The Malthouse Blog
The surprising link between really strong beer and Mother Teresa
Friday, 03 July 2015 14:53

I recently purchased two cans of Carlsberg Elephant beer from a supermarket in Paraparaumu. I did this on purpose and I am not ashamed of my actions.

Staff Profiles in Courage #2: Nick van Haarlem
Wednesday, 24 June 2015 15:41

This is the second instalment of the insanely popular new Malthouse blog feature called "Staff Profiles in Courage." The format is deceptively simple - I sit down with a worthy Malty staff member and, over the course of a few beers, ask them a series of searching questions. This time I chatted with Nick van Haarlem, better known to most beer drinking Wellingtonians as Van.

Darkest Days: The brightest thunder bolt is elicited from the darkest storm
Tuesday, 16 June 2015 19:58

The inspirational title of this week's post is taken from a quotation by English writer Charles Caleb Colton. Mr Colton said that "times of great calamity and confusion have been productive for the greatest minds. The purest ore is produced from the hottest furnace. The brightest thunder-bolt is elicited from the darkest storm."

The Darkest Day: The Clock is Ticking
Thursday, 11 June 2015 17:02

There are many contenders for the darkest day in New Zealand history. The list includes, but is not limited to, the extinction of our beloved and almost certainly tasty Moa, a kind of lame national anthem, keeping the ludicrous six o’clock closing legislation decades longer than Tasmania, [1] going to war whenever Mother England said we should, the constitutional outrage of Sir Rob Muldoon refusing to devalue the dollar after losing power, [2] Shortland Street even being a thing, [3] not winning the Rugby World Cup for 24 years, the repeated election of John Key and the cancellation of John Campbell Live. [4]

Auckland versus Wellington: Is it even a contest?
Friday, 05 June 2015 13:22

Shane Cowlishaw is a fine fellow, a proper journalist and noted beer blogger. His regular beer column for Stuff is called "The Beerhive”[1] and it is on my “must-read” list next to PJ O’Rourke, the Wit and Wisdom of Steven Seagal and the wrestling section of 411 Mania. In the undoubted highlight of his burgeoning career, Mr Cowlishaw was one of the judges for the 2014 Annual Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge.

However, there is a secret darker side to this industrious scribe. He recently moved to Auckland and I contend, on the record, that he did so deliberately and on purpose. Such a foolhardy and irrational decision must surely call into question his judgement [2] which is partly why I was so interested (then incensed) by his most recent piece where he questioned whether Auckland or Wellington had the better beer scene.To his credit, he immediately acknowledged the clear differences between the two cities saying “they're like pilsners and IPAs (of the American variety) - one subtly cool, understated, the other loud, brash, big. IN YOUR FACE.” I’m going to presume Auckland is the brash one, and not just because Don Brash lives there.

Cowlishaw rejects the tag of Auckland being a “wasteland” for good beer – and admittedly that has not been true for quite some time - noting “there's plenty of places to get a good beer and demand in the city is growing.” I would agree with that assessment. Venues such as Galbraith’s, 16 Tun, Brew on Quay and Vulture’s Lane are amongst the best in the nation. But then he goes too far. I was going to be nice but Cowlishaw crossed the line when he argued that “Wellington has a cool vibe. Yep, it has lots of great events and bars. But sometimes it feels like it just tries a little too hard.” Getting a lecture from a (recent) Aucklander about trying too hard is akin to taking sexual health lessons from Hamilton.

Compounding the problem, he then trots out the old and thoroughly discredited bugbear that the only reason that crowds rarely turn out to events in Auckland is that there is just “so much going on that it just doesn't have time.” When pushed, Aucklanders seem consistently unable to name any of the other amazing stuff going on around town which might plausibly explain why you can hear individual spectators talking at Eden Park matches.

Reluctantly getting off my hobby high horse and back on track, [3] Cowlishaw does concede that “if you're into beer, Wellington is the place to head and will remain so for the foreseeable future” but then undoes much of that fine work by claiming that Auckland does not “desperately grip on to” beer because “my god there's so much going on here it's hard to keep up.” [4]

Because he is a proper journalist and has access to the formidable resources of the Stuff Empire, Cowlishaw accompanies his article with a 3:38 minute video featuring brewers Joseph “My Co-Favourite Bogan” Wood (Liberty), Steve “The Naked Epicurean” Plowman (Hallertau), and Kelly “Rockstar” Ryan (Fork & Brewer).It starts out innocuously enough. Joseph Wood, sporting a new beard to confirm he is a brewer, says nothing of note in the first minute. To my surprise, however, he does not drop any f-bombs during almost 60 seconds of talking – surely a personal best. Then Steve Plowman, bearded as usual, enters the fray and quickly drops the hammer on the 04.

