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Friday, 03 March 2017 14:35

The Big Illusions

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As a professional beer writer, many people like to send me pictures of the beer they are drinking and ask my opinion about it. Last night my phone beeped three times in rapid succession at the family dinner table. Questioned about who was texting me, I had to confess it was a sitting Member of Parliament sending me a photograph of the beer he was enjoying.

By an incredible coincidence, [1] the beer in question was also the first beer I will cover in this post. Garage Project Fugazi (2%) is a low-strength pale ale which packs a lot in. Producing flavour and body can be tricky in lower- to mid-strength beers but a growing number of brewers are doing it because a) the consumer demand is certainly there and b) some just like to challenge themselves.

 

The origins of the term Fugazi are unclear though it was commonly used by US soldiers in Vietnam. It never meant something good was happening. Fugazi was returned to public attention in the excellent film “The Wolf of Wall Street” by Matthew McConaughey. [2] His character, the archetypical broker Mark Hanna, said in relation to the stock market:

“Fugayzi, fugazi. It's a whazy. It's a woozie. It's fairy dust. It doesn't exist. It's never landed. It is no matter. It's not on the elemental chart. It's not freaking real.” [3]

Developing that theme, Garage Project explains “don't be deceived, sometimes things are not what they seem. The modest strength belies the flavour within. A complex selection of malts and generous dose of Sauvin and Simcoe hops create a light but satisfying beer that punches well above its weight. A true sheep in wolf's clothing.” A nice tip of the hat to the movie at the end there I suspect.

I have not tried Fugazi yet but my correspondent has. I will call him Paul Foster-Bell, because that is his real name. He described it as “only 2% but very floral – yum!” Others have used the terms “citrus”, “grassy” and, most commonly, “floral”. Well spotted there Mr Foster-Bell.

One of my favourite beers from the same brewery is Garage Project Pernicious Weed IPA (8%). Not just because it is a big IPA – because it is an outstanding big IPA. RateBeer concurs with a 98% result. The beer celebrates Nelson Sauvin and Rakau hops (both developed right here in New Zealand) but does not neglect a robust malt infrastructure to support them.

I’ve written and talked about Pernicious Weed extensively over several years – it has a great story about the name and, more importantly, backs it up in the glass.

Many will be familiar with the name’s back story already but for those who aren’t, here is the official Garage Project version:

“The arrival of hops to the brewing scene in England in the 1500s led to a moral panic, hops were described as "a Wicked, & Pernicious Weed", feared to bring the downfall of civilized society. Thankfully, they were right.” [4]

King Henry VIII is generally regarded to have uttered the famous phrase “Wicked, & Pernicious Weed" in 1519. However, as with virtually everything in history, there is some debate on-line. I am more amused by the irony of Henry VIII discussing moral panic given his personal lifestyle...

My tasting notes for Pernicious Weed read “intensely hoppy, absolutely bitter, Sauvin bite (reminds some of Sauvignon Blanc), orange, grapefruit, mango, resinous, lingering piney bitterness” and “pouring a hazy orange/amber, the beer throws a billowing nose of grapefruit, orange peel, pineapple and pine needles. There are juicy citrus notes and a touch of caramel in the body, followed by a massive, bitter finish.” I think that sums up the beer nicely – delicious. [5]

Summer has officially ended – some would ask if ever really arrived in Wellington – but there are still summer beers available. Behemoth Tropical Mo Fo (5.2%) certainly fits the bill. It is a juicy Pacific Pale Ale made with New Zealand hops, pineapple, mango and passionfruit.

Given the ingredients, it is unsurprising that drinkers have noted mango, orange, pineapple, peach, passionfruit and guava. No wonder one description on Untapped was “fruity goodness” – a brilliant two word review. An accurate review too. I tried the beer partly for research purposes and partly because Churly (the monsterous Behemoth mascot who appears on all their products) was wearing a Hawaiian shirt. I really like Hawaiian shirts. [6]

Honestly, I did not expect to like the beer because I don’t particularly enjoy fruit, even in beer. When I once described a beer as tasting like mangos I was immediately quizzed “when was the last time you ever tasted a mango?” Good point. It was from my mum. However, I really like Tropical Mo Fo – it is full, fuzzy, fruity but with enough bitterness to keep the drinkability. It is a fine summer effort from brewer Andrew Childs, the Beer Giraffe. He warns that it is “almost all gone”.

Mr Childs has been very busy not just brewing beer but getting married. It was somehow appropriate then that he made a special beer for the special occasion. Behemoth AmeriKiwi (5.3%) is an American Amber Ale with a Kiwi hop twist. For those keeping track, the image on the tap badge is Churly in a tuxedo standing with Mrs Churly in a wedding dress. He has a brewing paddle, she has a rather large meat cleaver.

Presumably they represent Andrew (The Beer Giraffe) and Hannah Miller (A Lady Butcher). Confusingly, the Giraffe is a Kiwi and the Butcher is American. Together they have formed an AmeriKiwi family after a touching ceremony. Congratulations to them both. With the wider release of AmeriKiwi now everyone can raise a toast with this wedding ale.

The beer itself is very nicely balanced. My first taste impression is caramel and cocoa, quickly replaced by juicy citrus and pine needles. The finish is long and softly bitter. It is a limited edition (they don’t intend on getting married again) so stocks are limited. My (empty) can will be the latest addition to my Beer Giraffe Shrine.  [7]

Finally, my sincere apologies for the lateness of this blog. I got up at 5am yesterday to write it only to be thwarted (again) by basic technology. Long time readers will be aware of my long-running and largely unsuccessful battle with my printer. Recently, my email system has made two determined bids to become my number one tech nemesis. It is a close run contest. So, sorry again.

All four beers featured here will be on tap at Malthouse by 4pm today (3 March 2017).

 

Next time, we drink to Martin Guptill who now holds the three highest scores by a New Zealander in one-day cricket. Please do it again tomorrow.

 

[1] This is actually an incredible coincidence, unlike virtually all other times people use the phrase.

[2] Is it just me or it getting a lot harder to mock Mr McConaughey’s acting chops? It used to be one of the easiest things in the world. He was so good in Wolf I did not realise it was him until the credits.

[3] A word was changed in this sentence to protect the innocent. I am actually surprised it was only one because, from memory, Wolf of Wall Street had the most profanity of any movie at the time of its release. 

[4] Disclaimer: Malthouse Ltd does not advocate the downfall of civilised society though I am not so sure about Colin the Handsome Yet Softly Spoken Scottish Proprietor’s view...

[5] During the course of this review I typed the word “pernicious” five times and spelled it wrong five times. Hang on – with this footnote that score is now six from six even though I tried spelling it four different ways.

[6] Just realised I am writing this blog while wearing a Hawaiian shirt over a Behemoth t-shirt. How appropriate.

[7] Yes, I have a Beer Giraffe Shrine – doesn’t everyone? I set it up when he was hurt and have seen no reason to take it down.

 

Cheers

 

Neil Miller

Beer Writer

Beer and Brewer Magazine

Cuisine Magazine

TheShout Magazine

 

Links

Garage Project Brewery - http://garageproject.co.nz/

Behemoth Brewing Company - http://www.behemothbrewing.co.nz/

Malthouse Facebook - www.facebook.com/pages/Malthouse/7084276173

Malthouse Twitter – www.twitter.com/#!/malthouse

Malthouse Taps on Twitter – www.twitter.com/#!/MalthouseTaps

Neil Miller on Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/#!/beerlytweeting