Bud may try to make a big deal on their website about using only the freshest, high-grade rice (“never stored”), but the criminal over-use of rice and the criminal under-use of hops are the major reasons their beers are so poor.

This year, the arrival of a steady stream of exceptional craft beers has demonstrated to New Zealand drinkers that American beer does not have to be Bud Light, Colt 45 Malt Liquor or Miller Genuine Draft. 

The craft and micro-brewery sector in the States is probably the most innovative and extreme in the world.  Kiwi consumers are certainly voting with their wallets with the best American offerings flying off the shelves despite their often substantial price tags.  Malthouse this week welcomes a fresh suite of new American classics.

Stone Brewery’s OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale is a serious beer with a serious attitude.  To even enter their magnificently hilarious website you must certify that you are “not a fizzy yellow beer drinking ninny here under false pretences.”  If you pass that test, the second page gets right up in your grill with the warning:

“Arrogant Bastard Ale: This is an aggressive beer.   You probably won’t like it.  It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to be able to appreciate an ale of this quality and depth.  We would suggest that you stick to safer and more familiar territory – maybe something with a multi-million dollar ad campaign aimed at convincing you it’s made in a little brewery, or one that implies that their tasteless fizzy yellow beer will give you more sex appeal.  Perhaps you think multi-million dollar ad campaigns make a beer taste better.  Perhaps you’re mouthing your words as you read this.”

The beer is much more than merchandising and mockery however.  OAKED Arrogant Bastard is the classic Stone Arrogant Bastard Strong Ale which has been aged on oak chips.  It is a hefty 7.2% alcohol by volume and while the hops and IBU (International Bitterness Units) are “classified”, I have tried this beer at the brewery and it has bold notes of caramel, oak and dark fruits before a blast of citrus hops.  The beer boasts that it is “hated by many, loved by few, you are not worthy.”

The new Stone Brewery where it is produced is simply huge and hospital-level clean.  Everything is either raw stone or shining metal.  The best description I heard of the overall feel was that it was “the Flintstones meets Ikea.” 

Dogfish Head was the first brewpub in Delaware when it opened in 1995.  Even today, I, like many of my generation, cannot even think of Delaware without hearing Wayne Campbell (Mike Myers) saying “imagine, being able to be magically whisked away to… Delaware… Hi, I’m in Delaware.”  That is quite enough Wayne’s World for now. 

The Dogfish Head crew make “off-centred beers for off-centred people” and Malthouse is now offering their 60 Minute and 90 Minute ales.  The 60 Minute IPA is continuously hopped.  There are over 60 hop additions during the sixty minute boil – a hint, perhaps, about the name.  Terrifyingly, they describe this 6%, 60 IBU hop-rocket as a “session” IPA.

Which it actually is when compared to the Dogfish Head 90 Minute Imperial Pale Ale.  The brewers here use both the continuous hopping process and a device they call “Me so Hoppy” (basically an inert gas fired closed loop dry hopping system – watch the video below) to create this 9% 90 IBU beast of a beer.

 There is also an even bigger 120 Minute ale out there but it is unclear whether it can safely travel across international waters without spontaneous hop explosions.  It is beers like the 90 Minute which led the late great beer writer Michael Jackson to proclaim Dogfish Head as “America’s most interesting and adventurous small brewery.”

Also gracing the fridge for the first time is Lagunitas Hop Stoopid, a beer I alluded to in a much earlier blog.  Retentive readers will recall I actually tried it at the brewery while sitting on a horse saddle bar stool at 10am.  It throws a massive juicy hop nose.  My notes record that Hop Stoopid is “full bodied, resinous, thick, gummy, big grapefruit notes, deep and such a very long bitter finish.”  It is a magnificent beer from potentially America’s most irreverent brewery.

If Bud is to be judged harshly by its ads and slogans (and they should), then Firestone Walker should be celebrated for theirs.  These feature a bear and a lion fighting over a pale ale.  It could only be cooler if Chuck Norris was somehow involved.  The Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA is a robust 7.5%, 72 IBU Californian tribute to the classic British style.

The pioneering Sierra Nevada brewery continues its gradual colonisation of New Zealand.  Their Sierra Nevada Keller Weiss is now available.  This is a quenching American Hefeweizen which is made in the traditional open fermenters.  Joining it is the Sierra Nevada Anniversary Ale.  It is released each fall (which is American for autumn but is actually released at spring down here) and this year it is an American IPA, a style that they immodestly (but correctly) note that Sierra Nevada helped create. 

Anniversary uses four malts to construct a robust backbone in order to showcase their signature Cascade hops.

For many of these beers, this is their first visit to New Zealand shores.  Like the first American troops arriving in 1942, they might be unsure of where they are heading or what their reception might be. 

Quoted in Gerald Hensley’s excellent new book “Beyond the Battlefield”, the New Zealand Herald reported:

“On a cold Sunday morning in June [1942] the first [American] troopship, with 5000 soldiers, berthed in Wellington.  Apart from the welcoming officials and an air force band playing the ‘Stars and Stripes’ there was no one else about; a quirk in the censorship meant it was November before the Government was able to admit what every citizen in the North Island had long known – that American troops were now stationed in New Zealand.  The decks of the ship were lined with green-clad figures trying to make something of their new surroundings.  As the first arrivals they did not have the benefit of the thumbnail briefing shouted from the wharf to a contingent later arriving in Auckland: ‘No Scotch, two percent beer, but nice folks.’”

Speaking of nice folks, the Handsome yet Softly Spoken Proprietor has declared that the seasons have officially changed and that the Malthouse will now open at noon from Wednesday to Sunday – perfect for a working lunch or post-market pint.

Beer Writer
Real Beer New Zealand
Beer and Brewer Magazine


Stone Arrogant Bastard – http://www.arrogantbastard.com/
Stone Brewing – http://www.stonebrew.com/
Dog Fish Head – http://www.dogfish.com/
Me So Hoppy video –

Lagunitas – http://www.lagunitas.com/home.html
Hop Stoopid blog –

Firestone Walker – http://www.firestonewalker.com/
Sierra Nevada – http://www.sierranevada.com/ 
Gerald Hensley ‘Beyond the Battlefield’ –

Malthouse Facebook Group – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wellington/Malthouse/7084276173
Real Beer – http://www.realbeer.co.nz/blog/blog.html
Beer and Brewer Magazine – http://www.beerandbrewer.com/