Well, that was a bit more of a visual gag but try to imagine me pointing my thumbs at my chest and smiling like a loon.

Actually, I was not just attending the dinner but was running it with Mike Egan, a legend in the hospitality industry and a true “man about town.” I stopped for a sneaky beer at Malthouse because a) I was a bit nervous about working with him and b) because Malthouse, that’s why.

One quick survey of the taps and I knew which beer I was going to order. Honestly, I didn’t notice that I was wearing my underwear inside out for a whole day this week but managed to scan and analyse twenty odd taps in a few seconds. My brain continues to amuse me. [1] However, there were a few that I really wanted to try so I enjoyed a couple of samples of new beers before making the inevitable announcement: “I would like a pint of Epic Hop Zombie please.”

This was by no means my first Hop Zombie. It was not even my first Hop Zombie that week. However, it is a beer that I have always adored, particularly off tap, and it does sometimes run out. Even the fact that there were people inconsiderately sitting at “my” table so I had to sit somewhere else [2] could not dilute the hoppy goodness of my old friend Mr Zombie.

In addition, I did feel a little guilty about not being adventurous enough. This worsened when I learned (from Ciaran) that this Friday (28 August 2015) will mark 52 years since Martin Luther King made his historic “I have a dream” speech. He changed a nation and I could not even change my order. Therefore, I now have a dream of trying more beers out of my comfort zone and encouraging others to do the same. [3]

A lot of people are scared of the Four Horsemen of the Hopocalypse Intergalactic Imperial India Pale Ale (14%). Those people are all wrong. This “Triple IPA” is a collaboration between four talented brewers who are also friends – the Impish Brewer Luke Nicholas (Epic), the Naked Epicurean Steve Plowman (Hallertau), My Favourite Bogan Joseph Wood (Liberty) and Rockstar Kelly Ryan (Fork Brewing). This year’s batch was made on 12 July 2015 and, from the highlights on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nehVkyzsyww , looked to be a lot of fun.

The alcohol in this “extreme and intense” beer has jumped from 10% in 2011 to 14% in 2015. The video’s narrator explains that the beer is “probably slightly insane to make” which is confirmed by Luke noting that it is a beer they make together because it’s totally uneconomic to make individually. This beer is really all about the “hops, hops, hops, hops and more hops.” The result is an enticing amber ale which throws an enormous nose of grapefruit and resin, has a firm caramel body bristling with citrus bursts and pine needles, finished by a long bitterness which clears away the sweetness. The alcohol is evident but the Four Horsemen is actually quite drinkable.

Their Four Horsemen video package is instructional. Kelly tries to put an educational spin on the project saying you “always learn something when you sit down with brewers.” He is contradicted by Joseph who argues the best thing about collaboration is “showing off how cool you are.” The line which made the laugh the hardest was when Jo just deadpanned into the camera “I’m living the dream mate.” Always the thoughtful one, Stephen revealed there are plans for a different Horseman beer which will continue to “push the boundaries.”

Parrot Dog Clipped Wing (3.5%) is described as a “small and courageous” mini-APA. It is part of the growing number of mid-strength or session pale ales which are looking to be lower in alcohol while still full on flavour. Some are better than others at actually achieving this difficult balance and Clipped Wing would be right up there with the highly regarded Croucher Low Rider and Fork Low Blow in this regard. There is a surprisingly firm malt backbone which allows the US hops to dance their magic dance in the glass.

The new lower drink-driving laws have certainly prompted many drivers to look for lower alcohol alternatives. As a result, brewers and bars are seeing an increasing need to cater for this rapidly growing niche segment of the market. I’m not a driver [4] but I’ve enjoyed quite a few Clipped Wings at several functions around town based on taste alone. It is a fine responsible ale from the Matts.

Some Garage Project beers really do scare me because they contain ingredients I am generally scared of: wine and fruit. [5] There are three rare GP beers available: Garage Project Rose de la Vallee (a pilsner made with Pinot Noir juice and rested on grape skins), Garage Project Sauvin Nouveau (a Pilsner made with Nelson Sauvin hops and fresh Sauvignon Blanc juice), Garage Project Wabi Sabi (a sour beer made with Honeydew melon and Yuzu, a distinctive Asian fruit), If I had to chose one it would be Wabi Sabi so I could later confidently say “why yes, I have enjoyed the taste of Yuzu before.”

Adding to the list of “things I do not really like” is coffee. I live in constant fear that my Wellington citizenship will be revoked if word of this oddity ever reached the appropriate authorities. [5] However, I do enjoy, on the proper occasion, the stouts made by mike’s Organic Brewery. They have been doing them for many years now and have attained a smooth balance. Malthouse currently has mike’s Double Shot VCP (8%), a vanilla and coffee infused porter. Neither ingredient is shy in the glass. This beer always makes me want to sit in a leather chair, nibble on blue cheese and steal the next election…

During my short visit I did try one of the beers mentioned in last week’s blog. I could not resist Garage Project’s Death From Above Indochine Pale Ale (7.5%) – the beer which changed my mind about chilli beers – poured through the Hopinator over a mix of mango, Vietnamese mint and chilli. I fully expected the chilli to fire up but the combination actually accentuated a fuzzy peach sweetness. The alert and ever helpful Malthouse staff noted that the chilli effect was dominant during the first pours but the flavour profile changed in a short period of time. Coming up next in the Modus Hopperandus is BrewDog Alice Porter over vanilla.

Next time, we drink to (finally) having a serious look at our holiday trading hours. However, I’m not convinced that leaving it up to individual councils is a sensible approach to the issue.

[1] I’m not sure it is so amused by me but takes revenge by making me get up, go to the kitchen and then completely forget what I was planning to do. If I had a cat, it would be laughing at me.

[2] On Twitter I lamented that I was sitting at the “wrong table” and could not get truly comfortable. Unlike much of Twitter, this was true as I fidgeted and shifted in my seat for a good fifteen minutes. Sometimes I’m more like Dr Sheldon Cooper than I care to admit.

[3] This does not extend to sampling Flame (“all the aroma of a burning of a burning couch”) or 0.0% DB Export Citrus (“oh what fresh hell is this?”)

[4] I do not own a car or possess a valid driver’s license. So, if I am drink-driving I will have a number of other legal issues to deal with as well.

[5] I once described a beer in an article as “smelling of ripe grapefruit” which prompted my mother to ask “when was the last time YOU smelled a grapefruit?” That was a few years ago and I have still not come up with a suitable riposte.

[6] If Wellington Citizenship is administered by the Wellington City Council they will probably respond by tearing up the road in front of my apartment. That seems to be their preferred solution for pretty much everything…


Neil Miller

Beer Writer

Beer and Brewer Magazine

Cuisine Magazine

TheShout Magazine

New Zealand Liquor News Magazine


Parrot Dog – http://parrotdog.co.nz/

Garage Project – http://garageproject.co.nz/

Mike’s Organic Brewery – http://organicbeer.co.nz/

Malthouse Facebook – www.facebook.com/pages/Malthouse/7084276173

Malthouse Twitter – www.twitter.com/#!/malthouse

Malthouse Taps on Twitter – www.twitter.com/#!/MalthouseTaps

Neil Miller on Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/#!/beerlytweeting