According to a handy infographic timeline on their surprisingly flash website, key events include the visit of Beer Hunter Michael Jackson (1995), organic certification (2000 – the second Kiwi brewery to gain this recognition after Founders), the Trigg family taking the helm (2007) and their 21st birthday party (2010). On a personal note, I am saddened that my one and only visit to the brewery is not (yet) recorded on the official timeline. [1]

The Trigg family hails from Zimbabwe and there are now three generations involved in the brewery. Once recognised as the smallest commercial brewery in New Zealand, mike’s has expanded dramatically and there was even talk that they may be moving production to a major metropolitan centre such as Inglewood, Hawera or even New Plymouth. [2]

Determined to find out the truth, I put on my proper journalist hat [3] and rang Ron Trigg to find out the truth. Ron’s official job description is “Director, Master Brewer, Strategy, Sales, Marketing and anything that nobody else wants to do.” Clearly, he was the man to talk to.

I began with the hard questions the Malthouse nation needed to know. “How are you?” He replied “bloody marvellous thanks.” You win round one, Trigg. However, I knew he was desperate to talk because I had interrupted him making a “collaboration” brew with The Beer Giraffe Andrew Childs from Behemoth Brewing Company.

They were making a Belgian Farmhouse Ale/Pale Ale hybrid basically because they not agree on anything (right down to the yeast strain) and were essentially making half a beer each and seeing how they combined. This is perhaps a very loose definition of collaboration. My sources [4] tell me it will be called “Hop and Hay Farmhouse Pale Ale.

Having been bested in the opening exchange but knowing Ron would want to stay on the phone as long as possible, I asked Ron about the rumours they were looking to move. He confirmed them… and then said it was not happening, at least for a while. mike’s wants and needs a bigger brewery and Ron said “we thought we had a property sale lined up to move the brewery but it fell through. We still want to move the brewery because we are starting to struggle with logistics. The brand is growing nicely and customers are expecting our beer even quicker. It is a challenge but a positive problem. However, we need more space in the brewery now because we are falling over each other.”

They have come up with a temporary solution. “We have built another shed to create more floor space and will move in this week. Recently we have been trialling the equipment we brought from the old O’Neil’s brewery in the car park and the beer garden. I’m quite pleased with the results and we will make a few modifications and use them to expand the brewery. We are also going to put the land and cafe on the market and look to move the brewery after May next year. We are simply too busy to move during summer,” Ron said.

Malthouse currently has a number of mike’s beers, a brewery which now boasts the new and somewhat confusing motto of “beer you can get your teeth into.”

First up is mike’s Whisky Porter (10.5%), a barrel aged Imperial Porter. When I visited mike’s this beer (along with their fantastic Imperial India Pale Ale) was just making it’s cautious debut. mike’s had been known for balanced, moderate, organic beers so these huge, non-organic, barrel-aged monsters were something very different and something very special. [5]

The Whisky Porter pours pitch black with a thin tan head. The nose is cocoa, stonefruit, oak, whisky and leather. It is silky smooth, full bodied and gently warming. In the glass there are notes of dry chocolate, plums, scotch and inner peace. This is a big bottle of very big beer. Even I think it is definitely for sharing.

Embracing the coffee/beer fusion fashion, mike’s Vanilla coffee Porter (VCP) (8%) is a strong coffee porter. It pours as black as Mark Richardson’s tiny heart and throws a bouquet reminiscent of freshly roasted coffee in the back streets of Paris. The porter is creamy, with some caramel sweetness before the dark roasted coffee flavours roll in like German tanks in the back streets of Paris. It finishes with a mix of cake sweetness and espresso dryness.  

Because you (apparently) cannot have too many porters and stouts, mike’s Chocolate Milk Stout (5.5%) is broadly in the style of an English Cream Stout. Unlike the other two it is not pitch black but it is a very, very, very dark brown, bordering on black. Pouring thick and creamy, the nose has coffee, milk chocolate and sweet molasses on the nose. The flavours include notes of ground coffee, rich chocolate, burnt Vogel’s toast, and roasted almonds before a sweet finish.

It is time to talk about Pale Ales for a change. [6] In terms of “long beer names which cause my spell checker to vomit with rage”, mike’s Onemorepaleale (OMPA) (6.3%) is right up there. The beer has an enticing amber hue and a tempting nose of orange, grapefruit and hope. It is a bit lively in the glass, with further notes of grapefruit, citrus and a touch of caramel before a lingering and bitter finish. One more please indeed.

Finally, we drop the People’s Elbow with mike’s Full Nelson IPA (Smash) (7.0%). For those not familiar with beer terminology or professional wrestling talk, [7] a full nelson is a wrestling hold which involves immobilising an opponent’s shoulders and cranking the neck in order to obtain a submission. It has been used by such greats as Ken Patera, Hercules Hernandez and Superstar Billy Graham, and also by Chris Masters. SMASH stands for Single Malt and Single Hop – a rebellion against a trend of utilising large numbers of ingredients in a beer.

The Full Nelson is a sultry dark amber with a big nose of tropical fruit salad, pine needles and berry. It is smooth with notes of grapefruit, zesty citrus, gooseberry, pine, hop resin and caramel. Highly bitter, the finish goes on and on and on. 

Still wearing my slightly too small proper journalist hat, I can reveal that Andrew Childs, who as readers will recall was brewing with Ron Trigg when I called, also home brewed a beer called Full Nelson back in early 2012. I remember it distinctly because 1) I really liked it 2) I really liked the name 3) I helped inspired the name and 4) my second favourite Canadian Stephen Beaumont is involved in the story. Here is what the Beer Giraffe wrote about his Full Nelson at the time:

“Full Nelson Imperial Pale Ale – This beer was made with Neil Miller in mind as massive fan of both hops and Wrestling. It is my first imperial pale ale it came in at about 8% alcohol. It used all Nelson Sauvin hops, and a lot of them! It was double dry hopped and had a beautiful aroma, lovely flavours but as the world’s most recognized beer writer (Stephen Beaumont), who was given my beer by Neil said, he liked the flavour but there needed to be a better integration of the hops and malts, giving a more balanced beer, I could not agree more so I will defiantly remake this beer in the near future.”

Far be it from me to call Mr Childs a liar, [8] but he has not yet done so. Mind you, his last blog post was titled “End of a sporadic blog, the beginning of a regular one.” That was dated 13 March 2014.

Next time, we drink to Pilsner Urquell, soon to be on tap at Malthouse after being cold-shipped all the way from the Czech Republic. The brewery says the new transportation method means the beer tastes as exactly as it would at home. Confirming my famous dedication to detail, I will be in the Pilsner Urquell brewery next week tasting the original pilsner direct from the oak, just to check. You are welcome, dear readers.

In unrelated news, there will be no blog next week.

[1] Actually, I’m probably more sad that I’ve only been there once. That situation needs fixing.

[2] The definition of “major” and “metropolis” used in Taranaki may differ from your individual experience.

[3] On loan from bona fide newshound Jono Galuzska because it “messes up his hair.”

[4] Facebook.

[5] Writing this reminds me I have a bottle of Whisky Porter tucked away in my secret beer cellar. It must be five years old now. I may need to buy a leather armchair and start smoking cigars…

[6] I am constantly deluged with messages and letters demanding I give more coverage to Pale Ales. At least one message was from me when I accidentally dialled my cell phone while on my cell phone.

[7] You must find my blogs very confusing for starters.

[8] Although he is a qualified lawyer…




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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