30 September 2008

The beer report

A bit delayed, and all i can do is apologise profusely. And blame beer itself.
Another tasting - the day after the scotch one - on Belgian beers, but generally avoiding the lambics.
Palm it's cheap, it's common, and it's a very quaffable ale with a slightly sweet taste. If that's the Belgian DB, then damn yet another reason to live there. 
Augustin Grand Cru 9% sweet sour spicy pepper floral with a hint of parmesan cheese (no really!)
Abbaye des Rocs Brune 9% bananas, very smooth malt, strong whisky finish. Double fermented, and another in the bottle
Achel Blond 8% very dry, light nose, citrus, not too great
Het Kapittel Pater 6% malty nose, sweet apples
Lindermans Geuze 4% too sweet - I prefer the ouze, drinkable, but I prefer the more bitter manly ouze
Dupont Moinette 8.5% bitter sweet, citrus, long finish, increasing bitter finish, spicy pepper
Dolle Brouwers Oebiers 9% banana, marmalade, hot increased alcohol, chocolate, orange, malty.

So my picks? Augustin Grand Cru 9%; Abbaye des Rocs Brune 9%; Dolle Brouwers Oerbier 9% - all of which I gave 9/10 to. Mmm Belgian beer. Makes me happy. So very happy.

What was a worse idea, although at the time it seemed bloody brillant, was Rich's idea of heading to the Courtney Arms, who just happen to have a number of good English ales in cask. damn it.

Slainte, B.

25 September 2008

Whisky Review - MJ Tasting

A tasting dedicated to the late Michael Jackson and his favourite whiskys. The selection was therefore a bit odd, and even more odd as there were no cask strengths there. All eight were 40-46%.

Auchentoshan triple distilled 21yo 43% MJ Rating 86 Hmmm now I've had 2 or 3 Auch's and never liked them. This was no different. Nose: syrup; bacon; sweet; honey; banana. Palate: sweet; muscatel. Finish: mid length. 6/10
Macallan 30s 40% MJ Rating 95 I thought I liked Macallan. I didn't like this one. Nose: sweet; dry maple; older. Palate: empty, ash. Finish: short. 5/10 Crap. I wouldn't use it for cooking.
Macallan 18yo Fine Oak 43% MJ Rating 94 (for the vintage version) Well this one was a bit of an improvement. Nose: sherry; raisins; muscatels. Palate: sherry; chewy muscatel; sweet; fruitcake. Finish: dry; smokey, medium finish. 7/10
Springbank 15yo 46% MJ Rating 88 Springbanks seem to confuse me, I love the one I've got (from the whisky society), but the others seem a bit lacking in complexity. Nose: salt, bacon, sweet, fruity, cheese. Palate: caramel honey, kinda soapy. Finihs: medium. 8/10 so I liked this one a bit more. huzzah.
Highland Park 18yo 43% sherry cask MJ Rating 92 Nose: light, kinda chocolate, ozone hints. Palate: low alc, light, kinda missed it. Finish: spicy and long. 6/10. No I didn't like this HP at all. Disappointing.

Over all the first five whiskys were very light and very similar in style/flavour. Not recommended.

Bowmore Darkest Sherry 43% MJ Rating 88 This was superb. Nose: salt, sweet, burnt rubber, oil, smoked eel. Palate: salt, complex, chewy, gorgeous. Finish: huge, excellent. 9/10. I loved this whisky it really was awesome.
Laphroaig 30yo 43% MJ Rating 90 I liked this one too. Nose: sweet, smoke, salami, disinfectant. Palate: fascinating, smooth, developing. Finish: medium. 8.5/10. Good whisky, I might prefer the quarter-cask Laphroaig more.
Lagavulin 16yo 43% MJ Rating 95 Very nice. Nose: phenol, smokey. Palate: salt, spicy but smooth. Finish: beach, long smokey. 8/10.

The second bunch of three were good. Certainly more interesting than the first five.

I think MJ and I dont' agree on much at all. I wouldn't rank any of these as great whiskys, certainly interesting, but not fascinating.
I was going to buy the Bowmore as it was very very good, but strangely I didn't. But it is wonderful value for money at around NZ $120.


24 September 2008


it could be a pisht post

it is a pisht post!!

whisky tasting tonight! huzzah!!!!
tasting eight of michael jacksons favourites. i dont think he and i agree too much on stuff. but full review soon. when im sober.


oh and belgian beer tasting tomorrow. what a wonderfu week!!!

16 September 2008

Mac, Time Machine, happiness

My Mac had a harddrive failure. On the plus side this was three days before the warranty expired (go my mac!), and I had been doing weekly backups using Time Machine (part of MacOS 10.5) so I wasn't too worried.

