One of their first acts was to flummox me in my unpaid role as Head Steward at the New Zealand Beer Awards (as the Brewer’s Guild Beer Awards were known back then). Croucher entered two versions of his first beer – the Croucher Pale Ale. For a couple of hundred dollars he got the expert feedback of a dozen judges and a bronze medal. 

This move was not against the rules because the organisers never thought anyone would ever enter two versions of the same beer. No one ever had before but technically it was not prohibited so therefore it was allowed. The rule was changed immediately after the awards ceremony but I always thought the move demonstrated admirable creativity and, importantly, I found out the Croucher Pale Ale was seriously good.

There are a number of Croucher beers available at Malthouse this week. Their award-winning Croucher Pilsner (5%) is tasting really good at the moment. It’s quite old world (dry, grassy) but with juiciness from New Zealand hops. The brewers also promise “delicious burps.” [1]

The pilsner is joined by its evil cousin Croucher Raspberry Pilsner (5.2%). When I saw this beer on the menu I immediately phoned Paul Croucher and asked him some short tough questions. They were short and tough partly because fruit beers enrage me, partly because I’m a hard hitting journalist but mainly because he was on a dodgy Bluetooth connection 20km outside of nowhere.

My main question was “Raspberry Pilsner – why the &*#@ would you do that?” [2] Paul replied “We had had a lot of fun with our cherry bock. Then we started playing with a Raspberry Bock and liked the top note fruit character. I’ve always enjoyed fruit flavours in beer and raspberries retain a very authentic flavour. Other fruits can get a bit winey or over-ripe tasting in the fermentation. We wanted a pink head on the beer but it just did not happen. Then we tried adding beetroot but it didn’t work because the beer just tasted like beetroot even at low concentration – and that is not a good thing.” [3]

In news much less likely to make me vomit with rage, Croucher has two of their IPA’s available at Malthouse. Many people are now familiar with the Croucher Patriot Black IPA (5.5%), a roasted yet hoppy number. It is balanced with notes of chocolate, orange and pine. The Croucher Galaxy IPA (6.3%) looks like a standard heavily hopped IPA but there is a big twist. Galaxy uses the legendary Weihenstephan Weizen yeast which adds banana, cloves and vanilla to the full malt body and late slap of pineapple hops. [4]

Croucher Brewery is, in the words of Paul, in a “state of flux” after the brew kit they shared with Kaimai Brewing was sold. They bought what was the Kiwi Brewery in Morrinsville and, even though it not running close to capacity, they are still able to pump out more beer on the new 2,500 litre kit than they could on the old 1,200 litre plant. Steam in Auckland is contract brewing the bottled beers while the Rotorua brewery is making virtually all the keg products.

When asked the hard question “what do you think of Malthouse” Paul immediately replied “I love the Malthouse – oh my God, it’s my favourite pub in the country.”  Quizzed if that meant he liked it more than Croucher’s own excellent pub BREW in Rotorua, Paul said Malthouse was one of the “inspiration behind BREW and that if BREW was at the same level as the Malthouse I would be a very happy man. Colin has always been friendly, helpful and inspiring.” [5]

Turning to the busy events desk, next Thursday 9 May is Hop Zombie and Deep Fried Haggis on a Stick night.  I recommend no one attend as I’m planning to barricade myself inside the bar with a full keg of Epic Hop Zombie (8.5%) and platters of the famous Deep Fried Haggis on a Stick. [6] If you can get in and there is any left, it should be a mighty fine night. Hop Zombie is near impossible to find at the moment and there is some debate whether Colin cunningly stashed this keg away or discovered it by accident during a stock take. Either way, he has not let me near the keg to check.

Live music is now a regular feature at Malthouse with an act playing from 3-5pm every Sunday. This week is Mara TK which MySpace says performs Italian pop/Psychobilly /Tropical/Taniwhunk tunes. I felt very old and out of touch just writing that sentence but Mara TK has been popular on the local scene for a number of years. 

Finally, Malthouse has two new t-shirts which can help you look fashionable and occasionally mistaken for bar staff. Check out the designs in the cabinet and potentially still hanging from the ceiling (if the home made display held up). 

Next time, we drink Russian River Pliny the Elder. Please?

 [1] No other brewery appears to have adopted this bold marketing strategy.

[2] Eat your heart out John Campbell. I look forward to my Qantas Media Award.

[3] Noted contrarians the Yeastie Boys are about to launch a “heavily beeted saison”…

[4] I’d like to nominate that as an official flavour descriptor.

[5] Amazingly Colin the Handsome yet Softly Spoken Scottish Proprietor was at Malthouse when this sentence was uttered and not in the back seat of Paul Croucher’s Prius holding a claymore to his back.

[6] #deepfriedhaggisonastick at Malthouse has trended on New Zealand Twitter before. Let’s do it again.


Beer Writer
Beer and Brewer Magazine


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