Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Wheat beer roundup

Given the mild and balmy March we've just had, wheat beer turned out to be a refreshingly appropriate choice for drink of the month. However, not all wheat beer experiences are equal, and depending upon where you go in Wellington, you can have everything from a delicious drink in pleasant surroundings to a flatly disappointing result. Or indeed nothing at all, since it's surprising to find how many otherwise praiseworthy bars have no wheat beer on their lists.

The new MalthouseSo, range is the first variable. Unsurprisingly, beer specialists like the recently reopened Malthouse (yes, that was the far from mysterious mystery bar) and Bar Bodega have plenty to choose from, and I think I counted over a dozen wheat beers on the Malthouse's liver-boggling list, so I might have to take a few trips back to sample some of the more obscure brews. Where only one wheat beer was on offer, it tended to be either Hoegaarden or Tuatara Hefe, though there were a few more interesting drops around: Limburg Witbier at Nikau and the excellent Three Boys Witbier at Tupelo.

One class of bar that one might expect to do well is brewery bars, but my experiences were disappointing. The Brewery Bar at Shed 22 used to serve up their own Verboden Vice, but that's been replaced by Mac's Great White, which seems bland by comparison and had virtually no head. The Loaded Hog (not strictly a brewery bar, but one that promotes its own brews) was worst of all: their Hog Wheat was thin and acrid, more like a stale lager than a wheat beer.

There were a lot of variations in serving techniques. A few places have wheat beers on tap, though that doesn't guarantee a good pour. St Johns' served up a tasty Erdinger, but it was as if it was married to Henry VIII: it's head didn't last very long. The Southern Cross sells Tuatara Hefe on tap, and while I prefer the White Rock they used to serve, it's still dangerously quaffable for such enormous pitchers. Many beer connoisseurs prefer tap beer to bottled, but with wheat beer there's often some satisfaction to be had from swirling the last mouthful at the bottom of the bottle to stir up the yeasty residue, pouring it into the glass along with the especially creamy head that it delivers.

The glass itself also makes a difference, and while I wouldn't necessarily go to the Belgian extremes of having a special glass for every brand, the glass should at least be the right size. Mighty Mighty served their Schofferhoer Hefeweizen (a special selection for Berlin Bonanza) in a bog standard Kiwi beer glass, and while it's in keeping with their quasi-ironic retro approach, it was far too small for the beer. Lido did even worse, accompanying their bottled Tuatara Hefe with a short tumbler, which is wrong for any sort of beer. Leuven, as could be expected, go to the opposite extreme, with enormous buckets of Hoegaarden that require some dexterity to hold, not to mention a great thirst to finish.

As to the vexed question of lemon vs no lemon, it was rarely an issue. The only place that proactively offered me a choice was Matterhorn, and then they went one step further by offering orange peel as an option. I tried both, and was pleasantly surprised by the orange: it seemed to bring out the botanicals in the Hoegaarden very nicely.

Now that autumn is making itself more keenly felt, it's time for a very different drink of the month for April, so I'll write about that soon.


At 9:06 pm, April 02, 2007, Blogger Will de Cleene said...

Mmmm, Tuatara Pale Ale...

At 12:26 am, April 03, 2007, Blogger R Singers said...

It's a pity Glen stopped brewing at the Parrot & Jigger, his Weiss beer flavoured with star anise, was perhaps the best I've ever tasted.

At 8:17 am, April 03, 2007, Blogger mikeymike said...

i'm constantly staggered by how good the tuatara heffe is (tends to be better at bodega than at sthn cross).

i've tried erdinger at st johns twice now. 1st time i thought i was just unlucky. 2nd time confirmed something is amiss. but i've never had erdinger anywhere else. is it rubbish?

and yes, imho its vital to get it of the tap.


At 8:53 am, April 03, 2007, Blogger Seamonkey Madness said...

Re. the lemon offer-uppage. They do it with it with an abject compulsivity at The Loaded Hog. But I'm surprised you found that out since - as you stated - the wheat beer is so dissappointing and not worth the visit.

Erdinger in NZ bars isn't as a good experience as it can be. The reason is a mystery but somehow, as I stated in the original thread, it just tasted better in the UK.

Verboden Vice and Great White are different styles if I remember correctly, so its not really comparing apples with apples - though it is a pity they removed it from their lineup. Great White tastes waaaay better out of the bottle than the tap at the Brewery Bar, no doubt. And at $6.50 a glass, a lot cheaper too!

Yes, and I say we protest outside The Cross for them to bring back White Rock pitchers! (although Tuatara Hefe ones aren't that bad themselves...)

At 9:27 am, April 03, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

"Re. the lemon offer-uppage. They do it with it with an abject compulsivity at The Loaded Hog."

Actually, I was expecting lemon at the Hog, since it says that's the way they serve it on all their marketing guff, but I had to specifically ask for it. I should have asked for the juice of two whole lemons and a slug of vinegar: it would have improved the taste no end.

"Verboden Vice and Great White are different styles if I remember correctly, so its not really comparing apples with apples - though it is a pity they removed it from their lineup."

True, they are very different, but Great White has taken over the "wheat beer" slot, and I miss the old Vice.

"Yes, and I say we protest outside The Cross for them to bring back White Rock pitchers!"

I wonder whether White Rock is still being made. I also asked for some at Pod, since it was on their beer list, but they didn't have any. In fact, I got poured a glass of White Rock Riesling instead! Lots of scope for confusion.

At 11:06 am, April 03, 2007, Blogger Seamonkey Madness said...

AFAIK you might be able to get White Rock from Moore Wilson (if you are totally desperate.)

But I was told that a few months ago now, so your assumptions may well be correct.

At 12:01 pm, April 06, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't orange normal with Hoegaarden? Well, maybe not normal but certainly 'correct'. Having said that, the place I've drunk it most is called De Hems, just off Shaftesbury Avenue in London. It's a dutch bar so I guess the orange is understandable.

At 2:07 pm, June 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just stumbled upon this blog & I am a huge fan of Weiss beer.

I'm surpised you didn't mention my all time favourite Emersons Weiss Beer! The only problem is that they are constantly running out of it at all my local outlets!


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