Now, that situation in itself is not particularly unusual.  In fact, it happens quite often.  What made this instance worthy of being the beginning of a blog post was who I was talking with and what I was talking about. 

My guest that evening was David Whitley, a freelance travel writer from England in the middle of a three week trip around New Zealand. [1] He had booked a Wild about Wellington Beer Tasting session and Malthouse was our designated tasting venue.  Over a Croucher Pilsner, ParrotDog BitterBitch, Epic Armageddon (through the Hopinator stuffed with habernero and jalapeno chillies) and handpulled Tuatara Porter, we talked about the state of the New Zealand beer market and particularly the near exponential growth of craft beer in the last couple of years. 

I made the observation that even as a professional it was increasingly hard to keep track of all the new breweries and brewing companies opening.  At the same time, the number of craft brewers falling by the wayside over recent years has been gratifyingly small.  This situation suggests that there is still plenty of untapped demand for craft beers and the overall market is continuing to grow. 

David had, I think, had a bit of rough introduction to New Zealand beers but over the course of his trip had begun to find craft beers which really tickled his palate.  It was a pleasure to talk beer, travel and bollocks with him.  The man is also deeply entertaining on Twitter. [2]

The topic of this week’s post is, appropriately enough, newcomers to the market.  Two Fingers Brewing was started late last year and launched at Brew Bar in Rotorua.  The company is the creation of Rotorua-based Englishman Lawrence Oldershaw, a former full-time triathlon coach and current award-winning homebrewer.  He designs his European influenced beers in his self-described “man cave” while the commercial brewing is done at the Aotearoa/Mata brewery in Kawerau.  He has said his beers were “traditionally styled, with a focus on blending the best of European flavours with kiwi notes.”

His operations have picked up considerable media attention including a long story on the National Business Review website. [3] In it, Oldershaw said “he will begin looking for private investment in the company to establish a new brewery, which he estimates will cost around $250,000 for the plant and equipment.”  He noted that “creating our own brewery will be the only way we can increase capacity” and that he “would be prepared to set up anywhere, but admits Wellington would be a good fit.”  It is conceivable Wellington may have yet another brewery in the years to come…

His second beer is currently on tap at Malthouse.  It is Dodgy Archer Summer Ale (5%) which has been described as having “delicate tropical fruits on the nose and palate with a slight hit of citrus zest bitterness at the end.”  The story of the name is told at great length in the previous Malthouse blog post called “Beer from the Battlefield” (link below).

The second newcomer is the Treehugger OrganicsNath and Steph Davis grow certified organic produce on their property in Saint Andrews, about 20 minutes out of Timaru.  They have been growing commercially since 2002 and have recently begun producing their Hophugger Pilsner (5%) at the nearby Invercargill Brewery.  Some people don’t like the name but I actually do – probably because the thought of actually hugging hops very much appeals to me.

 There has also been a bit of controversy about the colour (dark amber) and flavours (caramel, grapefruit, gooseberry, pine needle) of this beer and whether it is a “true” pilsner.  What is clear is that most people who have tried it agree it is a very tasty beer. Made with Canterbury malt and Nelson hops, it is definitely worth a try.

This final section is about two established craft brewers and their exciting new venture. Joseph Wood and his Liberty Brewing Company are packing up, leaving New Plymouth [4] and, by all accounts, moving in with Stephen Plowman at his Hallertau Brewery in Riverhead near Auckland.  Joseph’s brew kit will be added onto the existing set up and both brewers will operate their respective brands from the same premises – basically, two brands in one brewery. 

It’s been described as a “mini co-operative” and one which is likely to grow going forward.  I’m sure there will be a number of collaborative brews and having two such innovative and bold brewers under one roof is likely to be tasty news for New Zealand beer drinkers. 

To mark this auspicious development, Malthouse has a number of Hallertau and Liberty beers available.  On tap is Hallertau Statesman (5.3%) – a well balanced pale ale – and Hallertau Minimus (3.8%) – a hoppy mid-strength beer which I am not ashamed to enjoy in public. 

In its distinctive and colourful bottle, Liberty Yakima Monster (6%) is an American Pale Ale (APA) celebrating Joseph Wood’s beloved Yakima hops.  It won a gold medal at the 2012 New Zealand Beer Awards and the brewer says “it’s a easy drinking beer, flavorsome enough for your father in law to exclaim “wow – that’s fruity!” yet complex enough for any green blooded hop-head to appreciate.”

Finally, there are some bottles of Liberty C!tra (9%) in the fridges.  However, they are very high up and it would be mean for anyone to ask the hard-working staff to fetch them. Anyone but me that is…

Next time, we drink with the new Pope and give him some very forthright suggestions. 

[1] We shared stories about the lack of sympathy we both get from people about the nature of our demanding jobs.  He really was like my brother from another mother…

[2] His Twitter handle is mrdavidwhitley.  Here is an example of his work: Fun New Zealand game: Every time a Kiwi mentions Lord of the Rings, say “Really?  That was filmed here?  I’m surprised no-one mentioned it.”  I can confirm he really does say that and with a completely straight face.

[3] NBR On-Line has covered a number of beer related stories of late and none of them appear to be behind their controversial paywall. 

[4] When he goes, there will officially be no valid reasons to visit New Plymouth.  That is probably why the town does not even seem to have an official motto for people like me to make fun of. 


Neil Miller

Beer Writer
Beer and Brewer Magazine


David Whitley –
Two Fingers Brewing on Facebook –
National Business Review article about Two Fingers –
Malthouse Blog: Beer from the Battlefield –
Treehugger Organics –
Liberty Brewing on Facebook –
Hallertau Brewery –
Malthouse Facebook –
Malthouse Twitter –!/malthouse
Malthouse Taps on Twitter –!/MalthouseTaps
Neil Miller on Twitter –!/beerlytweeting
Beer and Brewer Magazine –