This indicates that it must almost be Xmas but, more importantly, it is now time for the always popular but enjoyably controversial “Neil Miller’s Top Ten Kiwi Beer of 2013”. In this annual highlight, I pick my favourite New Zealand brews of the year with the one condition that they have to be “reasonably available” to the average punter. 

This year, for the first time, I threw the floor open to suggestions through social media (blogs, Facebook, Twitter) and the responses was quite overwhelming.  People made some excellent suggestions, reminded me of exotic beers I needed to try in 2014 although, as often happens on the Interwebs, there were a number of trolls. I’m thinking particular of the “people” who suggested Double Brown, Tui and Yeastie Boys Gunnamatta. [1]

Here are my 2013 rankings, including a surprising number of beers appearing for the first time or returning after a few years off the list. I think this accurately reflects the strength and dynamism of the local beer scene. 

10. Brew Moon Hophead IPA (5%)
This undeservedly low profile beer from Amberley in Canterbury is a stalwart at my public beer tastings and a regular in my personal fridge. Hophead is a wonderfully balanced English style IPA with a touch of citrus and spice before a surprisingly dry finish. 
2012: Unranked

9. 8 Wired Semiconductor (4.4%)
One of the lowest alcohol beers to ever make my coveted Top Ten list, Semiconductor is here based solely on flavour. Beers like Emerson’s Bookbinder and Croucher Lowrider proved to many New Zealand drinkers that beers did not have to pack a lot of alcohol to have a lot of taste. Semiconductor has built on that legacy as a punchy, zesty yet responsible pale ale.
2012: Unranked

8. Panhead Supercharger APA (5.7%)
This beer was not ranked last year because the brewery that made it did not exist. Panhead Brewery is the ambitious creation of Mike Neilson, formerly a senior brewer at Tuatara. He has invested pretty much everything into his new Upper Hutt facility and this is my favourite product. It has a grassy nose, hints of mandarin/tangelo and passionfruit in the middle followed by a firm finish.
2012: Unranked

7. Yeastie Boys Pot Kettle Black (6%)
PKB – as it is known to its loyal legion of followers – is a New Zealand classic for a reason. It’s been listed as any number of styles but I think the best description would be an American-inspired hoppy porter. It has a dark malt base (coffee, dry chocolate, figs) followed by an intense hoppy finish. It’s enough to turn your pants purple. [2]
2012: Unranked

6. Kereru Moonless Stout (4.5%)
This is a silky, smooth, decadent and delicious stout from Chris Mills at the newly expanded and upgraded Kereru Brewery in Upper Hutt. It turns out that every brewery in Upper Hutt makes it into my Top Ten for the first time ever. [3] I’ve always been a huge fan of this beer and it has proved exceptionally popular at beer tastings and at beer and food matching events. It goes with everything from roast beef to chocolate to blue cheese.  
2012: 6th

5. Tuatara Double Trouble (9%)
For the purposes of this column, I’m going to put aside my lingering suspicions that 3D technology is an elaborate hoax at my expense. Due to poor, unbalanced and colour blind vision, 3D has never worked for me so I have not benefitted from New Zealand’s first three dimensional beer bottle label. However, I do appreciate the contents of the bottle. It really is a “hop showcase” with notes of tropical fruit, malt biscuits, pine needles and grapefruit. My only complaint is that it is should not be so darn drinkable.
2012: Unranked

4. ParrotDog BloodyDingo (7.7%)
I’m as surprised as anyone that my ParrotDog crush is no longer my beloved BitterBitch but instead an Australian-inspired Imperial Amber IPA. That is because BloodyDingo is bloody awesome. It understandably won a Gold Medal at the 2013 New Zealand Beer Awards. BloodyDingo is full-bodied and balanced with notes of caramel, spruce, spice, stonefruit and late bitterness.   
2012: Unranked

