Review #24 – Taieri George

It looks a bit better than this, really. And tastes far better.Hot Cross Bun Ale

Hi, I’m Peet. I used to work here…

Speaking of long absences and dispiriting privation, I have been looking forward to Emersons’ Taieri George for a long, long time now. It’s a seasonal beer – released on or about March 6th, the birthday of the George for whom it is named and who founded the brewery – and since I’d tried it towards the tail end of winter last year I’ve been waiting all summer for it to return. For a number of reasons, some of which are also reasons for the hiatus in this blog, I’ve put off having it though and lately it’s been sitting in my fridge taunting me…calling to me…and I’m wondering now has it been worth the wait?

The first thing that hits you is the aroma of hot cross buns, something consistently expected from any vintage of this beer, apparently. With the cinnamon, ginger, hints of raisins and yeastiness it’s dead on. It’s a deep brown, chestnut colour with a thin, foamy head that certainly doesn’t wear out its welcome and from the first taste there’s an odd but not unpleasant note, at first underneath but gradually coming to dominate as you progress down the glass (discorcertingly quickly because it is indeed, as promised, quite smooth), something a bit sour or pungent, a bit raisiny, a bit medicinal, a bit like…well, like the raisins in hot cross buns. It’s a difficult impression to get away from. Yes, there’s a sweet maltiness to it, not a lot of bitterness in the finish or indeed elsewhere, medium carbonation and the thinnish body carries a lot of flavour (with a goodly chunk of alcohol at 6.8%, huzzah!) but really the tasting notes for this one is three words. Hot cross bloody buns.

Compared to the one I had last year – and bear in mind we’re talking about a memory that is fuzzy at the best of times – this one seems a more raisiny and a less spicy, a bit more complex and more idiosyncratic than the 2011 vintage; that is, there are quite a few spiced ales now but not so many hot cross bun ales which is what this is, more so than last year’s at any rate. It could be an aging thing. Many people buy this beer only to cellar it for half a year then rave about it, probably to the intense annoyance of those who failed to procure a bottle when it was in the shops. I intend to be one of those people in a few months, and perhaps the flavour will mellow and round out even further. But as good as this is, so far I have to say I preferred last year’s drop.

So it’s complex, unusual (perhaps unique?), smooth, high quality, and belongs to an unfashionable category perhaps too often just serving as ‘other’. So to go with this beer I’d suggest an act like Jaga Jazzist, Norwegian exponents of Nu-Jazz which I won’t pretend to have a great knowledge of but I imagine there’s some pretty rank contributions to the genre – and we’ve all had our share of distinctly ordinary spiced/vegetable/herb/whatever beers. Like the Taieri George, there’s a lot to like about the whole One Armed Bandit album, but you do get the impression that in lesser hands it could be a complete botch job. Both of them seem to get it right, for mine. It’s not the cheap, slightly novelty beer it could have been. Still, why does this beer exist if not just because it can? Honestly, how appealing is it to say a beer tastes like hot cross buns? Hopefully not very, because I need to head off to the shop and grab a few more bottles if they’re still there.

***** I am aware of the formatting problems in this post and would fix it if I could. You think that’s bad? This is the second time I’ve done this one since the autosave decided to have a pack a sad at just the worst possible time. I am hoping after a cup of tea and a lie down the ethersphere will decide to pick on someone else for a while but in case it doesn’t…well, I’m aware of the problem and am working to fix it as soon as possible. My first course of action is to ignore it and hope it goes away. I suggest you do the same.

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Name: Taieri George

Style: Spiced Ale

Brewed by: Emersons Brewery, Dunedin.

Alcohol: 6.8% abv.

Price: $9 per 500ml bottle.

Purchased from: Thorndon New World

Verdict: I’m not sure if I mentioned it, but it tastes remarkably like hot cross buns. The usual Emersons high quality all round, though I’ll have to wait a few months yet to give it a chance to pip the 2011 vintage, which was just gob-smackingly awesome.

Score: Gets big bonus points (+8) first for being different and second for still getting it so right. Loses out though a bit on appearance and texture. 77/100.

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