hands, they loved being at the place where magic meets science. Fritz and Maria can be found speaking at beery events, holding guided tastings, judging competitions.

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