We’ve be­come craft beer na­tion

Matamata Chronicle - - Your Paper, Your Place - WOOD ON WINE AND BEER

One of my ma­jor con­cerns when we were plan­ning to re­turn to New Zealand from Lon­don a few years ago, was the lack of gen­uine craft beer mak­ers. When we left the coun­try orig­i­nally, the only read­ily avail­able craft mak­ers were Mon­tei­ths, Macs, Emer­sons from Dunedin, and the sadly de­funct Mikes from Taranaki. Imag­ine my sheer de­light when I dis­cov­ered that in my ab­sence, the en­tire coun­try had been over­taken by a move­ment away from the usual mass pro­duced of­fer­ings. I was lucky enough to be given a few in­ter­est­ing New Zealand craft beers for my birth­day re­cently. Garage Project is, sur­pris­ingly enough, based in an old petrol sta­tion in Wellington. Their beers tend to­wards the weird, but also the won­der­ful. Cook­ies and Cream is sweet­ish, spicy, choco­laty and malty – quite un­like any­thing you will ever have tried. It’s a big fill­ing beasty of a drop, not ex­actly suit­able as a ses­sion beer, but cer­tainly good fun to try. Garage Project also make the de­cid­edly odd­ball Lola Cherry Cola beer, which tastes quite like Royal Crown cola. It comes in a cool 80s/90s retro can. I sus­pect Garage Project’s only truly con­ven­tional beer is the one they call ‘‘beer’’, which comes in an or­di­nary look­ing white can, at a de­cently or­di­nary price, and is a good, hon­est, tasty or­di­nary ses­sion beer. I urge you to choose one of their beers at ran­dom, if you don’t like it, try an­other of their mind-bog­glingly large range. They are true in­no­va­tors, and make ter­rif­i­cally in­ter­est­ing things! Be­he­moth Brew­ing Com­pany from Wark­worth make the ab­so­lutely de­li­cious Triple Choco­late Milk Stout, it was de­scribed by the beer mer­chant (yes they’re a thing) as tast­ing like Primo (choco­late milk). It does, and I loved it. A big, pow­er­ful, mus­cu­lar beast of a beer, I have tasted the fu­ture and the fu­ture is good. These beers can be found at the Hamil­ton Beer and Wine Com­pany on Vic­to­ria Street, Hamil­ton – charm­ing, friendly, knowl­edge­able staff and a fan­tas­tic range of wine, beer, spir­its and other cool stuff. Many peo­ple tend to turn to­wards Sau­vi­gnon Blanc and Pinot Gris as the weather heats up, I usu­ally head to­wards Ries­ling. It is a sadly un­der­es­ti­mated va­ri­ety in New Zealand. Ries­ling can go from bone dry to lus­ciously sweet, and can be fresh and zingy, grunty and mouth fill­ing, or suc­cu­lent and sub­dued. Giesen from Marl­bor­ough have al­ways made de­li­cious Ries­lings that pick up many ac­co­lades, and their 2015 vin­tage is no ex­cep­tion. Made by three broth­ers, it is a charm­ingly light, fruity and slightly sweet blend of Marl­bor­ough and Waipara fruit, and at un­der $15 it is a stun­ning bargain. An­other Ries­ling I have re­cently tried is Kairos Waipara Dry Ries­ling 2011, which I tried at the gor­geous Falls Re­treat in the Karanga­hake Gorge. In­tense, con­cen­trated, pow­er­ful yet del­i­cate, it is pos­si­bly one of the finest NZ Ries­lings I have ever tried, and at $20 from Finer Wines in Katikati it is a truly phe­nom­e­nal deal.

Wine and beer writer, Si­mon Wood.

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