What the Hell Happened With Moa?

On Friday February 19 it was announced that Blenheim based Moa Brewing was to be sold. This was not exactly a surprise to a lot of people. For reasons that will become clear, many people had speculated that Moa was at least passively seeking a buyer, and had been doing so for quite some time. What was surprising was who bought it and for how much.

Current Moa CEO Stephen Smith has bought the brewery via his company Mallbeca Limited for $1.9 million, which is (and this is the technical term), a pittance. By my reckoning, the value of the site the brewery sits on must account for a decent chunk of that $1.9 mill. Factor in the other assets – the brewery plant, the taproom and stock on hand (including a barrel program), and the sale price would seem to barely cover the physical assets of the business. What this makes clear is that Moa brand and all it’s associated ‘good will’ has been sold for essentially nothing.

When Moa floated their IPO in 2012, they offered 12 million shares at $1.25, representing 37% of the company. By my math, that valued the company at $40.5 million. This begs the question: How can it be sold for less than 1/20th of its value nine years later? What the hell went wrong?

Source.

The answer is not entirely straightforward. There were a string of strategic decisions and occurrences that lead to Moa’s downfall in my opinion.

Lets go back in time to 2010. Moa is a small brewery run by Josh Scott, son of notable winemaker Alan Scott. In August of that year the company is bought into by The Business Bakery, an investment firm started by Geoff Ross, flush with money from the sale of Ross’s vodka brand, 42 Below. This was widely discussed in beer circles at the time, but didn’t make much of a splash in the media. The only article I could find referencing Ross’s buy-in was this one, about a queer-phobic marketing campaign the brewery ran. Which is funnily enough, the harbinger of what was to come.

In researching this article, I found myself deep in Moa’s social media feed. The change in tone from pre-Ross involvement is stark. For all of 2010, through to September most of Moa’s Facebook photos are of their products, their brewery, the fit-out of their tasting room and Josh Scott knocking about having a good time. Come November, they launch a new t-shirt promotion:

Source.

I’m not going to re-litigate the banal bigotry of this campaign. What I will say is that it didn’t feel like the Moa we knew. It felt different and it felt ugly. Scott distanced himself from the campaign:

Moa Brewing Company director Josh Scott, of Blenheim, said he knew nothing of the marketing campaign until he saw posts about it on the internet.

“Absolutely not. We have a whole Auckland office now.”

Source.

That line is telling: this change of course wasn’t coming from the brewery. It was coming from the Auckland marketing team. Moa didn’t continue the campaign, but they didn’t exactly distance themselves too far from it either:

Moa Beer marketing manager Sunil Unka, of Auckland, was unavailable for comment yesterday, but a spokesman told gayNZ.com the company was concerned the campaign had offended gay people.

Moa had not received any direct complaints about the T-shirts, but has offered to send some to the organisation.

Source.

Tellingly, Moa did not remove any of the posts from their Facebook. They would also post pictures of Moa employees wearing them a year later.

The low-carb campaign signalled a change in direction for Moa. But this change didn’t really kick into top-speed until they launched their re-brand in 2011. The change in the tone of their Facebook is abrupt. Looking back at their feed, you can almost hear the gears grind as they change direction.

The decision to re-brand was outwardly a good one. Moa’s identity up to that point had evoked it’s winemaker heritage and it was somewhat fragmented and kind of stuffy. By contrast, the new brand was modern, sleek and fairly well integrated:

The problem wasn’t with the re-brand itself, rather the marketing strategy that came with it. I would describe it as a three pronged approach:

  1. Target a male audience.
  2. Make the Moa brand as visible as possible.
  3. Focus on the export market internationally and the supermarket trade locally.

In each one of these points, we can see a piece of Moa’s downfall. Lets start with the first one. Moa’s decision to target an exclusively male audience was immediately clear from the get go. In 2011 shortly after launching their new brand, Moa put out a series of online ads, explicitly appealing to men. Here is a representative sample:

On the surface, a brewery appealing to a male audience might make sense. After all, it’s what most mainstream, corporately owned breweries do. Is not the Speight’s Southern Man one of the most iconic kiwi beer ad campaigns ever?

The thing is, targeting such a select audience is something most ‘craft’ breweries don’t do. There’s nothing overtly masculine about Garage Project or Parrotdog. Even Panhead, a brand which evokes traditionally masculine tropes such as motorcycles and hot-rods, doesn’t do so in a manner that explicitly excludes women as a consumer. But that was the approach Moa took. And spoiler alert here: Panhead is going to come up a lot in this story.

What I would call Moa’s latent misogyny became straight-up overt misogyny when they prepared to float the company on the share market, and launched their Initial Public Offering (IPO). This was essentially a prospectus to potential investors, the full title of which was (and I wish I was kidding): “Moa Group Limited Initial Public Offering Investment Statement: Your Guide to Owning a Brewery and Other Tips For Modern Manhood”.

Via the Beer Diary.

A huge quantity has been written about this document. For a rundown of the highlights, including the full PDF of the IPO, I recommend reading this post on The Beer Diary. The only mention of women as potential consumers (not even investors) is in the whole document is in this section here:

Brewers find cider is popular with female and gluten-free consumers. These groups are often complementary to brewers’ traditional sets of consumers and present a new market opportunity.

Moa IPO, p.91

Most explicit of all was this quote from an article which interviews Ross about the document:

[Ross] said the prospectus was targeted at Moa’s prospective investors who were largely the same demographic of young and middle-aged, aspiring, affluent men who drink the product.

Source.

Where this is all a strategic blunder is that it sections off the potential market for Moa beer into a needlessly small demographic. Sure, some women (and other people of different gender expressions) wouldn’t care, but other would and as a result, have since declined to purchase Moa’s products. They’ve been alienated for essentially no real gain to Moa.

This brings me to the second part of Moa’s marketing strategy: making Moa as visible as possible. There are two parts to this plan, the first of which ties into their choice to market to a male audience: Controversy for controversy’s sake.

If you think the low-carb campaign and the IPO were the only time Moa courted controversy, you’d be very wrong. Over the years, there was a cavalcade of needlessly provocative advertisements. It started with the “Finally something drinkable from Marlborough” ads:

Via Moa’s Facebook.

What was on the surface a cheeky dig a wine producers (including Josh Scott’s father and the winery that made Moa possible), was also something of a middle-finger at other Marlborough breweries, such as Renaissance.

Then came the awkward flirtation with gang imagery, including (briefly) naming a beer ‘Black Power‘, a gang-patch style logo, and bizarre, black power themed tap handles that looked very much like l sex toys:

Then there was the bafflingly non-nonsensical return to homophobia:

The absolute peak of bullshit controversy-seeking would be the infamous Pakistani Backhander campaign, which I’m not even going to share here (you can find images of it online if you want). Suffice to say, it blended pretty overt racism with again, some weird homophobia, by way of a crude Photoshop job.

