Thursday, December 29, 2011

December 29, 2011

Aestivation-free Zone... New Release Tuesday... New Year's Eve Tapstravaganza... Liberty West Coast Blonde Ales...

Aestivation-free Zone

It's a pleasure to reveal that in spite of the accepted wisdom that Wellington empties out in summer we have been busy for the last week. Having live music on Christmas Eve helped, as did the fact that just about everyone else stayed closed on Boxing Day.

No doubt many of you won't read this until some time in January and we'll get a flood of those very helpful "out-of-office replies" to emphasise this fact. But for those of you with an email account that you don't depend on an employer for, or who, like us, are toiling away at your profession, it's pleasing to know that we aren't the only ones in denial of the traditional New Zealand summer shutdown.

In case anyone is left in any doubt, we are open every day, having taken our legally mandated day off for Christmas. We won't close again until Good Friday (April 6).

New Release Tuesday

As long as we're open then rituals like New Release Tuesday must continue. This week we cracked New Zealand's one and only keg of Mikkeller Vesterbro Wit (Anniversary edition). This hasn't yet been drained and anyone adventurous enough to try a hoppy witbier is in for a treat. Like the Feral Golden Ace that we had on tap recently, this is a case of a beer made in a particular Belgian style, at least in theory, but completely dominated by the windfall lemon flavours of Sorachi Ace hops.

Next week we'll take the opportunity to crack another of our stock of uncompromising Mikkeller beers. This time it will be the notorious 1000 IBU. We have actually had this in bottles before, but we aren't satisfied that enough people found out what a theoretical bitterness level thirty times "normal" tastes like.

It's generally understood that we can't perceive bitterness past around 100 IBUs, so in theory 900 of the 1000 IBUs in the beer are redundant. If that's the case then this beer really should be nothing to be afraid of.

By the way, to attempt to balance the bitterness of this beer it weighs in at a hefty 9.4% ABV. A "light" version of this beer has been brewed which is just 4.7%. Those who have tasted the light version can confirm that a thin bodied beer at 1000 units of bitterness is exceptionally difficult to drink.

We're in the middle of a mini-festival of Mikkeller beers right now. Anyone who hasn't at least tried Black is encouraged to try it while it's on tap - ideally as your last beer of the night. Unlike most beers with an ABV in the teens, this is not overtly sweet. There is plenty of sweetness there but it is dwarfed by the rich chocolate and coffee flavours and the intense bitterness. We're serving this sipping beer in 75 or 150 ml pours, so there's no need to be intimidated by the lofty alcohol level. Just pretend it's a sherry.

New Year's Eve Tapstravaganza

This Saturday night - also known as New Year's Eve - we're raiding the vault and bringing out many - too many - of our most prized kegs of imported beer. Fresh beer from Ballast Point, Bear Republic, Nøgne Ø, Coronado and Mikkeller will be all over our taps. Outside of the Pacific Beer Expo or Beervana you'll be hard pressed to find a lineup with as many exotic and sought after beers.

Liberty West Coast Blonde Ales

Last summer the very first beers from Liberty Brewing that we got to put on tap were Joe's West Coast Blonde Series. Joe made the same beer several times using different, single hops - Simcoe, Amarillo and Citra. As well as being delicious they were a fascinating opportunity to understand the character of the individual hops.

Liberty West Coast Blonde is back and this summer's Simcoe will be on tap any day. The worldwide shortage of Amercian hops means it's a while since a New Zealand commercial brewery produced a beer featuring Simcoe. But as a nano-brewer Joe Wood's requirements are modest compared to other breweries so for the foreseeable future (and at his current rate of production) Joe can keep us supplied with beers like these. Having said that the next in the series will be the same beer made with the local hop Pacific Jade.

December 22, 2011

Sentiments of the Season... Our Business During Xmas and New Year... Christmas Eve Music... New Release Tuesday...

Sentiments of the Season

It’s de rigueur at Christmas to reflect, show a little sentiment, invoke the spirit of the season and pass the result off as wisdom and goodwill. It’s time we tried the same.

