Thursday, June 13, 2013

June 13, 2013

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.

As if.

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.

Meat Mania

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

  • Can anyone spell C!tra? On tap now and about a third of a keg left.
  • There's a little of this week's new release, Left Coast Baltic Porter, left.
  • We have a keg of De Molen's coffee infused imperial stout Mout & Mocca coming on in a few days. It's in the 99th percentile on and the second to last reviewer said "This is an incredibly wonderful beer!". The most recent reviewer said "A harsh, sweet, boozy, dirty dark beer. Low drinkability". We like divisive beers. They're why we have more than one tap.
  • From Townshend we have his so-called India Pale Lager Scissor Jack.
  • And our old friend Coronado Idiot IPA is back.

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.

X-Ray Catz

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.


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