Thursday, October 20, 2011

October 20, 2011

Final Pacific Beer Expo Briefing... Upcoming Garage Releases... New Music Experiment...

Final Pacific Beer Expo Briefing

We have one final piece in the puzzle to announce about the lineup this weekend. One of the first beers we announced and then had to de-announce was Yeastie Boys' His Majesty 2011. Since then Stu has been promising a substitute to blow us all away and it will be xeRRex. For those who aren't satisfied with the 100% peat-smoked malt beer known as Rex Attitude, Yeastie Boys have set out to make the peatiest even peatier, apparently by using even more peat-smoked malt. The result is a 10%ABV version of Rex Attitute.

Now when Rex Attitude was released bars around New Zealand and Australia discovered that its presence remains long after the keg it came in is empty. Any beer poured through the same line for weeks afterwards continues to give up a tell-tale peaty note. Rather than risk tainting one of our own portable beer systems, or even one that we're borrowing, we'll be pouring this beer direct from the single use vessel it's transported in, through a disposable tap, into glasses.

Here are some more practical details for those of you bursting with curiosity:

  • Your souvenir festival glass is a smaller version of the US Pint glass that we use at the bar. They are etched with the festival logo. We actually think they're rather desirable and in case you agree there will be a few extra for sale. Note that at 285ml they do make our standard serving size of 100ml look a little puny, although you can always order a double serving of beer.
  • All beers, regardless of reputation or ABV will cost one token ($2.50) per 100ml sample.
  • Everyone gets a set of starting tokens - eight, of which two are "food only" - which may be enough for some of you, but not nearly enough for others. When you need more you can return to the front desk and get more, or use the token issuing kiosk, which doubles as the glass swap station.
  • There will be merchandise for sale at the front desk - t shirts and glassware, including extra of our festival glasses.
  • There will be good, solid, tasty food on sale, prepared by our own in-house part-time chefs, Sam and Shiggy. Recent Wellington beer festivals (Matariki, Beervana) have set a pretty high bar for food, but we're confident that our menu on Saturday and Sunday will hold its own.
  • We haven't yet managed to completely sell the event out, so we expect to be still selling tickets from Hashigo Zake up until the start time each day.

Upcoming Garage Releases

The experimentation going on in Aro Valley's former service station and garage continues at a heady pace. It would be reasonable to expect that providing three beers at this weekend's Pacific Beer Expo would exhaust their stocks of trial batches. But no, they're back on schedule next week with what is allegedly their most experimental beer yet. It's the second in their series-within-a-series - their collaboration with People's Coffee. In their own words:

People’s Project No. 2. Perhaps our most experimental and avant garde offer yet. A strong spicy golden Saison, infused with green unroasted coffee beans. Inspired by the pungent earthy aroma of green coffee beans, this beer is sure to polarise drinkers. Truly unique, No. 2 might be our finest hour, or our greatest failure. Try some and decide for yourself.

The week after will come another experiment whose details sound no less avant garde. We're not sure how much we're supposed to say about November 1's beer, but more details will be divulged at the Pacific Beer Expo.

New Music Experiment

If we ranked our favourite customers (and honestly, we don't) then new Wellingtonian Adam Page would be near the top. As well as being a celebrated and multi-skilled musician he's a passionate lover of good beer, which brought him to our premises on one of his earlier, less permanent visits to Wellington and he's been a regular and popular visitor ever since.

So there couldn't be anyone more suitable to be first to collaborate with us on a new venture - late night gigs in our lounge. On four successive Saturdays from November 19 to December 10 Adam Page and the Counts will appear in our very own subterranean venue. We'll elaborate a little more in the coming weeks.

November is normally a quiet month for us, but with the help of Adam and one or two other pretty special guests we're hoping to turn that on its head. We'll divulge more next week, if and when we've recovered from this weekend's activities.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

October 13, 2011

Clayton's Project... Pacific Beer Expo... On Tap Soon...


