Granted, having your hopes dashed certainly pales into insignificance compared to such unpleasantries as being kicked repeatedly in the groin, seeing Tony Abbot in Speedos [1] or listening to the new One Direction single. However, being disappointed at the last minute is always a painful experience.

This week I was tremendously excited to be writing about one of the most exciting new breweries in New Zealand which produced my beer of Beervana. In a rare instance of organisation, I was even planning to do some primary research and talk to the owners in order to obtain exclusive snippets of information for thirsty readers. After all, I’d already done extensive liquid research on this brewery thanks to an impressive sample pack sent to My Overt Overground Headquarters.

It took Colin the Handsome Yet Softly Spoken Scottish Proprietor of Malthouse less than 160 characters to leave my world in ruins and this blog in tatters.  Translating his text message from the Glaswegian for the benefit of English speaking readers [2] he said “those beers you were looking forward to so much have not yet arrived, do a blog about dark beers.”

I immediately felt like the global media contingent who breathlessly attended the launch of the “greatest invention in history” which turned out to be a scooter you steer with your butt. [3] There was a sudden empathy with New Zealand voters who elected the Fourth Labour Government thinking they would get a left wing administration.  It also affirmed my lifelong connection with supporters of Wellington Lions rugby team. All I can say to current fans, [4] is “look, they let us down pretty much every season but this year they at least they did not come close to getting our hopes up after a considerate 0-7 start.”

So, it is time to move onto dark beers.  First up is Moo Brew Seasonal Stout (7.3%).  Now I’ve blogged about this brewery before under the headline “Moo Brew – proof Tasmania is better than Palmerston North” and I, of course, stand by that 2011 assessment. My research revealed that “Tasmania (motto: “the island of inspiration”) split away from the Australian mainland around 10,000 years ago and for virtually all of that time they have been mocked by all the other states and territories.  In many ways, they have been treated as the Palmerston North of Australia with many unkind barbs about their alleged deficiencies in culture, appearance and intelligence bandied around.”

However, unlike Palmerston North (motto: “Knowledge City”), “Tasmania has increasingly turned that image around by assiduously courting travel writers and tourism operators on both sides of the Tasman…  Much of the new positive focus is on the natural beauty of the island, the fresh cuisine, wine, arts and even beer.  However, Wikipedia does note that Tasmania still only has “a relatively small but growing literary culture.” [5]

As for the beer, Moo Brew brewery is located just north of Hobart on the Moorilla winery which was established in 1958 by Claudio Alcorso, a former Italian textile merchant.  His vision was for Moorilla to become a “place where new world aesthetics were imbued with old world values.”  In the 1990s, Tasmanian millionaire David Walsh and his partners acquired Moorilla and added accommodation, the brewery (motto: “not suitable for bogans”), a function centre, eateries and the world famous Museum of Old and New Art (MONA). 

The brewery calls the Moo Brew Seasonal Stout “The Velvet Sledgehammer.” There is probably some justification for that. This silky beer is dominated by notes of dark chocolate heavily roasted coffee, but there are hints of vanilla and, some believe, coconut.

Not content with forcing me to write about dark beers when I was expecting a week of rhapsodising over hoppy pale ales, Colin made me write about Tuatara Lapsang Souchong Chinese Black Tea Infused Barrel Aged Stout (7.5%). Following the trail blazing path of the Yeastie Boys with Gunnamatta and Minimatta, Tuatara have looked to find a funky tea and make it more funktastic with a little barrel aging. It is by all accounts [6] relatively subtle – tea and smoke over a big stout base.

Over to our coveted “exciting news but it is a shame he has to move to Auckland” desk, Soren Eriksen and 8 Wired Brewing is moving from Blenheim to new custom built premises in Warkworth, north of Auckland. The current plan is to install a new brewery at 26 Glenmore Drive (a former marine engineering warehouse), have the plant delivered in October and be up and running by Christmas. [7]

New 8 Wired brewer Brian Watts based 8 Wired Flat White Coffee Milk Stout (5.5%) on a traditional milk stout despite that style being nearly ruined by the extremely terrifying Ena Sharples from Coronation Street drinking it on-screen for decades. Flat White contains freshly roasted Brazilian and Cuban coffee from C4 Coffee in Christchurch. This silky, big flavoured beer has notes of coffee, milk chocolate, espresso coffee and lactose (whatever that tastes like).

