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October 12, 2009 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

A Sober Reflection


Ah, the final column of the year. It’s been quite the year for beer, and it was my goal to keep you informed about all the exciting new releases throughout. Some of my most memorable moments in beer this year:

• Researching the ‘Steinliar’ column, being baffled at how people can believe the advertising with such bland, uninteresting product.
• DB relinquishing their ‘Saison’ trademark, and pretty much screwing themselves out of their ‘Radler’ trademark.
• Beervana, and the amazing beers that came with it.
• All of the great feedback and questions I have received.

In fact, it’s been such a good year that I haven’t had time to share some of my favourite beers with all of the goings on. So for my final Salient column this year, I’ll share a few of the most outstanding beers that I have tried in my life—and that you should sometime in your life.

Starting with my favourite Belgian style: Tripel. Tripel is a relatively new style, created by the Trappist Brewery Westmalle just after WWII. Since then almost every Belgian brewery has added Tripel to their repertoire, but in my opinion none have beaten the amazing flavours of Westmalle Tripel (9.5%). It pours a radiant hazy golden, assaults the nose with complex aromas of citrus, herbs and spices. The flavour is enormous, backing up the big aroma with intense complex flavours. All hammered home by the 9.5% alcohol volume. Unfortunately Wesmalle Tripel is currently unavailable in New Zealand, but a NZ brewery makes a pretty close approximation.

The Blenheim-based Moa brewery has based their Belgian Tripel on the Westmalle recipe and comes pretty close. Moa St Josephs Tripel (9.5%) achieves the complex flavour profile of Westmalle but comes of slightly sweeter, making it more drinkable—careful with this one.

I’m also a bit of a hophead, so I love beers which have primarily hop-driven flavours with intense bitterness. Perhaps the best example of this I’ve had recently is Eugene City Tracktown 200 Meter Ale (5.8%). 200m ale has 90IBU of bitterness, IBU being the unit for measuring bitterness. To put that number into perspective: your mainstream beer will have 5—10IBU. All this bitterness comes from hops, which also bring a huge citrus flavour, nicely balanced by a sweet caramel malt. Another similar example is Green Flash West Coast IPA (7.8%) with 95IBU.

Tracktown 200m Ale is currently exclusively available at Hashigo Zake, while Green Flash West Coast IPA is a Malthouse exclusive.

These are beers which will change your perception of what beer can be, something I have tried to achieve with my columns throughout the year. It’s all worth it if my snobby ramblings have given at least one person a leg up to the next level of quality beer.

If you have any questions about this week’s beers or any comments, please email me at


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