It is certainly a provocative argument, but there does appears to be an accelerating trend of events which suggests there is an increase in hostility and (being America) litigation within the craft beer market, and significant cracks in the traditional industry spirit.

My intention remains to examine the validity of this argument but I need to do more research and talk to some serious experts. I also want to examine if a similar trend (albeit at much lower level) might be emerging in New Zealand. The possible significance of overnight events on social media concerning a Wellington burger establishment and a Wellington craft beer bar also need to be considered in this context.   

Long story short – the deep philosophical piece about the State of the Industry will appear in the next couple of weeks. This week, it is an Extremely Rare Straight Beer Blog. [1]

Malthouse is pleased to welcome the return of Brew Mountain Pale Pat Supreme (4.6%), the first offering from the Taranaki brewery which allegedly nestles “in the shadow of the mountain.” [2] This beer was hugely popular during its last visit and usually reliable sources indicate it is tasting even better now.

Brew Mountain is the creation of home brewers Shannon Ryan and Dr Liam Tranter (a local GP). In the early days they had some expert help from Shannon’s brother Kelly Ryan but now Kel is far too busy slaving away for his tyrannical masters at the Fork & Brewer on Bond Street. [3]

The beer is named after Shannon and Kelly’s dad, the late Pat Ryan. Pat was a boxer representing New Zealand in the 1972 Munich Olympics. The brewers described their pale ale in these words:
“New Zealand’s finest malted barley and a combination of New Zealand and American hops come together to create this delightful golden pale ale.  Tropical fruit and grapefruit aromatics, a full malty body and a crisp, clean finish make this the perfect drop to drink in the shadow of the mountain.” Reviews on RateBeer bandy around the terms “citrus”, “crisp”, “drinkable”, “clean”, “alluring” and “immensely pleasurable experience.” 

Pale Pat will be joined by super fresh Punk IPA from BrewDog, a Scottish brewery not known to be shy of throwing a few publicity haymakers out there. Billed as a “Post Modern Classic Pale Ale”, [4] Punk IPA (5.6%) uses Nelson Sauvin hops and is the only BrewDog beer to ever reduce in alcohol percentage after public pressure. In most cases, the opposite has happened.

The beer is assertive – with notes of citrus, pine needle and dry grass over a grainy sweetness – without being aggressive. It is a nicely balanced IPA from the brewery which will soon be making Yeastie Boys for the British market.

Two beers are pouring from Hop Federation, a brewery going from strength to strength. I love the Hop Federation story – Simon and Nicki Nicholas move from the pressures of dirty big Auckland [5] to the breathtakingly pretty hamlet of Riwaka, buy the old Monkey Wizard brewery and launch their beers into the world. In their words, they have turned their passion into a livelihood while being able to spend more time together as a family.

It really is a family affair with Simon as chief brewer and Nicki in charge of marketing and sales (and I suspect pretty much everything else). Simon has been head brewer at Hallertau so knows a lot about making quality beers.

Speaking of family, Simon was recently confronted with the potentially devastating news that he is very distantly related to Luke Nicholas, the Impish Brewer from Epic. Instead of falling into a pit of despair, as most would do, Simon teamed up with Luke to produce Sarah English IPA, a collaborative beer named after their common ancestor Sarah Nicolas who lived in England during the 1700s. [6]

That is quite enough history, onto the Hop Federation beers starting with Hop Federation Red IPA (6.4%). Simon describes it as “an exuberant blend of aromas and flavours in a confident mahogany brew. Passionfruit on the nose transitions to an unexpected combination of berries, tart ruby grapefruit and toasty malt, rounded off with a satisfying, sustained finish.” Others have picked up notes of earth, resin, spice and red lollypops. Many have been taken with rich colour and the balance of this beer is an undoubted highlight.

Hop Federation Golden (4.5%) could never be accused of being a complicated beer and that is just what the brewer was aiming at. Simon says the Golden is “simple, refreshing and inviting, with understated hop flavours, this straw-coloured, Pilsner-style beer has a satisfying combination of soft malty sweetness, gentle bitterness and a clean finish. Its sunny style perfectly reflects the origins of its New Zealand-bred hops.” In this case, it is Motueka and Nelson Sauvin hops. The best comment comes from prolific RateBeer reviewer Jimthechap who wrote “it does what it says on the tin.” [7]

The weather has certainly turned, as violently demonstrated by the recent storms which saw the Fire Service called out to over 30 instances of flooding, including one in a Fire Station. [8] Dark weather often calls for dark beers and Steve Nally, the huggable brewer at Invercargill Brewery, reckons his Pitch Black beer just “shouts stout.” It has appeared in my annual Top Ten New Zealand Beer lists more than any other dark beer and I use it regularly at beer and food matching events. So while this would be a perfect time to quote myself, I’m actually going to quote the phenomenal Roger Protz:

Invercargill Pitch Black Stout (4.5%): “The beer has a glowing ruby edge in the classic stout fashion. The aroma offers caramel, milk chocolate, burnt toast and gentle hint of floral hops. There’s a charred note from the roasted grain on the palate but it’s balanced by creamy malt, chocolate and gentle hops. The finish is a delicious blend of roasted grain, milk chocolate, caramel and light hop resins.”Roger Protz, 300 More Beers to Try Before You Die.

Finally, Brew Moon Dark Side (of the Moon) Stout (6%) is in the Hopinator with Mojo coffee beans. [9] This small brewery, which is the absolute highlight of any visit to Amberley in North Canterbury, makes consistently fine beers but is a relatively rare visitor to the Craft Beer Capital. Dark Side is dark and dusky, creamy and full, with notes of chocolate, caramel, fudge, a distant whiff of smoke and a suggestion of liquorice before a dry espresso finish.

Next time, we drink to the Black Caps who have just jumped up to third in the international One Day rankings. At the other end of the table, Bangladesh is now higher than Pakistan but Afghanistan stubbornly remains above plucky little Scotland.

[1] Records are sketchy but this may be sixth example in 302 blogs. That averages out to roughly one per year. This post must therefore be the 2015 edition of the Extremely Rare Straight Beer Blog.

[2] “Allegedly” because every time I am in Taranaki it is too cloudy to see the mountain far less the shadow of said mountain. I’ve seen more of Mount Taranaki/Mount Egmont in Lord of the Rings than I have in real life.

[3] At least, he had better be, say the Tyrannical Masters.

[4] Given BrewDog has publicly claimed the Scottish Advertising Standards Authority is a bunch of mother f*ckers, this is restrained, almost classical language.

[5] Including, but not limited to, Aucklanders.

[6] Disclaimer: I have not personally perused the genealogical evidence behind this claim. Someone told me the other day that not all beer back stories are factually accurate. Does everyone know this?

[7] Jimthechap has now been quoted three times in this blog (147, 292 and 302). This puts him two quotes ahead of Metallica. 

[8] It is probably not called a Fire Station anymore. It is more likely to be a “Conflagration Management Unit Dispatch Facility.”

[9] From memory, some beer writer last week lamented that the Hopinator never seems to have any hops in it. That clever chap might be onto something.


Neil Miller
Beer Writer
Beer and Brewer Magazine
Cuisine Magazine
TheShout Magazine
New Zealand Liquor News Magazine


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