Alice Neville tries a multifaceted, dragon-inspired Belgian beer from Waikanae, while Henry Oliver opts for a full, fragrant and ever-so-slightly funky pinot gris from Waipara.
NORTH END OUDE DRAAK
6.2%, 500ml, $19.99 from Fine Wine Delivery Co
As a youth, I spent many tedious weekends in Waikanae on the Kāpiti Coast, my only entertainment a bag of Grain Waves, a ping pong table, three TV channels and the occasional foray onto a windswept beach. There was certainly no brewery making fancy Belgian-style beers with an attached brewpub spruiking barbecued meats back in my day, but thankfully, things appear to have changed.
North End Brewing opened in Waikanae a few years ago and is named after the north end of Kāpiti Island, which apparently looks a bit like a dragon’s nose (I can’t say I recall that from the many hours I gazed at Kāpiti, but shit, they’ve got a point):
Oude Draak, which was one of the beers on offer at Beervana the other week (for more on that, see my comprehensive A-Z), is a barrel-aged Flanders brown ale that’s part of North End’s Salt & Wood range. Flanders is the northern part of Belgium, where they speak Flemish — which is basically Dutch — rather than French, and for hundreds of years have made some very interesting beers. Flanders is also this guy:
Anyway, Oude Draak falls under the classification of a sour beer, but get all thoughts of those insipid, mouth-puckering sours that put people off ’em out of your mind. It pours a deep amber and is rich and tart and bloody drinkable. Dried cherries and prunes featured in the brewing process, along with rich malts and a fruity Belgian yeast, and they added a yoghurt culture to boot (that’s where the sour bit comes in).
Oude Draak means old dragon in Flemish and there is a very nice dragon on the label, which also features the claim that twice a year, when the sun sets at the right angle over Kāpiti, the island takes on the appearance of a dragon breathing fire. “When this happens, a small band of locals throw a party to celebrate the day of the Dragon’s Nose.”
I’m pretty sure this is bullshit, but I’m 100% on board anyway.
We drank this beer during the recording of the latest Dietary Requirements podcast but I didn’t feel I delved sufficiently into its character as was busy talking and stuff, so I got another one and enjoyed it solo on a Tuesday night. I poured it into a nifty glass I was given by Craftwork, an Oamaru brewery that makes similarly intriguing Belgian-style beers to North End, and I felt a bit like Cersei from Game of Thrones — which is apt, as the label also alleges that drinking it will make you dragon-proof, which Cersei will certainly need to be when Daenerys unleashes on her ass.
Anyway, it was a good Tuesday night. This style is an excellent food beer, and I ate some cheese with it, entirely by accident (it’s rare that I’m not eating cheese, to be honest). It was a lovely pairing, and I imagine the Oude Draak would go well with all kinds of other food too, including Grain Waves.
Verdict: Damn good beer, very dragony
GREYSTONE SAND DOLLAR PINOT GRIS 2016
Waipara, 13.5%, $22.90 from Fine Wine Delivery Co
Pinot gris is the new sauvignon blanc – the wine of choice for everyone who wants to order white wine but doesn’t like (or doesn’t think they like) chardonnay. But where sauvignon blanc tends to be sharp and acidic, pinot gris is round and soft. Which means, without the acidity, bad pinot gris is kind of dull and vaguely fruity – easy to drink and nothing more. But when it’s good – and this pinot gris is very good – it is full and fragrant, with a stony minerality to match its winter fruitiness.
Greystone Sand Dollar, from a single vineyard in Waipara, North Canterbury, is a combination of pear and stonefruit (including the stones), with a subtle hint of honey (subtle enough for this to remain, essentially, a dry wine) and light spice. There’s a slight funkiness – which I put down to the addition of 10% wild-yeast, barrel-fermented wine – that would evolve over a few years and become even more delicious. Oh, and it’s organic and all that too.
I drank this while eating a rather cheesy mac n cheese with bacon and various cheeses from Auckland’s best discount (read: close to expiry) food store. Perfect. Probably goes best with the richer side of vegetarian food or the lighter side of meat (pork, game, meaty fish). I might try it again tonight with Chinese food.
Need more convincing? Decanter, one of the world’s fanciest wine publications, gave it 94/100 and ranked it third in the world for pinot gris, making it the only wine in the top 10 that didn’t come from Alsace, pissing off plenty of German and Italian producers. I mean, where else can you get one of Decanter’s top-ranked wines in a varietal for $23?
Verdict: Get it before it becomes one of those wines that disappears overseas on release
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.