2011 was Hashigo Zake’s second full calendar year. After a successful and enjoyable first year or so we might have been overdue a period of adversity when good fortune deserted us, competition sprang up and we suffered some kind of backlash. Perhaps all of those happened – our underground heritage premises threw up some significant expenses and a trickle of dissenters sniped at us on various electronic fora. Meanwhile since late 2010 there has been a goldrush-like outbreak of purported craft beer bars in Wellington.

We also created plenty of challenges voluntarily – trying to turn our importing operation into a serious business in its own right; launching our own festival; bringing a guest brewer all the way from Norway; and dabbling in other new lines of business such as corporate tastings, keg leasing and the distribution of New Zealand beer.

On top of this we and our customers and friends had to contend with an economic crisis, terrible natural disasters and a much hyped sporting event that wasn’t nearly as lucrative as predicted (even if it was, at times, good fun).

So to be still here, still trading, still enjoying ourselves and still consolidating our relationships with customers and suppliers feels like a bit of a triumph.

We aren’t in a hurry to put 2011 behind us (though we sympathise with those who do), but we’re looking forward to 2012 as much as anyone. The New Zealand craft beer industry is changing and growing faster than at any time before, so there has never been and may never be a better time to be fully involved in it.

Our Business During Xmas and New Year

Not everyone has the luxury of time off during this period and we don’t believe they should be further penalised by finding their preferred food and beverage outlets closed. Likewise Boxing Day shoppers surely have the right to have their thirst quenched after a long afternoon's bargain hunting. So we remain open every day that we’re allowed.

This means a single day off – Christmas Day. We’ll reopen at midday on Boxing Day, leaving plenty of time for certain customers to find a comfortable spot in front of a telly to watch the Boxing Day Cricket Test from Melbourne.

Now we’re far too new a business to have a lot of end of year rituals, but for the second time ever we’ll be running our nice and easy end of year survey asking what our regular customers really preferred in 2011 and what you think about an issue or two. It will be quick, un-taxing and participants won’t go into the draw for an iPad. We'll launch the survey as soon as 2011 is actually over.

Please read on to find out about our Christmas Eve entertainment and Tuesday's New Release. And be ready to accept next week's edition of this email to find out about our New Year's Eve Tapstravaganza.

Christmas Eve Music

The postponed Adam Page and the Counts gig is on this Saturday. And this Saturday happens to be Christmas Eve. That postponement was one of 2011's minor tragedies, such was the momentum the first three instalments of their four week residency had built up. We're hoping that enough of you are still in Wellington and looking for entertainment this Saturday to help make this free performance the climactic musical event it should be.

Remember that our legal obligation to close early on Christmas Eve means that the music starts at 9pm.

New Release Tuesday

Next Tuesday, December 27th (which should be one of our quietest evenings of 2011 or 2012), will be our first post-24/24 New Release Tuesday. We're kicking off this new tradition with a Danish Witbier. From 5pm next Tuesday we'll be serving our one and only keg of Mikkeller Vesterbro Wit. There can be no holiday for completists.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

December 15, 2011

The End of 24/24... Life After 24/24... What to do on 24/12... 666 Brewing... Six Beers on Now or Soon...

The End of 24/24

A few months ago Garage Project's 24/24 programme seemed an exhausting proposition whose eventual end was far too distant to contemplate. But somehow, suddenly it's 23 down and one to go. That final beer will be next Tuesday's Rum and Raisin. To many Rum and Raisin will sound more like an ice cream flavour than a beer style. And that would be kind of astute.

It turns out that Garage Project and a brand new local maker of "craft ice cream" called Wooden Spoon Creamery have been planning some kind of collaboration for a while, and the 24th beer of 24 will be it. The details are where it gets tricky:

  • Some time ago Garage Project brewed a Belgian Tripel and left it conditioning.
  • More recently a batch of organic raisins were left to "rehydrate" in 12 year old rum.
  • Those raisins, now bloated on rum, were transferred to the aforementioned Tripel.
  • After some time the beer/rum infused raisins were then extracted to be incorporated in an ice cream.
  • A portion of the rum-infused-raisin-infused beer was also used to make that ice cream*.

