Thursday, 20 June 2013 13:30
Glassware, Part 2
Last week we wasted minutes of your and our time explaining why we settled on the glassware that we did, some three years and ten months ago. This time we actually have something new to reveal.
For smaller servings of tap beer, we've always used stemmed glasses of one or two varieties. They hold a little over 300mls. They're ok - maybe even slightly better than ok. We probably would have gone on using them, if it weren't for a fact-finding expedition to Adelaide's famous Wheatsheaf Hotel last month.
Now we've been hearing about the Wheatsheaf for a while - from such credible sources as Adam Page, Yeastie Boys' Stu McKinlay and Lobethal Brewery's Alistair Turnbull. And our delegation wasn't disappointed - the Wheatsheaf is a magnificent bar in more ways than one. It seems to be comfortably the most important venue for interesting beer in Adelaide, as well as being a great band venue and a big old neighbourhood pub.
Some years ago the Wheatsheaf took the dramatic step of investing in glassware from the German producer Spiegelau. Referred to there as "Fancies" these were the kind of glasses that we would admire but generally dismiss as being far too fancy and delicate for a bar. They are made of relatively fine crystal, are pleasant to hold and have a tulip shape that makes it easy to savour aromas, provided they aren't filled to the top. But there they were, in use and surviving the rigours of daily use in a noisy Adelaide pub.
On the premise that if you're going to steal, steal from the best, we're unashamedly copying the Wheatie and have invested in our own supply of Fancies. And they replace our old stems today.
Our Fancies have come with 300ml fill lines marked on them, so we'll be intentionally leaving a gap at the top when pouring them. No doubt that will upset a few. But for anyone hoping to really savour their beer and not afraid of ordering slightly less at a time, we encourage you to try drinking from a Fancy.
Who's Your Big Daddy?
It is with great pleasure that we announce that we'll soon be stocking the beers of celebrated San Francisco brewery Speakeasy. We'll not only be serving them here at Hashigo Zake but making them available to our wholesale customers around the country. So feel free to have a word with your dairy owner.
At a time when our decadent, pinky-out, IPA-sipping ways are threatened by a resurgent neo-prohibitionist movement, it's refreshing to bring the products of a brewery whose branding mocks an era of prohibition. Who knows, if the Wellington City Council's draft Local Alcohol Policy is as much of an assault on the hospitality industry as some claim, every Wellington bar wanting to continue trading may have to convert to an unlicensed speakeasy.
Speakeasy's flagship beer is a classic American IPA known as Big Daddy. Kegs of this beer are halfway across the Pacific right now and we're going to be scrambling to get it on tap at Hashigo Zake and a few other bars around the country on the 4th of July.
Speaking of which, we look forward to revealing more about celebrations on the USA's national day between now and then.
Apparently in Norway, the winter solstice is called 'solsnu', or 'sun turning'. It's called that because of a belief that the sun was changing direction in its path around the earth. At least that's what Nøgne Ø's Kjetil Jikiun told us and he should know - as a former long haul airline pilot he probably watched it happen.
To celebrate this astronomical phenomenon, Nøgne Ø brew Sunturnbrew every (northern) winter solstice. It's a smoked barley wine - made with a decent proportion of peat-smoked malt.
We've been waiting for winter to put our first keg of this cult favourite on tap and what better day than the southern hemisphere's winter solstice. After a glass of this perhaps the sun will change direction. Or perhaps water will go down the plug-hole in a different direction.
On Tap Now or Soon
This Tuesday's new release was so good - and so popular - that we put a second keg on straight after the first. So Baylands Black IPA is still on tap.
We have a couple of rareties from Hamilton waiting to come on tap - Avarice IIPA from 666 and Bale Out from Brewaucracy. We've had Avarice before, although rumour has it that not everything went right with the previous batch and this one is promised to be on form. Bale Out is a hoppy American wheat ale.
ParrotDog's seasonal American IPA PitBull was a huge success when it came out late last year. So news that they've brewed another batch is welcome. Now it turns out that one last keg of the original batch has been unearthed. We'll have that on tap soon.
The Mussell Inn's contribution to the Great Australasian Beer Spectapular was Bush Baby. It's another variation on the great Captain Cooker - this time with kawakawa leaves and some rata honey in addition to manuka leaves. And it's good.