And I’m only scratching the surface here. There were many more posts and campaigns designed to garner the brewery attention, which failed to take off. It got so ridiculous that at one point I wrote a parody Moa campaign, which was taken by several readers at the time to be the real thing. As a weird coda, it accidentally found it’s was into a Spinoff article on the same subject as this very post!

The article has since been amended. The fake ad is on the left. The ad on the right was real.

Now there is an adage “There’s no such thing as bad publicity”. Geoff Ross clearly subscribes to this belief:

With recent newspaper headlines such as “Breakfast beer slammed by critics”, “Cashing in on wine’s good name” and “Gay community offended by Moa Beer campaign”, it’s a good job Moa’s new boss, marketing guru Geoff Ross, believes there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

In his book, Every bastard says No, the man who gave the world 42 Below vodka and is now backing Moa gives his key insights into successful marketing.

High on the list is “At all costs get noticed. Be heard. Stand for something”. Judging by the amount of news coverage Moa has been attracting in recent weeks I’d say he’s doing a very good job!

Source.

As someone who was working on the front-lines of craft beer at the time this was happening, I’d have to disagree. The abrupt change left a bad taste in many mouths. It was cheap, inauthentic and ugly, the exact opposite of what we knew and loved from Moa. The end result was that they lost some important customers.

Myself and a lot of my friends stopped buying Moa, and we told our friends not to buy it either. Both bars I have worked at declined to pour Moa beer. I know other bars around the country did the same. As a result, Moa alienated the very people who had up to that point been their biggest evangelists: existing craft beer drinkers. Now hold onto that thought because it’s going to be relevant again later.

For now I want to change course and talk about the other important aspect of Moa’s strategy to increase their brand visibility – sponsorship.

Post Ross’s buy-in, Moa embarked on a staggering amount of sponsorship campaigns: music festivals, dirt biking, showjumping, golf, yacht racing, a rabbit hunt, the Olympics, a trip to Antarctica, The Americas Cup. If they could put their logo on it, they did:

Scrolling through Moa’s Facebook, one of the things that struck me was the literal millions they spent on sponsorship over the years. Now sure, you’ve got to speculate to accumulate. But at the same time, the company posted years of multi-million dollar losses starting in 2012 right up until 2020. Moa losses were such an industry talking point that local satirical site Too Much too Beer wrote a piece about it. With the company losing millions annually for nearly a decade, it begs the question: Maybe you should’ve sponsored fewer yachts?

All this very expensive promotional work realistically was in service of one thing; our final prong of the business strategy: focusing on export and supermarket trade. Right from the get-go, Ross let it be known that he wanted Moa to be New Zealand’s foremost beer-brand internationally. In an interview with interest.co.nz, he said the following:

Every country has an iconic beer brand and we want Moa to occupy that space in the future. Right now there’s clearly a gap in the market for a beer like ours and we believe the combination our branding and our brewing technique to create a high quality product with a long shelf life are what sets us apart. So we think we have all the founding principles to create a really iconic international beer brand right here in NZ.

While we do want broad consumer recognition domestically I would prefer to achieve the sort of success and positioning that Cloudy Bay has gained for itself where around 80% of its product is exported but it is also highly regarded domestically. So in an ideal world we want Moa to become the Cloudy Bay of craft beer.

Source.

Ross wanted Moa to not just recognised, but the most iconic beer in New Zealand. That means one thing: unseating Steinlager, something acknowledged in the same interview:

“While Steinlager has achieved some good success previously, there’s always been the problem with the German name and their primary focus has been principally on the domestic and Australian markets. For us it’s the reverse. We see the US & UK as our primary markets because that’s where the growth will come from while simultaneously retaining a strong focus on our domestic market here.”

So while Steinlager may have once conceived that catchy positioning line “… they’re drinking our beer here” the phrase might be more appropriately attributed to Moa in the future if those backing its high profile listing have their way.

Source as above.

First off, relying on export of beer is an inherently risky proposition. Beer is a lot less stable than wine – it’s more heat sensitive, and has a shorter shelf-life. Selling overseas involves a lot more effort too. Invariably a distributor is needed which involves slows down the whole process and adds an extra company taking a cut of the profit. Ross repeatedly mentioned the US market as a goal. What any beer geek could have told him at the time was that selling beer to the Americans is very much selling sand in the desert.

Export markets are also very fickle. I’ve seen on multiple occasions, breweries offering substantially discounted beer to the New Zealand market when export orders consisting of whole container loads are cancelled at relatively short notice. So while many ‘craft’ breweries do export beer to one degree or another, I struggle to name any brewery that relies on it to the tune of the 80% mentioned by Ross.

Indeed Moa quickly came to realise this, and by 2014 were discussing difficulties with the US market. This in some ways is what precipitated the shift to the local supermarket trade. And around this time, drinkers would have seen a lot of very cheap 12 packs of Moa Methode. By 2016, Moa were proudly claiming to have 11 percent of the supermarket trade.

Here’s the thing about supermarket beer sales: They’re inherently high-turnover with low margin, particularly when you’re dealing with the bulk, 12 pack lager market. Most people shopping in this segment will buy what ever is on special. By focusing on this sector, Moa was directly going up against Lion and DB, in what is essentially a volume game – who can sell more, cheaper. The problem for Moa is fairly succinctly summed up in one of their own (and frankly better) ad campaigns:

Via Moa’s Facebook.

That’s a fairly accurate picture of the situation for Moa. They were attempting to go toe-to-toe with Lion and DB on their own turf. Lion Nathan (owned by Kirin) is the biggest producer of alcoholic beverages in the country and it’s primary production facility The Pride produces hundreds of millions of litres of beer every year, and DB, owned by Heineken is not far behind. Moa was never going to win that fight.

While cracking the off license market is really important, and has been pivotal to the success of breweries like Parrotdog, Garage Project and Panhead, those breweries also worked hard to maintain their ‘craft’ beer bona fides.

Remember how I mentioned the Moa had alienated a decent chunk of existing ‘craft’ beer drinkers, including several who owned or operated bars? Well those relationships are actually quite important. A busy on-license, even one that rotates its taps can turnover tens-of-thousands (if not hundreds-of-thousands) of dollars of beer from a single brewery. What’s more, on-license sales can often drive higher off-license sales. After all, drinkers are less likely to invest in a 12 pack of a beer they’ve never had. But that reticence isn’t so high when it comes to buying a single beer in a bar. So if customer enjoys a beer in a bar, not only are you building a stable relationship with on-license customers, your investing in future supermarket sales later on.

