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Thursday, 21 December 2017 09:32

Craft Beer from Palmerston North: My world has officially turned upside down

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Over the course of my lengthy beer writing career I have, by comission or omission, intiated feuds with several muncipilaties from around the globe.
 
The most notable protagonists in my beer rants have been Hamilton ("City of the Future"),
Glasgow (European City of Culture 1990), Upper Hutt ("Nothing higher nor more beautiful") and Palmerston North ("Knowledge City"). For a while it was fashionable for me to tease Jono Galuszka about being a beer writer in the town of Palmerston North that had virtually no craft beer. It was fun I must confess. He went on to become New Zealand Beer Writer of the Year. [1]
 
Those four cities used to be places that craft beer did not go. Now, they are actually producing craft beer. Hamilton has Good George, Glasgow has BrewDog, Upper Hutt has no less than four craft breweries, and Palmerston North now has Brew Union. I have been comprehensively disproved and could not be happier. I am particularly impressed at Upper Hutt's emergence as a craft brewing hub. [2]
 
I did not hold high hopes for Palmerston North. In my extensive beer drinking career I have witnessed exactly eight bar fights. Four of them were in Palmerston North... and all on the same night. [3] However, Palmy (as it is known to its fans) is enjoying a craft beer resurrection with stores improving their craft beer ranges, new beer friendly bars opening and of course the recent launch of Brew Union.
 
I have written almost constantly about brews (in favour) and occasionally about unions (opposed) but never Brew Union as far as I can tell in my computer limited state. As it turns out, Mr Galuszka has and I cannot compete. He reported:
 
"A plan seven years in the making is returning commercial brewing to central Palmerston North, with a Portland-style brewpub being built on Broadway Ave.

Located in the old Mango Music site, with access from both Broadway Avenue and King Street, Brew Union is the brainchild of Murray Cleghorn and Jules Grace.

It will be the first time a commercial brewery has been based in the city since Shamrock Brewing shut down about six years ago, although some people have used Massey University's microbrewery in the interim."
 
I must confess to having stayed at the old Shamrock Inn several times and legitimately enjoyed their best bitter even if the rooms had not been renovated since 1971 or seemingly cleaned since 1991. On the upside, their prices seemed about the same from 1981 and they had a brewery on site. Brew Union is upping the stakes with a 1,200 litre brewpub in the heart of Palmerston North.
 
Jonothan does real research for his articles and further reports:

"Owners Murray Cleghorn said he and co-owner Jules Grace had been planning since 2009, although their vision had grown bigger than they expected.

A trip three years ago to Portland, Oregon, solidified the plans for Brew Union – a community-focused brewpub, providing quality beer and good food, as well as a place for people to socialise.

They looked at sites across the lower North Island, but decided Palmerston North had a gap in the market.

"It is challenging because, in terms of taps, it is a little bit of a craft beer wasteland," Cleghorn said, referring to the fact most bars in the city are tied into exclusive contracts."
 
It should be noted that I have called Palmerston North a craft beer wasteland before. Now, like Upper Hutt, it is proving me wrong. And I could not be happier. Malthouse is serving three of Brew Union's beers:
 
 
Brew Union Das Kolsch (5%) - This is Brew Union's answer to a Kolsch. It is not strictly traditional but it features Pilsner and Sour Grape malts and a touch of Pacific Jade hops. Reviews say it is light and refreshing, standard characteristics of a Kolsch, with touches of citrus, a hint of spice and a little huskiness.
 
 
Brew Union Sam the American Eagle IPA (6.5%) - An American IPA created using all Mosaic hops late in the boil and a healthy dose of both Citra and Mosaic in the dry hop. This makes it my favourite Brew Union brew already. There are notes of tropical fruit, pineapple, peaches, pine resin and nectarine. Then the brewers go and reveal it is named after Sam the Eagle from the Muppet Show which just confirms my verdict.
 
Sam was the star of one of my all-time favourite Muppets sketches in which he denounced nakedness. This is the synopsis from muppet.wikia.com (which is totally a thing):
 
"Sam talks about the disgusting issue of nudity. He points out that underneath our clothing the whole world is walking around completely naked, and it's not just people, but also animals. Underneath their fur and feathers, animals wear nothing, as do birds. Once Sam realizes that he too is naked beneath his feathers, he sidles off in embarrassment."
 
The link is below and it is a personal highlight to have featured the word "sidles" in a beer blog in 2017. I can tick that one off the list.

Brew Union Swampton Dry Stout (4.7%) - Brew Union's first onsite brewed beer. There is a clean roasted aroma with hints of chocolate, coffee and caramel which leads into a smooth dry finish. Pleasantly, there are notes of raisins and hints of plums at the back of the palate. The name appears to be both a geographical place and a reference to a music incubator which is way too cool for my record collection.
 
Joining them on tap is the relaunch of Fork Brewing Big Tahuna IPA (6.7%). Brewer Kelly Ryan, a recent star on American television according to social media, described it thusly:
 
"A massive citrus punch in the face leads into a resinous, tropical fruit laden marmalade flavour fest. Amarillo, Simcoe, Citra and Falconer’s Flight are the heroic hops responsible for this onslaught, combining with a blend of New Zealand malts and a real touch of the West Coast."
 
He could have stopped there but Kelly being Kelly he had to go that extra step:

"A dose of New Zealand West Coast sea water has been crafted into this brew to give extra flavour, exhilarating sweetness and a wonderfully balanced bitterness."
 
Despite the addition of freaking sea water, the beer remains a hoppy delight and I welcome its overdue return. I wish to draw attention to RateBeer commentator JimTheChap and his thoughts on this beer. He has appeared in this blog before. He noted "I wasn’t told about the abv that would have knocked Chuck Norris off a horse." For once, I disagree with Mr TheChap. Nothing could knock Chuck Norris off a horse, not even Chuck Norris.
 
The final beers name caught my eye at Malty on my way to a second viewing of Star Wars: the Last Jedi. It was the latest beer from the consistently good Boneface brewery - Boneface Shazza Hazy Pale Ale (5.3%). This is an East Coast IPA, sometimes called a New England IPA, which means it's cloudy as heck and bristling with hoppy flavours. I am a recent and devout convert to the style. Embrace the haze!
 
As this is the last Malthouse blog of 2017, I have the duty of explaining the Malty's holiday hours because New Zealand's archaic laws can make it quite complicated to get a drink when you actually have time off. This year it is comparatively simple - Malty will be open for normal hours on any day that is not a statutory holiday. So, be careful around Christmas and the days after New Years Eve.
 
 
Next time, we drink to Sir Peter Jackson. The man is a national treasure who is sticking it to a man who is an international disgrace.
 
 
[1] An event predicted by this humble blog well before it happened.
 
[2] 2017 will go down as the Year that I said Nice Things about Upper Hutt. I know - I am worried too.
 
[3] Disclaimer: I was not involved in any of them.
 
 
Cheers
 
 
Neil Miller
 
Beer Writer
Cuisine Magazine
TheShout Magazine
DrinksBiz Magazine
 
Links
Sam the American Eagle Naked Sketch - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZ0SRgh3X9Q
Malthouse Twitter – WWW.TWITTER.COM/#!/MALTHOUSE
Malthouse Taps on Twitter – WWW.TWITTER.COM/#!/MALTHOUSETAPS
Neil Miller on Twitter – HTTP://WWW.TWITTER.COM/#!/BEERLYTWEETING