I see red, I see red, I see red: Hunt for the Red October

It is fair to say that I have a complicated relationship with the colour red – not least because, as an extremely colour blind gentleman, I often mix it up with green and brown. This is one of the many reasons I am a terrible at snooker. [1] It also explains, but does not excuse, some of my more questionable fashion decisions.

From the Beer Vaults: Attempt to clear my desk – ends poorly

I am currently in week two of tidying my home office. If you don’t recall ever having read those words from me before, you are probably right. It has been an awfully long time. While by no means finished, this “winter clean” has made a noted improvement to my working environment, generated significant extra traffic for my apartment’s rubbish bins, and brought up a few memories.

Yeastie Boys: “In which I talk about Stu’s pants – again”

 My professional and personal study of beer over many years has generated a number of themes which reappear periodically in my writing and presentations. Most obviously there is my exuberant almost terrifying love of hoppy beer and my matching scornful disdain for fruit beer. Do not even get me started on sour fruit beers...

The literal road to Beervana is Customhouse Quay (for motor vehicles) or the Wellington stadium concourse (by foot). [1] However, the Malthouse Blog literally does not do literal things well so I am going to take a different approach to today's topic.

In my debating days, it would be called looking at the "broader societal context". The use of this phrase usually meant that the first speaker of a team had absolutely no idea what their third speaker would be saying when introducing them at the start of a debate.

I may have been involved in the creation of this phenomenon. I've done entire tournaments officially speaking about the "broader societal context" in every single debate no matter what the topic was. I didn't know what "broader societal context" meant then, and I still don't today. However, it does usefully seem to cover pretty much everything imaginable.  

Using that lens, the Road to Beervana is not actually a road but a journey. To be precise, a week long epic journey of beer-related events culminating in New Zealand's premier beer festival at the Wellington Stadium on 12 and 13 August.

There are over 50 Road to Beervana events between 7 August and 14 August featuring (and this is just a selection) beer, cheese, dumplings, beer, cocktails, bacon, British beer, bright pants, Australian beer, cured meats and karaoke.

The Road to Beervana is not entirely limited to Wellington. Christchurch will host several events for those unable (or unwilling) to leave the Mainland and emigrate to the North even for a few days. These events will be held at venues such as Pomeroys, Volstead Trading Company and The Laboratory (a very fine bar quite near to Lincoln "University"). [2]

Predictably, Malthouse will be running a number of attractions during Road to Beervana week (known as RTB to its friends and/or people who don't like typing much). Here is the full run down:

Monday - Sunday: 8 Wired Hopinator Take Over

The Malthouse Hopinator – also known as the Modus Hopperandus – is the Doctor Who looking device at the end of the bar which can infuse pretty much any flavour into a beer as it pours – from coffee to citrus fruit to spice to hops. [3] For this week, it will only be pouring 8 Wired beers and the Malty staff will be picking the ingredients which go into the Hopinator each day – whatever is fresh, whatever is exciting, whatever crazy combination comes to mind. [4]

Monday – Sunday: Garage Project Fridge Take Over

It is kind of like a Tap Take Over except in happens with bottles in the fridges rather than taps at the bar. For the record, Malthouse has some very sexy fridges [5] and they will be dedicating one solely to Garage Project for the entire week. This decision was based on Garage Project having a "reasonably wide" range of beers to populate said fridge. Malthouse went a bit conservative and only got just over 30 different GP beers. Try to catch them all! [6] 

Wednesday - Australian Beer Showcase with Nanny's Food Truck

When I first went to Australia on an official beer writing trip it became clear that New Zealand was well ahead of our Trans-Tasman cousins in terms of craft beer. We had more breweries, more craft beer bars, less totally tied bars [7], and, frankly, better beer overall. Now, seven years later, the Ozzies are catching up fast.