Some weeks it seems as though all the most interesting news happened last week or will happen next week. It really defies common sense that we can scrape together enough material here in what is really quite a small business to bother you all every week. Which is a roundabout way of downplaying expectations for what follows.

Maybe the next time we hit writer's block it will be good to have a stock of topics to meditate or even pontificate on. Feel free to propose any.

Clayton's Project

The guys at Garage Project have been threatening to not deliver a new beer for a number of weeks now. Next week they're going to deliver on that threat - after a fashion. Instead of a new beer they're bringing along their second "rebrew". It's another batch of Golden Brown. At the time (about seven weeks ago) it was described as "a nice juicy Brown Ale with plenty of hop character... Pale, Crystal, Chocolate and Aromatic Malt, with Columbus, Cascade and Ahtanum Hops. 6.2% @ 55BU."

At the time it drew lots of compliments and the words "best yet" may even have been muttered. This release we have when we're not having a release starts at 5pm on Tuesday.

To be completely fair, we should draw attention to the fact that Garage Project will be releasing more than one new beer next week, but all that will take place at the Pacific Beer Expo.

Pacific Beer Expo

After putting most of our cards on the table last week there is limited information left to impart about Labour Weekend's lineup. Or so you would think. In fact there are already one or two retractions to make, and some additions to announce.

First of all, we and Epic have decided that this event is not the time to release one of their few remaining kegs of Portermarillo. To compensate, but not replace, we can announce the first release of the second ParrotDog beer. The Matts have said a little about this new beer called Bloodhound Red Ale. It's described as a dark red ale built around floor malted maris otter malt with plenty of aroma and bitterness from liberal use of New Zealand hops. But the exact nature of the beer seems secondary when compared to the burning question: will it create the same kind of hysteria that BitterBitch did back on July 27?

On Tap Soon

While some rock star beers are waiting for their moment at the Pacific Beer Expo, some equally meritorious but longer established beers have found their way into our possession. In particular we've somehow acquired a keg of Three Boys Oyster Stout. It seems far too late in the year for this beer to appear - perhaps it's a show of support for a team wearing black.

In fact waiting to come on are most of the Three Boys range - Pils, Wheat, IPA, Golden Ale and the aforementioned Oyster Stout.

There are other rarities from the South Island coming up too. For starters we have not one but two new beers from Golden Eagle - Raindogs Amber and Summer Blonde. And Roger Pink has been brewing again, allowing us to pick up some Pink Elephant Mammoth for the hand pump.

More of Yeastie Boys' glorious accident - Red Rackham - is waiting to come on as well. This time it's imposing as a beer for the hand-pump.

We've a couple of Northern Californian beers returning to the taps too - Bear Republic's highly recommended Jack London ESB and from Moylan's their gratuitously bitter Nor*Cal IPA and Chelsea's Porter.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

October 6, 2011

People's Project... Pacific Beer Expo - The Mother of All Announcements... Crime and Punishment... This Weekend...

People's Project

Next week we welcome the first fruits of a partnership that has been developing for a month or two now between the Garage Project and People's Coffee. There are whispers of a series of coffee-infused beers but first up is the beer simply known as People's Project No. 1.
It's described as "a rich, smooth dark roast coffee bockbier. This is a warming 7% bock with a complex malt character and a generous dose of rich and intense black coffee. It's a beer that we hope captures the best qualities of both of our favourite beverages."
As usual it will be available from 5pm on Tuesday. Recent releases have run out a little more than 24 hours after going on tap.

The Pacific Beer Expo - The Mother of All Announcements

With only two weeks to go the time for announcing a beer or two at a time is over. It's time we revealed many of the Californian beers that some of the participants must be holding out for. Few if any of these will be a surprise to regular customers. But we've never come close to having this many on tap at once and only a handful have been available anywhere else before in New Zealand.
  • Bear Republic Carburator Doppelbock
  • Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye
  • Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA
  • Coronado Islander IPA
  • Green Flash Double Stout
  • Green Flash West Coast IPA
  • Moylan's Nor*Cal IPA
Yes that list does include no fewer than four IPAs, and if we included every American beer that we have at our disposal the event would be in danger of turning into an IPA festival. Perhaps some people would prefer that. But we are relying on some of our local brewers to help avoid that not so terrible fate.
And so we take great pleasure in announcing another local beer that we hadn't expected to become available for the festival, but has. It's from Brewaucracy - the embryonic Hamilton brewing entity that came up with the ludicrously popular Punkin Image Ltd. This time it's a vanilla porter called Bean Counter. Apparently 300 litres have been consumed in and around Hamilton before Wellington gets our ration of a single 50L keg.

