Lions, Lions, Lions – The British and Irish beers are coming
Tuesday, 02 May 2017 12:18

Once every 12 years the best rugby players from England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland put aside their long-standing differences, pull on the hallowed red jersey and head south to try and beat the All Blacks, hands down the best team in the world. The British and Irish Lions (better known as the LIONS! LIONS! LIONS!) [1] will play ten matches here starting on 3 June 2017.

It is entirely possible they will lose nine of those games. Unlike previous touring sides (who also tended to lose most of their games), the 2017 Lions have discarded the traditional option of playing second-rate provincial sides such as North Canterbury or Auckland. Instead, these Lions will take on all Kiwi Super Rugby franchises at full strength, the Maori All Blacks and a Provincial Barbarians outfit, possibly the only team they might conquer on this trip.

Disclaimer: I am a Lions supporter. I was born in Scotland but have lived the vast majority of my life in New Zealand. In terms of rugby, I support the All Blacks every time – unless they are playing Scotland, or the British and Irish Lions. [2] Scotland has, after only a century or so of trying, failed to beat New Zealand. Ever. However, the Lions occasionally do and I was there for one of them.

In 1993 I attended a reportedly “sun-drenched” Athletic Park to watch the Lions (known then as “Gavin Hastings’ Red and White Army” after their iconic Scottish Captain) beat the All Black’s by 20 points to 7. Many songs were sung that day I can assure you. More astonishingly, I ran onto the field and was the very first to shake Mr Hastings hand after the historic victory. This was back in the day when a crowd could invade the pitch without being arrested, and the last recorded instance of me running on purpose.

In 2005 I watched Dan Carter play the second best individual game of rugby in history as the All Blacks thrashed the Lions at Westpac Stadium. Although the Lions were always losing, their fans were amazing – singing, chanting, dancing and drinking. In response, the traditionally taciturn Kiwi fans actually made a lot of noise. It is the loudest crowd I have heard at a New Zealand rugby match. [3] Carter’s all round effort was only surpassing by the big guy Jonah Lomu running (literally) over England in the 1995 World Cup, scoring four tries. Sometimes, I almost feel sorry for Mike Catt (known forever as “Jonah Lomu’s Doormat” – check the footage).

This year, thanks to my lovely partner, we have tickets to watch the Hurricanes take on the British and Irish Lions. We will be wearing different team colours that day but it should a magnificent occasion. It is just a shame we will not be seeing many Scottish players given that only two were deemed worthy of being in the record 41 man squad. Sometimes the Lions do not make it easy to be a fan.

As a tiny act of insignificant defiance, this week’s blog will feature not two but three beers from BrewDog, brewers I (affectionately) describe as “Scottish Lunatics.” I am not exaggerating.

They have repeatedly tried to brew the strongest beer in the world, at least one of their beer names made fun of a German warship being destroyed, there is footage of them smashing green bottle lagers with gold clubs, BrewDog beer has been packaged in stuffed stoats, dogs have been dressed in sailor suits, brewers have filmed themselves naked in an ice cream factory, they got in trouble for talking about Mother Teresa, the founders have projected nude images of themselves onto the Houses of Parliament, they hired a punk dwarf to lobby politicians, they dressed as penguins for a serious press conference, they have picked numerous fights with CAMRA,  they used social media to force an apology from a drinks giant who pressured a charity not to let BrewDog win a competition, they offered a Viagra beer to Prince William just before the Royal Wedding, and issued a special Olympics-inspired beer, “Never Mind the Anabolics”, which contained eight ingredients banned for professional athletes.

According to RateBeer, BrewDog has produced exactly 459 brews since it was set up in 2007. It is a very long time friend of Malthouse. Here are the new beers:

BrewDog AB:20 (14.2%) – One of their many experimental brews which they describe as “directional and boundary pushing.” This is the closest a Barley Wine may ever taste to the classic Italian tiramisu dessert. There are notes of coffee, molasses, oats, milk chocolate, cookies, vanilla and rum. It is a sipper and gets even better when it warms up.

BrewDog Jet Black Heart (4.7%) – One of my favourite broadcasters is former international cricketer (Sir) Mark Richardson. Not known for his humility, he occasionally joked about a particularly touching story “warming his tiny cold dark heart”. I feel this beer may have been inspired by him. [4]

It is a pitch black milk stout with notes of milky coffee, oatmeal, citrus, oatmeal, prunes, chocolate, burned bread (toast probably) and dates. It is surprisingly light in alcohol and mouthfeel.

BrewDog Rye Hammer (7.2%) – This quite terrifying (but sexy) drop is described by the brewers as a “ruthless IPA” with a theoretical bitterness rating of over 200 IBUs. It is bitter – really, really, really bitter – but with notes of citrus, grapefruit, peppery rye, tropical fruits, caramel, honey, grass and pine tar.

Unlike those learned folks that selected the Lions squad, I am not going to be nationalistic. In fact, here are two English beers from our old chums at England's Thornbridge Brewery. After all, they did help train up Kelly Ryan from Fork Brewing (known as #brewjesus to his sizeable Twitter following). It should also be noted that BrewDog co-founder Martin Dickie spent two years brewing at Thornbridge. The circle of (brewing) life indeed!

Thornbridge Cocoa Wonderland (6.8%) – A chocolate porter brewed with proper chocolate to celebrate Cocoa Wonderland's 10th Anniversary. The aim was to produce a beer resembling a chocolate liqueur to tempt even the staunchest non-beer drinkers. The resulting brew has notes of milk chocolate, dry coffee, salty caramel, cocoa and caramel.

Thornbridge/Saint Eriks Imperial Raspberry Stout (10%) – I won’t even pretend that I want to drink this beer but I suspect a surprising number of people will. It is big, rich, dark and stuffed with Scottish raspberries. [5] There are notes of raspberry, chocolate, honey, smoke, coffee and liquorice. Again, this beer benefits from losing the chill and getting closer to room temperature.


Next time, we drink to Willie Jackson. He certainly did a great job of getting plenty of media attention about the announcement of the Labour Party List for the 2017 general election.


[1] This sounds a lot better when you chant it after four beers...

[2] Not to be confused with that terrible South African rugby team.

[3] It pains me to admit it but the loudest was probably when Grant Elliot hit a six at Eden Park to put the Black Caps into the Cricket World Cup Final.

[4] I cannot in any way, shape or form back up this allegation.

[5] Unlike most Scottish food which contains virtually no fruit and/or vegetables. Unless Mars Bars count as fruit... which I am now assured they do not...


Cheers


Neil Miller

Beer Writer

Beer and Brewer Magazine

Cuisine Magazine

TheShout Magazine


Links

BrewDog – https://www.brewdog.com/

Thornbridge Brewery - http://www.thornbridgebrewery.com/

Malthouse Facebook - www.facebook.com/pages/Malthouse/7084276173

Malthouse Twitter – www.twitter.com/#!/malthouse

Malthouse Taps on Twitter – www.twitter.com/#!/MalthouseTaps

Neil Miller on Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/#!/beerlytweeting

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