With temperatures topping 30 degrees in Auckland this summer, it's been difficult to nail down my drink of choice. Lately wine has been too much in the hot sun, and I've been drinking more gin than is perhaps wise given a glass of tonic has the same sugar as a glass of fizzy (Why when it's so bitter? One of life's cruel mysteries.)
So I've been hesitantly turning to beer, something I wrote off for many years as "not for me", but which I now see I quite like, just am particularly inexperienced at.
Craft beer has become an important part of the NZ psyche over the past couple of years, with people raving over their favourite boutique brews.
To help me wrap my head around a few different types, I headed out to the newly opened Little Creatures brewery at Hobsonville point.
Russell Gosling, LC head brewer in Australia and NZ head brewer Udo van Deventer talked me through the technicalities of where to start with a good brew. We were not off to a good start when I mentioned I typically drink Corona with a little wedge of lime.
"That's not beer, that's water," I was informed. My mistake.
Hops gives beer the intense flavour and bitterness -"that's where you get the tropical notes of fruit, and floral and citrus and all those interesting flavours that are coming out of new styles," Udo says.
He and Russell had me breathe in some of the leafy plant, and for a girl who typically drinks 'beer water' it was like being smacked in the face. "Corona has no hops" Russell told me, laughing at my shocked expression. Ok, I get it.
It turns out humble H2O is the "backbone of beer" according to Udo; which is why sucking down a cold beer might be more thirst-quenching then say, sipping a pinot. Water can account for up to 95 percent of beer's content, and the brewers "can modify the water profiles to match different parts of the world"
Malt, or maltose is the term for the fermentable sugars derived from malted grain. Yeast converts these sugars into alcohol, or as Udo puts it "gives our yeast something to eat".
Not the nicest word (just me?), but as it turns out, one of the most important ingredients. "It was sort of only discovered a couple of hundred years ago," says Udo. "There are different strains of yeast we can use, and different strains give us different fermentations to flavour the beer."
The whole thing sounds like an episode of Breaking Bad but the science is where the love and Udo and Russell say they love the science.
"That's why we do it," says Russell.
It was time for a taste - at 11am on a Tuesday.
I was advised to take a big mouthful which I might have taken a bit too seriously; I couldn't help but notice that all my glasses were half-empty, while Udo and Russel's only sipped. Professional!
This beer rookie was taken through a 'Pale Ale' - easy to drink, quite refreshing; the Original Pilsner - fruity like peach (I was told, with my novice palette I could only taste beer); and the 'Roger' - a scary looking dark brew that actually tasted quite light and sweet. The epitome of not judging a book by its cover.
While I might not recommend you partake in such a beer tasting before you go back to work for a long afternoon at your desk, at least I can now say words like 'hoppy' and 'fruity' with confidence.