That is almost entirely because I was seated next to world famous beer writer Roger Protz for the whole lengthy yet dull ceremony. [1] As you would expect from a man who has spent a lifetime travelling the world to drink and write about beer, he was a fascinating conversationalist. By the end of the night we were such firm friends Roger even loosened his tie slightly. [2] He did also promise to show me around the Great British Beer Festival one day – an offer he has probably long since forgotten but one I fully intend to take him up on soon.

As reported in last week’s blog post, Roger Protz’s latest book – 300 More Beers to Try Before You Die – has hit the bookshelves. [3] In addition to the eight Kiwi beers which made the cut, he also made some general observations about the Australian and New Zealand brewing scenes. I took the liberty of typing up the two paragraphs about Aotearoa:

Mr Protz noted New Zealand had some “65 to 70 breweries. In common with Australia, New Zealand is in the grip of Lion Nathan, part of the Japanese Kirin group. But thin lager is under attack from a new breed of small breweries who offer drinkers a growing choice of pale ale, IPA, Porter, Stout and Belgian-style beers. Kiwi brewers enjoy the advantage of having fine hops grown on their doorsteps. So good is the quality that brewers in the northern hemisphere queue to buy them. The new Nelson Sauvin, so-called because its fruity character is reminiscent of Sauvignon wine, is in great demand.”

He concludes “there’s a gritty determination that drives New Zealand brewing. When one small brewery was badly damaged in the Christchurch earthquake of 2011, the owners moved to new premises and started again. Fire, pestilence and plague can’t stand in the way of good beer.”

This week, I’m going to highlight four beers at Malthouse which I believe represent key aspects of the New Zealand craft beer scene. They are beers which I firmly believe Roger Protz should try when he starts working on his new book which is provisionally titled “Yet Another 300 More Beers to Try Before You Die.” [4]

Nominee #1 – Twisted Hop Sauvin Pilsner (5%): This Christchurch beer is a perfect showcase of Nelson Sauvin hops, the variety which is rapidly becoming our international hop flagship and the specific one highlighted in Protz’s book. It is a New World interpretation of a classic European style with “bucket loads” [5] of Nelson Sauvin hops imparting the distinct tropical fruit and lemon zest notes, as well as the cleansing bitterness. Enjoy when the sun is out.

Nominee #2 ParrotDog PitBull (7%): Brewed just a 455m walk from the Malthouse front door, this was ParrotDog Brewery’s entrant in this year’s West Coast IPA Challenge. It placed fourth in that event, picked up a Bronze medal at the New Zealand Beer Awards 2013 and, most importantly, was my favourite brew in the Challenge. It’s certainly the one I’ve drunk the most of too. [6]

The brewers say it is “aggressive” and “pungent” – they are dead right. Huge overtly American hop nose, notes of grapefruit, orange, caramel and straw before a gaspingly dry finish. Love it – love everything about it.

Nominee #3 Renaissance Tribute Barley Wine (10.8%): It is impossible to overlook a beer which this year took gold medals and trophies at both Australian International Beer Awards and New Zealand Beer Awards. If the Sauvin Pilsner is an old beer made in a new style, Tribute is a new beer made in an old style. It uses an Elizabethan mashing process (DoubleWort Mashing), New Zealand hops and a traditional London Ale Yeast.

After a long conditioning to allow the beer to mellow, the final beer is viscous, smooth and warming. There are notes of malt biscuit, caramel, nuts, honey, maple syrup, toast crusts and stonefruits. This blockbuster of a beer should be savoured slowly on wet, wild and windy days.

Nominee #4 Black Dog Chomp (5.4%): Chomp is one of the best selling beers from the Black Dog Brewery, situated a mere 182m walk from Malthouse. It is literally round the corner. Now, while Chomp is not their best beer – for my money that is Black Dog Unleashed Citra IPA – it is a very good beer which makes this list because of the way it is currently served at Malthouse – through the Hopinator over juniper berries and cloves.

Now, I’m a fan of the Modus Hopperandus to start with but this is a particularly interesting and innovative combination which brings out whole new elements in the punchy pale ale. The use of the Hopinator and non-traditional flavourings, to me, highlights both the famous Kiwi ingenuity and the ability to mix the old and the new which I see every day in the local beer scene.

From the increasingly weekly Apologies Desk, apologies to readers of last week’s blog who were confused by the title “Protz says thin lager is under attack in New Zealand – he could not be happier” because nowhere in the actual post did Protz say that. That particular quote was shifted at the last minute to this week’s blog in order to keep the length at least vaguely reasonable. [7] However, I should have gone back and changed the title too. So – my bad.

Next time, we drink to whoever becomes the new leader of the New Zealand Labour Party. I suspect they may need a pint or two themselves after that gruelling contest. [8]

[1] The only other positive aspect was a highly competitive waiter who delighted in procuring numerous bottles of Pelican Pale Ale for us, bottles which really should have gone to other tables. I never told Roger of this subterfuge, fearing his innate English decency would have seen those delicious ales sent to their rightful owners.
[2] Alternative explanations would be “Melbourne is hot” or “plenty of Pelican Pale Ale” – see footnote [1] above.
[3] Or, more accurately, hit the shelves in on-line stores which Kiwis can use to purchase this “weighty handbook of excellence.”
[4] I’ve already pre-ordered my copy based on the catchy title alone.
[5] This is rapidly becoming a standard brewing measure.
[6] Frankly, I’m surprised there is any left. Staff must have hidden it somewhere they knew I would never look like under the treadmill or in the vegetable crisper.
[7] We know most of you read this blog at work and longer posts make it more likely that you will get caught.
[8] Grant Robertson has previously told this very blog that he favoured darker beers, listing Emerson’s Dunkel, Emerson’s Porter, Tuatara Porter and, for a change, Epic Pale Ale. The beer preferences of the other candidates are not recorded but I’m going to wildly speculate that David Cunliffe likes Dux de Lux Ginger Tom while Shane Jones enjoys Harrington’s Big John Special Reserve.


Neil Miller
Beer Writer
Beer and Brewer Magazine

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