Jamie from England enjoys an evening at Pomeroy's, a...
Raindogs vs Golden Eagle Tasting
What is a Wee Bairn? Are there golden eagles in NZ? What is a Raindog? And who wins when they go head to head? Many questions plagued me as our monthly tasting got under way.
A nice Autumn Monday welcomed another brewery tasting at Pomeroy’s. It also ushered in many questions. Many where answered, but others still remain. The cast was familiar with Craig from Beer NZ leading as master of ceremonies. Ava, Louie and I were attending to guests and Marcus was serving up some wonderful platters from the kitchen to mix with the delicious beers that were brought forth from two of Christchurch’s new but adventurous brewers. Dave Gaughan from Golden Eagle Brewing and Sean Harris from Raindogs Brewing joined us to share their brews, tell their stories and answer questions from thirsty craft beer fans.
The two brewers have a lot in common. Both started breweries to get flavorful brews they missed. Both have technical backgrounds, Dave as an engineer and Sean as a chemist. They also both took the frugal route to starting a brewery by utilizing Christchurch’s existing brewing capacity at Three Boys brewery and a partially idle bottling line at Harrington’s Brewery. They also like to drink good craft beer and have done a bit of it together. As we worked through the evenings brews the differences between the two breweries, their beers and the men behind them also came out.
Getting thirsty? Me too… first up was Golden Eagle’s Ah-Reet Summer Blond. This 4.4% ABV blond ale was named after Dave’s mother Rita, who was also blond. It showcases American hops and is an easy drinking beer with a fairly hoppy finish the quenches on a hot day. As a seasonal Ah-Reet will return to us when the weather warms up again.
Firing back the next beer was Raindog’s Wee Bairn Bitter. Sean started his recipe with the 3.7% English Bitter from The Twisted Hop in mind, where he brewed for 5 years before he was, “ terminated by the earthquake”. With more malt than the original the result is a nice low alcohol (3.8%), full flavoured beer for those who need to drive home or want to have more than a couple and avoid the repercussions the following day. This malt forward beer is balanced out with New Zealand grown old world hop varieties, including Pacifica (aka NZ Hallertau) and NZ Goldings. Having come from the hand pump, Sean was able to discuss the differences between serving beer from tap (higher carbonation, acidy and “hop pop”) vs. mellow hand pulled pints. Which is better is up to the drinker and can vary style to style. Sean’s pick for Wee Bairn is on tap but both are enjoyable. Craig also chimed in with some bland jokes making us roll our eyes. Pomeroy’s frequently serves several beers in both forms so you can check out the difference for yourself!
Dave’s next beer was Golden Eagle Alder Golden Ale, which could sound a bit redundant since Adler is German for Eagle but as with all his beers it provided a nice story and a look at the process of naming brews. The beer was the result of the desire of one of Dave’s mates to taste a beer from his homeland. After several test batches they dialed in the flavor to the best memory of his friend’s taste buds. Adler Golden Ale is 4.8% and is one of many sessionable beers that showcases Dave’s preference for beers that are quaffable over high alcohol or hop bomb beers that are en vogue in some craft beer circles. Brewing with a touch of wheat malt gives it a touch of honey character and the Czech Saaz and German Spalt hops lend a grassy/peppery aroma. This is a well balanced beer, that is a little bigger than the Ah-Reet but not quite as hop forward. The Noble Hop varieties were a good fit for the mini hops lesson Dave gave for the evening’s attendees. Of course Craig found a way to fit in some more bad jokes.
Moving the evening along was Raindog’s Apothecary Amber. This was Sean’s first beer after The Twisted Hop closed. He also had 9 years in America’s Pacific Northwest brew scene before returning to NZ and an American Amber was just the ticket. However starting a brewery in the Spring proved challenging for attaining hops so the beer is a little more malt forward and used what hops were available, in this case NZ Cascade and Kohatu. The goal was a balanced, full flavored beer that paired well with a range of food. Try one with your next burger or pie and let him know what you think! Sean’s chemistry degree also came in handy fielding questions on brewing and water sources. Christchurch water is quite mineral free and “brewing salts” such as Calcium Sulfate are commonly added to brewing water. Brewing water is held in such esteem it’s referred to as liquor once it’s ready to brew with. Look for the hot liquor tank on your next brewery tour. Some historic brewing towns such as Pilzn and Burton on Trent had high natural mineral content contributing to signature beers from those regions. Today water chemistry makes it possible to make great beer anywhere good clean water is available.