For example, off memory, Western Australia has moved from two craft breweries then to over thirty now. Feral Hop Hog is the Australian equivalent of Russian River Pliny the Elder (US) or Epic Hop Zombie (NZ) – beers I will never tire of drinking and would take to a desert island with me. [8]

Nanny's Food Truck will be parked outside [9] serving high quality American style street food – think burgers and sandwiches and more – which you can eat in Malthouse. The bar will be pouring a number of quality Aussie brews including beers from:  

  • Pirate Life (a first for New Zealand)
  • Holgate
  • Coopers (the launch of their IPA series)
  • Bridge Road
  • Stone and Wood (old and dear friends of Malthouse – did they settle their tab?)

Friday - Firkin Friday

It is time to take the pressure down and go a little old school. Firkins are traditional casks used to present cask-conditioned ales. Malthouse will be serving ales from Townshends (brewer is so English) and North End (brewer so should be English but was mistakenly born here) in well proper British style. 

Saturday – Epic

Epic will launch their White IPA on Saturday, providing their take on this somewhat controversial new style. There will also be an Epic mini-tap takeover, gin and tonic on tap, and probably an Impish Brewer running the music system (no matter what the diligent Malthouse staff plans).

And after all that, there is Beervana. There will be more about the Road to Beervana next week (featuring chocolate bacon) and more about Beervana the week after that. Wait, did I just plan more than one week ahead for this blog?

Today's blog title was provided by the great Willie Nelson. I suspect he may claim it as community service against all those pesky drug and tax convictions.

Next time, we drink to the Wellington Waterfront – even in the wind and the rain you can be wonderful.


[1] The concourse, which is always longer than you think, is officially the "Fran Wilde Walkway", which is ironic because she probably never walked it – especially not in the sideways rain Wellington is producing this week.

[2] It is, and always will be, been an Agricultural College.

[3] But hardly ever hops, mainly just to enrage me.

[4] In terms of crazy ideas, nothing will top the (true story) customer suggestion of putting raw bacon in the Hopinator... except maybe adding that recently unfrozen dead reindeer which unleashed anthrax in Russia – that would be a worse idea.

[5] Stupid Sexy Fridges.

[6] Malthouse does not do Pokemon – that is more a Taranaki Street kind of deal.

[7] Fewer.

[8] I would not need to take many desert island beers because I have such poor outdoor survival skills I'd be dead in days, if not hours.

[9] If the Parking Wardens stick to the deal.



Neil Miller

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I love hops like the desert loves the rain, as much as Winston Peters loves himself and nearly as strongly as drug-fuelled Russian Olympic athletes love the geo-political intimidation power of Vladimir Putin used to keep them all in the Rio Games. [1]

After weeks of teasing about the 9th Annual Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge, [2] it is business time. Yep, finally I am able to announce the record 25 contestants in the hugely popular Malty annual celebration of Lupulus Humulus (hops) and the Pacific Northwest mindset (West Coast).

This Friday (29 July 2016), Malthouse will be launching 25 specially created beers designed to invoke the hoppy pale ales from the very perky West Coast of the USA [3]. My obscenely expensive Rumour-a-Tron 5000 app predicts there will be no less than 18 brewers in Malthouse on Friday – yep, it is officially time to put the serious trousers on.

Actually, that last paragraph is not entirely accurate, even by my standards. For the first time ever, the Challenge this year will be co-hosted by Malthouse's sister bar - the Fork & Brewer. [4] Like a proper journalist, I will simply quote from a press release without question – mainly because the press release is from Colin the Handsome yet Softly Spoken Scottish Proprietor and he has control of my bar tab:

"Colin Mallon, Malthouse Operations Guy and WCIPAC organiser, says this year's 9th Annual West Coast IPA Challenge (WCIPAC) will expand its festivities to Malthouse’s sister bar, Fork & Brewer on Bond Street, due to increasingly large crowds turning up to see who will win Best West Coast IPA and take home the Golden Gumboots...

'We were turning people away at the last few WCIPACs, so it made sense to release some of that pressure this year by making Fork & Brewer a co-host,' he says.