Crime and Punishment

We've been the victim of petty theft and vandalism since before we opened. This is, apparently, normal. Occasionally someone is stupid enough to commit these acts in a way that lets us know exactly who they are, or at least exactly what they look like. So rather than take such abuses lying down and paying for our losses out of takings we do like to be pro-active when we can.
Late last Saturday three customers were caught on security cameras poking, prodding, rolling and unrolling then eventually folding and sneaking off with one of our new, custom-made barmats. We also found footage of them attempting to take an empty keg with them as an extra souvenir.
Now the cost of one of these barmats is not particularly high and we have been victims of far worse. But it was still a pretty galling slap in the face, and since the theft took place in an area where security cameras routinely capture footage (that is almost completely ignored normally) we decided to let the thieves know that we knew what they'd done.
The result ended up on youtube, with links to it from facebook and twitter. After a little discussion and some dissent about the lengths we went to over our property, the message must have got through to the culprits and we received a phone call last evening offering apologies and a promise to return it. If all goes according to plan, then at about the time you read this the item is being returned and the footage removed from youtube.
Finally yesterday must have been a slow news day because the Dominion Post called later to get some quotes and write the incident up here.
Now if people want to suggest that this is an extreme and possibly privacy-threatening way to react to the theft of something of little value, then you may well have a point. Especially since we are frequently the victims of other acts of theft that we don't happen to catch on camera and so don't get to embarrass the perpetrators of.
But the fact is that causing shame to perpetrators like this is pretty much the only effective tool we have if we want to contain petty crimes against our business that doesn't intrude on the innocent. And every little theft like this creates a cost to our business.
We've since learned that our friends at Croucher Brewery have just been the victim of opportunistic thieves who took off with a large amount of their valuable stock. It goes without saying that the brewery have our sympathy.
No doubt the perpetrators of the kind of petty theft that we suffer from would differentiate themselves from the kind who would steal large amounts of stock from a working brewery. As if taking shiny things from a bar somehow gets an exemption from the legal code. But in the end each and every loss inflicted on us is a cost to our business and eventually to our customers. In fact on one occasion the victim of a theft that we used our security cameras to study was not us but a customer. So we don't apologise for being "anal" and "pissy" about these things, as we've been accused of.
Now part of our problem could be that many of the things we have for use in the bar are just so damned nice to have. Would it help then if we made some of available for sale? We can do that with some of our glassware. The custom-printed glasses of the American breweries we import are items that we can restock in future. So from today our Rogue, Green Flash, Bear Republic and Coronado glasses are officially for sale for $10 each.
Will this help or does merchandise have to be stolen to have cachet? If would-be thieves paid for their glass but told their friends that they'd stolen it, maybe everyone would save face.

This Weekend

Regulars will have observed that for all the hype and the throngs attending the Auckland waterfront, the event that we cannot name has made only an occasional difference to everyday life at Hashigo Zake. But Wellington's "biggest weekend ever" arrives this weekend and perhaps those who don't embrace the thought of rugby-inspired all night partying are planning to avoid downtown Wellington.
So our current expectation is that, for us, Saturday and Sunday will be a little like the Sevens:- while chaos reigns in Courtenay Place, we'll carry on in much the same manner as usual, except for the odd inappropriately dressed, dazed and face-painted refugee wandering in. We will have a security guard and we definitely won't be serving the sponsor's product, so we may just be about the safest place in the vicinity of Courtenay Place.