That is not the case this week. Colin the Handsome yet Softly Spoken Scottish Proprietor insisted that I write about Malthouse accepting Bitcoins for a day, and that the foundation beers of Hallertau Brewbar are currently available on tap. Now, I am intimately familiar with the beers of Hallertau and have spent many pleasant hours in the company of brewer Steve Plowman, most famous for always brewing in the nude as part of his self-proclaimed “epicurean lifestyle.” [1]

As for Bitcoins, I really had no idea beyond they were something to do with the World Wide Webs and that Kim Dotcom is rumoured to have lots of them that the authorities cannot legally touch. [2] May 22 has, I later found out, been for several years known as “International Bitcoin Pizza Day” though I celebrate it as the day that Mexico entered World War Two (even later than America), birthday of the legendary George Best and the sad anniversary of the death of Constantine the Great in 337AD.

Clearly, I needed to conduct more research about “International Bitcoin Pizza Day”, starting with finding out what Bitcoins were and working upward from there. Colin told me to talk to Ciaran Duffy, Malthouse unit manager and star of the most popular Malthouse Staff Profile in Courage blog to date. [3] Ciaran’s first suggestion was that I should “talk to Colin” but by then the hirsute but stylish proprietor had fled to Melbourne to shamelessly steal ideas from their best pubs. In the trade, this is called “research” and is a completely legitimate business expense.

Having cornered Ciaran, I asked him to explain Bitcoins as if he was talking to someone who knew nothing about them (like me). I nearly toppled off my bar stool when he immediately replied “my understanding is that Bitcoins are an international cyber currency. [4] You earn them through writing algorithms, solving mathematical problems or renting out your computer. Heaps of people in New Zealand have them. Malthouse did “International Bitcoin Pizza Day” last year and we might be the only place in Wellington doing it this year.”

Ciaran added that on “International Bitcoin Pizza Day” (22 May – remember) punters will be able to exchange their Bitcoins for pizza and beer at Malthouse. However, he had no background knowledge about the short history of this auspicious day. As a trained and skilled historian, I was able to fill in the gaps by using Google. This blog post could easily be sub-titled “Four Hallertau beers and the six million dollar pizzas;” but I really wanted to use the Fox Hat reference. To quote noted Canadian beer blogger and unapologetic moose kisser Don Redmond, “read on McDuff!”

John Biggs, at the TechCrunch website, noted that it all began when a computer programmer wanted some pizza delivered on 22 May 2010. This, in itself, is not an uncommon affliction for tech guys but the difference here was that Laszlo Hanyecz offered to pay 10,000 Bitcoins, valued at about US$40 at that precise moment.

He wrote “I’ll pay 10,000 Bitcoins for a couple of pizzas… like maybe two large ones so I have some left over for the next day. [5] I like having left over pizza to nibble on later. You can make the pizza yourself and bring it to my house or order it for me from a delivery place, but what I’m aiming for is getting food delivered in exchange for Bitcoins where I don’t have to order or prepare it myself, kind of like ordering a ‘breakfast platter’ at a hotel or something, they just bring you something to eat and you’re happy! If you’re interested please let me know and we can work out a deal.”

This plea for pizza, possibly from his parent’s basement, was answered by a British person who ordered two pizzas for US$25 and had them duly delivered. Biggs speculates that the person’s Britishness explains why he “ordered the execrable Papa John’s” pizza. While it may have seemed like the Brit got a bargain ($25 of pizzas for $40 of Bitcoins) one can only hope he did not sell them too fast. Biggs notes that “for a brief while, in 2013, those pizzas were worth US$6 million apiece, and even now they’re worth a cool US$3 million each.” The generous pizza provider either made one of the best trades in the history of commerce or is still crying.

The next year, “International Bitcoin Pizza Day” became an annual thing. Grace Caffyn says the pizza purchase is “now widely recognised as the first real-world transaction with Bitcoin. May 22nd has come to celebrate ‘Bitcoin Pizza Day’, with cryptocurrency enthusiasts raising a slice to Hanyecz’s infamous hunger pangs that paved the way for early merchant adoption.”