Dave’s next beer was a tribute the NZ Mainland. Golden Eagle S.I.P.A is a 5.5% Pale Ale showcasing 100% Nelson hops and 99% Cantabrian malt, hence the South Island Pale Ale name. Don’t confuse it with an IPA or you might be longing for more hops. This beer is well balanced and drinkable and is great on the hand pump which is Dave’s preference. In fact if he had it his way all Golden Eagle brew would go through hand pumps like most beer in his native Yorkshire are served but NZ just doesn’t have enough hand pumps… yet. It was Dave’s first big batch of beer scaling up from his home system and is his best seller. This was also the opening of a discussion on test batches and scaling up, with Dave trying out recipes on the homebrew system before scaling up and Sean using his brewing experience and science background to calculate bigger system brews right from the start. And just in case you thought the evening was getting too geeky Craig chimed in with more humor. His intended slip up of beer “booty” (instead of “body”) got the group chuckling.
Time to turn to the dark side of things. Raindog’s Shroud Tailor was up and this roasty brew stepped up the flavour a few notches from the first few rounds of “session” beers. Weighing in at 5.6% this black brew has a fairly large hop addition as well and walks the line between a stout and black IPA. Semantics aside it’s a tasty brew. Craig also got the crowd rolling with a few more quips. Ok not ALL of his jokes are terrible and the quiet crowd was really showing signs of life now, we’ll give credit where it is due… or was that the beer talking?!
Coal Face is a nod to the miners in Dave’s old home in England. And as you might assume it’s a dark brew. This one came via Dave’s preferred hand pump and the warmer pour really let the flavours come out. It was his take on an oatmeal stout, using oats to add texture to the brew. Dave then added more roasted malt to get a richer flavour.
The night rolled on with the discussion touching on getting women into craft beer. We got a rare glimpse of the serious side of Craig as he explained beer distribution and how craft needs to appeal to younger drinkers and women to keep growing in New Zealand. He also touched on presentation and respect of craft beer including the roll of using nice glassware. Luckily we had craft brewing women in attendance including Pomeroy’s own Beer Baroness, Ava and Wendy of Valkyrie Brewing in Auckland to add to the discussions. Glass size was an issue for some women so it’s probably a good time to remind everyone that you can get two sizes smaller than a pint with our Belgian or 12oz Glass sizes.
This is also a good time to recall the look on Craig’s face when Louie started making a Cappuchino (for a customer) during the presentation of our next beer! …we are not opposed to coffee with beer or even coffee in beer but it gave Craig plenty of more fodder for his next round of jokes… like he needed that!
Rain Dogs Deadwood IPA was the hoppiest beer of the evening with influence from Sean’s time spent in America’s Pacific Northwest, probably one of the most progressive craft beer regions in the world.
As the beers flowed so started the questions. Profits? Yes but small, not time to quit the day job yet. What does it take to be a good brewer? Passion. Local craft brew scene? Huge opportunity as the rebirth of Christchurch pubs post earthquake embrace new local and artisanal brews.
Our final brew was Eagle vs Dog Pilsner, the first of what appears to be many collaborations between Dave and Sean. The idea, naming and label designs all stemmed from the two having a few pints and talking about what they would like to make together. Their next collaboration is in the tanks per say… so we should see it soon!
If you haven’t seen it yet there is a new menu and calendar in Pom’s Press, chock full of live music, quiz nights and beer tasting nights … Next Tasting is New Plymouth’s Liberty Brewing. Tickets on sale now for $30 at the pub.
Oh and I almost forgot… there are no Golden Eagles in NZ other than the beer. Rain Dogs is the 9th album from Tom Waits or a dog who is stranded because the rain has washed away its trail, Sean named his brewery after the album, one of his favorites. A Wee Bairn is Scottish for small child. And last but not least it’s collaboration not competition when it comes to craft beer.