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 would have been overwhelming. Nothing new in that, right. New is the new new after all.

But among the freshly-painted single dwellings of cans and bottles of various sizes there were the equivalent of small apartment blocks – six-packs and 12-packs. Again, nothing new there. Except this time I was taken by the number of mixed packs.

The bigger of the small breweries – Emerson’s, Tuatara, Harrington’s, Moa (12-pack) – have  been in the mixed pack game for a while but the trend is growing as breweries realise well-priced six-packs (as close to $20 as possible) are a huge growth area.

The one that caught my eye was the striking red and yellow “Rad” pack from 8 Wired in Warkworth. The contents were a mystery, with the ABV range on the outside (4-7.2 per cent) the only clue to the fact there would be no iStout, Super Conductor or Bumaye inside.

I don’t mind a lucky dip – and sometimes it’s easier than choosing.

Plus, I was reminded of something a friend said about buying himself a week’s worth of moderate drinking in the form of a well-priced six-pack and a special 500ml bottle for a treat. I left with the 8 Wired pack and a single bottle of something new.

I’ve drunk a lot of 8 Wired over the years and I rate their beer but this six-pack surprised me; first on price. How they could put six great beers into a well-designed case for $19.99? I was doubly surprised when I opened the box at home: Tall Poppy Red IPA, Hopwired IPA, Tropidelic Pale, Hippy Berliner sour hoppy ale, Semi Conductor session IPA and Flat White coffee milk stout. For value and amazing flavour it’s hard to go past.

Sticking with the theme of childhood towns and new things – apparently gin is the new beer – my one-off was Duncan’s Juniper IPA, a modern (and less boozy) take on a Pipewrench cocktail.

George Duncan brews in Paraparaumu, just up the road from where I used to live in Raumati, and his IPA with juniper berries took me back to our beachside home, where a Saturday night gin and tonic and a couple of beers was standard practice for my dad.

As an IPA it’s a great beer. Smooth malt, light but strong, pine and floral hops. The juniper berries  either make it or break it depending on your taste. They add a tannic bitterness and cleansing minerality.  If you like gin, you’ll love it. I don’t like gin but I still loved the woody notes the berries brought. For me the best contribution from the juniper was an upbeat note of thirst-quenching refreshment. I loved it.

And for those who argue the price of good beer is too high, this week’s worth of beer cost me $31.98 or $4.50 a day … about the same as a daily coffee. I know where the best value lies.