Drink your way around NZ

This is not a definitive bucket list, more my cut-and-paste for the next time someone asks me about my favourite beer. The answer often depends on where I am… 1. Try a barrel-aged beer from 8 Wired: Out now and tasting divine is Fistful of Cherries. 2-4. When travelling in the Tasman region pop into…

By Michael Donaldson October 24, 2018 Off

Can-conditioned beers

Two of New Zealand’s best-loved brewpubs are bringing their beer to the people. Galbraith’s Alehouse in Auckland is famous for its traditional cask ales but – until now – they were not the type of beers suited to packaging. That’s all changed with the advent of can-conditioned beer. International breweries such as California’s Sierra Nevada…

By Michael Donaldson September 18, 2018 Off

Death to Death

Love not war. Finger on the pulse rather than the trigger. Wellington brewery Garage Project have, in their seven years, managed to stay edgy but relevant, irreverent but serious about beer. Their only false step came with the imagery associated with their now defunct Death From Above, an IPA inspired by Vietnamese cuisine. Initial critiques…

By Michael Donaldson August 23, 2018 Off

Cloudy then clear on the IPA front

Sweet or dry? It used to be a question for wine drinkers back in … oh, let’s say the 1970s; before grape knowledge grew like sauvignon blanc vines in Marlborough. And there was a time before then when it was just white or red, thanks very much. Beer has been in similar territory for a…

By Michael Donaldson August 5, 2018 Off

Ice cold truth about beer

You know the magazine question where someone gets asked to name four people – living or dead – they’d like to have as dinner guests and everyone says Nelson Mandela, John Lennon, Gandhi,  JFK, Mother Theresa etcetera. Well how about four people* you’d like to have a beer with? I thought about this in the wake of Anthony Bourdain’s death in June. To…

By Michael Donaldson August 5, 2018 Off

Hopscotch has Trusts on the hop

On New Lynn’s lightly-industrial Wolverton Rd, arguably New Zealand’s smallest commercial brewery is cranking out the grand total of 50 litres of a beer a fortnight.  But in terms of breaking the Trusts stranglehold on west Auckland’s liquor supply it’s achieving far greater things. Owner-brewer Hugh Grierson brews roughly once a fortnight on his Dunedin-designed…

By Michael Donaldson July 7, 2018 Off

Nicely does it for Parrotdog

Parrotdog brewery has a simple catch-phrase – nice. Nice is one of those words that when used without enthusiasm completely belies its meaning. Think of someone nodding along … “Nice, interesting, hmmm.” But like a lot of four-letter words, “nice” simplifies bigger concepts: pleasurable, satisfying, marvellous, delightful. And in the case of Parrotdog, “nice” does…

By Michael Donaldson June 7, 2018 Off

Fact checking Monteith’s 1868 claim

Saw a new Monteith’s billboard in Avondale recently … talks about Monteith’s brewing “since 1868”. This kind of myth-creation cannot go without some fact-checking. So here goes. The whole idea of creating a “craft” brand out of thin air was first – and best, in terms of success – achieved by DB with Monteith’s. If…

By Michael Donaldson May 24, 2018 Off

Urbanaut takes off

For Bruce Turner, the driving force for his new brewery was not just the beer – it was finding a location in Auckland that reminded him of the great international suburbs of the world. He wanted the vibe of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, New York, Brixton in London or Vancouver’s Gastown. “For me this part of…

By Michael Donaldson May 20, 2018 Off

This one’s close to Love And Affection

I’ve got a bad ear worm going as I write this – Bob Marley’s 1965 classic “Love And Affection” – problem is, it’s the wrong song, which says a lot about my musical tastes. The actual song I’m supposed to be writing about is quite different: Def Leppard’s “Love And Affection” from the 1987 album…

By Michael Donaldson April 21, 2018 Off

X marks the spot

“What the ‘eck’s an XPA” a friend asked the other day. Xlnt question, I said. Xtremely hard to answer. Navigating your way towards this relatively new beer nomenclature is a bit like understanding one of those old pirate maps where X marks the spot, but you have to take 20 paces north, 37 east, 24…

By Michael Donaldson April 7, 2018 Off

Celebrating ethanol-free

Public service announcement: beer – or any alcohol for that matter – is not a health food. This is just in case you’ve been duped by the latest advertising campaign promoting beer as a sugar-free product – and by default, as somehow healthy because, you know, sugar is the new fat. The advertisement stars actress…

By Michael Donaldson March 31, 2018 Off

My $50 birthday beer treat

Happy Birthday to me. I won’t reveal how old I am but when I was born JFK was still alive and nobody had been to the moon. I figured this year, since I long ago waived birthday presents, I’d treat myself – the age I’ve attained is a personal milestone in some ways. My father…

By Michael Donaldson March 10, 2018 Off

From pirate attack to tackling the world

 The Cassels & Sons brewing family are a tight-knit unit. The secret? Surviving a pirate attack. Nothing brings a family together like a pirate attack. First, the family. Alasdair Cassels casts an eye around the family-owned brew-pub in the Christchurch suburb of Woolston. Sitting next to him are his brewery business partners, son Zak and…

By Michael Donaldson February 16, 2018 Off

Salt in the malt

If you’re of the right age you may remember your grandfather (or grandmother) putting salt in his or her beer. Salting beer wasn’t an uncommon practice in the early part of last century – between the wars. There’s no definitive reason why people added salt to their beer but there are theories. The most popular…

By Michael Donaldson February 12, 2018 Off

Mixed packs and gin

Walked into the bottle store chiller the other day and it was like returning to your childhood town after being away for 20 years and going “that’s new … that’s new … that’s new too … when did that happen? … that’s  new.” If I hadn’t gone in there for a specific beer the choice…

By Michael Donaldson February 5, 2018 Off

Sparks flying

It’s that time of year when folks, perhaps in an attempt to wring out their liver post-holiday, commit to such valiant goals as dry January. It’s commendable, if you started 2018 with a headache and liver crisis, to take measures to redeem your health. I’m all in favour in taking breaks from alcohol but taking…

By Michael Donaldson February 5, 2018 Off

Best & Worst of Beer in 2017

Best beer experience: The Free House, Nelson. Summer. Twilight. Hand-pulled Townshend’s beer. To paraphrase Josh Ritter (Me & Jiggs): You know it’s perfect because you have to leave. Best non-quite beer experience: Lucky enough to get a tour of Garage Project’s Marion St wild and barrel-aging brewery, co-founder Jos Ruffell proffered me a glass from…

By Michael Donaldson December 29, 2017 Off

12 Beers of the Year

I preface the following list with the plain fact that it’s now impossible for me – or anyone – to sample all the beer produced in New Zealand in any given year. I’d struggle to keep up with the output of breweries in a 25km radius of my house … so there’s nothing definitive about…

By Michael Donaldson December 29, 2017 Off

Garage Project discontinue controversial Death From Above

There’s a short list of breweries responding appropriately when challenged over poor marketing but Garage Project’s decision to discontinue the label and name of Death From Above, and perhaps stop brewing the beer altogether, is a positive reaction, and outcomes to an unfortunate episode. You could argue that Garage Project took a little too long…

By Michael Donaldson November 27, 2017 Off