Beer blogger, cat servant and dead ringer for Tywin Lannister from Game of Thrones, Scott Anderson, wrote “8 Wired’s Flat White coffee milk stout contained the richest coffee aroma I’ve yet encountered in a coffee flavoured beer.  This was perfectly balanced with the smooth sweetness from the lactose, resulting in a beer with the aroma and flavour of a superbly made sweetened long black.”

Speaking of Game of Thrones and perfect segues; the final beer for this week also has a Game of Thrones theme. Townshend Kings Landing (5.3%) is a Scotch Ale with a touch (1%) of peated malt. It is made by Martin Townshend, cheeky chap, brewer, former fish and chip shop owner, owner and sole employee of the 2014 Champion Brewery of New Zealand, former publican, and big Game of Thrones fan. 

I am too though like most things that are cool I discovered it years after it was proclaimed the hottest thing on TV.  I still haven’t read the books. In this case, late adaption was a bonus which meant I could watch the first two seasons over a couple of marathon sessions before having to endure the excruciating year long wait before the next couple of series.  It seems my readers are also fans with one Australian larrikin photo-shopping my face into at least four Game of Thrones characters. [8]

Kings Landing is the Capital of the Seven Kingdoms and was the home of King Joffrey I before he got his overdue comeuppance thanks to some rather brutal poison.  To date, Martin does not seem to have been sued about the name.  Probably just as well as he is flat out making beer after his huge wins at the Brewer’s Guild of New Zealand Beer Awards 2014. The beer itself pours a lustrous chestnut brown, is smooth and lightly carbonated with the signature being a light smoky, peat, whisky note.

2013 Beer Writer of the Year Michael Donaldson wrote “Watching the show, I can see where Townshend is coming from with the name.  He has captured the essence of fur-clad men and women sitting around camp fires as a gentle rain falls on the sweating horses tethered nearby.”  Mr Donaldson clearly hangs out with more fur-clad people and sweaty horses than I do to recognise that particular essence, but I think he captured Townshend’s intent.

Next time, we drink to the Simpson’s/Family Guy cross-over episode because there is absolutely no way that could be anything other than totally awesome. It should be on New Zealand television in about 2017.

[1] There is a certain irony in a man who proudly wears tackle hugging budgie smugglers on television threatening to ban modest full body robes.  As an interesting aside in a footnote (a first even for me), I asked social media users to guess which beer I was talking about when I used this phrase.  One incredibly photogenic Canadian thought it had to be a Trappist or Abbey beer because I was referencing the Mad Monk.  I told him he was over-thinking my writing.  His reply was “one of us had to.”  Well played, sir.  I shall have a better retort by 2018 or so.
[2] Colin is subtitled in over 90% of countries in the world.  He makes Spud in Trainspotting sound like Kenneth Branagh in Henry V. 
[3] The Segway.  Younger readers will be unaware of the outrageous hype this monstrosity had before its anti-climatic launch.  It made Kim Dotcom’s failed “Moment of Truth” look like the freaking Moon Landing by comparison.
[4] Both of them.
[5] In the same way that some corners of my bathroom have “a relatively small but growing literary culture.”
[6] I’d rather catch fire than drink another tea beer.
[7] This information is published on a blog based on a post from the brewery’s blog so it is likely to be 100% accurate.  However, hospitality projects have somewhat of a history of running over time.

[8] My visage fits disturbingly well onto Tyrion – but then he is my favourite character.
Neil Miller
Beer Writer of the Year 2014
Beer and Brewer Magazine
Cuisine Magazine
TheShout Magazine
New Zealand Liquor News Magazine
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