We have a keg of Garage Project's extremely successful California Common beer - California Über Alles. We're also getting a keg of their radical new Sauvin Nouveau - a highly hopped pilsner that also happens to have a good amount of Sauvignon Blanc juice blended in with the more conventional water.
We also have a keg of Schippers Chinook IPA, made with NZ grown chinook hops.
We've a mini-season of funk acts in the lounge. This Saturday local "surf funk" act, The Digg, appear for the first time.
Our first ever live musical performance was from Adam Page and the Counts. Adam and co are so in demand these days that there seems little chance of getting them back for the very Saturday night slot that they inaugurated back in late 2011. Instead we've managed to book them for a Friday, so we present Fat Funk Friday, next Friday the 28th.
To help the funk go down we're looking at some kind of a deal on selected Funk Estate bottles. More details close to the time.
New From Liberty
The first ever large batch of Liberty Darkest Days Oatmeal Stout left the brewery this week. We'll have bottles on sale today and probably on tap soon as well.
And Liberty is collaborating with Dragon's Fire Chillies again. For this year's Chilli Eating Contest they've produced a Bhutty Chocolate Stout - a chilli chocolate infused double stout. It's our new release at 5pm next Tuesday.
Thursday, 13 June 2013 16:32
Glassware, Part I.
Yes it's the news story of the year - Hashigo Zake's stunning two part exposé on the contentious subject of glassware for beer. Or maybe it's just a slow news day.
A man walks into a bar and ask for a pint of craft beer. Before he gets served three fights start - one over what a pint is, one over what craft beer is and one over why it has to be a man who walks into a bar.
Like craft beer, the pint is one of the most overused and misused terms in the lexicon of the beer drinker. Someone asking for a pint in New Zealand may end up with a vessel containing any amount between 330ml and 600ml. But unlike "craft beer", the pint at least has a strict definition. Or does it? For people with a certain accent a pint can only mean 20 fluid ounces or 568.261485 millilitres. (And oh, we live to hear that word "proper" used as a prefix for "pint".) A cursory glance at Wikipedia suggests that that the 20oz Imperial Pint is a modern innovation dating back to just 1824. Before that a pint was more often 16oz or 473 millilitres.
As it happens, that 16oz pint survives and is often known as the US pint. It's the standard serving size for beer in the US, which means when we pick up branded glassware from US breweries, they will typically be that volume. Interestingly when we acquire branded glassware from breweries in other countries they're often that size too, suggesting that the US pint is a kind of default serving size in the craft beer world. Whatever craft beer is.
Now back when Hashigo Zake opened we settled on the US pint as our standard "large" serving. We thought that the size is a sensible one. 473mls is a reasonably large serving, but we thought that serving 568mls at a time of beers between 5% and 8% ABV was irresponsible and expensive. And it means that we can swap in the branded glassware of our favourite breweries without having to agonise over the volume.
And by the way, yes we do intentionally understate the volume on our menu to allow for the beer's head.
We also like the aesthetic of the glass known as a "shaker". And for a busy bar they're quite practical. Not everyone agrees with us. We acknowledge that for the fussy drinker trying to savour and study their beer, this type of glass is not ideal. Which is why we have alternatives, of which we'll say more next week.
Now back in 2009 when we made our choice we were aware that some Wellington bars used glassware that resembles the US Pint glass discussed above, but wasn't quite the same. This happens in other parts of the world too, in same cases inciting claims of cheating. It turned out that our research was a little off. It's apparent that virtually every Wellington bar uses the "cheater pint", leaving us, poor, naïve fools, serving 12% more beer than everyone else without anyone realising.
It's obvious then what we need to do. We must immediately replace all our 473ml glasses with the more common 425ml glasses. Naturally we won't change our prices and only the handful still reading this will be aware, since the 425ml glass is so fiendishly, brilliantly deceptive.
So nothing to see here, move along, the status quo remains. Next week though we'll make an announcement about our glassware that will actually be new and interesting. Honest.
Bookings for our encore tasting of pairings of Big Bad Wolf products and beer were coming along nicely. That is until a couple of days ago when, in a short space of time, all the remaining places got snapped up.