The best part is that Hashigo Zake is securing several litres of this rare ice cream and will serve scoops of it as an accompaniment to the beer from 5pm on Tuesday. We think it's a fitting, and sort-of Christmassy, way to close off the 24/24 project.

Note that servings of ice cream will be complimentary and will be offered until either the ice cream or the beer runs out.

* We say "was used to make..". In fact the ice cream will be made this weekend. We haven't been able to learn exactly where.

Life After 24/24

It may sound trite or even a little sad to some, but 24/24 really has changed Tuesdays for many of us. At the very least it's made Tuesday a busier night than Wednesday for the last few months, for which the management of Hashigo Zake will be forever grateful. We've also really appreciated the way that regular new releases have fostered an atmosphere of beer-focused scholarship.

So the end of 24/24 deserves to be marked in more ways than just giving away ice cream.

First of all, the next keg after Rum and Raisin will be a kind of a homage - Mikkeller Black. This extraordinary imperial stout is almost certainly the strongest beer ever served on tap in New Zealand. (It's 16.5% alcohol by volume.) For those wondering, it won't be in the usual serving size. In fact we've had to go out and buy port glasses so we have something small enough to serve it in.

Secondly, and as already mentioned, all Tuesdays are henceforward New Release Tuesdays. The tradition starts immediately, even though Tuesday week is December 27 and almost certainly one of the quietest nights of the year. Anyone coming into the bar at 5pm on the 27th can form a queue to sample the first glasses from a keg of Mikkeller Vesterbro Wit. This is a kind of "house wheat beer" made for the Mikkeller Bar in Vesterbro, Copenhagen.

What to do on 24/12

After building up last Saturday's planned performance by Adam Page and the Counts as much as possible, it was difficult, saddening and, well, anti-clamactic to have to postpone the gig on account of illness on the part of Adam himself. If anyone reading this was as disappointed as us then please accept our most sincere apologies.

Adam and his colleagues looked through their diaries (and Adam, Ed and Ricky are three in-demand musicians) and came up with a proposed new date of December 24th. Now on the surface choosing this date may seem like folly. On Christmas Eve in Wellington it seems standard practice to go home from work at midday and metaphorically wash off the stench of daily urban life. But this year Christmas Eve is a Saturday, most of you will have been off work since midday on the 23rd and we're gonna bet that after 24 hours sitting at home waiting for Santa you're all going to be desperate for the sophisticated, urban experience that comes from blending great music and beer. And when that moment comes, we're a short bus or taxi ride away.

Please note that because of our legal obligation to have none of you on the premises by the time Christmas Day rolls around, this gig will start at 9pm.

666 Brewing

A few of you will have heard of 666 Brewing. The rest of you should hear a lot more of it in 2012. It is the brewing company of Graeme Mahy, formerly the head brewer at Australia's Murray's and Blenheim's Moa.

Graeme has spent several years trying to stitch together a location and a company to brew for and signs are that his plans will come to fruition in 2012. If and when that happens we can all have high expectations, because his work at his previous employers, his influence on brewers such as Martin Townshend and the tiny batches of commercial brewing and home brewing that he's done in recent years show that Graeme is one of the country's most gifted brewers.

For the time being Graeme has found some spare capacity up in Hamilton to squeeze out a small batch of the beer he calls Gabriel B. It's described as a multi-national new world pseudo-pilsner, made with New Zealand hops, German and British malt and American and Belgian yeast. We're getting two kegs of this and the first will go on tap soon.

Six Beers on Now or Soon

Here's something no-one could have predicted. On soon will be a mild ale that is a collaboration between our regular favourite (and recent visitor) Nøgne ø and Japan's Tamamura Honten - an ancient sake brewery that has successfully tried its hand at beer in recent years under the name Shiga Kogen. The result is called Not So Mild and mustn't be confused with Liberty's upcoming Not Your Ordinary.

Epic's new Imperial Pilsner has reached us. Instead of following the pattern above and calling it, say, "Not a 5% Pilsner", they went with the more self-important title LARGER, which only succeeded in confusing the Dominion Post who shamefully mistook it for the work of a spelling-challenged hospo worker. LARGER - or preferably just Larger - will be on tap soon.