Colin says Fork & Brewer was the natural venue choice to expand the event, not only as it is Malthouse's sister bar, but because it is the only place that had enough taps to accommodate the 25 beers that will be showcased on the evening. Punters at Fork & Brewer need not fear for missing out on any of the beers, celebrations or announcements - all WCIPAC beers will be pouring on tap and announcements made at the same time as at Malthouse." [5]

Colin modestly omits that he invented the West Coast IPA challenge nine years ago after listening to Luke Nicolas (Epic – The Imp) and Steven Plowman (Hallertau – the Naked Epicurean) argue about who could make the best West Coast style ale. Colin noted this, and then made it so. The first Challenge had two competitors – this one has over two dozen.

Obviously, I cannot produce tasting notes for the Challenge beers because I have not tried any of them. As a judge, it would be unethical to do so before the blind tasting at 9:30am on Friday. [6]

However, here are the breweries, the beer names [7] and the ABVs. The exact style is withheld from the judges so they cannot identify who, for example made the only dark IPA or sour IPA this year. I have added comments because this is my blog. Let's get ready to get hoppy:

Rocky Knob Rock Lobster IPA (Mount Maunganui) 7% (I may have helped name this after seeing Elijah Wood do karaoke opposite Malthouse and/or a Family Guy sketch).

Behemoth Alley Way IPA (Auckland) 6.9% (This is a very in-joke – if you do know, don't tell).

Epic Thor (Auckland) 8.8% (The Impish Brewer’s homage to a demi-god with a big hammer and long, luxurious and, frankly, sexy hair – namely, himself).

Fork Brewing Bouq (Wellington) 6.5% (Dear #brewjesus – if this is a sour IPA there will be... trouble).

Moa Perris Sky Juice (Blenheim) 7.2% (I do want to touch the sky...)

Choice Bros I'm Afraid of Americans (Wellington) 6.5% (Most Americans are lovely – apart from Donald Trump and Michael Moore, clearly).

Townshend Arm Bar (Nelson) 7% (Bonus points to Martin Townshend for a wrestling reference).

8 Wired Russelmania (Auckland) 6.3% (Apparently not named after Russell Crowe, Kurt Russell nor Russell Barbour, my 76th favourite Canadian. However, another bonus point for a pro-wrestling call back).

Kereru Yellowhead IPA (Wellington) 4.5% (A bold move with lower alcohol).

Tuatara Centennial Highway IPA (Wellington) 8% (Named after the road that links Tawa with other minor suburbs such as Porirua, Johnsonville and Te Aro).

Bach Brewing Smugglers Cut (Auckland) 9.4% (9.4% and makes me think of Han Solo from Star Wars? Just shut up and take my money).

Weezeldog Hop Crush (Auckland) 6.7% (Well, I do have a crush on hops. On Radio New Zealand yesterday I described hops as the nearest thing to fruit that I eat).

Yeastie Boys What'cha Want (Invercargill) 6.66% (I swear this was not planned – I wrote a blog recently about the Yeastie Boys and the Beastie Boys. The name of this beer is a 1992 Beastie Boys song title from the album "Check Your Head").

North End Brewing Devil's Elbow (Wellington) 8% (I am presuming this is another wrestling move and/or whippet training manoeuvre).

Hop Federation West Coast IPA (Nelson) 7.5% (I guess the marketing department were home sick when it came to naming this beer – but I really like the beer that Hop Federation makes).

ParrotDog Wood Rose (Wellington) 7% ("Every wood rose has its thorns, just like every day has its dawn").

Good George Fogcutter IIPA (Hamilton) 9% (Definition of a Fogcutter – one of the many pieces of military grade hardware needed to get out of Hamilton).

Liberty Brewing The Nine (Auckland) 6.4% (I am presuming nine types of hops were used here... either that or Jo Wood cut off a finger while brewing and now cannot count to ten...)

Hallertau Liquid Swords IPA (Auckland) 7% (Almost certainly the dodgiest name in WCIPA history, but the brewery is a multiple time Challenge winner).

Baylands Gnarly Ryde Dude IPA (Wellington) 6.2% (My beer radar senses – but is not sure – that there is some rye in this IPA).

Panhead Yank Tank (Wellington) 7% (Yank Tanks are the best tanks, apart from the German Panther – that was the classic tank).