So we get the message - the demand for this event is far from satisfied. Now if we repeat the event once more in late July or early August we'll be running into the period around Beervana, the Brewers Guild Awards and even Wellington On A Plate. Which is probably what we'll do. Stay tuned.
On Tap Now or Soon
Baylands Black IPA
New local brewery Baylands have made the first keg of their new Black IPA available to be our new release next week. Aidan is promising a complex beer with a cocktail of four American hops, many of them starting with "C".
Baylands Black IPA goes on tap at 5pm on Tuesday.
Coinciding nicely with this weekend's Vintage-Orama festival, we have the X-Ray Catz playing in the lounge on Saturday night. We're back to the usual 10pm start but the non-existent cover charge is unchanged.
A Little Actual News
Following a hysterical plea (literally "Front up or be closed down") from the local branch of the Hospitality Association, Hashigo Zake today sent a delegation to a meeting at the Wellington City Council. The subject was the soon to be drafted Local Alcohol Policy. While the nature of the meeting bore little resemblance to what the Association implied, it was interesting to hear arguments from the likes of Police, the Retailers Association, assorted medical experts, hotel operators and of course our own local Hospitality Association.
One clear outcome of the recent debate on the alleged misuse of alcohol is that retailers and bars are in some kind of a battle to blame each other whenever anyone gets drunk. While Hospitality (and others) repeated the pre-loading/side-loading mantra, the representative of supermarket operators came up with a new platitude - "it's the last drink that matters". And it seems there must have been some kind of side bet among some of the speakers to see who could utter the word "vibrant" the most times in their allotted five minutes.
Most of the deliberations come down to what future constraints there will be on bar closing times in downtown Wellington. We believe that at Hashigo Zake we have little to worry about because we don't generally stay open as late as the times that are being discussed. However it does seem that the Hospitality Association are trying to persuade the Council to make official Courtenay Place's status as Wellington's nightlife ghetto, by allowing later closing times there. Since craft beer bars generally avoid Courtenay Place and the street remains in the grip of the big breweries it could mean that people wanting a drink late at night will be denied much in the way of choice. More disturbing is the lack of understanding that nightlife stays "vibrant" (word of the day) by regularly reinventing itself in new locations. Instead it seems that Wellington's bar culture will be mandated to remain penned in Courtenay Place. Oh dear.
Congratulations though to the mayor, who asked the best question of the day, to the police. The gist of it was: In rural areas where there's no particular nightlife, do people drink much? No answer was available.
Thursday, 06 June 2013 15:54
Baltic Porter - This Year's Saison?
As brewers look for more ways to keep consumers intrigued that don't involve extreme innovation (or just extremes), is Baltic Porter the next style to come back into fashion? There seem to be a few more around all of a sudden, with local examples from Harrington's, Emerson's and Garage Project coming to mind.
To test the theory we're making Left Coast Baltic Porter our new release next Tuesday. It goes on tap at 5pm next Tuesday. It's our only keg of this one-off beer.
Here's ratebeer.com's description of the style: The historical remnants of the 19th c. Baltic trade in imperial stouts, Baltic Porters are typically strong, sweet and bottom-fermented. They lack the powerful roast of an imperial stout, but have an intense malt character, and moderate to strong alcohol. Though they are typically lagers, there are a handful of top-fermented examples.
All This Jazz
The 2013 Wellington Jazz Festival kicks off this evening and runs until Saturday. We have live performances in our lounge every evening. Specifically:
Big Bad Encore
As promised, we're reprising our incredibly popular tasting of small goods from Big Bad Wolf matched with beers by our tastings dude, Sam. This time it's at the family-friendly time of 3pm on Sunday June 30. Bookings are essential and can be done over the bar or at our web store.
The finals series of the NHL and NBA are both a matter of days away. In fact, a glance at Sky's listings suggests that the first game of the NBA Finals clashes with an NHL Conference Finals match tomorrow afternoon. The thing is we're able and willing to screen these games. Where there's a clash we might have to go with popular demand. If you'd like to watch a game and the TVs are off, feel free to ask our bar staff.