So while while the aforementioned Parrotdog and co were working hard to sell in supermarkets, they never forsook the traditional ‘craft’ beer on-license trade. This is something Moa kind of came to realise down the line. At the 2019 investor AGM, Ross said this:

Selling beer at the supermarket isn’t a magic bullet and doesn’t drive gross margin.

Source.

Moa would go on to invest in various Auckland hospitality businesses by purchasing the Savour Group, and when it came time to shear-off the unprofitable brewery, the Moa Group essentially morphed into a hospitality company. Or if I was being cynical, I’d say the corporate leadership transplanted themselves onto profitable hospo co, throwing the brewery under the bus, but I digress.

At this point, the picture should be pretty clear: Moa was spending a lot of money on their brand, investing very heavily in anything that would raise their profile but they were not actually building a stable, sustainable or even particularly functional brewing company. Nor do I think they really ever intended to.

To say they were intentionally losing millions of dollars a year wouldn’t be accurate. Rather I’d say they didn’t mind sustaining those kinds of losses for the first few years because they didn’t intend to be running Moa for very long. I believe that from very early on they planned to sell the Moa to one of the larger brewing companies. After all, this is exactly what happened with the company that made Ross a multi-millionaire: 42 Below Vodka.

I don’t want to go too deep into the history of 42 Below, least we get sidetracked. You can read all about it in Ross’s book. I will say Ross did start it from scratch in 1998, and that hard work and achievement deserves acknowledgement. Having steadily grown the business for seven years, the company was sold to Bacardi for $138 million.

What is pertinent about 42 Below is how they marketed it: controversy. Oodles of it. As much as they could get. And that was fine for selling vodka, but ‘craft’ beer is a different game. For starters and as I mentioned, beer is an unstable product. Make too much and you either have to unload it cheap, or pour it out. Make too much vodka, and it will keep literally forever.

What’s more, and this is where we’re really getting to the crux of what went wrong for Moa, 42 Below was essentially the only vodka game in town at the turn of the millennium. By contrast, Ross was stepping into an already crowded beer market. The same year Moa launched their IPO, Lion was already making their first modern craft beer acquisition – Emerson’s Brewery.

The sale of Emerson’s to Lion for $8 million may well have spurred on Moa, After all, they’d shown they were keen to acquire independent brewers. Why couldn’t Moa also attract a multi-million dollar deal from the brewing giant? The trouble is, while they were busy tarting themselves up and making eyes at Kirin, something else was coming up behind them. Something unstoppable, powered by a supercharged-V8 engine, and going a million-miles-a-minute: Panhead.

To say Panhead killed Moa would be an exaggeration. After all, Moa died a death of a thousand cuts. But the story of Panhead must be a cut felt particularly deeply. Started in 2013 by former Tuatara brewer Mike Nielson, right out the gate their popularity and growth was staggering. The flagship beer, the very hoppy Supercharger APA was the darling of the Wellington ‘craft’ beer scene, but was also one of the first hoppy beers to find huge popularity with everyday drinkers. I vividly remember a customer coming up to the bar, circa 2016 and saying “I don’t like craft beer… do you have Supercharger?” When GABS launched their annual Hottest 100 Kiwi Craft Beers List, Supercharger came top in 2016, 2017 and 2019, as well as 3rd in 2018 and 4th in 2020.

Panhead galloped away and was sold to Lion in 2016, only three short years after it’s founding. The total sale price was $25.1 million. Lion described Panhead as “a runaway train” and “[Panhead] can’t keep pace with demand.”

Now where all this is a problem for Moa, is that it effectively took Lion off the table as a prospective buyer. After all, why would they want to buy an unpopular and unprofitable brewery when they already had two very successful brands in their portfolio?

OK, there’s also DB, New Zealand’s second largest beverage producer. Well, in 2011 they had started their own faux-‘craft’ label, Black Dog Brew Co. to moderate success. Then in early 2017, they bought Tuatara Brewing for $30.2 million, effectively taking them out of the equation as well. This left pretty few options for Moa.

There was always Independent Liquor (owned by Asahi). They had bought Duncan’s Founders in 2012. The success of that acquisition has always seemed somewhat flat. While Founders has become a supermarket staple, it’s never quite risen to the prominence of even Independent’s other faux-‘craft’ label Boundary Road. Independent has not made any moves that would indicate they would want to buy another brewery ever since.

After that, the field gets kind of thin. There was Constellation Brands, a massive American brewing concern with a subsidiary in New Zealand. They bought San Diego based brewery Ballast Point for a staggering US $1 Billion in 2015.

Indeed for a hot minute, it looked like something might be happening there. A distribution deal was set up in 2018 that would see Moa distributing Ballast Point in New Zealand. There was talk this could presage an acquisition. Come 2019 though and supermarkets were selling short-dated cans of Ballast Point at heavily discounted prices. Later that year, Constellation would unload Ballast Point to a virtually unknown brewer in Illinois for a measly US $8.55 million, in a move somewhat reminiscent of Moa’s sale this year.

At this point, things were looking dire. There was always Coca-Cola Amatil. They had bought Feral Brewing in Western Australia. Might they want to get into the New Zealand beer game? Well they did, by signing a distribution deal with relative newcomer Fortune Favours in 2019.

The clock was ticking. Every year Moa went unsold, they racked up multi-million dollar losses and options to sell were running out. Moa had built an essentially toxic brand. Their turnover was high-volume, low-margin and their primary customers were fickle supermarket lager drinkers, more interested in value than quality or loyalty. They were bleeding money and their list of potential buyers was looking very short. It’s not impossible that there was still someone out there that might wish to quire acquire a New Zealand brewery, but even then Moa probably wouldn’t be top of that list.

Then Covid-19 arrived and the world changed. With massive global uncertainty, it’s hard to imagine any company wanting to shill out tens of millions to acquire a struggling brewery. I have to suspect the global pandemic was the final nail in the coffin. Moa had to be cut loose, lest it bleed them dry. Which brings us up to today.

Moa’s future is uncertain. It may rise again under new ownership, maybe it will go back to it’s regional roots and be just another local brewery. Or possibly will fade away like its extinct namesake. I do know that the former Moa Head Brewer (and top-bloke) Dave Nichols departed the company late last year to start his own brewing operation in Marlborough. I greatly look forward to what develops there.

I often like to wrap up my writing with a “what did we learn?” reflection. Looking back I think Moa’s strategy was a poor one from the start. Getting to the point where you could be sold should never have been the goal. Building a stable, sustainable business should have been their primary aim. If they had maintained their integrity with the existing ‘craft’ beer market and used that as a foundation for their growth, things may have panned out differently. To that end, perhaps the takeaway should be “don’t be a dick?” It would be a fittingly kiwi lesson. That, and perhaps “sponsor fewer yachts?”

