Massey University, its best known landmark, as an “agricultural college.” [1] Despite Wikipedia stating the city has “the highest number of restaurants, eateries and cafe bars per capita in New Zealand”, [2] my lasting impression of Palmy cuisine is the seemingly perpetual crowds in the three McDonalds clustered around the Square. 

Over my long career of drinking beer in bars, I have witnessed exactly five fights. Three of those occurred within an hour at a student pub in Palmerston North during my university days. [3] Perhaps at the root of my enmity with Palmerston North is that I have basically never had a decent beer there. 

The closest I came was probably the Best Bitter at the now-closed Shamrock Brewpub. That was a seriously old-school pub/hotel complex which for a while made their own beer. To demonstrate how poor my Palmy experiences have been, the second best beer I drank in Palmerston North was a pint of Export Super Cold served at about 1 degree. It tasted like Ambrosia solely because I chopped it 30 seconds after getting off a bus I had been sweltering in for well over eight hours. This simply confirmed the thesis anything cold and wet tastes good after a hellish ordeal like that.

However, it seems my information and/or prejudices are becoming increasingly dated and/or inaccurate. For a start, there has been a Massey University campus right here in Wellington, my beloved Craft Beer Capital of New Zealand, for many years. Massey has not been limited to Knowledge City alone for a long time. Furthermore and to my utter astonishment, it seems that Palmerston North and both campuses of Massey University are starting to get craft beer.   

Actually, that is probably an understatement. They already get it. Former Malthouse alumni and now cub investigative reporter Jonathan Galuszka assures me there are “heaps” of places to get great beers up in Palmerston North now. [4] Massey University runs a number of brewing courses and have their own 100-litre brew kit on site. On this very day, a number of noted homebrewers are heading to Palmerston North for a 5 day intensive brewing course.

The boys from Funk Estate have also used those same facilities to make several of their popular beers.  

Massey University (Wellington Campus) is the home of the Massey University Brewing Society (which boasts the slightly dodgy acronym MUBS) [5] and their brewing arm called Half Tanked Brewing. They have made their first beer and it is going on tap at Malthouse today. 

As I understand it, Half Tanked took the best home brewed recipe that the members of MUBS had developed and then contract brewed 1,000 litres of it up at Mata Brewing in Kawerau. 

They had some high powered help with Liberty Brewing Company guru Joseph Wood and Kereru Brewing Company strongman Chris Mills providing advice and support. 

The rather clever branding, labelling, tap badges and adverts were designed by MUBS founder Simon Cooke and they all counted as part of his design degree.[6] That creative material is where the “poor students, good beer” line I used as the title came from. I thought that was absolute genius. There were a number of adverts and posters up around the university and Wellington before the recent launch of the beer and all of them were eye-catching and witty.

With all of that occasionally extraneous ranting about Palmerston North out of the way, it is finally time to talk about the actual beer going on tap tomorrow.  It is called No.1 IPA, mainly because it is the first beer produced by Half Tanked.  Described as being a deep amber colour (thanks to a generous use of malts such as CaraRed and CaraMunich), it is designed to have a clean malt body then showcase a “good nudge” of Rakau and Nelson Sauvin hops.   This easy-drinking New Zealand-style IPA weighs in at a reasonable 5.4% alcohol by volume. 

Look, when Palmerston North and Massey University are not just enjoying but also making craft beer, then the pendulum must be swinging in the right direction. Seriously, congratulations to the Massey University Brewing Society for your success this year and on producing your first beer. I still might struggle to say nice things about your academic institution in general, but I might just raise a pint of No.1 IPA and toast its success in producing students like you.

Next time, we drink to Quade Cooper. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, pal!

[1] Partly, but not entirely, to annoy my brother who has a “degree” from there.

[2] Yet another reason, if you needed one, not to believe everything that appears on Wikipedia.

[3] At 2pm in the afternoon the pub’s carpet was already wet and sticky. At best, it was spilled beer. 

[4] Unlike Wikipedia, journalists never lie.

[5] MUBS is perhaps the only group in New Zealand to have both a discount card for craft beer and a beer pong tournament.  It is hard to imagine SOBA’s Geoff Griggs trying to bounce a ping pong ball into Brewer’s Guild President Ralph Bungard’s cup of beer in order to make him consume. I would, however, pay to watch that.

[6] That is a million times more valid than interviewing 20 bogans, going to a few heavy metal concerts and calling it a PhD.


Beer Writer
Beer and Brewer Magazine


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