Alice discovers that juniper and hops are a match made in heaven, while Henry pops the cork on a bargain bottle of bubbly.
DUNCAN’S BREWERY JUNIPER IPA
7%, 500ml, $10.99 from Fine Wine Delivery Co
A lot of brewers have a penchant for gin. Come to think of it, winemakers too. I guess the point is that people who make booze like other kinds of booze. Hooray for booze!
Anyway, taking this into account, it’s no surprise that gin-beer mash-ups (not to mention gin-beer boilermakers) are a bit of a thing.
If that sounds like a recipe for a nasty hangover, try Duncan’s Juniper IPA. It doesn’t actually contain any gin, just juniper berries. (Caveat: it’s still 7% alcohol so I can’t promise it won’t give you a hangover.)
Juniper berries are in fact the female seed cone of various species of the coniferous plant juniper, but they look like berries on account of their “unusually fleshy and merged scales”. (Thank you, Wikipedia.) They’re what gives gin its predominant flavour (and actually what the word itself is derived from). Juniper berries are also used as a spice in cooking, particularly in northern European cuisine (they go a treat with game, and are a key ingredient in sauerkraut).
Their flavour can be described as piney, which works very well in this lovely IPA from Duncan’s Brewing Co. Duncan’s, BTW, is based on the Kāpiti Coast and run by brewer George Duncan and his wife Waimatao Familton. They also have a brewery dog called Quad. (Love me a brewery dog.)
So what’s it taste like? Pretty bloody nice, thanks for asking. It’s very balanced, with flavours of pine and citrus and a subtle bitterness. For a topical reference, let’s say it’s a bit like chewing on a Christmas tree, but in a good way. I paired Duncan’s Juniper IPA with some spiiiicy noodles (I overdid the chiu chow chilli oil) and the finale of The Great Kiwi Bake Off, and it complemented both beautifully.
Verdict: Tastes like pine, makes me feel fine.
SALASAR MÉTHODE TRADITIONNELLE
11.5%, France, $14.99 from Fine Wine Delivery Co
It’s a bubbly time of year! Corks are popping at a ridiculous rate right now. We even popped two just to record a goddamn podcast. At 11am! And what do you think we’re drinking? Champagne? Hell no! Champagne – which tends to be delicious – is, for better and for worse, priced out of frivolous cork popping. When you’re paying a minimum of $50-plus (more for more interesting ‘grower’ Champagnes) you gotta save that shit for the right time – a family celebration, a plate of oysters, a best friend returning. You can’t just pop those corks willy-nilly.
What you can, and should at this time of year, be popping is méthode traditionnelle – a sparkling wine that is not Champagne, but is bubbly and citrussy and biscuity and savoury and acidic. Basically, it’s made like Champagne, with the same varieties of grapes they use in Champagne, but it’s not made in Champagne so it’s not Champagne. Got it?
For New Zealand-made méthode, I reckon you usually have to pay $25ish to get a reliably good bottle. Anything cheaper and you get into risky territory – super sweet, way too acidic, or even hold-your-nose unenjoyable. But, if you’re after a deal, it often, counterintuitively, pays to look back in the French section.
A few weeks ago, we talked about Kriter, which was a nice, mellow, peachy option. But if you’re looking for something more Champagne-y, this Salasar is a good bet. When I first opened it, I thought it was a bust – too acidic, too pungent, too much. But after sitting on the bench for the time it took to drink a glass, it mellowed and ended up a rather enjoyable, budget Champagne replacement. I mean, it’s still not Champagne, but if you want something well under $50 (under $20, in fact) that is Champagne enough for many occasions, this is a good bet. Plus, this looks legit. The label could pass for some fancy obscure, modern Champagne. Not that you should be fooling anyone. You should never feel that you need to.
Verdict: Pop it.
The Spinoff’s beverage content is brought to you by Fine Wine Delivery Co, which is completely and utterly devoted to good taste, whether it’s wine, food, craft beer, whisky, rum… Check out their website or pop into one of the two Auckland superstores.