The Haze-Craze is Not All-Encompassing

There has been a lot of digital ink spilled on the rise of the Hazy IPA. Whether you love them or hate them, everyone must admit that they have stormed the beer scene like no other IPA variant (Imperial, Black, Red, White, Session, Grapefruit, Milkshake, Glitter, Brut) before or since.

Personally, I tend towards drier beers which rules out a lot of Hazies. I am however, not at all adverse to a good example of the style. I’ll drink a good Hazy IPA over a faulty or unbalanced but otherwise clear IPA any day.

The Observation

A lot of the commentary around Hazy, particularly on social media has been of the apocalyptic takeover of the Hazy, squashing out all other IPA, nay, any other style of beer! These discussions are often fueled by photos like this one, sent to me by Michael Donaldson author of Beer Nation and editor of Pursuit of Hoppiness.

72288699_10157696608371543_4775482288546775040_o

Originally from PorchDrinking Chicago

Now that’s a lot of Hazy IPAs to be sure. Also the other beers seem to be exclusively Imperial Stouts and Sours, which is weird and seems like a bad idea.

In my own bar and pre-COVID-19, we had been running Hazy and non-Hazy IPAs more or less alternately on the same tap. This worked out well overall, but we definitely had customers who wanted one or the other and were disappointed when we didn’t have the style of IPA that they specifically wanted.

Post-lockdown, we decided to try running two IPA taps, one Hazy, one traditional/West Coast/NZIPA. What I noticed when we did this was that a keg of very popular Hazy IPA like Garage Project Fresh or McLeod’s 802 would sell out faster than any other beer, but the same was true of certain non-Hazy IPAs like Liberty Knife Party.

In fact, one recent Friday night, I tapped a keg of McLeod’s Northern Hammer NZIPA and a keg of a new Hazy from a less well-known brewery almost simultaneously. The McLeod’s ran out within 24 hours, whereas the Hazy was still on tap come Monday morning. Some beers just make customers fizz more than others, regardless of their clarity. Over time though, this effect is eventually evened out.

The Hypothesis

I have a theory: All things being equal, Hazy IPA is not substantially more popular than other IPA styles. The question is, how do we test this hypothesis? How do we make all things equal?

There’s a lot of factors that go into beer choice. Some are quantifiable – price and ABV. Others are less well-defined. Beer quality, both in terms of brewing faults and overall balance matters for sure. Then there’s ‘brand’ in all its nebulous forms. A brewery’s reputation and popularity, the beer’s name, the tap badge art – all these factors matter more to sales than most brewers would like to admit.

Enter the ParrotDog ReinCanation range. These are a range of beers, mostly IPAs, named after people. They have a uniform geometric art style and for the most part, are line-priced, meaning they cost the same per keg.

 

The ReinCanation range presents the opportunity to level the playing field. ParrotDog makes good beer generally, and particularly excellent IPAs, both Hazy and non-Hazy. The labels and beer names are variations on the same theme. We need two IPAs of equal price and strength, one Hazy, one non-Hazy. Please welcome Adrian and Lindsay.

They are both strong IPAs. Adrian is a 7% Hazy, Lindsay a 6.8% West Coast IPA. They’re close enough in alcohol strength that this wouldn’t play a major role in a customer’s choice. They both cost $13 per 425ml glass (come at me, South Island). They were both very fresh and critically, very delicious. Putting them both on tap at the same time was the closest to a fair fight that we could achieve.

The Experiment

Adrian was tapped at Golding’s Free Dive at 4:30pm, Thursday 30/7/20. Lindsay was tapped at 8:30pm, Thursday 30/7/20.

Now already you’ll notice an issue, in that Adrian got a 4 hour head-start. The brutal reality was that I couldn’t justify pulling off the remainder of the keg preceding Lindsay, which would have entailed a lot of work and wasted beer (come at me, scientific method). Those 4 hours were busy so Adrian got a significant boost. But I believe that the experiment remains valid, for reasons we shall get into.

The race was on. Both beers were on tap all afternoon of Friday 31/7/20. The Adrian keg ran out at 6:30pm that evening, for a total of twenty-six hours on tap. The Lindsay stayed on tap for two more hours, finishing at 8:30pm, for a total of twenty-four hours on tap.

Right there, the results are interesting. Although Adrian the Hazy went on four hours ahead of Lindsay, Lindsay finished two hours faster than Adrian. Looking at the raw numbers, it would seem that the West Coast IPA was actually more popular than the Hazy! We do however need to consider the two periods at the start and finish of the experiment, where only one of the two beers was on tap.

On the one hand, 4:30 to 8:30pm Thursday is a busy period of trade for the bar, but it’s not as busy as 6:30 to 8:30pm Friday, which is often our busiest two-hour period of any given week. On the other hand, Fridays are not twice as busy as Thursdays.

Without getting too bogged down in the details, I’m going to say that it’s more or less a wash between the two kegs. Ergo the conclusion I’m going to reach from this experiment is that side by side, there was no clear or significant preference for either Hazy or Clear IPA among customers.

Further Discussion

Obviously this experiment was far from rigorously scientific. It only really gives us insight into a certain bar, at a certain time. If it were replicated elsewhere, results may vary. But what I do think it shows is that demand for Hazy IPA is not all-consuming. Nor has it rendered all other IPA styles obsolete.

While cashing-in on the Haze Craze is potentially lucrative for brewers, there is still value in providing a range of beer styles. I would not recommend anyone turn their brewery into a Haze factory. Likewise, bar managers would be ill advised to turn their tap lineup into something resembling the picture at the start of this article.

Love it or otherwise, the Hazy IPA is not going anywhere. I’m actually thankful for one thing it has achieved: Ending the New Zealand beer drinker’s obsession with crystal clear beer. This is a particularly annoying hangover from ‘craft’ beer’s real ale heritage, and not something I’ve ever viewed as a useful indicator of beer quality.

After all, I’ve spent the better part of a decade wading through pint after pint of greasy, diacetyl laden, green-apple, acetaldehyde flavoured, astringently bitter, over-hopped, vegetal, overly sticky, caramel-malted, poorly packaged and oxidised (but otherwise crystal-clear) beers. I’d trade the lot for a well-made Hazy anyday.

 

Dear Brewers: Don’t Photoshop This Christmas

As we step into December it’s officially socially acceptable to begin displaying Christmas decorations (or alternatively, it’s no longer acceptable to shout at people who displayed decorations in November).

As we enter our busiest trading period of the year, I say to the brewers out there: make hay, have fun, celebrate, stay safe. But whatever you do, do not attempt to Photoshop beer into Santa’s hands, unless you know what you are doing.

Exhibit A:

Urgh.

It looks cheap. The resolution is terrible. Nothing matches. Don’t do it.

