Saturday, December 18, 2010

Arrowton New Zealand - Arrow Brewing

When you visit New Zealand (not if) you'll be compelled to visit Queenstown in the South Island. It is a small resort town that is Aspen Colorado for Extreme Sports. The town has bungee jumping, jet boating, and hang gliding coming out of it pores. It's a fun little town on a scenic lake with majestic mountains all around. We received a tip from our hotel front desk woman to check out a small craft brewer in the next town over Arrowtown. So being in an adventure seeking mood we couldn't resist...

 Arrowtown is about 10 miles outside of Queenstown. It's a tiny little town with a small tourist strip of shops and restaurants AND an excellent little pie shop to get the authentic meat pie experience. Yum! A quick aside about meat pies in NZ. I have a personal hypothesis that meat pie prices are either government regulated or a strongly contested item in Kiwi economics. Kind of like gas prices in the US. Everywhere we went all over the country from bakeries to gas stations the price of a meat pie was almost universally between $4.00 and $4.50 depending on what kind you ordered. And no one dared try to make a sub standard meat pie!

And nestled in the back corner of a small courtyard is Arrow Brewing owned by the exceptionally generous and friendly ex-baker and brewer Greg.

Greg used to be a baker but got tired of the lonely early mornings. So he sold his bakery and opened up arrow brewing down the street a few years ago. Cheerful and willing to sling as many tasters at you as you're willing. The brewery has been up for 2 years and already won some acclaim at the NZ Beervana festival. He served us some fresh warm sourdough with the IPA. Shh there's beer in the bread! Yum. He's been toting barrels of his IPA and Christmas ale all over New Zealand and been making friends with his great brews wherever he goes. He has a wonderful bar and pub. If you're in Queenstown you have to skip Dux and Speight's and go get a beer at Greg's place in Arrowtown. You'll be glad you did.

Look for his bottles coming soon...

Now on to the beers we tried. Greg had some many and was so happy to put them in front of me it was tough to keep track. Here's what I can recall...

Arrow Pils:
It has a light lemon color. A big voluminous head with a fruit nose. Spicy with floral nose and slight mango. This is a lovely and subtle Pilsner that's refreshing, very drinkable but complex enough to warrant your attention. Definitely a good opener as it takes concentration to pull all the flavors apart.

Gentle Annie:
This is his honey lager. It's brewed with New Zealand's Famous Manuka honey. It has a light taste and color. More sweet but not syrupy. Light honey flower nose. Again easy and refreshing. I love beers like this and the Hallertau Hangi beer. They're anchored in the local flavors and traditions of a region. They really make it more personal and you can tell there's pride and attention paid to these types of beers as it represents their history more than say, an Imperial stout.

Oak organic lager:
This beer had local Rakau hops only and only organic ingredients. It had a light fruit sweet taste with some spice.

Winter Warmer. Special:
This was a treat Greg poured us from the back room as it was a little out of season for the front bar. It has a gingerbread color smell and taste. Syrupy sweet with ginger orange peel cinnamon clove and brown sugar. It has a sweet after taste that lingers. Slight hop up front but quickly overpowered by the sweet. I can tell this will warm you in the coldest nor' wester. As this ages a bit the flavors will blend nicely and balance out. I can't wait to try this out again. When you coming to Seattle Greg??

Light and Greg's self proclaimed, "uninteresting beer." Greg mentioned this is his mass offering to the Speight's/Budweiser drinkers of NZ he sells more of it than he'd care to because that's what many of his customers prefer.

I asked him more about the NZ beer drinking culture and mentioned that I had found most beers to be lighter and waterier even if they were stouts or other malty type beers. He mentioned that most New Zealander's prefer lighter more refreshing beers and it's been an uphill battle to get people to embrace more robust stronger beers. He said IPAs are getting very popular but there is still a ways to go in the Brown Ale to Stout range. He's working, along with the 64 odd other craft brewers, to continue charging up that hill but happy to brew what his customers prefer as well.

This is Greg's fan favorite at festivals and events. It has a great malt nose with fresh floral hops. It has a very unique and interesting lime bitter taste. It's a very unique flavor that I've never had before in a beer and truly sets it apart. It has a carmel gold color. It's an excellent taste combination with unique kiwi hops, light carbonation, and a strong malt backbone. Definitely one of my favorites and I can see why the brew community likes it.

Schist Dark:
 This has a fine low head when poured. The aroma has a toasty sesame nose which lends itself very nicely to this dark beer. It's malty with very light hops around the sides. Toasted sesame and light chocolate. Like rye toast in the morning. This is a good morning beer. Also this is one of the first dark ales where I didn't feel like it had been watered down or been light on grain. It has a nice balance of flavor and stands up well.

Roaring Meg Black Ale:
This is Greg's strong ale, like the river near by. She's a fickle Ale that may chew you up and spit you out on the rocks if you're not ready. It's defining feature is the Acrid taste. Almost sour smell like a Duchess or a Consecration. Not quite malty and not quite sour it puzzles me a bit. It's interesting but not pleasing. Bitter hops with crystal malt give it a bitter taste that sticks in the back of your throat. It's something I'd like to see him keep at and hope to try again.  If you're man enough it's strong and rough and tumble all the way down. Not for the ZK crowd.

Arrow Brewing definitely had the strongest lineup of all the places I visited while I was there. And Greg's hospitality easily colors my view but I think that's an important part of the craft brew culture. As Mark has quoted before "The craft brew industry is 99% asshole free." And it's important to keep it that way.

Anyone that's familiar with New Zealand will know I left out quite a few top brewers from their nation. This was only due to the fact that this was not just a beer trip so my beer tasting was opportunistic only. I do recognize there are other great brewers there such as, Three Boys, Epic, Invercargill Brewing, and Twisted Hop. I hope to go back soon and taste the rest. Or better yet: We hope you all start sending your beer over to our neck of the woods. There's always room for more. Note: Epic is available in Washington as we speak.

Thank you New Zealand for a wonderful trip full of warm and friendly people. The people couldn't have been friendlier. They don't take things too seriously and have this great sense of humor about everyday life. And they truly know how to make you feel welcome.

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