There is no doubt by my calculations that the days are darker now. Those calculations are based on looking out the window. It is dark when I get up and dark when I finish work. Given the recent spate of bad weather it has sometimes appeared to be dark during lunchtime.

Rather than curse the darkness (as the old saying and third album from California rock band Viva Death suggest), Malthouse has decided to embrace it with the now annual Darkest Days – A showcase of the dark side of beer. [1] It is a celebration of inky, sinister and crepuscular beers, including stouts, porters and other styles of dark beer. Originally intended as a one-off during a cold winter, over recent years Darkest Days has proved a popular addition to the Wellington beer calendar.

Darkest Days has just started on 22 June 2018 (today), and some beers may run out as there are a number of limited editions, while a few may survive a little longer but I would not bet on it.

Now, it is no secret that I am a hoppy, pale ale guy. That said, I do drink dark beers from time to time, particularly with food, when the weather is super cold, at the end of a long night, or when I don’t read the bottle label properly before buying it. [2] However, I do appreciate a well made dark beer and the beer goblins at Malthouse have assembled a tremendous list for Darkest Days 2018.

Here are the darkest beers of the day:

Bagby Zombie Gate – A big Imperial Stout from California. The brewery is new to me but they mention zombies so they must be cool.

Galbraith’s Rurik – In contrast, I’m very familiar with this brewery and their work over many years. This is their highly regarded Russian Imperial Stout.

Lord Almighty Ursus – This Imperial Stout is very strong and delivers a malty punch. Lord Almighty!

Renaissance Barrel Aged Stonecutter – Stonecutter is one of my favourite dark ales. The standard version is so complex and intricate, but barrel-aging adds further levels of flavour and intrigue.

Renaissance Craftsman – Malthouse has hosted the annual launch of this beer several times. It embodies chocolate, cocoa and oatmeal – all of which are in the silky brew.

Behemoth Good Morning Vietnam – Inspired by a trip to Vietnam, brewer Andrew Childs describes this beer as “pretty much Vietnamese coffee in beer form! Using 10 different malts and a lot of coffee.” [3]

Hallertau Nocturne – Seriously dark double stout which is malty but boasts plenty of hops.

Epic Coffee and Fig Stout 2013 – Brewed simply so that I can never be accused of liking ever Epic beer in the range. Well, that is my theory anyway. It is made with caramelized Turkish Figs, Wet Process Ethiopian Sidamo Coffee Beans, and Toasted Philippine Coconut.

Choice Bros Coconut – A dark ale with coconut in it. Well, I hardly added to the sum of human knowledge there.

Sawmill Chocolate Stout – This is a chocolately stout from the rapidly expanding Sawmill Brewery. We are seeing a lot more of their beers around Wellington since the new brew plant opened.

Fortune Favours Liquid Bread Doppelbock – A classic name for a classic German style. Brewed close to Malthouse, it is a sustaining drop.

Fork Lactodectrus – The latest offering from the brilliant mind of #brewjesus Kelly Ryan at Fork Brewing. From the name it is likely to be a form of milk stout which he has undoubtedly done something odd to. It will be served on nitro.

Whistling Sisters Stout – Another beer made close to Malthouse, this one has chocolate and oatmeal added. Compared to many of the other offerings, the alcohol is modest at 4.4% but the flavour is intense.

Three Boys Imperial Oyster Stout – Three Boys are a fantastic brewery and long been renowned for their Oyster Stout (made with bluff oysters no less). This is a strong, aged version of their standard velvety stout but is surprisingly drinkable.

Liberty Matakana Oyster Stout – Speaking of oyster stouts, this was brewed using  oysters collected on the auspicious occasion of a solar eclipse on a king tide. That is not a beer description you read very often. [4]

Mikes Double Shot VCP – Not just a coffee stout but a double shot coffee stout from the espressoholics in Urenui. VCP will be served on nitro.

North End Rhum Visitation – From the coast comes a Belgian Quadrupel ale – a big style of beer just on its own – which has been aged in rum barrels. Shiver me timbers!

Beer Baroness Barrel Aged Prickly Wilson Scotch Ale – A deep Scotch Ale brewed with Workshop Whiskeys Single Malt Manuka Smoked Whisky. [5] Wilson was then aged in whiskey barrels for three months,

Baylands Van De Tsar – A highly regarded and highly awarded Russian Imperial Stout. The brewery describes it as “Tia Maria in a glass”. Tsar is aged on vanilla pods which bring in new flavours.

Panhead 2015 Bourbon Stout – This massive oaked imperial stout has been “laid down in bourbon barrels”. That seems quite appropriate for New Zealand’s most bogan brewery! [6]

Garage Project Snug – A dry but warming Irish Stout from the mad scientists of the New Zealand brewing scene. Strangely, their version does not contain kale, potatoes or coddle.

McLeod’s Billycan Barrel Aged Milk Stout – Milk stouts were hugely unfashionable until making a recent comeback in craft brewing. This one is smooth, surprisingly strong, and has been barrel aged. This is not your parents’ milk stout.

Next time we drink to support in the darkest days. It means a lot. Lighter days are to come.

[1] If only they knew the power of the dark side… oh wait… they do.

[2] This actually happened at Malthouse. Luckily the bottle was only $45. Basically, I saw the brewery name and jumped to what turned out to be the unwarranted assumption it was an IPA when it was really an Imperial Stout.

[3] One can only imagine how much Andrew Childs “The Beer Giraffe” stood out in Vietnam.

[4] This is certainly the first time I have read it.

[5] Phew. I was worried it would contain Wilson’s Whisky – the budget whisky of my university days. That was some seriously rough liquor.

[6] Now I’m not welcome in Upper Hutt again.


Neil Miller

Beer Writer

Cuisine Magazine

TheShout Magazine

DrinksBiz Magazine


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