Renaissance Pako! (Blenheim) 8.2% (Points on if this is a cultural reference. Points off if this is any way related to Pokemon Go).

Emerson's Explosive IPA (Dunedin) 7.5% (Richard Emerson, the Chuck Norris of Kiwi Brewing, is about to blow stuff up. There are rumours he may be in the bar to see it...)

Garage Project Party & Bullshit (Wellington) 6.7% (Any other brewery you would laugh at the name. With Garage Project, you cannot help wonder if the label describes the actual ingredients...)

Black Dog Double Hoppy (Wellington) 7% (The name is straight to the point and reminds us the small explosives – sorry, fireworks – which wrecked havoc on generations of young Kiwis).


Judging for the WCIPA starts at 9:30am on Friday. For any queries, please ring me on my cell – I obviously won't answer until Monday because the Challenge is the reason for the season. 

Next time, we drink to (both) the alert eyed readers who pointed out that I mistakenly wrote in a recent blog that David Lange was Prime Minister in 1995 when in fact it was Jim Bolger. This mistake is deeply embarrassing because 1) I am a trained political scientist 2) I am a trained historian and 3) I actually worked for Jim Bolger. Mea Culpa.


[1] Rio will be the last Olympic Games to be taken seriously. Calling it early.

[2] As featured on Radio New Zealand yesterday.

[3] Not Westport or Greymouth.

[4] Disclaimer: I write the Malthouse blog for money and own 5% of the Fork & Brewer. Ah, disclaiming obviously public information is so worthwhile.

[5] Unless the live streaming is run by me, or, worse Windows 10.

[6] For the record, I have turned down three WCIPA beer samples this week in a rare display of professionalism.

[7] Final names are still changing – however, as breweries can only enter one beer you should be able to track them down.



Neil Miller

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Ah, "The Final Countdown" – an iconic 80s hair metal power ballad filled with tight-trousered wailing, soaring synthesisers and barely a real instrument in evidence. [1]

This song, by Swedish band Europe, reached number one in 25 countries, but only as high as number 12 in New Zealand – we were clearly too busy revelling in our other 1985 number one hits such as "Sailing Away" (that terrible America's Cup song), "Living Doll" (the terrible concept of teaming up Cliff Richard with the Young Ones) and "I Wanna Be A Cowboy" (just terrible).

"The Final Countdown" is also a song I will forever associate with disappointment and loss. Don't get me wrong, I am not a 80s music hater. In fact, it would be one of my favourite musical decades right alongside the 90s and I have the record collection to more than prove that. The reason for my angst about this particular song is much more serious – rugby.

See, the year was now 1995 – the World Trade Organisation was established, the Internet became a thing, OJ Simpson went on trial, Mississippi recognised the abolition of slavery [2], Jacques Chirac and John Howard were both elected, New Zealand won the America's Cup despite that song [3], eBay launched, David Lange was Kiwi Prime Minister and France got struck by a wave of strikes about the price of croissants, berets and stripy shirts (or something equally stupid). 

It was also the year for the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa - the Rugby World Cup New Zealand could not possibly lose. We had Merhtens, Lomu, Kronfeld, Lomu, Wilson, Lomu, Fitzpatrick, Lomu and Zinzan Brooke with his fifty metre drop goal. The All Blacks beat Japan 145-17 [4], soundly defeated Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England, Jonah turned the otherwise worthy English fullback Mike Catt into his personal doormat, and then only had to beat the Springboks in the final.

All of this was done to a virtually non-stop soundtrack of "The Final Countdown". It was New Zealand's official and unofficial anthem for that World Cup – reflecting the inevitability of our glorious triumph. The All Blacks were the best team in the world playing a brand of power running rugby that all the other "kick and chase and hope" teams could never hope to match.

When the final came, things turned ugly (for us). There were rumours that the All Blacks had their food poisoned by a mysterious waitress name "Susie" [5], South African fans of all races united behind the Springboks, the Boks figured out how to tackle Jonah Lomu ("put five guys on him and don't let go until he falls over"), Nelson Mandela was a national talisman and Joel Stransky kicked the highest pressure drop goal in history.

