One of the most famous beer personalities I’ve met is Jay R Brooks, a legendary American writer. He is the first, and so far only, beer writer I have seen use Spiro Agnew’s legendary phrase “nattering nabobs of negativity.” Well, technically I guess I just did too.

We were seated at a table in Moylan’s brewpub in Novato, California. Most of our group were getting the sprawling tasting trays but I felt like something strong and hoppy before facing Pomegranate Wheat Beer and Kilt Lifter Scotch Ale. My eye was immediately drawn to the Moylan’s Double IPA. Here is how the brewery describes it:

Our Moylander Double IPA is fat and resiny, with aggressive and excessive hops swinging on an enormous malt backbone like naughty monkeys on a vine. Double malt, double hops – do the math, it’s academic. 8.5% Alcohol by volume.

They had me at “naughty monkeys on a vine.” I proceeded to order one from the waiter. Jay ordered one too. Moments later, the staff member reappeared but without any beers, far less any fat and aggressive beers. Our conversation went something like this:

Waiter: “I’m sorry sir, we have completely run out of the Double IPA.”
Me: “But I’ve come all the way from New Zealand to try that beer.”
Waiter: “I really am sorry but there is absolutely none left at all.”
Me: “That’s a shame. I was looking forward to having a pint with my friend Jay R Brooks, the very famous beer writer.”
Waiter: “Let me double check.”

Within five minutes we are tucking into “absolutely the last two pints of Double IPA” they just happened to find “out the back”. Observant readers will notice that Jay, the most important person in that short conversation, didn’t actually say anything. I think he was more bemused as we had conversed for about eighteen seconds before I invoked his name as a close personal friend. It worked though.

Of course, a beer does not have to big, strong, hoppy or even monkey-like in order to be a great beer. One of the very beers on tap at the Malthouse has the lowest alcoholic strength. I often describe Emerson’s Bookbinder (3.7%) as New Zealand’s most sessionable ale.

Booky (as it is known to its legions of fans) was inspired by the bitters once popular in English pubs. These beers were full of flavour but quite low in alcohol and designed to be drunk over a long and social session. Bookbinder is brewer Richard Emerson’s Kiwi twist on this classic style.

He uses four malts and two types of European style hops – Fuggles and Saaz. It is unusual to see four malts in a 3.7% brew in this country but the intention is to build up a deep bed of flavour. Emerson’s brewery has also recently made a commitment to use more New Zealand ingredients including local malt and whole hop flowers.

The beer itself pours a lustrous reddish-brown. Booky is soft, sweet and full in the glass with hints of caramel and a touch of nuttiness. The judicious use of the hops gives the nose a little spiciness and creates a palate-cleansing bitterness which makes the beer superbly easy to enjoy. This is a deep and flavoursome brew.

It is usually available only on tap or in plastic riggers though there are stories that some is now being bottled

In the run-up to the last election, I asked the candidates standing for Wellington Central which beers they drank and what bars they frequented. The answers were more revealing than a hundred John Campbell interviews. Probably the most meritorious answer came from the Libertarian seat at the bar.

Libertarianz party leader Bernard Darnton opined “the best Wellington bars are the Malthouse for beer and the Matterhorn for spirits. Dunedin’s best bar is the Robbie Burns where my wedding photo is on the wall behind the bar. Best local beers are Epic, Sassy Red and Emerson’s Bookbinder while the best Aussie beer is Little Creatures.”

His impeccable taste in beer did not translate into votes on Election Day with Bernard picking up just over 50 ticks. However, this was almost twice as many as the Alliance candidate who loved Tui. The important point is that Emerson’s Bookbinder is a great beer which can enjoyed across the political spectrum.


Neil Miller
Beer Writer
Real Beer New Zealand
Beer and Brewer Magazine