It was a confrontation described by Shakespeare (in the play Henry V) and Kenneth Branagh (in a film of the same name). Even the most parochial French sources say the French lost around 4,000 troops compared to 1,200 English dead.  Others suggest that England lost just 112 troops versus up to 10,000 deceased Frenchmen. Noted historian Professor Wikipedia argues that the most optimistic accounts record 6 French fatalities to every Englishman though the more likely ratio was closer to 10 to 1. 

The reason for the English success was clear. They cleverly set up the battlefield so that the heavily armoured French knights had to ride through a narrow, muddy area.  As they became increasingly bogged down, English archers unleashed devastating volleys of arrows from their longbows. The French generals had deigned to use infantry or archers against such an inferior force and, as a result, their best troops were slaughtered with the fatalities including at least eight counts, a viscount and a bishop. 

The French had their revenge on the few English troops they captured.  According to legend, they cut off the archers’ two drawing fingers making it impossible for them to shoot a longbow in the future. As a result, in future battles English soldiers would show two fingers to the enemy in order to demonstrate they were still able to fight and to “pluck yew” [1] – a phrase which in a slightly altered form also entered the vernacular. 

Of course, there is exactly the same rumour that the French cut off only the middle finger of the captured archers.  Giving a single fingered salute subsequently demonstrated defiance and was proof that the perpetrator could indeed still a fire an arrow fletched with feathers – the likely origin of the now commonplace term “flipping the bird.”

This story has been taken up by the new Two Fingers Brewery and is the inspiration behind their flagship The Dodgy Archer (5.5%) summer ale which is now on tap at Malthouse. Rotorua-based Englishman Lawrence Oldershaw won two bronze medals at the Society of Beer Advocates National Homebrew Competition and this is one of his first commercial brews made out at the Mata brewery in Kawerau.  It is described as having “delicate tropical fruits on the nose and palate with a slight hit of citrus zest bitterness at the end.”

Malthouse also continues to stock a wide range of beers from Emerson’s Brewery in Dunedin. Despite what it might say on the companies register, I personally find it very hard to believe that (Sir) Richard Emerson and (Father) Chris O’Leary would let any beer out of their brewery that wasn’t up to the high standards that made them a Champion Brewery of New Zealand and a darling of the craft beer scene. Some segments of the beer industry have been far too quick to disparage the new commercial agreement with Lion – isn’t the whole point of craft beer that it’s supposed to be about the taste, not the marketing? Malthouse still loves Emerson’s. [2]

In the Malthouse fridges there are many treats for the adventurous beer lover. From Germany there is Schneider Aventinus Weizen-Eisbock, a 12% strong wheat beer which rates in the top 99% of all beers on influential beer review site RateBeer. Supposedly a modern recreation of a 1940s batch of Schneider Aventinus which frozen in a shipping container, it has notes of banana, figs, spices, dates, plums and plenty of alcohol.

The same 400+ year old brewery has produced an equally rare dry hopped Weiss Bock called Schneider Hopfen Weisse (8.2%).  This started off as a 2008 collaboration with Garret Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery using several American hop varietals for hopping and dry hopping. It has a combination of banana, clove and hoppy notes which is hard to find elsewhere. Personally, this is one of the best wheat beers I have ever had – mainly because it does not taste anything like a traditional wheat beer. [3]

Belgium is known as the Land of Beer mainly because the Land of Bureaucracy is not a catchy tag line. [4] Malthouse is currently stocking three Lambic/Spontaneously Fermented Ales. These are seriously old-school style beers created in the time before the nature of yeast was fully understood.  All three are ranked 98%+ on RateBeer

Liefmans Goudenband (8%) is slightly sour and tart, complex with notes of plum, wine and spices.  Boon Oude Kriek (6.5%), made with wild cherries to a centuries old recipe, has hints of sour cherries, sherbet, oak and acid.  Appropriately enough for the day after Valentine’s Day, Boon Oude Geuze Mariage Parfait (8%) calls to mind apples, pears, barnyard funkiness, lemon, fizzy sherbet and – my personal favourite flavour descriptor – sweaty horse blanket. 

There are also three beers from Old Blighty – Meantime Porter (6.4%) from Greenwich, Fullers Brewer’s Reserve #4 which has been aged in Compte De Lauvia 1990 vintage Armagnac [5] barrels (8.5%) and Fullers Past Masters Old Burton X (7.3%), a traditional English strong ale based on a recipe from 1931.

Last week’s column created considerable furore over my claim that there were no Canadian superheroes. Apparently there are numerous Canadian superheroes including Canada Jack, Johnny Canuck, Beaver Boy, Captain Canuck, Northern Lights, Stallion Canuck, the Canadian Liberty League, Alpha Flight, Deadpool, Justin Bieber, Russel Barbour and Wolverine. [6] In my defence, the subsequent joke about laughable Canadian superpowers would not have worked if I had listed any Canadian superheroes beforehand. I regret nothing.

Next time, we drink what is left of New Zealand First’s credibility. 

[1] The fearsome English longbow was usually made of yew and the action of firing an arrow from it was often described as “plucking”.  Most readers will be able to figure out which insulting phrase “pluck yew” allegedly became. 

[2] And Richard Emerson still looks like Chuck Norris.

[3] American wheat beers are the brewing equivalent of giving a fish a bicycle – utterly pointless.

[4] Slightly better than Hamilton: City of the Future but well behind New Jersey: What Are You Looking At?

[5] A distinctive brandy from southwest France.

[6] Recent movies suggest that Wolverine is either Australian or a Frenchman who bursts into show tunes at a moment’s notice. Neither of those traits appear particularly heroic to me.


Beer Writer
Beer and Brewer Magazine


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