Yesterday my Mac arrived back with a new harddrive and got to test how my Time Machine backups worked. Nothing like an emergency test :)

So I booted off an install disc, plugged in my external harddrive (FW800), selected the Utilities menu and 'Restore System from Backup', found my most recent backup and left it to it. Took about 90 mins for roughly 80GB. And voila everything was back to how it was. Sure MacMail needed to rebuild it's mailboxes (a minute or two), Spotlight needed to rebuild it's cache, and iTunes needed to be pushed towards my external drive (where I store things), but aside from those very minor issues...
Time Machine is bloody brillant.


14 September 2008

That was a nice day

Sunday was a lovely day!
I woke up, and went back to sleep. woke up again, struggled to the coffee pot, while that was doing its thing warmed some scones, then retired back to bed and read the paper. Bliss. Discovered the iPhone I thought I'd managed to score, is not going to happen. Bugger.

Got up, did some washing, made some lemon honey, then wandered into town and around the waterfront, pretty. 

Wandered around a bit more, picked up a ticket to Yeasayer who are coming to Wellington in October (wow, thats like organised! Free download tracks here). 
Saw Tropic Thunder. Which I enjoyed. Ok, so the movie doesn't live up to the brillance of the three 'trailers' before it, but eh, still good. It seemed to drag a bit in the middle, but all in all, worth seeing.
If only for the brillance that is Robert Downey Jr.

Curled up in bed, read, and listened to Marillion. 
B x

7 September 2008

Stupid oven

In addition to stupid headache, stupid flu, an element on the stove blew this morning taking out the fuse as well.
So I have no oven, and I wanted to make some scones and some lemon honey.

I guess it's soup for tea as the microwave is still rockin along.


Michael Jackson - Beer report

Not that MJ, this was a tribute tasting of the beer and whisky writer, MJ (1942-2007) desert island beers.
Regional Wines have said they'll try to make this an annual event - varying the tastings from MJs top25 beers.
Pilsner Urquell the original pilsner, wonderfully dry taste. and cheap. I've always liked this beer.
Marston's Pedigree one of the few ales (is it? there's arguments about that) using traditional casks. It's hoppy, its beautiful, and never ever buy it in the cans. Get the bottle conditioned glass.
Cooper's Sparkling Ale It's Australian, and it's alright. It's not brillant tho, we figured that since MJ tasted it in the 80s, he'd probably had lots of crap and it was a refreshing change. It is cheap tho. Not really recommended.
Orval it's a love or hate it beer. having said that, my response is more a yeah its alright.
Rodenbach Grand Cru This is one of my top 3 beers (#1 is later in this list, and the other is the Ouze Boon). It really polarises people, but I love the bitter almost vinegar lambic taste.
Schneider Aventinus a Bavarian doppelbock, ruby-red (ish), choc overtones, yummy. I think I had this in Germany, things are vague tho'. Definitely recommended.
Traquair House Ale it's interesting, a Scottish ale, strong, tasty and I liked it. There was a lot going on in this beer.
Thomas Hardy Ale This is it. This is the beer I put at #1 on my list. There is so much going on that it's difficult to describe. The one we had had been aged for 3 years, regarded as 'young' probably 'too young', with a minimum 10 year aging, and 20 years recommended. How to describe? Chocolate, marmite, solid, tactile, stunning nose, so complex in taste, caramel, toffee, the list goes on.
The big question is should I buy some and try and keep it for 15-20 years?
Should I? Can I?



To Sharla and her finishing of the thesis!!!


3 September 2008


Germany - Berlin
It's a good day when brekkie is in London, morning tea in France (somewhere on the Eurostar), brunch in Brussels and dinner Berlin. And it's not even a Kontiki tour. Things began eventfully with some mental pateint being arrested behind us while we waited for a bus, but he seemed pretty relaxed about it all. Customs and train travel are a relaxed breeze compared to the nightmare of stupid airports, stupid airport Customs, and stupid stupids working there.
But any problems were balanced by knowing that leaving the UK meant I was closer to the first decent cup of coffee for some time - aside from Monmouth and Flat White anyway.  
While brunching in Brussels, was very very tempted by the lambics, but resisted, in retrospect I don't know why as everyone else was drinking at 10am. Boarded the Thalys and headed to Cologne, the place with the Cathedral that everyone knows (hello Leonard!). It's next to the train station and hard to miss. Very hard to miss.The Cologne to Berlin, sure the whole trip took significantly longer than a plane, but with Easyjets usual delay policy, it probably doesn't work out much different. And it's more comfortable, and I'll try not to rant too much about airports.   I was reading Stephen Fry's Hippopotamus, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Kinda twisted version of Evelyn Waugh and Fry's own deprecating style of humour. Excellent stuff. 
Taxi to the hostel (the circus) which is a really nice place, stuck in the middle of what turned out to be a good cafe/pub district. Somehow we coped with that.  Had a tour the next morning of Berlin's sights. The initial impression, which didn't change, was of the schizo architecture. Aside from the leftover from communism (which being from Wellington, didn't seem too bad), there isn't an overarching style. This has left a city lacking architectual character, instead they seem to focus on green spaces. which are many and large, with wide open footpaths and cyclepaths. So it feels really open, differing from other major cities I've been to.

