Thursday, October 25, 2012

Middle Earth Drinkin'!

Holy shit! United Video!
In just over a month, fantasy-film buffs around the world will have their eyes fixed on Wellington, New Zealand, for after years of labour issues, director changes and casting development, J.R.R. Tolkein's "The Hobbit" will finally have its premiere in the capital of the nation which has provided the labour and the landscape to bring Middle Earth to life.  So much has the Lord of the Rings, and now the Hobbit film series impacted the nation of New Zealand that the two have become inexorably linked, with the government and tourism agencies fully playing up the "New Zealand as Middle Earth" theme to bring in those essential tourism dollars.  Check out New Zealand's official tourism website, if you get the chance, to see what I mean.  As the islands' breathtaking natural scenery and images of its Maori heritage sweep across the screen, so too do images of the natural and constructed filming locations from Jackson's trilogy, including a shot of Bag-End.  At the bottom of the page, New Zealand's recent travel slogan has been amended to reflect this global desire to visit the world of Tolkien; not just "100% Pure New Zealand", but also "100% Middle Earth."  A simple googling of "New Zealand Lord of the Rings Tours" yields dozens of results of tour groups that will take you to Bag End, Lothlorien, the plains of Rohan and the roads of the Shire - for a reasonable price.

I know that there is so much to the country beyond the films to explore - the Maori culture, the natural beauty, the unique wildlife, a fucking scary rugby team - so I probably would have made a trip to the country anyways, but don't get me wrong: if I get the chance to visit New Zealand, I'm doing everything Lord of the Rings I can. After reading the books several times over (save for the impenetrable Silmarillion), and obsessing over the films (I watch the trilogy every couple of months, including all of the making-of documentaries), I am absolutely stoked for The Hobbit, and thus cannot wait until I can make a pilgrimage to New Zealand myself.  In the meantime, I can gear up for the film, re-read the books, and try this New Zealand craft beer that just arrived in Ontario!

Beer: Craftsman Chocolate Oatmeal Stout
Brewery: Renaissance Brewing (Blenheim, South Island)
Type: Oatmeal Stout
ABV: a hair under 5%

Renaissance Brewing is, to my knowledge, the first NZ craft brewery to hit the LCBO shelves, which it did about a year ago with their Scotch Ale, "Stonecutter."  It was a stellar brew, one of the best of the style I've encountered, so I've been very much looking forward to this arrival!

But here's the thing about craft beer from overseas: they can be a bit...temperamental.  Because of the long travel time and temperature changes and such, the beer that makes these long journeys can have an end result that might be a bit off from what the brewer intended, and so I try to keep in mind that at any stage in the beer's travels from brewery to pint glass, something can happen.  Fortunately, this particular brew turned out just fine, save for one minor issue: the carbonation.  When I opened the bottle, what spewed forth was a foamy mess, as if I had shaken the bottle vigorously before pouring (I hadn't - it's been sitting in my fridge for several hours).  After an emergency glass grab and a few minutes of slow pouring and waiting, I managed to pour the contents into a respectable-looking pint.  It took some extra time, but in the end, saving the beer is what matters the most!

After the brew settled, we were left with a truly All-Black brew, with only a few hints of caramel around the edges of the glass.  The foamy head survived for quite some time, forming a sturdy off-white cap.  Nice lacing as well.

Nice hearty stout nose to this: roasted malt, caramel, coffee, dark chocolate, a woody tartness, a bit of fruit.  It reminds me somewhat of a porter.

Nice chocolate character to this brew, though it is by no means sweet.  Roasted malt, a touch of caramel, oak, dry dark chocolate, oatmeal.  The body is creamy and mild, with the oatmeal character smoothing out the mouthfeel.  It's a bit thin, but this might be due to that carbonation burn-off so I'll have to try this again to be really sure.

Great stout that any Orc or Shirefolk could enjoy!  It's no trip to New Zealand, but I'll take it.  Solid brew, a bit pricey, but worth a try at any rate!  (Grade: B+)

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