HB&B Sub Club - our May and June boxes revealed

We're on to it as usual... Forgot to post May's amazing All Killer No FIller line-up so here it is in all its glory (and one error where the designer forgot to swap out the descriptors) - Marble's Lost Your Marbles Forest Fruit is definitely not Bold - Roasty - Hoppy), along with June's equally awesome line-up. That too has an error - we missed the Cloudwater IIPA of the list which topped off the box in fine style. Sheeeesh.

We'll be more onto it this month, we promise. And we can also promise that this month's box is nothing short of SHOCK AND AWE. Sign up here - you can opt for a monthly rolling sub or save by signing up for a 3, 6 or 12-month period. You won't regret it.



No More Heroes XXI – Townshend’s Flemish Stout

The first thing I remember about my early beer experiences in New Zealand is the ubiquitous New Zealand Draught. This solid, yet simple variety of draught beer from brands such as Tui, Speight’s and Lion is the first thing folks might think of when it comes to NZ beer. However, it didn’t take me long to discover that there’s much more to Kiwi beer than NZ draught. In fact, New Zealand is home to one of the most eclectic and accomplished craft brewing communities in the world.

If you’re into your Kiwi craft beer you might have heard of brands such as Tuatara, Yeastie Boys and Garage Project, perhaps even some exciting up and coming brewers (and one of my personal favourites) such as Liberty Brew Co. Today’s beer is from one of what I would call a lesser known NZ brewer, but he’s certainly no less accomplished than the ones I’ve already mentioned.

Martin Townshend founded the brewery that shares his name back in 2005, right in the heart of NZ hop country, near the town of Nelson, at the northernmost tip of the South Island. Townshend’s Flemish Stout is a limited release beer and combines the malty girth of an imperial stout, all dark chocolate and roasted coffee, with the tangy, lactic acidity of a Flemish Red such as Rodenbach Grand Cru.

It might sound a little bonkers, but that’s because it is and perhaps the most remarkable thing is that the gentle acidity does an admirable job of disguising the 9% ABV. It’s a beer to be taken in small sips, accompanied by giant slabs of strong cheese. Hop Burns and Black might well be carrying the best range of NZ beers in the UK at the moment, and this is one that’s not to be missed.

Music Pairing: Plastic Bertrand, Ca Plane Pour Moi
It would’ve been easy to recommend some excellent Kiwi music to pair with this excellent Kiwi beer, but we picked NZ band Th’ Dudes in our previous installment, so that would hardly be fair. Instead why not enjoy this bonkers sour stout with a Belgian twist by listening to a frankly bonkers Belgian. Ladies and gentlemen, Plastic Bertrand.

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at his excellent beer blog, Total Ales, and Good Beer Hunting, and on Twitter @totalcurtis. And you can get Townshend's Flemish Stout exclusively in the UK from HB&B, delivered to your door via our online shop.

A New Zealand beer odyssey

Glenn and I were lucky enough to undertake a little Down Under beer odyssey in January, when we returned to the country where we spent our formative years. The New Zealand beer scene is going from strength to strength and we've felt extremely privileged to have been able to play a part in its quest for world domination.

In the few years since we moved back to the UK, the NZ scene has exploded, so our trip was a journey of discovery in many ways. We were fortunate to meet with nine of the top Kiwi brewers during our travels (plus the NZ champion cider makers, also doing great things - more on that later) and we can confirm that the hype is 100% justified. We were astounded at the quality and consistency of New Zealand beer - at the most remote of back-blocks supermarkets we managed to find super-fresh beer from the best breweries, and not once did we have a beer that was old or under-par.

It's currently a very US-led scene, with a mad drive for hops and big, punchy IPAs (it was a challenge to find too many dark options on tap in most places we visited), but some breweries are starting to shake this up - Garage Project and 2014 NZ Champion Brewery Townshend's are two doing some very interesting things indeed.

Anyway, we loved the beers we tasted so much that we had to buy extra suitcases and spend a fortune on excess baggage to lug loads back. We enjoyed many of these at a small tasting event last night - a trial run for our new monthly events, Hop Burns & Bottle Share, which will launch in March. (More details coming soon.)

We're hopeful we'll be able to bring over some of these beers in the very near future for you to try, so keep watching the skies for news on when they land. [Spoiler alert, before you ask: no Garage Project.] In the meantime, here are some of the hits from last night.

Townshend's Flemish Stout - widely agreed by guests to be the beer of the night. A stunning example of a tart but not sour chocolatey, cherry stout. Also on the menu were two others from Townshend's - an excellent Belgian Tripel and Wynne's Fall, a collaboration with Stu McKinlay from Yeastie Boys, named after Stu's mum. One for the cider fans, this malty beer features 50% windfall apple juice.


Kereru Brewing For Great Justice Coconut Porter and Imperial Nibs - Not too widely known outside of New Zealand, Kereru Brewing's beers were the surprise hit of the tasting. We'd had the heads up from Yeastie Stu that the Coconut Porter was one to look out for - however this tasty drop was outgunned by its imperial cousin, which upped the cacao content to create a sumptuously rich beverage. Would drink this for dessert every night, given the chance. Also enjoyed was Kereru's Karengose Salty Seaweed Ale, brewed with native NZ karengo seaweed.


Panhead Canheads - A great example of the breadth and quality of New Zealand beer distribution. Glenn picked these up at a New World supermarket in Kerikeri, a small town in the Far North of New Zealand, and they're tasting superb. Hard to pick a winner from the three we tried - the Oaked Stout, Red IPA and glorious Hopfenweisse - and how awesome are the can designs? We were blown away by everything we tried from Panhead during our trip, and it helps that the brewer, Mike Neilson, is a bloody nice dude to boot. Look out for Panhead at this year's Rainbow Project, where they'll be collaborating with London's own Partizan Brewing.

Parrotdog Rarebird Series - Parrotdog are another NZ brewery coming over for this year's Rainbow Project, partnered with Beavertown, which should make for some interesting collabs indeed. We absolutely loved these two small batch beers - a Tamarillo Sour and a Dunkelweisse - and just look at the beautiful, beautiful bottles.

Speaking of beautiful bottles...

Garage Project.  The most hyped of all the New Zealand breweries and fully deserving of such. We were lucky enough to enjoy a superb selection of their beers - from the weird and wonderful (La Calavera Catrina - a habanero chilli, rosewater and watermelon lager, anyone?) to their famed hop bombs such as Pernicious Weed and new favourites Whizz Bang and Dirty Boots. They're all bloody amazing. Fingers crossed they can increase production and get their beers over here soon.

Last but not least - Hop Federation and Fork & Brewer. Nestled smack bang in the middle of Nelson hop country (my home town), Hop Federation are a relatively new brewery doing lovely things that celebrate their local product. We enjoyed their Double IPA and Red IPA so much that we totally forgot to take any photos - likewise with Fork & Brewer's award-winning Godzone Beat Champion Pale Ale from Kelly Ryan, the nicest guy in brewing. Sorry about that. Too many beers will do that to a person...

So that's our story. As mentioned, look out for a shipment of at least some of the great beers mentioned above heading our way soon. And stand by for new beers from some of the great New Zealand breweries we already stock - Tuatara, Yeastie Boys and 8 Wired - hitting the shop next week. Good beers guaranteed.