The first test match at the Gabba basically made the decision for me. [1] This time, it is all about the beer. [2]

The now annual Malthouse’s Session Beer Session is a week-long celebration of flavoursome beers under 5%. This “avalanche showcasing the lighter side of beer life” will begin at 2pm on 13 November and run through to close of play on 22 November. Malthouse will be pouring sixteen session beers and I’ll provide a few comments on each of them now:

Coopers Pale Ale (4.5%) – Disclaimer: I really like this beer. It seems to get a bit of a rough deal from the On-Line Craft Beer Community but it is a tasty, unpasteurised quencher. At this risk of losing my coveted Beer Snob Badge, I prefer it as a drinking beer to the more acclaimed Cooper’s Sparkling Ale. Plus Dr Tim Cooper is just such a charming gentleman. [3]

Moa Temperance Pale Ale (3.3%) – Interesting note: When Ciaran the Bearded and Wise Bar Manager sent me through the list of session beers he misspelled Temperance so badly that my spellchecker was all like “what you talking about Willis?” I do not believe he is familiar with the concept.

To my mind, Moa are on a bit of a tear at the moment and making some great beers. This one is new to me but they had me at 40 International Bitterness Units (IBU). Hopped and dry hopped with Motueka and Nelson Sauvin, this one is top of my session beer bucket list.

Captain Cooker (4%) – This beer is as Kiwi as Pavlova, Phar Lap and Laughing at Quade Cooper. Brewed at the iconic Mussel Inn in Golden Bay, it uses freshly picked tips of the Manuka tree (the bottle version is stronger and uses dried Manuka). Based on James Cook’s original recipe but updated for modern palates, this beer sings joyfully with notes of ginger, Turkish delight, rose water and unicorns.

Hallertau Minimus Breakfast Ale (3.8%) Hallertau Maximus was created for the Malthouse IPA Challenge. Hallertau Minimus was created, legend has it, for breakfast but the brewer suggests you should wake up at lunch time. Bursting with Columbus, Amarillo and Nelson Sauvin hops, this was at the vanguard of hoppy session beers and deserves its fine reputation.

Rain Dogs Wee Bairn Bitter (3.8%) – Brewer Sean Harris notes that “Wee Bairn Bitter is named for my daughter Mila. It is brewed in the English tradition as a Session Bitter. Highly drinkable, a few pints can be enjoyed with friends whilst maintaining your wits! Wee Bairn is well balanced with toffee and toasted malt flavours married with a smooth bitterness. Citrus and fruity notes develop from late and dry hopping.”

To translate, Bairn is a traditional Scottish term for a child. Wee means small but is applied to objects of any size. My mother has often called me a “Wee Bairn” but almost never without beginning with the term “cheeky”.

Tuatara Copperhead Red Rye Ale (4.5%) – This is an autumnal rye ale with a surprising level of bitterness (36 IBUs). Rye is notoriously awkward to brew with but does impart a distinct spiciness to the beer. Copperhead has notes of caramel, spice and orange. It is an excellent beer despite the use of Bramling Cross hops, the Hamilton of Hops.

Renaissance Clipper (3.7%) – Renaissance describe this as an “India Session Ale”, basically a lower alcohol IPA. [4] Drinkers have reported notes of grapefruit, orange and pine needles in a highly drinkable brew. Renaissance have long specialised in bold, higher alcohol beers so their recent run of more moderate brews is an accurate reflection of the changing craft market in New Zealand.

Fiasco Unicorn Piss Pale Ale (4%) – If you do not laugh at this beer’s name and then run to the bar and order one, you officially have no soul. Fiasco is a relatively new Christchurch brewery and this is by far their most prominent beer. It is an American style Pale Ale with strong citrus and plenty of drinkability.

Invercargill Cumulonimbus Sour (3.1%) – Brewer Steve Nally is not a sour man. In fact, he is famous for his hugability. In a bold move, the Invercargill brewery “allowed him off the reservation” to make this innovative beer for 2015 Great Australian Beer Festival. Not much of this tart, quaffable brew was created so if you want to enjoy the fejoa sourness and all the lactobacillus goodness then you will have to be quick.

Tuatara Iti (3.3%) – Small but perfectly formed. This light American ale has quickly become a local favourite, particularly among those with cars and/or children.

8 Wired Hippy Berliner Cucumber (4.5%) – Hey, it’s a Berliner Weiss (one of my least favourite styles)! Hey, it’s got cucumber in it (one of my least favourite vegetables)! The good news is that I will not be getting in your way to order it. Hippy Cucumber just made the “Top Ten Beers I Think Were Brewed Mainly to Annoy Me” list. I expect it to sell exceptionally well.

Mussel Inn Golden Goose (4%) – A simple, easy drinking golden lager which delivers refreshment every time. I’ve been to the Mussel Inn exactly once in my life and it remains a beer highlight. However, I learned (in retrospect) that one should not drink only Whale Tail Pale Ale and Monkey Puzzle Belgian Strong Ale all afternoon. Should not have overlooked a Golden Goose or two…

Kereru Karengose (4%) – A salty seaweed wheat beer seems like a certainty for my “Brewed Mainly to Annoy Me” list but Karengose does not come close. Brewer Chris Mills has put a lot of thought into this beer which uses purple Kaikoura seaweed, but there is also a lot of history behind the style. I can’t figure out if I hate this beer or want to propose to it. So I keep going back…

Emerson’s Bookbinder (3.7%) – Why? Because Richard Freaking Emerson, that’s why! [5]

Valkryie Brynhild – A European Golden Ale with a unique mix of European malts, New Zealand hops and Hokey Pokey. Hokey Pokey would be one of the most unusual ingredients used in a beer until Kelly Ryan at Fork Brewing threw a box of Fru Ju ice lollies into the kettle and won the media brew title. [6] This beer is named after a famous Valkryie called (predictably) Brynhild. She apparently had quite magnificent hair and enjoyed beating up ice giants.

Next time, we drink to Star Wars. Because the Force is about to awaken…

[1] The former spin doctor in me cannot help but admire the sheer audacity of Australian captain Steve Smith who basically said in relation Mitchell Starc hurling the ball at a New Zealand tail ender – “Yes, he did it. Yes, it was wrong. Yes, he got a big fine. Yes, I’m going to tell him not to do it again. No, I don’t see any need at all for him to apologise for being a boof head – again.”

[2] Actual performance may vary.

[3] On the off chance I ever grow up, I’d like to be like him.

[4] The Renaissance website is selling Clipper for the remarkably specific price of $4.7504.

[5] It is actually a wonderful beer and probably the first modern session beer in New Zealand. In blind tastings, few people pick it is under 4% because of the depth of flavours.

[6] Beating my Weet-Bix Imperial Pilsner – not that I’m bitter. Did I mention the AT-AT Pilsner got a Gold Medal at the New Zealand Beer Awards?


Neil Miller

Beer Writer

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