in two huge beer events – the New Zealand Beer Awards (Thursday) and the Beervana festival (Friday and Sunday). There are tastings, dinners, lunches, parties and tap takeovers happening all over the city and Malthouse is running two special showcases – Dark Side of the West Coast (Tuesday and Wednesday) and HOPtathalon (Thursday). 

The Dark Side of the West Coast is not, in fact, an investigate coup exposing cricket spot fixing syndicates in Westport nor a stunning expose of fetish parties in Reefton. [1] Instead, it is a reprise of several beers which featured in The Darkest Day Dark Beer Celebration and the Sixth Annual West Coast IPA Challenge. It is a two-day opportunity for out-of-towners to try some rare beers from those events while locals can catch up on brews they missed or beers they just really enjoyed. 

In a break with my long-standing tradition, I’m actually going to start talking about the beers in the third paragraph instead of the thirteenth. [2] The latest release [3] from Tuatara Brewery in Paraparaumu is Tuatara Black Light Stout (7%).  It is a very traditional, unfiltered, bottle conditioned stout which the brewers say is “as traditional as a second helping of spotted dick.”  They also make a bit of a point about some of the more extreme brews around saying Black Light has “no chocolate, porridge or marine life in there.” 

The main flavours are the roasted, cocoa and chocolate notes from the dark malts and some assertive fruitiness from “great chunks” of hops. It is simple, smooth, well balanced and hides the 7% alcohol dangerously well. 

One beer which did particularly well at the West Coast Challenge was Baylands Crawford Hop Lore APA (6.6%). It placed third in the judging and topped the People’s Choice polls. It was a collaboration between the 300L Baylands Brewery and home brewer Ryan Crawford. Ryan’s original Hop Lore won the Amateur West Coast IPA Challenge (also held at Malthouse) and the prize was the opportunity to have the winning beer commercially brewed at Baylands and entered into the full West Coast IPA Challenge. This beer is strong, fruity and bitter but what really stood out for the judges (and the punters clearly) was that it is exceptionally well balanced and exceptionally well made.  

There are two offerings from Moa Brewing – one from each event.  Now, it is fair to say that the new slick corporate-y Moa operation, particularly their controversial marketing strategies, have polarised the beer community. I certainly have my reservations.  However, though he does not really appear in their publicity material, [4] head brewer Dave Nicholls is a seriously talented guy and these are two of his best works.

Moa Imperial Stout (10.2%) scores an astonishing 96 over on RateBeer after almost 200 reviews. It is a seasonal release which has seen the stout aged in juicy Pinot Noir barrels.  The end result is a pitch black, thick beer with notes of coffee, chocolate, cocoa, molasses, tart fruit, cherry and oak.  It is another beer which hides its strength well and should be enjoyed carefully. Moa North Pacific IPA (6.4%) is a new North American inspired pale ale with a firm body, plenty of fruity hops and a sharp bitter finish. 

A regular entrant in the West Coast IPA Challenge in recent years has been Townshend Blitzgreig APA (6.7%). Brewer Martin Townshend is best known for his English-style beers – bitters and ales.  However, he was determined to enter the West Coast Challenge and contacted noted home brewer Greig McGill for some advice.  During one of his “clumsy and inept beer reviews” on YouTube, Greig explains how the beer got its distinctive name. Martin, he explained, was “an Englishman… a bit of a pom” who did not know how to use American hops and “for some reason thought I did.”  Greig sent him an APA recipe and advised on the brew. Consequently, his unusual first name [5] was incorporated into the final beer name. 

Although Blitzgreig has become hoppier and more assertive over the years, it is still not a hop bomb and retains some subtle English notes. The brewer’s aim was always to make an approachable and drinkable American-inspired Pale Ale. Blitzgreig is certainly hoppy – with notes of peaches, tangelos and lemon zest – but there is a soft marmalade undercurrent which is unmistakeably English.  

Finally, there is the welcome return of Invercargill Hop Chopper APA (6.8%). This beer missed being judged last year because of freight issues [6] but made it on time in 2013. Hop Chopper was Invercargill Brewery’s first (and so far only) commercial American Pale Ale. It has a firm bitterness and the trademark notes of grapefruit, pineapple and even pine resin. 

It’s a big week of beer and it is only Tuesday. Since Sunday, I have tried 31 different beers, 30 of which I had never tasted before. To put that in some context, I was a judge at the Amateur Brewer Battle Black IPA contest on Sunday where I tried all 30 home brewed entries and a couple of palate cleaning Fork & Brewer Base Isolators. Congratulations to the winner Brayden Rawlinson, second placed Reuben Moore and bronze medallists [7] Jason Wareing and Corey Dorset.  

Next time, we drink to The Mars Rover Curiosity which is celebrating one year on the surface of Mars.  Well done tiger.

[1] Both of these are well-known facts.

[2] Last week’s Game of Thrones-themed blog may have set a new personal best in not getting to the point quickly. 

[3] The latest release until Beervana anyway…

[4] Dave gets a mention on the website but only in the section titled “Josh Scott”.  Josh is undoubtedly the face of the company.

[5] Greig’s explanation: “My parents can’t spell.”

[6] Brewer Steve Nally refers to sending beer to the North Island as “exporting”. 

[7] Disclaimer: There is not even one actual bronze medal, much less two.


Beer Writer
Beer and Brewer Magazine


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