In my day-job in public health, I’m continually challenged to consider things from perspectives that are outside my own; to think about how different people approach the health system, and how we can do better for those that get left behind. It’s known as a paradigm shift: the art of thinking from another point-of-view to get a more complete picture of what’s really going on.
As it transpires, I’m completely shit at doing this when it comes to beer writing.
After five years of keyboard-whacking it’s only just dawned that I’ve never really incorporated a female perspective on beer and brewing. Apart from a brief yack about the importance of the women behind our prominent male brewers, my beer writing has, inadvertently, been a total sausage-fest.
I’m really embarrassed about this. After years of trying to avoid it in my day-job, I fell into the all-too-easy trap of living within my own paradigm; and I missed-out on enjoying the perspective of the fabulous (and growing) female sector of our brewing community. But no more! Blind-spot-recognised, I’ve decided to take immediate action to at least throw a band aid over my embarrassing omission. And as such, I have asked an exceptional female brewer to join me for this installment of my silly-desert-island-scenario-thingy.
Anita Mitchell is the new Assistant Brewer at McLeod’s Brewery in Waipu, north of Auckland. Her rap sheet is impeccable: starting with a stint at a small farm brewery in Normandy, France, Anita has worked at Tuatara and Three Boys, and more recently at Two Birds Brewing and Temple Brewing in Melbourne. Three Boys was really where she cut her brewing teeth; and with her new position at McLeod’s, she has a unique opportunity to grow within a small top-notch team.
So without further ado, I’ll hand the paradigm over to Anita. She’s been kind enough to send through her desert-island mixed-six – the six beer styles that she simply couldn’t live without – and, as usual, the words are her own.
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I’m not sure I can think of a more refreshing or appropriate beer to have on a desert island really. I mean provided there was some method of keeping the beers adequately chilled. Low alcohol, crisp, MUCH better than water, and sometimes flavoured with exotic things like cucumber or juniper… If I’m driving, which on a desert island I doubt I would be, but IF I WAS, I’d definitely enjoy a few of these.
The beer I missed the most when we lived in Australia, which when you think about it is mainly just a desert on a big island. Nowhere to hide for the brewer as the style demands perfect balance between malt and hops. With those gorgeous NZ hop characters like gooseberry, fresh cut grass, pohutakawas in bloom, sand in your ears, jandles on the feet… Well, maybe not all of those but a well-crafted one to me is the most Kiwi thing you can drink.
The beer I drank the most of in Australia. They love them over there and I can see why. Sitting around 4-5%, bursting with tropical fruits, pine, citrus, whatever you like! INSANELY refreshing on a hot Summer’s day. I love a good IPA, don’t get me wrong, but if you’re having a few beers while cooking up a BBQ then Pale Ale is the way to go.
I think if I could only drink one beer for the rest of my life I’d probably choose Stout. I like ’em all. Milk, Irish, Export, Oyster, Sweet, Coffee… The only one I haven’t yet tried is a Tropical Stout but that’s ok because I’m sure that’s all they would serve on a desert island anyway.
Having worked at two breweries that dropped the name Bitter from their beer names due to low popularity I can confidently tell you that this is not a style that Kiwis have embraced. Which is strange because I bet most if not all of the Kiwis who have been to England on their travels have probably enjoyed many a bitter in the local pubs. I lived in London for almost 6 years and quaffed many a bitter. I love them and on my desert island I’d have a hand-pull installed in my Tiki Bar so I could drink many more.
I love fresh IPAs… and I don’t mean fresh hop, I mean less than 3 months old and stored properly fresh IPA. Kept cold since packaging fresh. I won’t spend my money on any hop driven beer that is sitting at ambient, especially not an IPA. But fresh and consistently refrigerated? Ohhhhh man. Big aromas, punchy flavour, and a lingering bitterness that reminds you just how big that IPA in your hand really is. A good beer to close out a long day of fishing, exploring an island, making a shelter, and writing letters to put in the empty beer bottles.
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So there it is: Anita Mitchell’s desert island mixed-six. Anita’s description of NZ Pilsner as being ‘pohutakawas in bloom, sand in your ears, jandles on the feet…’ is my kind of narrative: less to do with the beer itself than the feeling it invokes. I’ve always been more interested in the latter than the former – which a) explains why I would be a terrible beer judge (oddly, I’ve never been asked), and b) firmly reinforces my belief that Anita is my kind of people.
My sincere apologies for years of neglect in terms of my interaction with (and nattering about) women in beer; I promise that I will seek better balance from now-on. Don’t get me wrong – female brewers like Anita don’t need any help from poxy bloggers like me; but they certainly deserve as big a stage to illustrate their contribution to our scene as the boys do.
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