Starting from noon on 13 March 2014, this event is the City Tap Takeover (Twitter: #citytaptakeover), almost certainly the largest tap takeover in New Zealand beer history.  As Luke “The Impish Brewer” Nicholas blogged “there are tap takeovers and then city takeovers, only Stone could do this.”

Colourful Stone co-founder Greg Koch is currently taking a four-month sabbatical from work and social media and he is touring New Zealand.  He will be appearing at the Great Kiwi Beer Festival (doubtless running amok with the Impish One) but his first beer and undoubtedly best event will be the City Tap Takeover which is co-hosted by Malthouse and the Fork & Brewer.  Like many punters, Greg will be moving between the two bars, talking about the special beers, rare beers and really rare beers.  In fact, Luke will also be in attendance because, in his immortal words, “there is no way I’m missing this.” [1]

No one should.  It is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to try some of the most unusual beers from one of America’s most legendary breweries under the vigilant eye of their exuberant creator Mr Greg Koch. He is strongly passionate about how his beer is exported and presented so anything he personally oversees is going to be sensational.  There will only be one keg of the most special beers so consumers will need to get in early.  Friday may be too late people… I’m just saying.

There will be a beer on offer with a distinctly New Zealand connection. Stone IPA Double Dry Hopped with Motueka Hops (6.9%) uses our famous Motueka hops to add citrus and spice.  The Think about Beer website wrote:

“Double Dry Hopped IPA is a super limited, draft only version of their standard India Pale Ale.  Normally, their IPA is dry hopped once with Centennial hops.  The double dry hopped version uses Motueka hops, a rare hop from New Zealand that was developed for its intense aromatic characteristics.  Being dry hopped twice, they run it through their dry hopping system once then twice to give it an extra punch of hops.  Fortunately, dry hopping doesn’t really add a significant amount of additional bitterness.  What it does add, especially in this double dry hopped version, is a giant slap of hop aroma and flavour.  It practically jumps out of the glass at you.”

It’s a burnished orange with a lasting white head.  It throws a huge nose with notes of citrus, hop resin and pine needles.  There are notes of grapefruit, passionfruit, soft caramel, sticky resin and plenty of finishing bitterness (70+ IBU) for a mouth-watering finish.  It’s more drinkable than the raw ABV and IBU numbers suggest andgiven the use of Kiwi hops it is patriotic too.

This modern intercontinental spin on one of Stone’s original beers is also one of the rarest.  Even beer geeks in their home state of California consider it exceptionally rare.  To have one, maybe even two kegs, in Wellington is quite the achievement.  If you want to try this brew, get there before me or you may be disappointed.

Next up is a beer name after my own heart [2], Stone Sublimely Self Righteous IPA (8.9%).  Before people get overly excited, I’m obliged as a journalist to point out that it is a Black IPA, so cool your jets.

First brewed in 2007, Sublimely Self Righteous got its moniker because Greg said it was the name we are compelled to give it.  [The name] serves as a reminder of just how good we are, in both liquid and verbal form. Too often, we allow our modesty to get the best of us as we’re simply not inclined towards senseless braggadocio.

I like Mr Koch – he reminds me of me in many ways.  He is never going to be accused of lacking in self-confidence. [3] However one key point of difference is that he is highly decorated brewer and I’m simply a highly verbose blogger.  This 90 IBU dark IPA pours near black in the glass and is adorned by a collar of mocha head.  The generous hopping mix brings grapefruit, tropical fruit salad and pine to the brew, while the speciality malts introduce notes of chocolate, caramel, roasted coffee andburnt toast crusts.  It ends with a lingering bitter finish with a hint or two of raisin and date.

Please drink this while I finish off the Stone IPA Double Dry Hopped with Motueka Hops.

As it turns out, Stone IPA Double Dry Hopped with Motueka Hops is not close to the rarest beer on offer at Malthouse and Fork & Brewer.  The honour may go to 2013 Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine (11.6%) or 2010 Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine (11.3%). Here is what The Pour Fool had to say:

“Stone “Old Guardian” Barleywine 2013 Edition, is just simply one of the two or three best American-style Barleywines made anywhere.  It has been exactly that ever since the first time Stone whupped it up.  And make no mistake about it, this IS absolutely American.  There is zero possibility of anyone who knows a thing about the art of Barleywines ever mistaking it for something made in Europe.  Old Guardian is a Monster; a smooth and well-integrated but totally uncompromising behemoth [4]that carries a knock-ya-down intensity that would positively revolt any casual beer drinker who’s just starting to come to terms with the fundamental differences between the world of fizzy yellow, mass-produced, Spawn of Satan, waste-of-shelf-space American adjunct Pilsners and the more emphatic, intense realm of modern craft ales.

DO NOT, if you ever expect your craft-newbie friend or spouse or Significant Other[5] to come to share your love of Barleywines, pour them Old Guardian for their first one.  They’re not ready.  Start with Avery “Hog Heaven” or 21st Amendment “Lower DeBoom”, first, and work up to it.  Work for maybe twenty steps up to it.  For modern-day Hop Heads – and even for crusty curmudgeons like me who are sick to death of the Hops Arms Race – OG is a freakin’ Gift from On High.

The complexity is staggering: fruit notes – fresh, zested, and fruit leathers [6] – come at you in waves, buttressed by fistfuls of caramels, roasted nuts, grilled bread,treacle, burnt sugar, brandied cherries, and an absolutely titanic hops presence that hits every single flavour group that hops are capable of.  Resins practically drip from the bottle. Pine, spruce, rosemary, and thyme all explode on the palate, graced sweetly by a parade of citrus peels and sweet herbs galore. It is fiercely high in octane: 11.6% ABV.  80 IBUs.  This stuff is not messin’ around.  Serious, veteran beer freaks only enter here.  Here there be dragons, friends, and they do bite.”

Those are seriously rare, serious beers.  However, my vote for the most unusual beer on offer at #citytaptakeover has to go to another. The name itself takes well over one line of text.  It’s the Evil Twin / Stillwater / Stone The Perfect Crime Smoked Black Saison aged in Red Wine (9.7%). This is a three-way collaboration beer in one of the most unusual [7] styles (Black Saison) and then barrel aged in red wine casks. The mind simply boggles.

In other news, I’ll be heading down to Christchurch at the end of the month to captain the beer team in a Grape versus Grain comedy debate.  At 7pm on 26 March, two teams will be debating “the grape is good but the grain is great” at The Tannery Woolston in Christchurch. Tickets are $25 from The Brewery, Gustav’s, CBD and Volstead.  I’m hoping this result is better than my last debate a week or so ago when I became one of only people to ever lose a debate arguing that Colin Craig should not be Prime Minister. [8]

Next time, we drink to self confident, self-righteous, arrogant bastards.  We all know who we are.

[1] The Wellington Chamber of Commerce is predicting a significant jump in air guitarsales over the course of this momentous event.

[2] Assuming I have one.  I think I do but it is probably small and pitch black, just like Mark Richardson’s.

[3] He is like Michael Laws but with talent.  And decency.  And real eye lashes…

[4] Not to be confused with Behemoth brewer Andrew Childs – known as the “Beer Giraffe.”

[5] These people should probably never meet each other.

[6] “Fruit leathers” as a beer descriptor is new to me… and more than a little scary.

[7] Read: Completely made up.

[8] To use an old Victoria University Debating Society cliché which I may have helped establish many years ago, “we were robbed.”


Neil Miller

Beer Writer

Beer and Brewer Magazine

Cuisine Magazine


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