Another fresh keg of Coronado Brewing's Orange Avenue Wit will be on soon. Certain staff members reckon it's the best witbier we stock.

Last night we finally found a tap free for the first keg of our recent shipment of Ballast Point Big Eye IPA. This beer and its stablemate Sculpin IPA arrived late last month and our stock of bottles has been all but snapped up by bottle stores and supermarkets around the country. But we've retained good stocks of both beers in kegs, so it should be months before we run out here at Hashigo Zake.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

December 8, 2011

More Mikkeller... Adam Page and the Counts - Last Chance... Shock & Awe... The Pursuit of Hoppiness and Beer Bags... Remash... More Goodness... Fishhead...

More Mikkeller

For the last month or so we've been restoring our stocks of Mikkeller beer. Industrial action on the Auckland waterfront nearly interfered with our plans, but just today new stock arrived at our warehouse and some should be for sale by the weekend. So please allow us to tease you with a little background on some of the upcoming goodies.

In May this year, during the long twilight of a sunny spring evening at the edge of Copenhagen's Royal Danish Horticultural Society Garden, a few dozen of the world's luckiest diners assembled outside the restaurant known as Mielcke & Hurtigkarl. The occasion was a dinner to match and celebrate the beers of Three Floyds ('s number 1 brewery) and Mikkeller.

Before entering the restaurant a new beer was offered to those gathered. It was a Mikkeller beer brewed specially for, and named after, the restaurant - a strong Belgian pale ale aged in Château d'Yquem barrels. Yes, you read that right - a beer aged in not just any old Sauternes barrels, but ones that once held the world's most famous dessert wine.

The result was a beer that should change many people's opinion of how barrel ageing can change a beer. We have acquired just twelve 375ml bottles of Mielcke & Hurtigkarl, and they'll be for sale shortly for around $40 each.

At around the same time as the aforementioned dinner was the 2011 Copenhagen Beer Festival. Since 2009 Mikkeller have been releasing a festival beer with the name Stella. The 2011 release - Stella 2 - is a sour beer flavoured with cranberries. As well as acquiring a handful of this magnum-sized release, we've also managed to top up our stock of 2010's Stella 1, an imperial porter.

Look out too for a couple of extraordinary Mikkeller beers appearing on tap. For instance the last time we stocked bottles of the chipotle-infused Texas Ranger the staff drank most of it, which was fun for us but a little selfish. So we've picked up no fewer than three kegs of this monster. (And some bottles of the barrel-aged version.) We also have a single keg of Happy Lovin’ Christmas, which is actually a 7.8% IPA. Obviously we should find a slot for this beer before Boxing Day. Another that needs to be drunk soon is our single keg of American Dream. This is a 4.6% lager packed with American hops in the manner of a flamboyant IPA.

We're actually building up quite a stockpile of Mikkeller kegs. Most of these are the kinds of beer that can stand up to a little ageing (such as the 17% Imperial Stout simply called Black), so we'll be in no hurry to rush them to the taps. Alternatively it could be argued that our stash deserves a fitting event to serve a lot of them at once. Some kind of Mikkeller festival anyone?

Adam Page and The Counts - Last Chance

Last Saturday's instalment of our four week residency by Adam Page, Ricky Gooch and Ed Zuccollo reached new heights of musical coolness and, well, fun. It was pretty snug in the lounge, especially when special guest musicians joined in and then some ambitious attempts at dancing started. (Having said that there was no call for Steven's display and he'll be restrained in future.)

This week is your final chance to get along and enjoy this brief collaboration, which we think will be remembered for a long time. We can reveal that Hashigo Zake and the musical force that is Adam Page have begun discussions about hosting occasional gigs along similar lines in 2012. We'll never be a major music venue but what we've seen over the last three Saturdays has been too good to not try and repeat.