Instead, I will do it for you. I’m a little handy with Photoshop, as seen here, here and here. For the low, low price of one six-pack of your beer, I will Shop your bottle/can product into Santa’s hand. As a bonus: for the price of one case (24 x 330ml or 12 x 500ml), I will even adjust the angle of the beer level and/or remove the bottle cap.

Tempted? Here’s a sample of my work:

Pretty tidy and I have a fast turn-around. To take up this offer, contact me via twitter, and send me a high-res photo of you bottle product. Then sit-back and watch the Christmas orders roll in!

Dank, Bro.

One of the hottest descriptors for beer to come out of the last two years is ‘dank’. Specifically, it’s used to describe hop characters that are particularly resinous and reminiscent of marijuana. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the term and it’s druggy overtones. You know what else is described as ‘dank’? Memes.

The term ‘meme’ was coined by Richard Dawkins and refers to essentially a little package or unit of cultural or ideological ‘data’ that may be transmitted from person to person like a gene through generations (or perhaps like a virus through populations). That’s the high-minded academic definition at least. In practice, a meme is a funny photograph, frequently with a caption, often used as a witty response to any discussion on the internet.

This is low-culture at its lowest. But sometimes the combination of an evocative image with a few simple words can be one of the most eloquent single pieces of communication you’ll ever see.

Now is this surprisingly long discussion of memes a thinly veiled excuse for me to use my blog to post a bunch of things that make me lol? You betcha. So here it is. A selection of dankest ‘craft’ beer memes for your enjoyment.

Good memes express something that resonates with people. Like when you’re visiting a small town, and you’re damn sure you won’t find any good beer in the local shops, but then you do:

On the other hand, some memes can express something deeply personal. Like my reaction every time Garage Project releases another weird beer packed full of exotic ingredients:

OK, let’s be honest. this is my REAL reaction every time Garage Project releases another weird beer packed full of exotic ingredients:

On other occasions, I don’t have strong opinions. This is me every time the whole “East Coast IPA” debate kicks off:

This, however, is my reaction when I read the Beer: The Beautiful Truth website:

Speaking of DB Breweries, here’s my reaction when Tui announced they were going to start making small-batch experimental beers:

A lot of my strongest feelings about the brewing industry come from talking to people who want to start breweries. Particularly when I hear a homebrewer talk about ‘turning pro’:

One of the great things about memes is that while they express universal emotions, they can be adapted to very specific audiences and milieus. Here’s one most brewers can probably relate to. You know when you’re trying out a new Pale Ale recipe and you get just the tiniest hint of something buttery hiding in the background?

And if we’re on the subject of beer recipes, how many brewers will confess to this little white lie?

Speaking of white lies; how many brewers that make clean, American-style Wheat Ales will pull this one?

And finally, here’s me every time some tries to once and for all define ‘craft’ beer:

Podcast: Will it Gaff?

With our passion for Shady now well established, Phil and I dig into the history of beer and softdrink blending, and seek an answer to the question nobody asked: Will it Gaff?

Joining us to blend beer with ginger beer is Annika Naschitzki, from Tiamana Brewery. She shares some great insights into German beer-blending traditions.

Will it Gaff can be streamed here, or over on the Beer Diary, or Annika’s blog, The Brewer’s Daughter. To download, click the icon in the top right corner, under the Soundcloud logo or go here.

Our title track is Square Beer by The Coconut Monkeyrocket.

Show Notes:

  • [11:10] – Our bottle of best bitter was infected. Out of public interest, we kept it in the show. Rather than publicly naming and shaming the Brewery, we edited out the their name and had a word with the brewer privately about it.
  • [21:20] – We realised after recording, that at no point do we explain what a Diesel is a 50/50 blend of Lager and Coke, sometimes drunk in Germany.

New Zealand’s Oldest ‘Craft’ Brewery: Further Discussion

Over a year ago I wrote this piece on what I considered to be New Zealand’s oldest ‘craft’ brewery, which has since become one of the most popular articles I’ve ever written. Since then, a few interesting points have been brought to my attention, which warrant further discussion. So let’s start with something that has been in the news lately…

Mike’s Went into Liquidation

White Cliffs, better known as Mike’s Brewery, was and (spoiler alert) still is my original pick for oldest brewer. Founded in 1989, it narrowly boxes out Sunshine Brewery for the title by two months.

Many of us were surprised and perhaps a little dismayed to hear in June that White Cliffs would be going into liquidation, due to outstanding Customs and Excise debt. But this wasn’t to be the end of Mike’s Beer. Owner and operator, Ron Trigg announced that he would be starting a new company (Mikes Holding’s Limited) and buying back White Cliff’s assets from liquidators, essentially starting Mike’s again, now unsaddled by historical debt.

I’ll be honest – it’s a somewhat dubious bit of company law that allows this and it can, to put it bluntly, be used by the unscrupulous to bilk creditors. I’ve criticised another brewery for doing this sort of manoeuvre in the past; which makes it a difficult move for me to support. But on the other hand, that not necessarily what’s happening with Mike’s. In fact it was revealed by Ron in an article in The Pursuit of Hoppiness Magazine, that Mike’s Holding’s Limited has taken on approximately $100,000 of debt from White Cliffs (Summer 2016, p. 47 link to the issue here). So it seems that Mike’s is trying to do the right thing by their creditors.

On balance, I’m happy that Mike’s lives on. The Triggs are friends and good people, and I don’t want Mike’s to disappear.

But what does that mean for their status as ‘Oldest Brewery’? If a brewery goes out of business, then starts up again with the same name, from the same location making the same product, is it fair to call it the same brewery? To make a call on the matter, I had to go back to my original criteria for judging oldest brewery – continuity of supply. Could I, as a punter, reasonably expect to go buy a beer, and it to be the same product?

The answer for Mike’s is yes. The product hasn’t changed; it’s the same beer, made by the same people, in the same place. What’s happened is some shuffling of paperwork, to write off an insurmountable amount of debt. Many consumers will never know it happened…

So Mike’s can, in my opinion, hold onto it’s Oldest Brewery title for now. But there’s another brewery that quite a few people have brought up, which I really should have addressed in my previous post.

What about the Shakespeare?

The Shakespeare Hotel was founded in 1898, and is often touted as having the oldest licence to sell alcohol.

The Shakespeare Hotel’s brewery was commissioned in 1986, three years before Mike’s, making it at the time, the first modern brewpub in the country. The original brewer was one Barry Newman. When I was writing the original post, I admit I dismissed The Shakespeare out of hand.

