In 1942, it was up to 45,000 infantry (doughboys) and marines (leathernecks) awaiting deployment to the Pacific theatre.  In 2009, it was pallets of American pale ales (APAs) and hoppy India pale ales (IPAs).

An unprecedented number of US craft breweries entered their products into this year’s Brew NZ Beer Awards.  Many of them chose to also send small but commercial quantities of their beer for sale.  A considerable portion of this stock has ended up in one of the six Malthouse fridges.  Some of it has even ended up in this beer writer.

So far, this ‘American Invasion’ is far more socialable than the wartime edition.  In 1943, tensions between American servicemen, Kiwi sailors and civilians boiled over and a massive brawl erupted outside the Services Club in Wellington.  Some accounts put the “Battle of Manners Street” down to simmering racial tension, Americans stealing “our” women (some 1,500 married US servicemen) or just young men having a little too much to drink.

Over a thousand participants were recorded fighting up and down Manners Street for up to four hours. Surprisingly, while dozens were injured, there were no fatalities.  There are of course a number of  legends around supposed gruesome deaths, in part because the riot was totally censored from the news at the time.  This is often referred to as New Zealand’s “worst riot” though it seems rather tame in global terms (or indeed by University of Otago standards…)

I have previously blogged about the Sierra Nevada range which were the first beers “onto the beach”. 

They are getting rave reviews.  Since that post, an extremely rare shipment of Green Flash West Coast IPA has arrived at Malthouse.  For me, this is one of the finest examples of a hoppy India Pale Ales produced in America.

It says on the bottle that it is “extravagantly hopped” and, at a staggering 95IBUs, can certainly back that claim up.  The Green Flash philosophy appears to be to add hops at every conceivable stage in the brewing process (and several inconceivable stages too).  It pours a dark copper with just a hint of mist. 

A firm white head is testament to the product’s freshness.  In the past, American beers tended to take rather circuitous routes to New Zealand and arrived well past their prime.

While it has a solid malt base, this beer is all about the menagerie of hops used (Simcoe, Columbus, Centennial and Cascade).  It has notes of citrus, orange, grapefruit and pine before a lingering, hugely bitter finish.  Both the bitterness (95 IBUs) and alcohol (7.3%) are evident but well integrated into this classic beer.

English beer author Pete Brown offers an interesting perspective on why the Americans have taken the classic British IPA and developed it into their own distinctive (and delicious) style.  He writes in his book “Hops and Glory”:

 “When every brewer started creating hoppy IPAs, hopheads started asking for more.  America has the most vibrant craft-beer scene in the world because it combines a reverence for the past with a confident, sometimes arrogant, belief that however good these great old beers were, they can be improved on.” 

I’ve been to the Green Flash Brewery and while I would never call them arrogant, they certainly are highly confident in the beers that they make.  The simple, industrial-looking brewery was founded by Mike and Lisa Hinkley over seven years ago in Vista, California.  Mike told me that “hoppy beers what we are known for and we are very happy with that.”  It is paradise on earth for an unreconstructed hophead like me.

In addition to brewery-fresh West Coast IPA (recorded as “juicy, grapefruit, malty, full, big hops, late burst of intense bitterness and very, very tasty”), I tried some of their other beers which haven’t (yet) made it to these shores.

The Anniversary Double IPA, if my notes are to be believed, is like “a car load of hops doing a drive-by shooting on my palate.”  Steve ‘the Sensual Brewer’ Plowman from Hallertau actually lost the power of speech when he tried it. 

There was a lot of buzz around Le Freak, a 9% Belgian style strong ale with plenty of American dry hopping.  Sadly, it was as confused as it sounds and my sole comment was “odd.”  Personally, I like both styles but they really just don’t work well together.
Perhaps the most extraordinary brew was the 2006 vintage of their Barleywine.  It is a rare hoppy barleywine which boasted a phenomenal 10.9% alcohol and 85 units of bitterness.  I thought it had a “surprisingly light body, sweet caramel, plenty of hops on the nose and at the end.  Real bitterness.  Very unusual but works well.”

Some of the Green Flash beers are so hoppy it feels like the beer is cleaning your teeth.  You end up grinning like an idiot after one sip – what I dubbed ‘the hop smile’.  It is a brilliant brewery.

I thought I had coined another devastating phrase with my clever note that “Green Flash was the hoppiest place on earth.”  My only concern at the time was being sued by the good people at Disney. 

Then it turns out that a great local bar called O’Brien’s had been using that tag line for years.  I’d probably seen it on a t-shirt the day before.  The search continues…


Beer Writer
Real Beer New Zealand
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