Secret Santa hi-jinks and officially condoned early finishes.  For hard-working self-employed beer writers, it simply means annual top ten lists.  In a one person firm, office parties are generally low-key affairs and Secret Santa is not really much of a surprise. [1]

In this final Malthouse blog of the year, I will outperform most real journalists by presenting not one but two top ten lists.  The first has the top search engine queries leading to this fine site.  The second is my perennially popular and/or controversial selection of the Top Beers of the Year.

Tech-savvy readers will be aware of the Alexa website which is a high-profile web information company.  It not only continually ranks the global popularity of websites but also lists the top search queries used to find a particular site.  The results for the Malthouse site were – frankly – startling:   

Number 10: Pliny the Elder no randall required – 2.35%
Number 9: Tuatara – 2.38%
Number 8: Book called tally hoe – 2.42% [2]
Number 7: Tuatara beer – 2.46%
Number 6: Diddly dee potatoes – 3.45%
Number 5: Wellington pub – 4.09%
Number 4: Wayner roonry st georges flag tatto – 4.21% [3]
Number 3: Och aye the noo – 6.29%
Number 2: Kettle calling the pot black – 6.67%
Number 1: The malt house – 17.27%

Well, thank goodness for number one.

Moving right along, it is time again for me to reveal my top beers of the year.  This usually results in irate commentators accusing me of being hugely biased towards hoppy pale ales, possessing questionable dress sense and being remiss in not including their homebrewed Imperial Marmite Porter which has been dry hopped with Curried Coconut.  Having taken legal advice this year, I have to say that at least two of those accusations would probably stand up in court of law.

However, selecting my best beers of 2011 was, as ever, an opaque and confusing process.  That said, there are several vague guidelines – principally that the beers were New Zealand made and there had to be some small chance of regular punters being able to purchase them.

That meant that two of my favourite beers ever were immediately relegated to “Honourable Mention” status.  Liberty M!ller Humulus IPA and Liberty M!ller Lupulus IPA were outstanding beers which I would have loved even if they were not named after me.  The fact that they were named after me simply increased their awesomenosity exponentially.  They may or may not be made again but there are unconfirmed reports that another M!ller beer could be in the works for 2012.

On to my Top Ten Beers of 2011:

#10 Yeastie Boys Rex Attitude – In what appears to be a genuine world first, this innovative beer is made entirely with peat smoked malt, an ingredient usually reserved for whisky.  I love the smell of this beer as well as the polarising (and disbelieving) responses it elicits from drinkers.  As a result, it becomes the first ever beer to make my list that I have never managed to drink a whole bottle of.

#9 Three Boys Oyster Stout – Every single year, Dr Ralph Bungard (“the thinking woman’s beer crumpet”) surprises me with a silky dark beer made with salty molluscs which manages to be sweet without being too sweet.  He has taken a classic Victorian recipe and converted the masses.

#8 8Wired Tall Poppy – I am an unashamed fanboy of the Hopwired but this beer impressed me this year with its lovely balance of caramel malts and bouncy hops.  For the beer and food matching at Beervana, we tried nearly forty craft beers and this was near the top of everyone’s list.

#7 Brew Moon Hophead IPA – Brewed in a most unassuming brewery just outside Amberley in North Canterbury, I for one welcome the greatly improved distribution of this subtle but brilliantly made English-style IPA.  Not nearly as brash as my usual tipples, this beer attempts to bring just a jot of class to my beer fridge.

#6 Tuatara Aotearoa Pale Ale (APA) – Confession time: I totally expected to hate this beer. I totally expected to hate it because it was taking the place of my beloved Tuatara American Pale Ale after the US hops ran out.  As it turns out, this fragrant drinkable ale may actually be even better.

#5 Croucher Pilsner – This is easily the most improved beer in the country over the last three years.  When it first came out, it was good but not great and easily over-shadowed by their rambunctious Pale Ale.  Now, it is a thing of beauty – a focused, balanced and clean Pilsner any Herman Brewmeister would be proud to produce.

#4 Epic Hop Zombie – A fantastic yet evil beer with the funniest beer label text I have read in a long time.  The Impish Brewer wickedly relishes using long words which force interested drinkers to fire up Google to find out what he is on about.  This is a seriously strong hoppy drop which is strangely not quite as destructive as its cousin the agathokakological [4] Epic LARGER.

#3 Cock and Bull Monk’s Habit – Often touted as New Zealand’s most awarded beer – and with over fifty medals it has a pretty strong case – I sometimes forget how great this beer truly is.  And then I taste it.  Sure, these days it is far more Star Spangled Banner than Tintin but that is just fine by me.  Outstanding.

#2 Liberty C!tra – The highly talented brewer may have to scour three countries to find just the right blend of hops but this beer is a bonafide superstar and I’m delighted to hear it will be made regularly.  Exuberant, playful and hoppy, this was my beer of Beervana.

#1 ParrotDog BitterBitch IPA – Brewed at mikes by lots of blokes called Matt, this staggeringly good IPA is always in my shopping basket and/or my glass whenever it is available.  Zesty and quenching, I am proud to say this is my Beer of the Year. [5] Legal Disclaimer: Get between BitterBitch IPA and me at your own peril…

This is the last Malthouse blog for 2011 – I would like to wish all readers a very hoppy Christmas and a malty New Year. 

[1] I’m pretty sure I am getting a bottle of ParrotDog BitterBitch IPA.
[2].It is indeed the fourth highest ranked Google search for these words but the result is somewhat surprising as the Malthouse post in question was about a completely different book and the title was actually “Tally Ho”. 
[3] I don’t know whether to be more offended that a search for Wayne Rooney led to the Malthouse blog or the fact that significant numbers of people must have consistently misspelt key words such as “Wayne”, “Rooney” and “Tattoo”.
[4] Look that one up tiger!
[5] Please note the prescient foreshadowing in footnote [1] above. 


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