While The Shakespeare is currently a functioning brew pub, it was shut down some time in the 2000s and brewing did not take place there for several years. In fact it was Ben Middlemiss of contract brewery Ben Middlemiss Brewing who was instrumental in getting it going again:

It was once the most famous brew-pub in the city, but the brewery side of the operation was neglected and ended up being shut down. [Ben] Middlemiss asked if he could use it to make his own beer. “The owners weren’t interested in having the brewery going again and they seemed happy with me doing it myself, but the punters started to ask ‘When is there going to be beer again?'”…

Eventually [Shakespeare] beer did flow again, the Dogberry Pale Ale coming out just before Christmas 2011. (Donaldson, 2012, p. 127).

Obviously, a brewery closing down for a period of time will break the all-important criteria of continuous supply (this is one of the reasons I disqualified McCashin’s earlier). So I crossed The Shakespeare off the list.

Sometime after I published the previous post, I spoke to Ben about The Shakespeare Hotel and learned, to my surprise, brewing was shut down there as late as 2009. This means that far from being a long leave of absence, it was a period of roughly two years that no beer was produced, not the five or six years I had assumed earlier.

More recently though, when I spoke to Ben again, he dropped this bombshell:

When we refurbished and resurrected the brewery, Frances McCullough, the actual owner of the Shakespeare building and various other pubs around Auckland, was still pouring some of the beer left in the tanks from when Barry Newman  [The Shakespeare’s previous brewer] was still working there. I made them take it off as it was in a very bad state.

On the one hand, this revelation kind of puts a new spin on things. The rule of continuous supply may well have been nominally satisfied over almost all the two-year period the brewery was shut down. On the other hand, I also feel that to say The Shakespeare was still a functioning brewery, just because they hadn’t run out of beer yet, is kind of following the letter of the law, rather than the spirit, particularly if the beer should have gone down the drain a long time ago.

With this in mind, I can’t in good conscience, say that Shakespeare is a better candidate for the longest continuously operating brewery over Mike’s, who have delivered essentially the same products, fresh to customers uninterrupted, over the same time period.

And finally… Anchor Brewing

Almost a year after I published the original post, I was contacted via the comment section by one Warwick ‘Jamie’ Jameson, claiming that the true oldest, still operating ‘craft’ brewery is actually Anchor Brewing, also known as The Village Brewery, established 1984.

I honestly didn’t know what to make of this claim. I’d heard of Anchor Brewing – it’s still listed on Beer Tourist, and Martin Craig of Beertown had recently unearthed an article he wrote in 1993 about the brewery. But as far as I was aware, Anchor closed some time in the 90s. In fact I had it listed in The Craft Beer Graveyard. Was this true? I started digging.

From what I can tell, Anchor was indeed opened in Porirua in the mid eighties. Jameson says 1984, all other sources, including Richard Brimer’s Microbreweries of New Zealand (1995), and the Companies Office record it as opening in 1985, but let’s not split hairs.

Some rather fabulous Anchor Beer labels I found in the depths of Google. Note the VERY early use of the term 'Craft'.

Some rather fabulous Anchor Beer labels I found in the depths of Google. Note the VERY early use of the term ‘Craft’.

Anchor focused on making ‘Real Ale’ styles, and Jameson made some fairly bold claims about his beer. Not only did he state that “our beer is consistently the best in the world in terms of hop aroma and flavour”, he also claimed that it gave drinkers immunity to the common cold (Brimer, 1995, p.44). Unfortunately I can’t confirm either assertion.

But what about Anchor being the oldest still operating brewery? While Anchor still exists in the Companies register, Jameson says he sold the brewery in 1996 to “fund my ongoing scientific research into the true medicinal properties of beer”. Specifically how ‘hop related components’ may relate to a cure for AIDs. Whilst I must refrain from speculating on the matter, wouldn’t that be something? Jameson states that he is currently writing a paper on the subject for peer-review. I look forward to reading it.

I can find no evidence of any beer being produced or sold by Anchor or the Village Brewery after 1996. With no beer being produced for twenty years, Anchor Brewing must unfortunately, stay in the Craft Beer Graveyard.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Michael Donaldson, Beer Nation: The Art & Heart of Kiwi Beer, 2012, Penguin Group.

Richard Brimer, Anne Russell, Microbreweries of New Zealand, 1995, Random House.

A full bibliography can also be found at the end my previous article on this subject, here.

 

 

Contracting an Illness

Published two weeks ago on Stuff was possibly one of the most interesting and important articles written about beer in New Zealand. This one by Michael Donaldson, talking about Tuatara brewing Townshend Brewery beers under contract. In the process, the Townshend beers became infected with a wild yeast or bacteria, causing the bottles to fountain when opened, and the beer itself to taste bad. Take a moment and give it a read.

I want to talk about it because it touches on a couple of interesting points about the brewing industry.

Two things that need to be said: First, my deepest sympathies for Martin. He’s been working so damn hard for eleven years now, and to have a set back like this is devastating. Not only from a personal point of view – disappointing customers – but from a financial point of view. Losing large quantities of stock, not to mention a distribution deal of this scale must be potentially ruinous for a business as small as Townshend.

Martin Townshend. Credit: Jed Soane/The Beer Project.

Martin Townshend.                                                                          Credit: Jed Soane/The Beer Project.

I’d also like to say I’m disappointed in Tuatara’s (now ex-) CEO’s reaction:

“[Shirtcliffe] believes the problem was caused by an over-estimation of demand for Townshend’s beer in six packs and as a result the beer spent a long time in unchilled storage and, because some of stock was unpasteurised, refermented in the bottle.”

In saying this, they’ve essentially denied any responsibility for producing faulty beer. But the assertion that gushing bottles was a result of ambient storage I find dubious.

Not mentioned in this article is the fact that it wasn’t only bottles that were infected, but also keg stock. I know this because I regularly ordered Townshend kegs from Tuatara for Golding’s. In October 2015 I contacted Tuatara about infected Pilsner kegs, and in January 2016 I contacted Martin directly about infected APA kegs (both of these beers were exhibiting what I’d call a ‘farmhouse character’ typical of wild yeast, and high levels of carbonation). At this point I stopped ordering Townshend beers unless I knew they’d been brewed by Martin in Moutere (none of which have ever shown signs of infection).

Add to this, the fact that I have literally never heard of commercially produced beer accidentally re-fermenting in bottles without an infection. Many, if not most ‘craft’ brewers in New Zealand do not pasteurise their bottles. These then go on to sit ambient in supermarket storerooms and off-licence shelves for up to months at a time, and yet gushing bottles are a very rare occurrence.

What all this suggests is that the root cause of the issue was probably an infection, and it was most likely occurring somewhere up-stream from the bottling line. But let’s not get too bogged down in brewing minutia.

As I see it, there are two wider issues at play here. As pointed out by Martin, we need better guidelines for contract brewing. Whilst I’m not hugely enamoured with the idea of extra legislation in this matter, minimum standards for labels would probably help in this regard. Forcing contractors to state where each beer was brewed would put some of the responsibility back on the brewery that made it. After all, no one wants their name attached to a faulty product.

