Following the disgraceful behavior that occured during my last Beer of the Week column (yes, I'm talking burnt parmigiana) I decided this time I would drink something a little more wholesome. This meant a beer with no excessive hopping, no bourbon oak, no chocolate, and for the love of god - no bacon.
Immediately Townshend came to mind. From his family’s apple orchard in the picturesque village of Upper Moutere (home to my second favourite pub after Galbraith’s), Martin Townshend brews mostly traditional, English-style ales. He draws ancient spring water from a nearby bore, uses hops plucked from the surrounding green valleys, and has a singing voice sweeter than Maria von Trapp’s. (Actually, I made that last bit up. Martin is apparently pretty cheeky and says the ‘F’ word a lot, but lets not let that ruin the picture). He’s also something of an over-achiever, with Townshend having recently taken out Champion Brewery as well as a sack of medals at the Brewers Guild Awards.
There are a bunch of Townshend beers that I love (Sutton Hoo is a firm favourite), but I chose one I hadn't yet tried - the Old House ESB. ESB stands for Extra Special/Strong Bitter, which is a style similar to an English IPA. Though Townshend are much tamer in terms of both hopping and alcohol than their British counterparts, I still took precaution and did not drink the Old House while operating heavy machinery (like an oven).
Wholesome, perhaps, but not at all wimpy, the Old House ESB had more bite than I was expecting. I got zesty orange marmalade hops and fresh bread on the nose, lots of malt in the mouth and a refreshing, bitter kick at the finish. Like a good pair of lederhosen (the ideal trouser match for this beer), it got softer and more aromatic as it warmed.
I can see myself drinking this beer in summer. I can see myself drinking it atop the majestic swiss alps (or maybe Mt Eden), arms outstretched, spinning and singing like a lark.
Townshend Old House ESB is available at selected liquor stores and bars. Visit www.townsendbrewery.co.nz.