in the City Tap Takeover (Twitter: #citytaptakeover). It was, we believe, the largest tap takeover in New Zealand beer history – heck, we don’t even have a local craft brewery which makes 45 different brews. [1]

In addition to the plethora of fine, rare and usually strong ales from Stone, their co-founder Greg Koch visited both bars as part of his four-month sabbatical from work and social media. Greg is considered quite a character, even by Californian rockabilly craft brewer standards, and this was evident in his impassioned sermon against mediocrity delivered from atop the Malthouse bar that night. 

His beard was suitably biblical and there a rapturous reception from the assembled disciples (his “brothers and sisters”) to his call to throw off the oppression of mediocre beers. It was all about the “battle for the living souls” of mainstream beer drinkers. [2] Like most visiting dignitaries, he said lots of nice things about New Zealand, noting that he was “enjoying your country, enjoying your company and enjoying your beers.” [3]

Luke Nicholas, the Impish Brewer from Epic Brewing, accompanied Greg on his travels that night and reported that patrons at both venues treated Greg “like a local hero. He walked through the crowd talking with beer fans, stopping to chat, shake hands and have his photo taken.” A link to a slightly shaky YouTube of Greg’s “Malthouse Epistle to the Apostles” is included below.

While the City Tap Takeover is officially over, some Stone beers survived the maelstrom. Despite commendable efforts from large numbers of thirsty customers, the Stone beers have not been entirely finished but by golly attendees put a seriously huge dent in the biggest single shipment of beer received at Malthouse. It is now time to – in the language of beer tastings – “bayonet the wounded.” [4]

Colin the Handsome yet Softly Spoken Scottish proprietor of Malthouse reports around 20 litres remaining of at least four Stone Brewing Co. beers, though this number will inevitably fall as the week goes by. Fork & Brewer also has a similarly limited selection of Stone survivors. Here are details of the four Malthouse beers.

First up is the 10 Barrel / Bluejacket / Stone Suede Imperial Porter (9.6%). As the name suggests, it is a collaboration brew between Stone, Bluejacket (Washington DC) and 10 Barrel Brewing Company (Oregon). Stone admits to doing “at least half a dozen collaborations each year” though the sheer number of beers listed on their website and the reputable RateBeer site suggests this is probably a slight understatement. They are quick to deny that Stone is “the craft beer equivalent of a bee flitting indiscriminately from one brewery to the next, all the while drawing precious nectar – the expertise and creativity of those institution’s brewmasters” though it is not clear anyone actually made such a prosaic and surprisingly specific accusation.

The “sturdy yet velvety base of imperial porter” has been overlaid with local products including avocado honey, jasmine and calendula flowers (some from Stone’s own farms). Describing the final results as “craft cross-pollination at its finest”, this dark lustrous brown beer pours with a creamy beige head. There are base notes of coffee, toast, roast, honey and toffee, coupled with unusual floral and spice aromas and flavours dancing over the broad malt backbone.

I’m personally surprised that Stone India Pale Ale (6.9%) [5] is still available because it is one of their core, best selling beers[6]. Dry hopped for an extra two weeks, Stone IPA has earned a rare 100% result on RateBeer and I would suggest that at pretty much any other time it would have all been snapped up.  However, with so many IPA variations and limited edition strong beers available it survived the initial frenzy of City Tap Takeover but I don’t think it will get much further. Not if I have anything to do with it anyway. This bouncy, bountiful and beautiful ale is a radiant golden amber colour with a moderate pale head. The punchy nose showcases hops – lots of hops – with notes of citrus, grass and pine. In the glass there are lashings of citrus (particularly grapefruit) and subtle hop resin stickiness underpinned by a characteristic US caramel sweet malt base. There is a long lingering refreshing bitterness with a surprisingly smooth aftertaste given its hefty 70+ International Bitterness Units and nearly 7% alcohol content.

Greg and his team clearly have a lot of fun with their beer names and marketing material. 

One of my favourites is the Stone Sublimely Self Righteous IPA (8.9%) even though it is a Black IPA and therefore of comparatively little interest or value. As I noted in a previous blog, 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 and burnt toast crusts. It ends with a lingering bitter finish with a hint or two of raisin and date.” [7]

I also previously covered the final beer for this week (and possibly the final Stone beer for a while after a month of near saturation coverage). It is Stone Cali-Belgique IPA aged in White Wine Barrels (8.8%). “This is the trademark Stone IPA brewed with an artisan Belgian yeast strain… Behind the fancy title is simply delicious Stone IPA dressed up in new Belgian duds.’  Weighing in at over 70 IBUs, this beer has a heady aroma of white wine, grapes, orange and spice. In the glass there are notes of orange peel, wine, funky Belgian yeast, pine, perfume, oak, vanilla and caramel. This vinous brew finishes bitter then tart at the very end.”  You are not going to taste many brews like this around Wellington.

As the Stone taps empty, Malthouse will be stocking some new Kiwi craft beers and welcoming the return of some old favourites. Highlights for this week include the Panhead Saison which was a popular festive beer at the Greater Wellington Brewday in Martinborough, Epic Mosaic IPA featuring more hop mastery from the Impish Brewer, ParrotDog Pit Bull which was my favourite drinking beer from the 6th Annual Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge and ParrotDog Clipped Wing, a responsible mid-strength ale I have only a passing acquaintance with. 

Finally, this is advance notice that there will be a real blast from the past on tap next week as Colin goes a bit retro. And this is super advance notice that Hopstock – the now annual celebration of fresh picked Nelson hops and the resulting family of green hopped beers – will take place at bars across Wellington from 23 – 26 April 2014.  More details on both topics next week.

Next time, we drink to the late, great Herve Villechaize. You just know he would have spotted the plane by now…

[1] Last time I did this particular calculation Harrington’s from Christchurch had the biggest local range with around 30 beers.

[2] “The man” is still oppressing “poor unknowing souls” on the very street outside.

[3] The last comment incited a clear interjection of “your shout then.”  Stay classy New Zealand!

[4] You can’t send half empty kegs back to California after all…

[5] The Stone crew appear to share the same sense of humour which makes people like me, Luke and Colin giggle at the mere mention of this exact ABV percentage.

[6] The Scotsman hid some, he’s naughty. (Like including extra footnotes. Like this one.)

[7] The term “lingering bitterness” is used quite frequently when discussing beers from Stone Brewing Co.


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Stone – 
Stone on Twitter –
Luke Nicholas’s Blog: “Greg Koch owns Wellington, NZ in #citytaptakeover” –

Greg Koch’s “Malthouse Epistle to the Apostles” –
Panhead –
Epic –
ParrotDog –
Hopstock lineup –
Malthouse Facebook –
Malthouse Twitter –!/malthouse
Malthouse Taps on Twitter –!/MalthouseTaps
Neil Miller on Twitter –!/beerlytweeting
Beer and Brewer Magazine –