However, I’m not convinced that labelling standards would address what is the core of the problem, which is accountability in the contract brewing process. If something goes wrong, we need clearly defined guidelines as to who is responsible at each stage in the brewing process. This isn’t just to protect contractors, but also to protect the breweries that make the beer on the contractor’s behalf as well.

Whilst things like infections and fermentation issues are the responsibility of the actual brewery that’s been contracted, other factors are the responsibility of the contractor. Things like recipe flaws, such as an inexperienced contractor supplying a recipe that will not actually work, or making decisions/specifications that negatively impact the finished product (I’ve heard of both of those happening). Protection for both parties in this situation is necessary.

Again, legislation might help, but what I might suggest is establishing a comprehensive legal framework that can be employed by any brewery, demarcating responsibilities for contract brewing. The Brewers Guild of New Zealand might be instrumental in establishing these; as well as a potential arbiter in the event of a dispute.

Now there probably was some sort of agreement, legally binding or not, in the Townshend/Tuatara deal, we don’t know for sure. But what we can say is that if there was, it was definitely not comprehensive enough. Just look at this line: “For his part Townshend didn’t realise the beer would be stored unchilled.” Storage of finished product is exactly the sort of thing that needs to be agreed upon beforehand. Beer has a limited shelf-life and I’m willing to bet few breweries would agree to a distribution deal if they knew their product was going to sit ambient.

I think the larger issue here is a lack of professionalism in the ‘craft’ brewing industry as a whole. We are transitioning from a cottage industry, to a large-scale, commercial one. That transition is not always going to be smooth. The simple fact of the matter is that many brewers, even surprisingly large ones, seem to behave as if they’re still making beer in their garage for their mates. It’s no way to build a mature, sustainable industry.

On the one hand, it’s easy to forgive a small, one or two person operation like Townshend for this sort of thing. When you have to do everything yourself, it’s easy to make mistakes. On the other hand, whether you’re making 50 litres, or 50 hectolitres, good business practices are essential.

Legal protection, accounting, cashflow, human resources, customer relations, brand management, logistics, health and safety, company culture: these are the boring, unsexy, business-wank-type-buzzwords words that no one wants to deal with. But  these are what breweries need to come to terms with with if they’re going to grow and prosper in the years to come. Because you can make the best beer in the world, but if you can’t run a business, you’ll have a hard time staying afloat to sell much of it.

To end on a positive note, Townshend beers are back being produced in Moutere and tasting great. You should pick one up next time you see them on tap or in stores. And give him a hug/high five next time you see him. He really has earned it.

 

 

How to Name a Beer

It was almost a year ago that I published a post laying out the difficulties of naming a brewery. Eleven months later, and with a bunch of new breweries popping up in New Zealand, none of which have ‘dog’ in the name, it’s high time we discussed the other side of the coin.

Beer names are an integral part of a brewery’s brand and identity. Just like a good brewery name, a good beer name attracts customers and ultimately, can sell more beer. And just like naming a brewery, there are certain pitfalls that brewers both young and old can fall into.

The advice I’m going to share with you is not meant as the be-all-and end-all, only a guideline. They’re my opinion only, and your gas mileage may vary. I have, however, built these guidelines over years of interacting with customers, and seeing what does and doesn’t seem to work. Of course, no offence to any brewers I use as examples. It doesn’t reflect on the quality of your beer, and if you’ve been calling your beer by a certain name for years, I am by no means suggesting you change it.

1. Make it Catchy

I realise I’m starting with a rule that’s incredibly difficult to define. What makes something catchy? Seems like almost a “I know it when I see it it” situation. But let’s take a stab at defining it anyway.

A good place to start is keeping it short and simple. Beer names can be longer than brewery names, sometimes substantially longer. Choice Bro’s I’m Afraid of Americans would be a good example of a long name that I think works (we’ll get to why names work soon).

Im_afraid

the art works nicely too.

But there is always a limit, and in my experience, if a customer can’t pronounce and/or remember the whole name of a beer from the time they’ve read the menu to when they make it to the bar, they’re less likely to order it or recommend it to a friend. The Moon Dog/Yeastie Boys collaborative beer Peter Piper’s Pickled Pepper Purple Peated Pale Ale (AKA The 7 ‘P’s) suffered from this.

Beyond keeping it short, what else can make it ‘catchy’? Hard to say. Poetic devices tend to help. Things like rhymingassonancealliteration and consonance can help. Names like Pils ‘n’ Thrills, Double Trouble, Red Rocks Reserve, Sauvignon Bomb employ these devices.

Likewise, humour can be a great tool for naming beers. In my experience, people can remember jokes easier than names. Puns and in particular beer-related ones, are often popular – like Four Horsemen of the Hopocalypse. But humour can be a double edged sword. Which brings me to…

2. Keep it Classy

Beers do need to be named in a manner that make them sound appetising. You might think it’s really funny to name your Porter with cacao nibs ‘Chocolate Starfish‘ (and so might your close friends), but be warned, a lot of people will be put off by the name and/or assume your beer literally tastes like arse. Also, I’m going to assume the people making/naming the beer are exactly the kind of horrific Dudebros we’ve all spent so long trying to exorcise from our industry and community.

Simple crassness aside, keeping it classy is a good principle to guide not only naming, but all sorts of branding and marketing decisions. I’m talking about controversy here. Stirring up controversy with a name that could be (or just is) sexist, racist, homophobic, etc. may be a cheap way to get media attention short term, but is a bad foundation for building a long-term customer base.

I won’t go into detail but I think we all know of breweries that have adopted this technique in the past. Ask them how it’s gone. Or I suggest reading Jim Vorel’s really excellent piece on the subject.

3. Themes are Good. sometimes.

Many breweries have themes to name their beers. For example Choice Bros. Uses Bowie lyricsPanhead has a hotrod motif (Super Charger, Blacktop, Boss Hog and so on), whereas Bach Brewing uses a beach theme in their beer names (Crayporter, Kingtide, Driftwood). Themes can be a great way to get build a consistent brand across a range of beers and in your customers consciousness. But they can get you into trouble in two different ways.

ParrotDog beer nice.

ParrotDog beer nice.

The first is slavish adherence. Breweries who stick too closely to a naming theme can end up painting themselves into a corner. ParrotDog for example, used almost exclusively dog or bird themed double-worded names for their beers (BloodHound, DeadCanary, BitterBitch). But coming up with names that fit that scheme is difficult, and we gradually saw them shift away from it with names such as RiwakaSecret, Pandemonium, and the RareBird series. Coming up with new beer names is hard enough, and imposing arbitrary restrictions on yourself only makes it harder.