“It wasn’t like Bitcoins had any value back then, so the idea of trading them for a pizza was incredibly cool,” Hanyecz told Nick Bilton in an interview with The New York Times. “No one knew it was going to get so big.” Today, there are close to 100,000 merchants accepting the young, decentralised currency and over 100 actual stores accepting Bitcoin for pizza purchases. For one day only, Malthouse will join that list.

To wash down the tasty pizzas on sale, Malthouse has procured on tap all four of the foundation Hallertau range. Legend has it that the fledgling Kumeu brewery ran a contest for customers to provide names for the new beers but the suggestions were so terrible that the beers were initially named “1”, “2”, “3” and “4”.

Founder, owner, brewer, bearded chap and freeballer Steve Plowman set up the Hallertau Brewbar with his wife Hayley in 2005. Continuing the theme of creative names, Steve recently dubbed his foundation beers “The First Four”, mainly because they were the first four beers he made consistently. They also now have sort-of proper names. Here is how he describes each of them:

1 – Hallertau Luxe (Kolsch, 4.5%):
“Some say she’s the luxe life. Exuberant. Snappy. Bright. Chatty. Sunlit. Lush. Passionfruit. Blueberries. Sparkling. Refined. Considered. Dry. And frankly, refreshing.”

I’d say “uncomplicated and quenching.”

2 – Hallertau Statesman (Pale Ale, 5.3%):
“Yowza! This character’s outspoken. Bursting with opinions. Arrives with a floral bouquet. Hoots. Honks. Hops. Leaves. Charismatic. Honey. Bombastic. Citrus. Distinguished. Tang. Then closes the deal guaranteeing your thirst thoroughly quenched.”

I would outspokenly but charismatically add “hoppy, bitter but balanced.”

3 – Hallertau Copper Tart (Red Ale, 4.2%):
“Substantial. Satisfying. Deserved. Malt. Forged. Caramel. Bitter. Chocolate. Rich. Worthwhile. Smooth and dry, earner of a knowing smile.”

Smilingly knowingly at the readership, I’d add “Jaffa lollies and love.”

4 – Hallertau Deception (Schwarzbier, 5.1%):
“This number is not what he seems. A bit of a trickster really. Smooth. Firm. Dark. Light. Bitter. Sweet. Coffee. Intricate. Chocolate. Subterfuge. You’ve been warned.”

Some would say “more than meets the eye” [6] but I would settle for “decent Auckland coffee and Whittaker’s chocolate.”

All four Hallertau beers are available on tap at Malthouse now. Inquire at the bar about the signed naked pictures of Stephen Plowman brewing. He claims they are for some kind of charity but I have my doubts.

Next time, we drink to George Dobell for writing this marvellous sentence about cricket – “Just as no memoir from Titanic focuses on the excellent catering before that pesky incident with the iceberg, so no contemporary report on English cricket can look far beyond the soap opera that has become the life of Pietersen.” [7]

The Fox Hat reference is (kind of) explained in the video linked below.

[1] I’m pretty sure “Epicurean” is ancient Greek for “naturalist.” I was not brave enough to do a Google Images search to confirm this hypothesis.

[2] Partly because, like me, they have no idea what the Blues Clues Bitcoins actually are.
[3] That may change when a second staff member is profiled. It may depend on who the next Van off the rank is. (SPOILER ALERT)
[4] Me: “Sounds like witchcraft.”
[5] I subscribe to PJ O’Rourke’s advice in his inspirational “Bachelor Home Companion” book that reheated pizza for breakfast sounds classier when you refer to it as something like “twice baked Italian tomato cheese bread.”
[6] Yes, it is a Transformers reference but only to the old-school cartoon, not the modern Michael Bay big-screen train wrecks.
[7] For the record, I generally like things that annoy Kevin Pietersen.


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


Article on “International Bitcoin Pizza Day”
(it is on the internet so it must be true)

Hallertau Brewery

(Kind of) Explanation of Wear the Fox Hat
–  (which is ironically an advert for Miller Beer)
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