3. Liberty C!tra (9%)
This was my beer of the year in 2012 and I still love it. Last year I called brewer Joseph Wood a “genius” and I stick by that too.  If I was a richer man – as I should be – I would be quaffing pints of this on the deck of my super yacht. It is a 9%, 100 IBU behemoth [4] with plenty of hop action (grapefruit, citrus, resin, passionfruit, pine) and enough bitterness for even the most hardened hophead. [5] Despite the strength and intensity, C!tra is smooth and balanced.
2012: 1st

2. Garage Project Death From Above (7.5%)
I honestly expected to loathe this beer. I had never tasted a chilli beer which would not have been better without the chillies right up until the second I sipped this Indochine inspired pale ale. In addition to a metric shed load of US hops (Chinook, Centennial, Citra and Amarillo) there is the mouth watering combination of mango, chilli, Vietnamese mint and lime juice. I’d only ever expected to enjoy that combination on the plate – not in the glass. Death from Above’s combination of subtle heat, sweetness, sourness and hoppiness is the best I’ve ever tried.
2012: Unranked

1. Epic Hop Zombie (8.5%)
This is a beer which has been unleashing hoppy carnage on the palates of unsuspecting imbibers for several years. While Luke Nicholas continues to brew Coffee and Fig Stout simply to annoy me, he is most famous for his arrogant use of American hops. I’ve been a fan for a long time. Even I do not know the secret mix of American and Kiwi hops in this beer [6] but the 2013 batches have been outstanding which sees it jump one place to take the number one spot. Hop Zombie is a gargantuan double IPA with a funny label and an outstanding drop featuring notes of grapefruit, guava (apparently), orange, passionfruit and caramel. Now I want one… [7]
2012: 2nd

As noted earlier, Christmas is approaching so here are the Malthouse opening hours:

Tuesday 24 December – noon to 11pm
Wednesday 25 December – closed
Thursday 26 December – 3pm to late
Friday 27 December – noon to 3am
Saturday 28 December – noon to 3am
Sunday 29 December – noon to late
Monday 30 December – 3pm to late
Tuesday 31 December – 3pm to 3am
Wednesday 1 January – closed
Thursday 2 January – noon to late
Friday 3 January – noon to 3am
Saturday 4 January – noon to 3am
Sunday 5 January – noon to late

Due to changes to the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012, the off licence hours are now noon to 11pm (Sunday to Thursday) and noon to 9pm Friday and Saturday.

Next time, we drink to the Brewer’s Guild of New Zealand – it has been an awesome year under the august stewardship of Dr Ralph Bungard. [8].

Finally, this is the last Malthouse Blog for 2013, the 247th instalment overall. I’d like to wish everyone an enjoyable festive season and an excellent 2013. 

[1] The pro-Gunnamatta faction seemed remarkably co-ordinated.  Consequently, I was forced to release a provisional version of this list noting the following results: “3rd – Ginger Tom.  2nd – Yeastie Boys Gunnamatta.  1st= Every other craft beer in New Zealand.”  I was certainly wearing the combative trousers that day!

[2] This blog ends 2013 with the proud record of never writing about Yeastie Boys without mentioning Stu’s brightly coloured leggings – even if I’m often unsure precisely what colour said pants actually are.

[3] If you had told me a few years ago that I would have two beers from Upper Hutt in my annual Top Ten, I’d have slapped you for being an impudent Whig. In fact, I would have been surprised there were even two breweries in Upper Hutt that were not on fire.

[4] Phrase not yet copyrighted by Andrew Childs or DB.

[5] Phrase not yet copyrighted by me or DB.

[6] I suspect the hop mix changes depending on availability.
[7] For the purposes of this blog, “one” may not really mean “one” in the exactly same way that “fancy a pint” rarely means a singular beer. At least in my circles…

[8] Dr Ralph is regularly described as the “drinking woman’s beer crumpet.”  Frankly, this entire paragraph may have been a thinly veiled excuse to get “Ralph Bungard” as “the drinking woman’s beer crumpet” onto to Google for one last time in 2013. It is still not catching on.


Neil Miller
Beer Writer
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