Beer Review: It’s all about the Malt

 

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Beer is health food. True, well perhaps not if you are consuming a 12 pack over the course of an evening, but the odd glass can add some real benefit to your diet. The essential component of all beer is whole grain, usually barley, sometimes wheat and occasionally oats and rye. Malting is the process by which the natural sugars latent in the grain are activated, (these sugars sustain the sprouting grain while it establishes itself in the soil in preparation for growing into an adult plant), and this malted grain is a rich source of B-vitamins and minerals and depending on the quality of soil on which the grain is grown, beer can be a excellent source of the trace element selenium, rare in NZ soils and vital to heart health and the vigour of our immune systems.

Hops, the main flavouring ingredient in beer, are the female flowers of the hop plant, and are a powerhouse of anti-oxidants and medically beneficial bio-chemicals. Hops are used in brewing for an antibacterial effect that favours the activity of brewer’s yeast over less desirable microorganisms and for their flavour, which balances the sweetness of the malt with bitterness

The other main ingredient of beer is the yeast bacterium; a nifty little organism that turns the grain sugars into alcohol and scientific research tells us that a little alcohol is good for our cardio-vascular system, brains and a rollicking good time.

In the summer months I am partial to hoppy ale or larger, something light and refreshing with plenty of underlying oomph, but in the colder months my tastes orientate toward a maltier beer, a brew that is warm and comforting. With the cold weather in mind, this month I have been drinking a selection of malty beers and here is my verdict:

 

Boundary Road Porter 2/5 stars.

Porter is a hearty dark beer, (after the barley grains have been activated, or malted, they are dried and roasted – lightly for ales and lagers and darker for stouts and porter styles), that was favoured by the porters who delivered goods around the narrow streets of London prior to mechanised transport. Bold and nutritious, porter provided these hard-working men with the energy they needed to sustain them through their long days. Boundary Road’s Porter offers the drinker no surprises, not even a ‘nudge and a wink’. An ordinary brew that leaves no impression and for the price, better value can be found elsewhere.

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Krombacher Dark 2/5 stars

Krombacher is one of the biggest breweries in Germany and this brand can be purchased for a very reasonable price at your local Countdown. Price aside, Krombacher Dark is a modest easy drinking dark beer with a marginal personality that favours bombast over subtly. Better to spend another dollar or two and get something local and half decent.

 

Tuatara Porter 3/5 stars.

Tuatara’s Porter is dominated by the rich floral hop style typical of their beer and sadly, to these taste buds, drowns out the malty complexity that is the hallmark of a decent dark beer.

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Stoke Dark 3.5/5 stars.

Nelson Brewery Stoke has produced a brew with plenty of malty complexity and with just enough hops to paint a decent picture. This brew looses a star because the 6 bottles came bound with those environmentally pesky plastic ties. Stoke, you should know better!

 

Coopers Stout 3.5/5 stars

I don’t know how they get these 375ml bottles all the way from the suburbs of Adelaide to my local Countdown in Auckland for around $5.00 but hey, I am not complaining. It’s a fairly standard drop, not as smooth as Guinness and without the finesse of Galbraith’s Stout, (my favourite local drop), it is nevertheless entirely drinkable and does everything a good stout should do: A nice heavy malt with a well balanced hop undertone.

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Stoke Brewery Oatmeal Stout 4/5 stars.

Oats make for thick and hearty malt style with a slightly different flavour than your standard barley based brew, (think mild astringency). Stoke’s Oatmeal Stout is rich in complex malt tones and possesses just enough hops to remind you why you like beer in the first place. A superior and fortifying drink that keeps the cold at bay that goes nicely with a grilled cheese sandwich. Ah yes, comfort food, exactly what winter was invented for.

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Harrington’s Wobbly Boot Porter 4.5/5 stars

Christchurch Brewery Harrington’s Wobbly Boot Porter is first and foremost a malt beer with a subtle round of hops that adds  flavour without compromising the dextrose layers. The effect is easy drinking sophistication.

 

Hancock and Co Bismarck Brown Ale 5/5 stars

Hancock and Co have been brewing beer in Auckland since 1859 and produce a nice selection of nicely balanced beers, none more so than the Bismarck Brown Ale. This beer is all about the malt and possesses a rich undercurrent of everything you could expect from a malty beer: coffee, caramel and dark liquorice. The perfect antidote to a hard days grind,
his hearty and eminently  drinkable brew is an ode to tradition, one that lifts your spirits  while keeping the chill ides of winter at bay.

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