What has happened in the last 20 years is signficant rebuilding (in same cases recreation) of classic buildings destroyed in the war, in an attempt to bring back character. I dunno if it's worked, but they look pretty. Which is, after all, what I'm all about.
We stopped off at a memorial to the Jews killed in WW2 by Peter Eisenman. Although somber in its resemblance to tombstones, the place is also quite fun with the variations in height lending a playful vibe. The kids running around shooting each added something to it all. Meandering around the Reichstag, impressive building with the brandenburg gate next door, we boarded the bus thing and headed to the remnants of the wall. My Lord Thy Rog!!

Located in the remnents of the SS building there was an interesting display concerning the Jews. I found it all a bit tedious by the end, with at least 1/3 of the display concerning personal tales of anguish/pain/death/heroism which became quite monotonous.

Next day we headed to museums via the Dom, which is rather impressive with stunning decorations. I even managed to go up to the bell tower, until vertigo hit. I hate heights, but got a fair way up - only the last section stopped me which was on rickety (my choice of word) tight steps when that tingly feet and sweating broke out. At some point I might post photos.

I wanted to see the German National museum, as I'd read a fair amount of history from 1850 onwards, but knew very little pre-1850. This museum is massive. An absolutely incredibly detailed exploration of Germanic history, lots of original manuscripts, early church artifacts, roman remains, etc. Interesting examination of Martin Luther and the divide he created, including copies of his 'pamphlets'. Nice collection of Old Masters scattered around too. Definitely a standard visit, although I skipped most of the post-1850 stuff. The one complaint I had was an absence of music references, figure they are somewhere else - which I'll get to next time. Had an ice coffee while people watching, including spotting people who looked just like Rudi. Spooky.

Heading home we unfortunately we came out at the wrong underground exit (right station tho), and came out opposite a specialist vinyl shop. I found a lot I wanted, and didnt buy anything!

At Ss suggestion we went on a pub crawl. After a visit to the hospital to reset my twisted wrist. We were in a cafe/pub mecca. I drank beer, enjoyed beer, and drank more beer. German beer is very very nice! Threw some Weissbier at S which she enjoyed, so it didnt appear like I was drinking on my own. Not that it really bothered me. In retrospect, my alcholism saved our lives. If we had been doing typical tourist thing we would have been coming out of the underground about the time a taxi ploughed into a cyclist, two pedestrians, and a lamppost. But since id said I needed to write the best-man speech and drink (not in that order), we were safe. Just like Jesus, leading his chosen to safety. Bruce's diaspora if you will.

Next day saw a visit to the New Gallery. Not what we were expecting, not a collection of pictures, rather two exhibitions. One by some guy which didnt grab me, appearing as brightly fluorescent sheets. Downstairs was a different story. A retrospective of Japanese/American photo-artist Hiroshi Sugiomoto.(Website) Absolutely spellbinding. His use of perspective to bring to life diaoramas to life, both macabre and flora/fauna, reduced the artifical 3D to 2D, ironically enlivening the scene. A series of movie theatres throughout the world came to life by shooting one shot for the length of the movie. Really liked this guy, and intend to track down some images.

I've always liked the Bauhaus movement, and it's impact on early Deco, so took the opportunity to see the museum. Seems there was a lot more to the Bauhaus movement that Id come across. Its not a big museum, but definitely worth a look. I enjoyed the slow meandering around this one, lots of art, pictures, design and a look at the influences of the movement. Excellent stuff. Klee, Kandinsky et al., happy B.

Food: Mmm I like this place. Wonderfully diverse food selection, good coffee, good beer, good food, including superb gnocchi and russian dumplings (gnocchi is often badly cooked, and dumplings are hard to make tasty!). We found an excellent French cafe just up from the hostel, so brekkie was sorted.

People: Its so relaxed. Very Wellington cafe vibe, but possibly even more relaxed. Huge pavements mean lots of seats outside, excellent service, and everyone was friendly. The Berliners could certainly teach the Brits a few things...

CD Purchases: none. But I eventually weakened and bought some vinyl (Tom Waits - Rain Dogs, and James Dean Bradfield - The Great Western), the owner offered a cheaper version of the Tom but it wasnt on 180gm vinyl - seemed a no-brainer. The owner laughed when I looked confused and asked why Id want the cheaper one. I didnt really want to lug vinyl back with me, but it was cheap...and its sexy...and oh bugger off. i like vinyl.

At some point I'll dump some pictures up, but I need to recover my harddrive before I can do that.