Last Saturday I joined a surprisingly large crowd at Malthouse at 8am for the pivotal Australia versus England rugby match. I did so because I wanted to see firsthand how the early morning games were going for hospitality venues, Malty had promised the bacons, one team that I hugely disliked was going to lose and, perhaps most importantly, a number of politicians tried to argue that I should not be allowed to do so. 

They had a worthy ally in my taxi driver who was absolutely adamant that no bar could serve alcohol at 8am. [2] My argument that “Parliament changed the law” did not wash with him. Fortunately, legality prevailed inside and an IPA or two was swiftly forthcoming. The same driver also had strong and vocal opinions on the Rugby World Cup despite not following it or even liking rugby. It was a long trip. 

I did not get my usual table at Malty but did get a good seat with a view of the screen. Even during the game I was still torn about who to support. In the end, I was rooting for a nil-all draw which culminated in Quade Cooper exploding for no specific reason. In reality, Australia thrashed England who looked about as confused as a hat full of badgers trying to figure out NCEA. While I think that the tournament as a whole will lose a little in fan support with England’s departure, the Scotsman in me cannot help but retort “bwahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!”

This is the first time in a long time that I have watched a live rugby match in the morning at the pub. I have to say I enjoyed it. There was a diverse crowd and plenty of banter. Overall, people seemed to be supporting Australia which in itself is a semi-historic moment. People were drinking coffee, water and/or beer. There were pizzas and bacon butties flying out the tiny Malthouse kitchen.

Disclaimer time – I had never had a Malthouse bacon butty before. Shocking I know but it is important to remember that they were introduced during my Year of Pescetarianism and that I have always really liked the Ugly Bread. This time, I ordered a sarnie straight away and was surprised but not disappointed. The surprise was that the generous helping of good bacon [3] was encased in a crisp Panini. Given Colin the Handsome yet Softly Spoken Proprietor’s Glaswegian origins I was expecting the bacon to in be white bread at a minimum, deep fried in a pizza at the extreme. 

In any case, it was delicious and I plan to have another real soon. Malthouse will be showing All Blacks versus Tonga at 8am on Saturday (doors open at 7am), Scotland agin Samoa at 2:30am on Sunday and Australia playing Wales at 4:45am on Sunday. My initial instinct is to watch the ABs at Malty though the Scotland game is the one that I really want to see. Given I tend to watch Scottish Rugby matches with a Scottish independence draped flag over my head and providing loud and opinionated commentary on the refereeing, it may be safer for Malthouse’s licence if I watch it at home.  

In all honesty, I loved my first taste of morning rugby at Malthouse. I met some interesting people, revelled in the reactions of the crowd, could not lose in terms of results, ate bacon and, to be honest, there is something vaguely decadent about a beer in the morning. You just know it is annoying Doug Sellman and that in itself is worth the effort.

The next big beer event is the Hunt for Red October – a celebration of Red IPAs. It is a humongous thing with five Wellington craft beer bars launching five brand new red ales during the month of October. The bars involved are Malthouse, LBQ, Bebemos, Bin44, and Fork & Brewer. The brewers participating are Fork Brewing, Eagle Brewing, 8 Wired Brewing, Baylands and a Christchurch collaboration effort between Three Boys and the Beer Baroness. I think the always dapper Van the Bar Man might have stolen my beloved beer thesaurus when he described it as “five fabulous rufescent tinged weeks.” [4] 

Just like the movie Hunt for the Red October there is a twist here. [5] The various bars will have no idea which beer they are launching until the night. The next day, all the other bars get to put the beer on. Today, Malthouse is pouring the beer launched at our friends Bebemos last night. It is a collaboration brew between Three Boys and the Beer Baroness. Details are scant but we do know it is called Red Herring and is 5.2% salted Belgian Red Ale. Malthouse’s turn comes on 29 October 2015 with the launch of the mysterious final red ale. 

Speaking of mysteries, it is clear to all and sundry that Sean Connery, star of Hunt for the Red October, is indeed a sexy beast. The real mystery is how he keeps being cast as exotic foreigners in blockbuster films. I can only imagine Mr Connery’s responses to famous movie directors:

Director: “We want you play an English spy called James Bond.”
Connery: “I’m going to play him as a Scot.”

Director: “In the Untouchables, you will be an tough Irish cop.”
Connery: “I’m going to play him as a Scot.”

Director: “Your role in Highlander is an Egyptian sword master.”

Connery: “I’m going to play him as a Scot.”[6]

It seems the only time Connery is not a Scot is tax time, with him having moved to Spain and then the Bahamas in the Seventies. He is described as one of Britain’s top ten tax exiles. Although he can only spend a few days in the United Kingdom each year for tax reasons, he is probably the highest profile supporter of the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) and has vowed to return if (or when) Scotland becomes independent. 

Finally, as promised last week, here are three personal highlights from the New Zealand Beer Awards that had me applauding. Now, this list is based solely on my personal connections with the beers in question – it is not intended to be objective. That is what personal means. Here we go in no particular order:

Epic Armageddon IPA wins Gold – One of my most beloved beers of all time which, years ago, I spontaneously named at a beer tasting with the Impish Brewer. My royalty cheques must have been processed by Novopay… 

Kereru AT-AT Pilsner wins Gold – I helped design and brew this beer for last year’s Media Brew contest. I came up with the name [7] and threw in the secret Kiwi ingredient of Weet-Bix. When new (and deserved) Beer Writer of the Year Jono Galuszka was gloating that his media beer this year narrowly beat mine, I was able to say “I got my Gold Medal AT-AT Pilsner right here, baby!” [8]

Rocky Knob Snapperhead IPA wins Gold – This was my Number One Beer of the Year in 2014 and I coped a bit of stick about it – “you only like it because its super hoppy”, “you only like it because the name has two meanings” and “you only like it because it is named after your small rubber duck.” For the record, Rocky the duck is named after Rocky the beer, and the expert panel of judges in a blind tasting think it is a “world class” beer too. I love the smell of vindication in the morning.

Next time, we drink to Hilary Barry who did an outstanding job of hosting the 2015 Brewers Guild of New Zealand Beer Awards.

[1] I feel I owe Clarence some royalties for this sentence. If you have not seen thewonderful “It was a Bad Day” book by Malthouse regular Amy Shand then immediately click the link below then give her money for a copy. I have two (for extra bad days).

[2] It was only 8am because he took fifteen minutes to arrive and then spent half the journey complaining about how bad business was.

[3] Please note that I have judged the New Zealand Bacon and Ham Awards for so long they now serve craft beer at the after party.

[4] Well played sir. Well played.

[5] No, it is not that the Russian submarine captain is clearly Scottish and making absolutely no effort to hide the fact.

[6] The irony here being that Highlander’s lead character, Connor McLeod, was supposed to be Scottish but was played by French-American actor Christopher Lambert.

[7] The AT-AT is my absolute favourite Star Wars vehicle and I never got one as a child… Why do I keep bringing this up?

[8] Even if I lost that particular argument, I still returned to my palatial over ground lair in Thorndon and he had to go back and live in Palmerston North.

Neil Miller
Beer Writer
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