The Springboks won 15-12 in extra time of a game which featured no tries and many tears (mainly from me). Despite the years, the pain never really went away. In fact, it got worse with the film Invictus in 2009 which unfortunately stuck to the facts and ends with the plucky Springboks triumphing over the All Blacks.

Even in New Zealand there was no alternative ending option on the DVD where we win. Invictus went on to critical and commercial success, but not so much here. Morgan Freeman was great as Nelson Mandela (as he is in every role), but some were baffled and others outraged at the casting of short American Matt Damon [6] as the tall South African rugby captain Francois Pineaar. 

That heartbreaking loss is why "The Final Countdown" song will always make me a little bit of a sad panda. However, when Ciaran, the balletic, barometric and Bayesian Malthouse unit manager says "it's the final countdown to the West Coast IPA Challenge", I cannot help but get extremely excited. The 9th Annual Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge will be starting at 2pm on Friday 29 July 2016. It features a huge (did someone say 25? If so, they were spot on) variety of West Coast India Pale Ales created by brewers around the country especially for this event.

As a taster for next week's blog, which will contain more details of the entrants, here are just some of the beer names – Russelmania, [7] The Nine, Party & Bullshit, Smugglers Cut and Thor. I'm Thor just typing those names, far less drinking them, and there are twenty more to go. Until then, Malthouse has a few hoppy numbers to help punters warm up for the Challenge:

Behemoth Hop Frolic, IPA (6.5%) – A relatively recent release from my friend, Andrew "The Beer Giraffe" Childs, which features Nelson Sauvin and Simcoe hops over pale malt and, unusually, rye. The result is a reddish, fruity and bitter drop.  

Epic Armageddon IPA (6.66%) – Love it. 

Epic Hop Zombie IIPA (8.5%) – Love everything about it. Get between me and this beer and you risk being trampled. I can be surprisingly fast when this many hops are on the line.

Garage Project Hapi Daze (4.2%) - A sessionable caramel hoppy blonde ale with an emphasis on balance and drinkability.

Garage Project Fugazi (2%) – This is a low alcohol beer which smells and tastes a lot bigger. No fugazi! [8]

ParrotDog Flora Rata (7.7%) – This is the new brand for the old and much beloved ParrotDog Bloody Dingo. It a robust Australian Red Ale with lashings of US hops over a solid caramel malt infrastructure.

In the Hopinator this week is 8Wired Hippy Berliner (4%) (the now usual sour and fruity drop in the Modus Hopperandus) enhanced by an infusion of fresh oranges in the chamber. It should be extra fruity and some of the sourness will be toned down by the orange’s juice.

Next time, we drink to the eighties.


[1] The synthesisers in question were a Yamaha TX-816 and a Roland JX-8P. I know a lot of hardcore synth players read this blog each week.  

[2] Are you freaking kidding me Mississippi? It took you until 1985 to formally abolish the legal right to slavery?

[3] Sadly, no-one cared because it was yachting, which is the most boring sport since golf. Unless the Australian boat sinks – then it is awesome.

[4] At some point the Japanese thought it was a good idea to kick a penalty (3 points). For this tactic to work, they would have had to kick around 43 penalty goals. In their defence, Japan is one of only four teams to have ever kicked 9 penalties in a test. Before we laugh too much – New Zealand has kicked nine penalties... twice.

[5] Rumours given some substance by footage of hardened rugby players barfing on the field.


[7] A homage to Russell Barbour and his bar tab perhaps?

[8] I have the sudden urge to bang my chest, hum rhythmically and engage in a little insider trading. (Legal Disclaimer – this is a Wolf of Wall Street reference. Anyone who knows me will attest that I would never, ever be rhythmic.)



Neil Miller


Beer Writer

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Cuisine Magazine

TheShout Magazine



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Malthouse Facebook -

Malthouse Twitter –!/malthouse

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Neil Miller on Twitter –!/beerlytweeting