Drink of the month: wheat beer
For a change, the drink of the month for March isn't a cocktail but a type of beer: wheat beer, to be precise. It's often thought of as a summer drink, but to my taste it's better in the late summer or early autumn than in the blazing heat, when something crisp and hoppy (like a Pilsner), fruity and girly (like a Radler) or watery and tasteless (like 90% of the beer sold in New Zealand) is more effective as a thirst quencher. A good wheat beer is certainly refreshing, but it should also be complex enough to reward leisurely, contemplative sipping.
On the face of it, there doesn't seem as much point in reviewing beer compared to cocktails, since it doesn't rely upon the skill of a bartender to put it together in front of you. It's true that I don't expect as much trouble getting a decent drink as I did with Mai Tais, for instance, but there are quite a few variables to consider.
For a start, there's the range of beers on offer, and with the term "wheat beer" actually covering a bewildering range of Belgian witbieren and German Weizen, cloudy Hefe and filtered Kristall, there should be a lot of variety to choose from. Presentation is important too, and having the beer served in the right glass, at the right temperature and with a proper head can make all the difference. And as with any drink, the atmosphere and environment is a vital component of one's enjoyment. Ideally, a wheat beer should be enjoyed in the dappled sunlight of a terrace beside the Danube, with a cold glass in one hand and a saltzy brezel in the other. Failing that, we'll just have to make do with what's available, so the wheat beer's natural habitat is the balcony, beer garden and streetside bar.
So, where best to explore the yeasty delights of wheatbeer in all its guises? Any bar with a serious range of beers should be a good bet, with Leuven being the obvious choice, but Bodega and the soon-to-reopen Malthouse also top contenders. One might think that bars with a brewery connection (such as the Brewery Bar at Shed 22 and the Loaded Hog) would do it well, but past experience is not encouraging. There are plenty of other bars around with outside areas and wheat beer on tap (Imbibe, Southern Cross and St Johns spring to mind), so I expect this to be varied and productive month.