Another day, another bay scene and another unexpectedly brilliantly random music-to-situation travelling experience. Sat behind the warming plastic windows of Cafe Alfrescoes’, erm, al fresco dining area on the corner of Marsden Street, Paihia, facing the opposite direction to yesterday’s Shaft influenced day-defining vista at the early conclusion of a beach splayed afternoon wrestling Dickens, didgeridoos and drums, it’s the start of Happy Hour. Early finishers and reclining retirees sup on their brews and drink in the scenery. Like an Ashley Giles delivery that actually turns, there’s not the pizzazz associated with a Warnie ripper, but the result, somehow, stays in the memory.

El Salvador by Athlete*.

Why? And why here? Why now?

As far removed from the last time I saw this middling but marvellous English Indie band in climate, situation and venue, but as evocatively enjoyable. An understated beer to go with an understated band. My appreciation for great things Blighty based goes up a notch with the cooing attention of the cafe’s charming waitress.
A figure to betray secrets for accompanied by a voice, in a land of hacked-to-bits vowels and imported Teutonic twangs to savour equally. Cut glass, gentle authoritative perfect articulation. Wow. You’ll always find time and money for another beer.
Then a shit Reality TV show winner’s version of a mediocre song spoils everything. I drink up and get the hell out of there. Perfection ruined by that arse Simon Cowell and his odious ilk.

Is this what hell will look like? Except there will be no escape.

Then, later on, and a shop-bought sun-downer in the less salubrious surrounds of the hostel. Buying supper earlier, I couldn’t not purchase this.

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As a vaguely cricket leaning travel blog my readership asks, nay, demands I do these things.

Ok, it doesn’t but in Henry-World (dangerous place, that) it does.

So taster notes then. Well, firstly don’t get sucked in by the label as though you’re a once-a-year, habit breaking teetotaller buying table wine for the alkie next-door neighbours’ dinner party. The boldly lettered label denotes a bygone age of bill stickers and Bill O’Reilly. A cream-on-gold silhouette swatting spazilly across his stumps above a beloved, timeless cricket phrase. Sticky Wicket indeed. The moment it goes in your basket, you’re on exactly that.

“Manuka Honey Lager”. What on earth was I thinking of?

Advice. Chill the hell out of it like an Aussie Caaaaaallldd One. This is not a good beer, it is far too ambitious in its aims. The first sip is the meekest. Honey Sugar Puff flavours reach out to every un-conquered pore of your taste buds. Something mildly resembling hops follows up with apologies of dog-walker insincerity. “Sorry about the honey and all that, the brewery are really good normally, they don’t mean it.”

Unlike the owners whose canine charges have shredded your best Farahs, or submerged your new loafers in burnt toffee coloured faeces, I genuinely believe this. Like the current management structure of New Zealand cricket, they’ve tried something based on badly judged folly and have got it completely wrong.
They will get better though, both NZ beers and NZ cricket, and I look forward to sharing examples of that here over the next few weeks. Both in terms of beers and, for the sake of Kiwi sport, on the pitch too.

*Hello to the gentleman plumbers, Cousin Tom and good lad John.

Appendix. To strengthen my statement earlier, witness the Black Caps’ gubbing of England in the second T20. Friday’s deciding third fixture should be a cracker.

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