Over the ages, many great men sported beards including Abraham Lincoln, Daniel Bryan, Piri Weepu, God, Hodor, Daniel Vettori, Maximus, Grand Moff Tarkin and Colin Mallon. 

Sadly, others have let down their facially follicled fellows. That shameful list features bearded baddies such as Saddam Hussein, Hulk Hogan, Chris Cairns, Ned Stark, David Cunliffe, ZZ Top, the bad guy from Taken 2, Mike King and Andrew Childs.

The bearded look is current highly fashionable in craft beer circles on both sides of the bar but it is hardly new. Geoff Griggs, beloved doyen of Kiwi beer writing, joined the bearded trend ages ago, although back then it was called “The Seventies”.  He entered a long and illustrious list of beer writers with facial hair. To save space, I’m going to describe every beard mentioned from now on with just one word [1] which I think encapsulates the spirit of the beard and the personality of the owner.

The late great Michael Jackson had a benevolent beard. Mr Jackson, as he did so often, has inspired subsequent generations of beer writing beards – the rakish Stephen Beaumont, proper Roger Protz, laddish Pete Brown and the impeccable Garrett Oliver. [2] In New Zealand we have the roguish Michael Donaldson and the ginger triumph of Phil Cook. It is worth noting that ever Champion Beer Writer of New Zealand so far has owned a beard. 

It is rumoured [3] that Jono Galuszka is currently into year two of growing a beard and is hoping to complete this project by 2025 at the latest. However, he will win Beer Writer of the Year well before that.

Bar staff, writers and drinkers are certainly rocking the caveman look but so are brewers. Undoubtedly the greatest beard in Kiwi brewing history is Richard Emerson’s Chuck Norris inspired fuzziness. [4] That title looks safe for generations but it is timely to acknowledge some of the many other hirsute Kiwi brewers – epicurean Steve Plowman, hippy Andrew Dixon, flamboyant Andy Deuchars, [5] scraggly Andrew Childs, wild Lester Dunn, ladykiller Sam Possenniskie, hipster Stu McKinley, wise Pete Gillespie, bear Matt Stevens, surfer Matt Kristofski, lodden Soren Eriksen [6] and Miami Dion Page.

Kieran Haslett-Moore briefly left the bearded community but, worried about his consequently increased desire for more hops and growing inclination to vote National, grew back his trademark beardlet. If I had just one word to sum his beard up – and because it is my blog I do – it would be “ee-by-gum”.

Somewhat surprisingly, this is the perfect segue to the featured beers of the week which come from Weird Beard brewery under the tagline “all beard, no sandals.” [7] It is a smallish West London brewery set up by home brewers with “epic beards” to make “experimental, no holds barred beers” which are usually “in your face hop focused beers”.  They promise “no crap, no gimmicks and never knowingly under-hopped.”  I like these bearded weirdoes already.

Malthouse has procured a significant percentage of the Weird Beard range. Braver people than me might ask what Colin the Handsome Yet Softly Spoken Scottish Malthouse Proprietor was Googling when he stumbled across this hidden gem of a brewery but I could not possibly comment. Anyone that makes a beer called “Something Something Dark Side” gets a free pass from me. [8]

The highlights include Weird Beard/Northern Monk Bad Habit (8.6%), a Belgian Tripel with the uncharacteristic addition of Cascade hops. It is a mix of sweet toffee, raisins, tropical fruit, funky yeast and lots of alcohol. Weird Beard Fade to Black (7.2%) is a Black IPA which normally means I would scorn it. However, the brewers say it is “darker than a Metallica album cover and hoppier than a box of frogs on pogo sticks” which for sheer beer writing genius means I may have to quaff a bottle. It also features Citra hops so I’m in.

I’m hanging out for Weird Beard Holy Hoppin Hell Double IPA (9.6%), an annual brew where each year they have more fun with hops than monkeys do with bananas. They claim the mix of hops – which usually includes our own beloved Nelson Sauvin – will “wreck the most havoc on your palate.” I say “just bring it, playa.”

If I’ve got this right, [9] Weird Beard K*ntish Town Beard (5.5%) is an American Wheat Beer brewed in collaboration with BrewDog Camden bar. It claims to have lots of hops but I can’t shake the fear it is still an American Wheat Beer… To find out what the name means, Google it – but be sure to have Safe Search on.

Like everyone else in the known universe, I never thought anything good came out of Huddersfield. However, I may have to revise that opinion. Huddersfield’s Magic Rock Brewery was voted the 2nd best brewery in the world 2012 according to the rather picky patrons of RateBeer

Malthouse is currently stocking the Magic Rock Bearded Lady (10.5%), a rare Imperial Brown Stout with lashings of chocolate, coffee, dark fruit and vinous notes. Of more interest to hopheads like me is the Magic Rock Cannonball IPA (7.4%), a big resinous, sticky hoppy India Pale Ales.  Nom.

Next time, we drink to Elvis style sideburns.  I’m bringing them back!

[1] There is one exception – Phil Cook.  However, given his general disdain for word limits he should be fine with the extravagant two word description of his beard later in this piece. 

[2] Mr Oliver’s beard is so tidy that it appears that it is trimmed every hour, on the hour.

[3] By me, right now.

[4] “They say that underneath Richard Emerson’s beard there is no chin, only another fist, holding another pint of Bookbinder.”

[5] Congratulations on a second Australasian Small Brewery of the Year award.

[6] I’m completely at the mercy of free on-line English to Danish translators for that one – it should mean hairy…

[7] Clearly their West London take on the old saying “all mouth, no trousers.” Alright Guv’nor?

[8] When Shark Biscuit is not even in your top three beers names, you just might be awesome.

[9] Magic 8-Ball says “don’t count on it.”


Neil Miller

Beer Writer
Beer and Brewer Magazine
Cuisine Magazine


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Magic Rock Brewery – http://www.magicrockbrewing.com/
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