Shock and Awe

This IPA goes up to 11. (The brewer's boast, not ours.) The second to last of Garage Project's 24/24 is a full blown, American-style Imperial IPA. Apparently there's no hop shortage if you're only making 50 litres. But it could be a while before a commercial brewer in our part of the world gets to brew with this much Summit, Simcoe and Centennial again. From 5pm on Tuesday, but we make no promises about how long it will last.

By the way, there is still some left of this week's Garage Project release, Wee Heavy. It's not often we can say that on a Thursday, but it seems that Tuesday's very enjoyable Santa Session distracted everyone from a pretty special beer.

The Pursuit of Hoppiness and Beer Carriers

Copies of the new edition of the SOBA newsletter, The Pursuit of Hoppiness are available in the bar now. The new editor has been lucky enough to have a stunning full page ad on the back of the magazine to ensure that her first publication has maximum visual impact.

On an almost completely unrelated note, we have a suggestion for anyone scrambling to think of a Christmas present for the beer geek who otherwise has everything. Read on.


Many of you will be familiar with Mashup, the New Zealand Pale Ale developed collaboratively by a long list of New Zealand craft brewers, led by Luke and Kelly of Epic. One of the concepts of Mashup was that after the initial batch other breweries were free and encouraged to borrow the recipe and make it too. We gather that Martin Bennett of the Twisted Hop made a small batch a few months ago. Now Joseph Wood at Liberty has had a turn. Our first keg of Liberty Mashup is on right now.

As it happens we just took delivery of an order from Epic of several kegs each of Mashup and their new Imperial Pilsner LARGER, so there is a possibility in the near future of us having the two versions on in close succession, or maybe even simultaneously.

More Goodness

It seems wrong to just talk about the handful of beers mentioned above. There are other pretty special beers deserving to be singled out that are on tap now or will be soon. Specifically:

  • Cassel and Son's Big Ale - possibly the first time we've had a barley wine on a hand pump. With apologies to those expecting 3.7% session beers from the beer engines.
  • Croucher Raspberry Bock - just remember it's a rich, malty bock first and a fruit beer third.
  • Dale's Belgian Pale Ale - the one-time award winning homebrew, now brewed commercially for the third time, and described in detail by Geoff Griggs here.


Wellington magazine Fishhead are having their Christmas party at a nearby location next Thursday and Hashigo Zake is hosting the official After Party. It's open to all and starts at 9:30pm.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

December 1, 2011

The Return of Ballast Point... The 2011 Santa Session... The 2011 SOBA National Home Brew Competition... Adam Page and the Counts 3/4... Garage Project 22/24... Upcoming Treats... December...

The Return of Ballast Point

San Diego's Ballast Point was too busy with modifications to their brewery to supply us back in July. So when a container-load of fresh San Diego beer arrived last week, the inclusion of four pallets of bottles and kegs from Ballast Point was (probably) the most exciting part. So for the first time in months we have ultra-fresh bottles of Big Eye IPA and Sculpin IPA, with both appearing on tap in the next few weeks too.

For those unfamiliar with these beers, Sculpin is currently the third highest IPA on and, when fresh, is probably closer to a perfect encapsulation of American hop flavours than any other beer for sale in the southern hemisphere. And since our order was shipped direct from the brewery and kept refrigerated the whole time, we can guarantee that our Sculpin is fresh. If you've ever thought that debates over refrigerated shipping and grey market beer were too abstract to matter, come down and try Sculpin!

Now having talked up Sculpin, we should concede that some people prefer Big Eye IPA for it's rounder body and slightly different hopping.

But the good news from our latest shipment doesn't end with Sculpin and Big Eye. Ballast Point have sent our way a number of rare seasonals, albeit in kegs only. So over the coming weeks and months, look out for beers such as Dorado IIPA, Navigator Dopplebock, Brother Levonian Saison, Schooner Fresh Hop, Tongue Buckler, Sour Wench Blackberry Ale and Even Keel Session Ale.

And Coronado have come to the party too. As well as getting fresh stock of Islander IPA and Idiot IIPA, they've also filled our kegs with beers such as Wipeout Wheat and Imperial Stout.

These treats will find their way onto our taps in the coming weeks and months. Look out for some of them appearing in the New Release Tuesday slot after Garage Project's 24/24 finishes this month.

