Me – I would be more than happy to judge the universe and everything in it. The concept of going mean judge Simon Cowell on the galaxy has, I am ashamed to say, a certain appeal. That type of thinking is probably why I was not selected by the heavens to be the 14th Dalai Lama, regarded by many as one of the world’s greatest leaders even though he holds no formal office.

During my time working in Parliament I had the opportunity to meet – fleetingly – the Dalai Lama, Mr Dainzin Gyaco, when he visited. He met with then Prime Minister Helen Clark and now Prime Minister Bill English, but his visit was officially unofficial because of objections from the Chinese government. It was also the day that former Green leader Russel Norman was recorded yelling “give me my flag back” while protesting outside his own Parliament. [1]

I’ve seen Parliamentary staffers meet Presidents and Prime Ministers from all around globe, but none got the rock star attention the Dalai Lama did. MPs and staff lined the corridors just to shake his hand and receive a short blessing. It was amazing. The reincarnated Beatles could have walked past at that point in time and I doubt they would have got even a wave from the crowds. [2] He was amazing – a force of nature who does not condone the use of force.

Although I shook his hand, I failed to ask the Dalai Lama about his beer preferences. Given his religion, I suspect the answer would have been “none” which leads rather awkwardly into the topic of this blog – dark beer. The Darkest Days festival, a tap showcase of the darker sides of beer, runs at Malthouse from 23 June 2017 to 25 June 2017 – or until the beer runs out.

Here is the third and final instalment of the list of 20+ shadowy, crepuscular and rayless beers on tap for the event. Included are my comments (for what they are worth):

Fork Burton Ernie (6.3%) – This one was always designed to be on handpull and so it is. Kelly Ryan, known to millions as #brewjesus, has designed a Burton Ale for touring Lions fans but has trolled them by using Kiwi ingredients. [3] Mr Ryan writes:

“Burton Ales are all about malt character and finish quite sweet, and Burton Ernie is no exception. [4] A combination of Ale, Wheat, Dextrin and Caramel malts were combined with New Zealand Liberty hops and a liberal dosing of Gisborne grown Sweet Navel Orange zest, in an attempt to emulate English hop character and also as a nod to an old Burton recipe that references orange peel!”

Flavour: Toasty malt profile with hints of roasted nuts, dark caramel and resinous, caramelised orange zest. Finishes with violet-like floral esters and an interplay of malt sweetness and palate dryness to balance and boost drinkability.

Aroma: Just-burnt sugar combines with pear-like esters, citrus and hop resin, and soft caramel. Subtle herbal zing to the hoppy notes.”

Epic Wheat Stout The Impish Brewer puts aside some of his beloved hops and substitutes dark roasted malts and a little wheat. His Coffee and Fig Stout is highly regarded so this new brew should be very interesting! This is a blog which prides itself on research and insight, so I texted Luke Nicholas for details of this beer. He replied (and I quote) “it’s a wheat stout”. [5] So then – it is official.

Lord Almighty Ursus Stout (12%) – A beer that claims to be part of a “batch of stout so strong it could blow even the grizzliest bear out of your beard.” [6] It has notes of plum pudding, raisins, chocolate and (if RateBeer is to be trusted) “booze”. Beware the bear!

Good George Schwarz A dark lager from the rapidly growing Good George team in Hamilton. Done well, a Schwarzbier has the depth of rich dark malts and the lightness and easy drinkability of a lager.

McLeod’s Black Watch (11%) – I already like this beer. McLeod’s is a fine brewery, it is my mother’s clan and the Black Watch battalion is hardcore. The beer itself is aged in oak with notes of caramel, sweet bourbon goodness, coffee and, some argue, crispy bacon.

Three Boys Regular & Imperial Oyster Stout (6.2% & 12%) – If the rumours are true this rarely seen Imperial Oyster Stout from Dr Ralph Bungard and the team at Three Boys. I have previously described the non-imperial version in these terms:

“An inky dark brew and even on a sunny day the light struggles to make it all the way through the liquid. The key aromas and flavours are chocolate, coffee, burnt Vogel’s toast crust and dark plums. Oyster Stout is not a gimmicky name – real Bluff Oysters are used in the brewing process though the meat is removed after the boil. Some people can taste a slight saltiness from the famous molluscs but the oysters’ main effect is to highlight the sweet chocolate and roast coffee flavours.”

Both will be served side by side

8 Wired Cosmic Chaos (7.5%) – A soured Black IPA brewed specifically for this year’s GABS Auckland comes with notes of chocolate, caramel, lime peel, granny smith apples and just a whiff of barnyard. It was a big hit at GABS in Australia.

Kereru Night Spirit Stout (12%) – A rare foray into barrel aging from Chris Mills and the Kereru crew. They procured four bourbon barrels from the New Zealand Whisky Company and aged a strong stout in them for ten months. The resulting beer has notes of chocolate, citrus, nuttiness, vanilla and peat. This is the only keg. Just saying…

Black Dog Brewtus (5.9%) – Brewtus is a coffee stout made by Black Dog and Ozone Coffee. I think Black Dog is making some amazing beers at the moment and they are winning so many awards which suggests it is not just me. This smooth silky stout is brewed with hefty bag of crushed coffee beans and plenty of Cascade hops. It is a tasty mix of black coffee and orange marmalade. This will also be served on the Nitro Tap, so you can expect that thick creamy body of a very famous, almost overrated Irish stout

Next time, we drink to Scotland beating Australia at rugby. Because I just love typing that sentence.

[1] It seems the Dalai Lama was not being pro-Tibet enough for Mr Russell’s liking. 

[2] Russel Norman would probably protest the Beatles because of a lack of Tory Government funding for the Liverpool Speckled Pond Fish Fund… or something similar.

[3] Disclaimer – I am Lions fan.

[4] Yes, it is an obvious Muppet reference.

[5] Mr Nicholas clearly does not go to the same tasting notes school as Mr Ryan.

[6] Ursus is Latin for bear. Also, apologies to craft drinkers who do not have beards.


Neil Miller

Beer Writer

Beer and Brewer Magazine

Cuisine Magazine

TheShout Magazine


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