Around Wellington, one of the most noted beer glitterati is Mr Maurice Bennett.  At any event with beer and media photographers present Maurice will be there – somewhere – mingling with a beer in hand and posing for the camera.  He always seems to have some new venture on the go – he owns the Island Bay New World supermarket, makes art out of burnt toast, manages a beer brand and ran the rather awesome F69 bar on the old frigate before someone towed it away and sank it in the harbour.

The beer range at Island Bay New World is extensive and reflects the effort and pride Maurice personally puts into it.  He recently told an industry publication that if he was banished to only one section of store then the beer section was the “easy” choice for him.

Maurice is legitimately famous for his toast art in which he uses carefully burnt pieces of toast to construct massive pictures.  He started with portraits – including one of legendary beer hunter Michael Jackson – but has recently moved onto more cultural, abstract works.  This has produced solo art exhibitions, invitations to open bread museums in Malaysia and appearances in FHM, Loaded and Time Magazines.  Not many Kiwis can claim that trifecta.

On his websites Maurice has been listed variously as the Toastman, the Toast Master, the T-Man and “New Zealand’s most renowned artist”.  That last claim may be somewhat contested by Goldie, Colin McCahon and perhaps the Right Honourable Helen Clark.

For beer drinkers of a less-artistic inclination however, Maurice is probably best known as the managing director of Island Bay Brewing.  This company commissions and distributes the Bennett’s range of beer which includes Wellington Lager, Four Seasons, Belgian Strong and Classic Black.   These are contract brewed though Maurice says has a strong input into their development.  That seems appropriate for a man who describes himself as a fan of “beer in all its forms.”

Most would agree that the best beer in the range is Bennett’s Classic Black (5%).  Certainly, beer judges seem to think so as it has picked up a number of medals at New Zealand beer awards over the years.  This is a dark lager which pours black with a fine, espresso head.  It throws a coffee nose while the flavours in the glass are sweet malt, burnt toast (appropriately enough) and just a touch of nuts.  Despite the colour, it has a very light mouthfeel and is clearly designed to be drunk.  Maurice agrees saying his focus is on drinkability and he doesn’t want beers where you “need a knife and fork to eat it.”

All beer lovers should have the dates 28 and 29 August firmly engraved in their diaries and PDAs (though this may void the warranty).  Beervana, New Zealand biggest beer event returns and this time will be held in the slightly more salubrious Town Hall.  There will be tastings from New Zealand’s best breweries and food and beer matching from the country’s top chef Martin Bosley and (at least according to Radio New Zealand) one of the country’s top beer writers, Neil Miller. 

In other beer news, a number of alpine-dwelling, hollow-horned ruminants of the genus Capra from the family Bovidae are reportedly set to migrate from Australia straight to the Malthouse shortly.  Less cryptic details will follow in later posts.


Beer Writer
Real Beer New Zealand
Beer and Brewer Magazine


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