There is indeed a dark side to everything, as Mr Prince rightly pointed out. While I cannot confirm that the very famous beret was raspberry, [2] I can rattle off a whole horde of dark things in the world.

These would include – but are not limited to – international terrorism, smashed avocadoes, the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, the return of Boyzone, unsmashed avocadoes, the British and Irish Lions losing to the Blues of all teams, no new Steven Seagal films for months now, my printer refusing to turn off because it was out of paper, Nick Smith, any season of The Bachelor, and John Campbell still being a thing.

While that list alone would make most normal people curl up in despair, Malthouse has decided to embrace the darkness with the now annual Darkest Days festival, a tap showcase of the darker sides of beer. It runs from 23 June to 25 June 2017 – or until the beer runs out. Given the popularity of this event, I would recommend attending sooner rather than later if you like the dozen or so inky, crepuscular, and/or sinister beers on offer.

Here is the first half of the first half beer list and my comments (for what they are worth):

Renaissance Barrel Aged Stonecutter (7%) – I have described this beer as an “incredibly complicated Scotch Ale from a former New Zealand Champion Brewery. Pours Ruby Red, then the aromas and flavours intrigue and evolve in the glass. These include coffee, chocolate, whisky, leather armchairs, vanilla, oak, cigar ash and plum.” It was already one of the most intriguing beers in the country – and then they went and barrel aged it. It will take legions of beer geeks on Untappd months to figure out all the flavours in this unique brew. It will be worth it.

Emerson’s Southern Clam Stout (6%) – This beer is made with lots of local Blueskin clams from the legendary Southern Clams Company of Dunedin. It is a variation on the classic oyster stout style. The resulting brew is dark with notes of coffee, the ocean, chocolate, sea salt, cocoa and liquorice. I really like this beer – particularly with a pot of said clams. [3]

Moa Russian Imperial Stout (10.2%) – My previous tasting notes seem all the more topical given the surprisingly competitive British elections currently underway at the time of writing:

Aged in French Oak barrels and around 100 IBUs, it is time to acknowledge that Moa – objectively – make some very fine beers. This may well be the best of them. This is a beer that calls for blue cheese, leather armchairs and plotting to bring down the elected government. That is how I would best enjoy it, at least.” [4]

Tuatara XV Imperial Stout 2015 (11%) – Initially intended in 2015 as a one-off celebration beer to celebrate fifteen fine years of brewing for Tuatara, it keeps coming back. Rightly so. Aged and complex – just like me – it has notes of chocolate, figs, molasses, raisins, coffee, vanilla and kite surfing. This particular keg has spent the last year and a half cellaring in a dark corner of Malthouse’s keg room.

Garage Project Chateau Aro (11%) – It is fair to say this beer and even the concept of this beer terrifies me. Garage Project proudly defies the traditional and probably objectively misguided “grapes and grain do not mix ‘rule’” by producing yet another wine infused beer. This is the first vintage of this brew. The hirsute and charming brewers say Chateau Aro is:

“A dark rubescent [5] ale, conditioned on the freshly crushed juice and skins of pinot noir grapes, then aged in French Oak barrels, all from the award winning Escarpment Winery.”

On the subject of Garage Project, I want to offer my hearty congratulations to them for getting their fine Hapi Daze Pale Ale onto Singapore Airlines flights. As other airlines are narrowing their beer ranges, Singapore Airlines (after 18 months of work with GP) are now offering their customers on all flights within, to or from New Zealand a genuine craft beer which celebrates Aotearoa. It will be in a can. [6]

Next time, we drink to Lagunitas Brewing from California, USA. Patrick Mace and Ron Lindenbusch are currently touring the country promoting their ales. They have been to Malty twice already.

The bar just happens to be pouring three of their beers and, here is the kicker, they are being served in branded mason jars. Ever since I started watching Leroy Jethro Gibbs in NCIS [7] I have wanted to drink out of one of those jars. On Thursday, I got to achieve that goal while talking with Pat and Ron. [8] I guess I now can tick that one off the bucket list.

[1] This blog struggles with basic text formatting on some phones – did you really think we could do that crazy Prince symbol?

[2] I am colour blind. It may have been a beige beret to me.

[3] This happened once. And it ruled.

[4] I think Jeremy Corbyn would trump Donald Trump when it comes to nonsensical policies.

[5] Someone at GP has a sizeable thesaurus. Even I had to look this term up – turns out to mean to be blushing red. Well played linguistically Garage Project.

[6] I just want to see the reaction of the first First Class passenger who gets served a great beer in a can. I suspect it will be priceless.

[7] A great actor and aspirational role model for those of us with greying hair.

[8] Genuinely lovely guys who love the beer they make. Their products will be much more widely available in New Zealand from now.


Neil Miller

Beer Writer

Beer and Brewer Magazine

Cuisine Magazine

TheShout Magazine


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