On Tap Now or Soon
Thursday, 30 May 2013 15:37
The Australian International Beer Awards were judged several weeks ago and announced seven days ago in Melbourne. And not for the first time Blenheim's Renaissance Brewery did particularly well. In 2010 they came close to being named Champion Small Brewery, and the next year they won a trophy for Craftsman. This year they won a trophy for the 2011 vintage of Tribute Barley Wine and picked up enough medals of various colours for other beers to be named Champion Small International Brewery.
Now before we congratulate the brewery it's important to point out that when 2011 Tribute Barley Wine came out we knew it was an absolute cracker, and since Barley Wine is one beer style that should age reasonably well we went hard. So we still have plenty of bottles of this beer and one remaining keg, which won't go on tap for a while at least - maybe after another vintage or two so we can do a really good vertical tasting.
So after years of being the dark horses at awards shows it's great to see Renaissance walk away with a major prize. Congratulations to Brian, Andy, Matt and the rest of the owners and staff. It is well deserved.
Our mini-festival of beer launches and tastings continues this evening with the New Zealand launch of ParrotDog's BloodyDingo. After a little to-ing and fro-ing, we and the brewery have settled on a 6pm start time. There will be quite a few complimentary servings going around. We're confident you'll all feel the need to buy another glass.
If the 6pm start time is throwing anyone's plans into disarray we encourage you to head over to Golding's Free Dive at 5pm to witness the official launch of not only a beer, but a brewery - Baylands Brewery.
As for BloodyDingo, we can confirm that it's a big, rich hoppy Imperial Red IPA that was tasting, well, bonza at GABS last weekend. It's a not-to-be-taken-lightly 7.7%. We can also confirm that some, all or fewer of the three Matts will be on the premises tonight for the launch.
We've been enjoying offering Rogue's Dead Guy Whiskey as part of our top shelf. It's now been joined by some other Rogue spirits:
These have joined our range of standard house spirits. We're also able to sell them by the bottle for takeaway during the hours that our off-licence applies.
This weekend the Tony Mad Trio return to play Texas boogie. That's in the Lounge from 10pm with nil cover charge.
Next week the lounge becomes a jazz venue and not just for one night. As part of the Wellington Jazz festival we have music in the lounge late on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Here's the lineup:
Big Bad Wolf and Us
Judging by feedback received so far, last night's tasting of Charcuterie and Beer Pairings with Big Bad Wolf might just have been the greatest event of its kind ever. Perhaps that's an exaggeration but it was sufficiently well received and popular that we're running an encore. It will be on the afternoon of June 30, which, for a change, is a Sunday.
Bookings will be essential and can be made at our web store or over the bar.
New Release Tuesday
Next week's new release will be the first new beer - for us anyway - in some time from Northern California's Bear Republic. It's called Rebellion, a single hop IPA. In this case the single hop happens to be Columbus.
It will be on tap from 5pm on Tuesday.
New in Bottles
We just took delivery of a few new bottles from Melbourne's Moon Dog. They are:
And any day - probably tomorrow in fact - we'll have the second bottled beer from Funk Estate.
Thursday, 23 May 2013 14:17
Good Beer Midweek
Right now a decent proportion of New Zealand’s brewers and quite a few of their biggest fans are in Melbourne enjoying Good Beer Week. It’s a quite staggering collection of events ranging from tiny to massive and from foodie to boozie. It’s also illuminating to see just what is possible with some fine beer, a bit of dedication and a population ten times that of Wellington. And the fact that the Southern Hemisphere's most beer oriented city is missing out to our flash cousins might be enough to send a stay-at-home Wellingtonian into despair.
But we have the solution, in the form of a slightly spontaneous mini Good Beer Week that we’ve concocted for next week. We’re serious that next week’s Good Beer Midweek is a perfect, if compressed, encapsulation of this week in Melbourne. At its core is a food event in the form of our collaborative tasting with Big Bad Wolf. That’s on Wednesday but we’ll say very little about it because it’s actually sold out. What we can say is that we’re already looking for ways to at least repeat it, if not improve on it.
