Clearly as this is the “Malthouse Blog” the focus of this post will be on June-iper and Darkest Days, no matter how much I really wanted to talk about American oceans, Canadian cycling and/or British smiles for 1,000 words or so. [3]

The focus of June-iper is the pipewrench – a delicious combination of craft beer and boutique gin. It is fair to say I was a sceptic. It is equally fair to say I was wrong. I have not had one since Monday. Each week, the creative types behind the Malthouse bar put together a combination designed to challenge, but delight, your preconceptions and your tastebuds.

This one is off the charts. It is Monkey 47 Sloe Gin (a peppery, tangy, complex gin made by macerating Black Forest sloes in spirits) and Lord Almighty Ursus Imperial Stout (12%) (a huge and flavourful stout, rich with chocolate and liquorice characters). The creators of this beer and gin combination describe it as “deconstructed Black Forest gateaux” and a “lovely guilty little pleasure, all care of June-iper.”

Darkest Days has been a tremendous success so far with over twenty crepuscular beers on offer (the list is below). Wellington’s stormy weather and occasional earthquake has probably heightened people’s desire for a warming decadent drop. While dark beers are not exactly my favourite, the last time I drank a porter was Tuesday and it was a really rather special one.

The beer in question was Emerson’s London Porter and it was used for the mass (200+ people) toast to the opening of the new Emerson’s Brewery in Dunedin. It is a magnificent structure – a huge brewery, gorgeous design and an impressive tasting room/bar. London Porter was the first commercial beer Richard Emerson, the Chuck Norris of Kiwi Brewing, ever made and it is still part of his core range more than two decades later.

Guests only got to sip this chocolaty, velvet libation after the speeches [4], some bagpipes, unveiling of the plaque (which looks totally serious until you get up close and read it – hilarious), cutting of the ribbon, more bagpipes, a full haggis ceremony [5], more bagpipes, and then, finally, the toast. There were some nay-sayers about the Lion purchase four years ago but this magnificently new brewery, 100% run by Richard Emerson and Chris O’Leary proves them all wrong. In unrelated news, the Panhead crew were at the launch.

Sipping that Emerson’s London Porter made me realise that previous Darkest Blogs had tended to focus on stouts rather than porters, even though porters were totally there first. I decided to dip into an enjoyable 1994 beer book called “Beer and Britannia: An inebriated history of Britain” by Peter Haydon. As befits its importance in British (and global) beer history, porter has a whole chapter. Here are some of the best quotes:

“The pro-gin measures adopted by William III had a profound effect upon beer-drinking habits. One response by drinkers was to match their taste to their pockets. The fashion was to mix beer from each of the two strengths brewed by the town brewers, with a third measure of pale beer brewed by the country brewers. The price of the strongest beer was diluted, while the strength of the weakest beer was fortified. The result was popularly called ‘three threads’.”

“Unlike today’s bar staff who have the benefit of beer engines to raise the beer, the pot boys of the eighteenth century found the taste for three threads effectively tripled their carrying duties. In addition, producing a blend from three separate barrels trebled the possibility of an inconsistent product, making it hard to satisfy permanently and so keep custom.”

“What was needed was a beer that had all the characteristics of three threads in one brew. It would simplify the cellar… It was in 1722 that Ralph Harwood of the Bell Brewery, Shoreditch, perfected a recipe for three threads, which was first served up at the Blue Last public house. Later that same year a malt was produced allowing anyone to brew the popular drink which now went under the name of ‘mild beer’ or ‘entire’. The name ‘porter’ did not catch on until the 1740s as a result of the favour it found with London’s market porters.”

Gin found some revenge on porter with a second revival prompted by lower prices due to the use of some very dubious adulteration additives. Sadly, several porter brewers tried to match said practice with Haydon noted that some porters historically included “India Berry (a highly poisonous plant related to Deadly Nightshade and used in India to stupefy fish), tobacco, Grains of Paradise, chillies, caramel, coriander seeds, quassia, sulphuric acid, salt, extract of aloes, liquorice and sulphate of iron.”

From a modern perspective, it is interesting to note that chilli, caramel and liquorice have been re-embraced by dark beer brewers, while coriander seed is a common ingredient in wheat beer and some spiced ales. Sulphuric acid remains justifiably unpopular. Haydon also briefly describes the death of eight people when a massive (but by no means the largest) porter brewing vessel burst. However, Pete Brown tells said story so much better so, if readers behave, what has become known as “The Porter Story” may be in the next blog.

Here is the full list of Darkest Days beers but check the Malthouse website or Craft Beer Capital website to find out what is on tap any given day: [6]

Baylands Brewery & Brewing Supplies Knight Ryder (5.8%) – Aged Cocoa Stout

Funk Estate Super Afro-Disiac 2016 (8%) – Imperial Aphrodisiac Stout

Garage Project Cabbage and Kings 2015 (12%) – Imperial Oyster and Horopito Stout

Hop Federation 2014 (7%) – Barrel Aged Stout

ParrotDog/Two Birds Brewing Collaboration 2014 (9%) – American Stout

Renaissance Tribute 2013 (10.7%) – Barley Wine

Fork Brewing Skywalker (9%) – Oaked Imperial Stout (poured from American Oak Barrel)

Fork Brewing Parallel Importer (4.9%) – Porter

Fork Brewing Divine Brown (5.3%) – Mocha Brown Ale (served on nitro)

North End Brewing Iron Sands (6%) – Oatmeal Rye Stout (served on hand pull)

Liberty Brewing Company Darkest Days (6%) – Oatmeal Stout (served on hand pull)

Renaissance/Liberty/Fork Brewing Rangipur 2015 (9%) – Hoppy Stout

Lord Almighty Ursus Stout (12%) – Imperial Stout

 On Saturday night Malthouse will be showing the All Blacks “versus” Wales [7] rugby on every screen. Despite the inexplicable dropping of Ardie Savea, the ABs should seal the series with a decisive win which should be celebrated with craft beer (and boutique gin).

Next time, we drink to the Brexit Referendum – the biggest political mess of the year, a title it will hold until the American Presidential elections in November.

[1] Please insert your own Austin Powers joke here.

[2] Good luck with that you crazy moose-kissing, Shatner-producing, Bieber-denying, poutine-munching Canucks!

[3] Correct answer is: “Not a lot thank you”.

[4] Chris O’Leary in a kilt, Richard Emerson wearing a bow tie, a senior Lion guy saying great things and, the star of the show, Richard’s mum telling stories about a young Mr Emerson.

[5] This guy was good – I mean, Stu McKinlay good.

[6] Hint: Don’t get between me and the Liberty C!tra IIPA (9%) for I will trample you.

[7] “Versus” is in quotation marks because the term implies some level of contest.


Neil Miller

Beer Writer

Beer and Brewer Magazine

Cuisine Magazine

TheShout Magazine


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