So we’ve survived another winter, we’ve packed the heaters away and started being able to mow our lawns without flippers on.
It’s time to start thinking about barbecue drinks, or drinks that are perfect for sitting outside at the picnic table, doing as little as possible.
Scoundrels and Rogues in North Canterbury’s Waipara are a specialist premium cider maker in what is the heart of wine country.
Related to a famous local wine family, cider maker Paul Donaldson makes some intensely flavoured and nicely weighted examples.
Unusually for cider, many of these are given wine treatment and are designed to develop as they age.
Pleasantly Corrupted is a vintage cider which has gone through a wild fermentation in French oak.
Rich, nutty and with a nice hint of green apple acidity, it is a big step up from many of the usual suspects.
They also make a quite bizarre, but delicious Cold Shoulder, Ice Cider – the cider equivalent of a dessert wine.
It’s very sweet and honeyed, and completely still. It’s also very moreish and the 375ml bottle will disappear very quickly.
Scoundrels and Rogues make a number of other cider variants including an excellent Pear Cider, and are worth looking out for if you want something with more character and finesse than others.
Epic Brewing Company have rightly made a name for themselves as one of the world’s finest producers of IPA styled beers.
My current favourite is the magical Rhonda Red IPA.
A wonderful, generous, smooth and massively flavoursome red beer.
Epic, alongside Sparks Brewing, also recently produced an Imperial Stout.
It is 9 per cent alcohol, dense and creamy with chocolate and coffee tones and made for the cellar, they think it will age for up to 10 years, if you can resist it that long.
Another to have produced an excellent Red IPA is new kid on the block Chaotic Hop from Auckland.
Very much a cottage industry, the guys behind Chaotic Hop make very good, very smartly priced beers that certainly deserve a wider audience.
Their DRIPA Double Red IPA is big and weighty with a great balance between the sweetness of the malt and the zing of the hops.
Chaotic Hop’s “standard” beer is anything but standard. Chaotic Hop Pale Ale is clean, fresh and massively drinkable, it is also by craft beer standards incredibly cheap, possibly the perfect barbecue beer.
Kereru Brewing in Upper Hutt make a huge range of exciting craft beers, and have a strong environmental commitment, which includes using sustainable energy and biodegradable tasting cups at their cellar door.
Kereru Auro is a completely gluten-free ale, which makes it something of a rarity.
Made using sorghum and rice, it is very clean, light and refreshing.
Heading to the darker end of the spectrum Kereru Black Ruby Imperial Stout is a massive beast of a beer.
Made with cacao, coffee and raspberry, it is intense, fragrant, rich and deep with bitter chocolate and fresh raspberry flavours, incredible.
Behemoth Brewing Company have made a name for themselves with some excellent beers and some good old Kiwi humour.
The slightly controversial, ImPeachment, Sour Ale could have possibly been a reference to the current US President, while the Dump The Trump, Americal IPA almost certainly is.
I was particularly taken with Behemoth’s 6 Foot 5 IPA – a lightly malty American styled ale with big hop flavours and a great weight.
I also enjoyed the excellently named Chur NZ Pale Ale – a brilliant barbecue or picnic ale, with huge dollops of zesty hop flavours and a nice malt balance.
All of the above drinks are made by “the little guys” – no multinationals, no industry giants, just people who want to make great tasting things for us to enjoy.
They all deserve our support.
First Published in the Waikato Times 25.09.18