It’s to be bookended by our own mini-GABS. On Tuesday and Thursday we’re hosting the New Zealand releases of two local contributions to the Great Australasian Beer Spectapular. Firstly on Tuesday we have Garage Project’s Death From Above. This is the supposedly controversial beer that inspired a piece of nonsensical non-journalism from Fairfax and the Dominion Post over its reference to the movie Apocalypse Now and Robert Duvall’s Airborne Cavalry. We encourage anyone keen to make a stand against shonky journalism to come down and try some. It’s an American IPA with additions of mango, lime juice and chillies – hence the Indochinese reference in the name. It will go on tap at 5pm on Tuesday, but volumes will be limited.
Then on Thursday we have the local release of ParrotDog’s BloodyDingo. Perhaps between now and then some media outlet or other would like to question the propriety of that name? It’s an Imperial Red IPA that’s probably even hoppier than Garage Project’s GABS beer.
Finally we’re emulating another crucial component of Good Beer Week, which is that there are simultaneous events at multiple locations. So we’re happy to share the fact that on Thursday evening, while we get to know BloodyDingo, the launch of new local brewery Baylands will be taking place at Golding’s Free Dive in Leeds St. Attending any fewer than both launches would be, well, disloyal to Wellington.
Music This Saturday
Our booker has out-done himself this week. Not only is blues/R&B regular Nick Granville back, he and his band are bringing touring US jazz pianist David Berkman. Does our guest realise quite how small Saturday evening's venue is? This gig could be the stuff of legend, for those who make it early enough to get a seat in the lounge anyway.
Many thanks for everyone who helped spread the word about the televised theft of our old and flimsy yet highly valued chalkboard sign. Our asset was returned and still seems to function, so somehow the message got through that we were looking for it. More investigations into the actual theft are pending the arrival of detectives.
Thursday, 16 May 2013 14:08
Big Bad Beer
Our tasting programme has been somewhat dormant this year while we let our friends at Craft Beer College show how it's done. That will be corrected, at least a little, in two weeks, when we host a pretty special collaborative tasting.
Since late last year charcuterie Big Bad Wolf have been doing some exciting things with just about every part of the pig and quite a few other free range or feral animals. And even better they're just down the road from us. We've always believed that many of the foods they produce are natural matches for good beer and we've been serving their jerky for a little while now.
On Wednesday May 29 we're taking our relationship with Big Bad Wolf to the next level and hosting a tasting of Beer and Charcuterie Pairings. Our tastings expert and semi-retired chef, Sam Whitney, is taking five Big Bad Wolf products, such as terrines, pâtés and sausages and matching them with beers. Early testing suggests there will be some pretty sensational combinations and we're looking forward to it a lot.
Places will be strictly limited and bookings are necessary. You can book by coming into the bar or using our web store here.
Darren Watson this Saturday
Darren returns this Saturday with his Underground Blues Band. They start at 10pm. Seats in the lounge fill up a little earlier.
Another Liberty Release
Liberty's small brewery has been relocated to West Auckland, but new beers keep flowing. This week it was the dazzling NZIPA called Sauvignon Bomb. Next week it's a new brown ale made with rye that Joseph is calling Rogenator.
As usual the New Release is on tap from 5pm on Tuesday.
Here we go again. We thought our previous attempts at exposing acts of stupidity on (or against) our premises had achieved far more notoriety than was justified. But not enough to get through to a particular class of people - the stupid.
There was a slight variation this time - our culprit was suited and took off with a somewhat comical getaway run, giving us the consolation that he's even easier to make fun of. He's already been dubbed the "blackboard bandit".
So the gist of it is: we don't just accept being stolen from and ask the public to take a look at this video and help us get our property back. And in spite of a flurry of activity on the social networks yesterday, no-one has admitted to knowing the blackboard bandit. So if anyone can help identify the culprit, please reply to this email.
As some of you are no doubt aware, the Great Australasion Beer SpecTAPular happens in Melbourne at the end of next week. And a number of New Zealand breweries will be launching brand new beers there. One will be ParrotDog's BloodyDingo. It's an 8% Imperial Red IPA. No-one has tasted the beer yet, but visitors to the brewery a month or so ago couldn't help but be impressed by the wondrous hoppy aromas filling the site just after BloodyDingo's brew day.
A handful of kegs didn't make the trip to Melbourne and will be on sale in New Zealand shortly after GABS. In fact the New Zealand launch will be at Hashigo Zake on the evening of May 30, which is the night after the aforementioned charcuterie tasting. There is no reason not to attend both.