Plowman argues that Wellington has led the way but Auckland is moving forward in “leaps and bounds” which I think is a fair point. Then, staring into the camera, he says

“The problem with most Wellington beer drinkers is that they are actually dicks but they don’t realise because their friends tell them they are cool...” 

“The problem with most Wellington beer drinkers is that they are actually dicks but they don’t realise because their friends tell them they are cool...”

“The problem with most Wellington beer drinkers is that they are actually dicks but they don’t realise because their friends tell them they are cool...”

By contrast, recent Wellingtonian Kelly Ryan is fair, generous and frankly hunky as he defends the Wellington scene with an eloquence which calls to mind a young John F Kennedy and humility reminiscent of the Dalai Lama on Humble Tuesday. (Sir) Kelly Ryan took time out of his busy day [5] to praise the beer knowledge of Wellington bar staff and the Wellington general public. “From all my experiences around the world,” he does not see Auckland ever reaching Wellington’s level. Ever. Ryan then has a subtle dig about Auckland’s public transport and then utters the immortal line that Mayor Len Brown needs to “start pulling finger” [6]

In terms of beers currently on tap at Malthouse, I believe this is a perfect time for intelligent, witty and frankly sensuous Wellington drinkers to test two of my favourite pale ales side by side.

Epic Armageddon IPA (6.66% - the Number of the Yeast) has long been a benchmark in this delicious slice of the beer world. In addition to its wonderful name which was thought up royalty-free on the spot by a neophyte beer writer many years ago, Armageddon is bold, punchy, grapefruit-forward, bitterly good and dangerously drinkable. 

Panhead Supercharger APA (5.7%) is a young challenger which only knows one way forward – full throttle. Brewed by Mike “My Other Co-Favourite Bogan” Neilson out in Upper Hutt, [7] Supercharger is establishing a real tap presence in Wellington based on its bountiful payload of grapefruit, pine resin, caramel heft and red-line adrenaline. It is a hoppy battle for the ages where the only guaranteed winners are your palate and overall sense of awesomnosity.

Finally, this is advance warning of the now annual Darkest Days Festival at Malthouse. It is a wanton celebration of decadent dark beers with at least 22 inky brews on tap starting 19 and 20 June. The beer list for Darkest Days will showcase a number of new and/or rare sooty libations. Amongst the nearly two dozen ebony offerings are beers which, judging solely by their names, include exotic ingredients such as chocolate, coffee, barrels, Brettanomyces, cocoa, Vanuatu coffee, tubby monks, oysters, horopito, crows and kinky sex equipment. [8] A complete and considerably less misleading beer list will be published next week on this blog. 

Next time, we drink to me because I went on Radio New Zealand and called for Sepp Blatter to resign and * BANG * within twelve hours he was gone. You are most welcome soccer/football fans and/or opponents of rampant corruption. 

[1] How did no-one else seem to think of this name before for a (then) Wellington-based beer column? It is sheer genius burger.
[2] No sane person should ever write a sentence describing Auckland as “not that bad...”
[3] “Back on track” by the standards of this blog. Your individual experience may differ
[4] In his defence, he may have meant to write “my god there's so much going on here it's hard to park.”
[5] Brewing an IPA called “Flower Arranger” – dude, we need to talk.
[6] Is that not how the recent unpleasantness started?
[7] Upper Hutt’s City official motto is “The Gateway to Lower Hutt if you are coming from the North.
[8] It will come as no surprise that this final beer is made by Steve Plowman(Hallertau) and Joseph Wood (Liberty) in their own version of “50 Shades of Dark Malt.” It is a shame they cannot agree on who is supposed to be the dominant one...

Neil Miller
Beer Writer
Beer and Brewer Magazine
Cuisine Magazine
The Shout Magazine
New Zealand Liquor News Magazine


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Every dog and parrot has it’s (championship winning) day
Friday, 29 May 2015 11:03

Australia and New Zealand are neighbours, friends and just a little bit competitive. We still have not forgiven them for the underarm bowling incident (34 years, 3 months, 28 days but who is counting really),

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