The 2011 SOBA National Home Brew Competition

Last week we were congratulating Dave and Shiggy on their respective showings at Regional Wines and Spirits Beer Options. Over the weekend the results of SOBA's National Home Brew Competition were announced and those same two took out an impressive and excessive number of medals. Not enough to head off the overall champion Zane Smith, but impressive none the less. Another staff member - Dylan Jauslin - also picked up a gold medal for his simplistically named "Good Ale".

Now the rate that gold medals were handed out certainly raised a few eyebrows. If the results are to be believed, New Zealand's homebrewers are making better beer than our commercial brewers. That's not as outrageous as it sounds, since homebrewers' smaller scale lets them make fewer compromises with respect to ingredients and process.

It also suggests that the rate at which New Zealand's leading homebrewers "turn pro" will be maintained or even increased. In fact, consider that a prediction for 2012.

The 2011 Santa Session

Speaking of SOBA, our second ever Santa Session is next week. Now this event is open to everyone, but we also want to treat it as an opportunity to have a Christmas beer with probably our most important customers - Wellington's SOBA members. Hence a whopping 33.3% discount on tickets to SOBA members.

The format is pretty simple :- we pile up case after case of beer whose time we believe has come and chill them and serve them as fast as possible. Attendees can collect a glass, come to our temporary serving station, and have it filled with whichever beer is being poured at the time. You can then came back and get it filled again pretty much as soon as you like.

Anyone who can keep up will probably get a glass of about ten different beers. Value for money shouldn't be an issue.

You can book here. We're limiting this to 50 places and at the time of writing around 30 have been snapped up.

Adam Page and The Counts 3/4

Instalment three of our series of gigs by Adam Page and the Counts is on Saturday at 11pm. Is there a better free gig in Wellington this weekend? Is there a better gig at any price, this weekend?

Garage Project 22/24

After two weeks of re-runs, next week features an all-new beer and it's number 22 in the 24/24 project. The last three are all big beers, next week's being a Wee Heavy. We're promised no more interruptions, with beers 23 and 24 coming along on the 13th and 20th.

As usual, the keg gets tapped at 5pm on Tuesday.

Upcoming Treats

There's a variety of unusual and new (to us) beers coming along in the next few days, and a few old favourites returning. Look out for:

  • More Cassell's beers for the hand pump - Milk Stout, ESB and their Barley Wine.
  • Croucher's Raspberry Bock.
  • Jamieson Brewery's The Beast.
  • Our second keg of the new 8 Wired Wheat Ale known as Haywired.
  • Coronado Idiot IPA.


Being the 1st of December it seems an opportune time to talk about some of the ways that our operations might deviate from the usual over the summer months and the Christmas break. Rest assured that we'll continue to open our door every day at midday with one exception - Christmas Day. Now a stroll along Courtenay Place on Christmas Day, Good Friday or Easter Sunday shows that plenty of businesses find a loophole that lets them open on those days, but if the law says that on three days a year we have to take a holiday, there are other issues more worthy of a fight. But we'll be open again on Boxing Day.

We will be applying NO public holiday surcharges. Again if the law says that people working for a wage on a public holiday have to be remunerated generously, what sort of petty business owner would take out their frustrations on their valued paying customers? We'll also observe the usual conditions of our SOBA discount, so on Boxing Day and New Year's Day (and others) SOBA members can continue to get a large tap beer for the price of a small one.

We'll also continue to observe our advertised closing times. I.e. no earlier than 11pm (and no earlier than 1am on Friday and Saturday nights except on Christmas Eve when we're obliged to close early).

In reality, the only difference that customers should notice during the Christmas/New Year holiday period is a little less competition for seats.

In January of this year we ran what we thought was a pretty amusing survey of what people's favourite beers of 2010 were. We like to think that the 2010 results were a pretty revealing indicator of what craft beers and breweries really shone last year, with an acknowledged bias being run by and for Hashigo Zake. (Yes, when we run a popularity contest, we acknowledge any built-in biases!) So look for the Hashigo Zake Survey of Customers' 2011 Favourites in the New Year.