The second way naming themes can get a brewery into trouble is when they make each of your beers essentially indistinguishable. For a really great illustration of this, we need to look overseas. Russian River, from Santa Rosa California. Their Barrel Aged/Belgian inspired range all have names that end in ~tion. As in: Redemption, Consecration, Damnation, Sanctification and so on. Now I’ve had a decent number of these beers, but I couldn’t tell you which ones. They’re all really excellent beers, but they’ve all sort of blended into one in my memory.

Likewise when naming beers, numbers are not your friend. Founders for example, uses years to name their beers – 1946, 2009, 1854, and so on. Again, I’ve had all of them, but could I tell you which one’s which? Nope.

4. Does it Do What it Says on the Tin?

In point five of How to Name a Brewery, I elaborated on the need to choose adjectives carefully – if you use an adjective in your brewery name that could theoretically apply to beer – a flavour, colour or aroma, customers will assume that it applies to your beer.

Now forgive me if it seems like I’m stating the obvious, but this principle applies doubly to beer names. The reason I am stating the obvious is that breweries still do it with surprising regularity. Infringements on this principle can be relatively minor – for example Townshend Black Arrow Pilsner which customers occasionally mistake for a dark beer, but because of the word ‘Pilsner’ mostly gets away with it. But sometimes a misplaced descriptor can cause real havoc with customers.

Pictured - one of my favourite Pilsners in New Zealand.

Pictured – one of my favourite Pilsners in New Zealand.

I still have vivid memories of pouring a beer at Hashigo (quite a few years ago) that committed this sin – Liberty Brewing Sexual Chocolate1. Sexual Chocolate was a beer that, although somewhat sexy, was not very chocolatey at all (it was a hoppy Brown Ale). Customers would order a Sexual Chocolate, and then almost immediately return it, claiming I’d poured the wrong beer: they were expecting a chocolate porter.

Eventually I started warning customers: “this beer is not very chocolatey, do you want to try it before you order?” If your beer needs to come with a disclaimer, then you should probably reconsider the name. I like to call this the ‘Does it do What it Says on the Tin?’ test.2

So let’s review. You’ve brewed a beer, picked out a name that’s short, punchy, uncontroversial, and accurately sells the beer’s attributes. But you’re not there yet, you have to do one more thing.

5. Google It

Maybe I should really say Untappd it, but either way, check to see if any other brewery is using the same name. On this one I’m talking from experience. Many years ago, I made a video of a collaboration brew between Garage Project and Nøgne Ø Brewery. The beer needed a name and I suggested Good as Gøld, without checking it on Untappd or RateBeer. Silly me, because it already existed. I really should have checked.

Eventually, the beer would be called 'Summer Sommer'.

Eventually, the beer would be called Summer Sommer.

Stouches over names are fairly infrequent, but double-ups can happen quite often. If a name seems absolutely perfect, there’s a good chance that someone else has got to it before you. Which isn’t to say that double-ups are necessarily a disaster. If a little brewery in another country that will never ever be seen in New Zealand is already using a name, then go right ahead anyway. But if it’s another NZ brewery using it, you need to start again, out of courtesy if nothing else.

It is, however, a different matter if it’s a really famous or iconic beer from another country. If an NZ brewery ever dared to name a beer, ‘Pliny the Elder’, ‘Heady Topper’, or ‘Sculpin’, then they fully deserve to be dragged over a bed of hot coals.


Coming up with names for anything is hard – just ask any parent. Some breweries have a knack for it, while others seem to struggle more. These guidelines are a good place to start, but they’re also not bullet proof. I can think of some absolutely terribly named beers out there that don’t technically break these rules, but are still somehow clunky, unappealing, or just sound wrong.

If a brewer ever wants to run a name past me, feel free. You can reach me on twitter any time.


 NOTES

1. There seems to be no record of this beer online except in DEEP in Hashigo’s newsletter archives

2. Strangely enough, Yeastie Boys did the exact same thing with their beer Kid Chocolate, which had almost nothing chocolatey about it at all. Yes, that was released seven years ago. I have a long memory and I’ve been doing this for a long time. 

What Your Beer Choice Says About You

Today the world of beer has become fragmented. Where once in New Zealand it was ‘lager’, ‘draught’ or if you were very lucky, ‘dark’. But now we have any sort of beer you can imagine (and several you can’t). But how does your beer choice reflect on you?

The internet is full of silly great advice for American beer drinkers, but what about the humble Kiwi? What do our beer choices say about us? Well, fret no more. Here’s the definitive list:

Lager/Pilsner

You are most likely right-handed. Also you like lager.

Source.

Fig. 1: A Lager                                                    Source.

Pale Ale

Your height is probably between 132-192 centimetres tall. You like hoppy, pale beers.

Fig. 2: A Pale Ale Source.

Fig. 2: A Pale Ale                                                  Source.

Wheat Beer

Bad news: you probably have herpes, most likely without knowing it. And you like wheat beers.

Mild/Bitter/ESB

Good news: you are probably immune to leprosy. You’re also a fan of traditional English ales.

Fig. 3: An ESB Source.

Fig. 3: An ESB                                                                                             Source.

Stout/Porter

If you’re European, there’s a statistical certainty you’re a descendant of Charlemagne. And you like dark beer.

IPA

If you’re male, there is a ~1/200 chance you’re a direct descendant from Genghis Khan. If you’re a Chinese male, that figure goes up to ~1/12. You’re also an IPA enthusiast.

Fig. 4: An IPA Source.

Fig. 4: An IPA                                                                                    Source.

Black IPA

You’re a weirdo.

Sour/Wild Beer

Your liver is worth ~$157,000 (US) on the black market. Of course, drinking too much of that sour beer you love may decrease that value. The good news is, it should increase its value as foie gras.

Fig. 5: A sour Beer    Source.

Fig. 5: A Sour Beer                                              Source.

Barleywine

You’re hopefully too smart to fall into lazy stereotyping of beer drinkers according to style, glass preference, gender, class, race, ethnicity or any other silly, arbitrary, irrelevant factor.

And you like Barleywine.

Fig. 6: Several Barleywines     Source.

Fig. 6: Several Barleywines                                                     Source.

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Cat Beer.gif

Scott was right – it’s just not clickbait without a cat gif.

Podcast: Will it Shandy?

There’s something not many people know about me. I love shandies and radlers – the humble blend of beer and lemonade. Phil Cook, my friend and colleague also shares this passion.

We got together one warm summer’s evening with a selection of beers that might be considered ‘unconventional’ blending material, in a quest to answer that age old question that has plagued humanity: “Will it Shandy?”

 

Will it Shandy can be streamed here, or over on The Beer Diary. To download, click the icon in the top right corner, under the Soundcloud logo or go here.

Our title track is Square Beer by The Coconut Monkeyrocket.