Category Archives: BEER HISTORIES

American Independence Day: Revolution and a taste for beer

Tasting and text by Karori Fry Up

Over two hundred and forty years ago American patriot Paul Revere rode through the night to warn revolutionary leaders John Hancock and Samuel Adams that the British army was advancing upon them. As the fourth of July draws near we Thirsty Boys gathered at The Malthouse to celebrate that other revolution, the American craft beer revolution.


Here’s something to think about. If you could walk from Wellington to Portland, Oregon (7125 miles) with all the craft breweries in the United States (approx. 2768) spaced evenly along your journey, you would be able to get a beer every 2.5 miles.

Now a beer tasting spanning fifty years and over 2000 breweries cannot obviously be summed up with five beers in one night. This was going to be challenging.

It is a shame that Beer Without Borders, the Malthouse and others don’t regularly import beer from anywhere near 2000 US craft brewers. However, before Dominic corrects me, I admit, my assumption here is as accurate as Nick Smith’s Auckland house-build calculator.

So to make the tasting harder I had to find a bar in Wellington with a selection through which I could weave a historical narrative, of fifty years, through five beers. It wasn’t easy.

In 1965, when a restaurateur and friend told him that the brewery of his favourite Anchor Steam Beer was about to close, and that he should pay them a visit, Fritz Maytag did that. He saw potential and bought himself a brewery, Anchor Brewing Company.

Maytag would set about improving the quality, consistency and, in fact every aspect of the brewery. He was not an overnight success. For Maytag it was a long hard grind. Despite this, Maytag’s contribution to the craft beer scene was far-reaching. Maytag would inspire many craft brewers, and he shared his knowledge with visitors to his brewery. It seems that any American craft brewer of note had at one time visited the Anchor Brewing Company.

In 1974 Fritz Maytag visited the United Kingdom searching for inspiration. One beer that impressed him above all others was Timothy Taylor Brewery’s The Landlord, a hoppy pale ale.

Somewhat suitably we start our American revolution with an English classic.

Version 3

Beer no. 1, Timothy Taylor’s The Landlord.

West Yorkshire, UK. ABV 4.1%. IBU approximately 30-40.

This delicious ale poured a fantastic clear gold, with good hop and malt balance, worthy of its four CAMRA beer of the year awards.

Back in San Francisco, Maytag would brew his take on The Landlord to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Paul Revere’s midnight ride. Anchor’s Liberty Ale first brewed in 1975 was the historic beer that started a revolution. The big American breweries which dominated the market were serving watery lagers with 10 IBU. Maytag wanted a flavoursome beer with up to 40 IBU.

Ideally for our tasting, beer number two would have been Anchor Liberty Ale, which was still on Malthouse’s website, but not in stock.

In 1980 a part-time bike mechanic and home brewer, Ken Grossman and his acquaintance Paul Camusi started a brewery in Chico, California . Inspired by Liberty Ale and its American grown Cascade hop, Grossman and Camusi brewed the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company Pale Ale.


Beer no. 2, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

Chico, California, USA. ABV 5.6%. IBU 38.

The Sierra Nevada complemented Timothy Tale but the Cascade hop was significantly more forward on the palette.

Every so often invention provokes revolution. Never was that truer than with the birth of the Cascade hop. Worldwide it was thought that European hops were – and had always been – superior to their New World counterparts. That changed in the late 1960s with the development of the Cascade… If one ingredient can be said to start a movement, it would be the Cascade hop – the plant that built craft beer.     –

Indeed, with generous helpings of Cascade hops, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale became the beer which would define the West Coast Style.

As a side note, home brewing of beer above ABV 0.5% was illegal in the United States until 1978. This opened the way for the relatively ‘quiet’ home brew culture to become a fully fledged and sanctioned industry led by the likes of Charlie Parpazian who formed the Brewers Association, published The Complete Joy of Home Brewing and founded the Great American Beer Festival.

[Thanks to the Jesuit for bringing up the important and relevant point of home brewing and Jimmy Carter’s influence].

If I was able to have Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, Anchor Liberty Ale, and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale my next beer would have been from the now defunct New Amsterdam brewery. In the very early eighties Matthew Reich pioneered successfully craft beer contract brewing. New Amsterdam beer was brewed at F.X. Matt Brewing in Utica, New York. While F.X. Matt brewed his beer, Reich was out marketing it, walking the streets of New York and getting New Amsterdam into bars and restaurants. When New Amsterdam did become a physical brewery it didn’t last long. Matthew Reich’s legacy included offering consultations to budding contract brewers.

One man who paid for a consultation with Reich was Jim Koch. In 1984 Koch, a Harvard graduate, one-time Outward Bound instructor and management consultant, co-founded a brewery which, by nature of its success would go on to challenge the definition of Craft Beer. Jim Koch came from a family of brewers and when he told his father he wanted to start a brewery he received two good pieces of advice. First, make good beer. He wouldn’t compete with the marketing budgets of Big Beer companies, but he could make a superior product to drive demand. Secondly, “You don’t need a brewery”. And so it was that the beer was brewed under contract in Pittsburgh.

I believe it is entirely appropriate in any 4th of July or American craft beer revolution tasting to include Boston Beer Company’s flagship beer, the Samuel Adams Boston Lager. Sadly this is another beer which appears on the Malthouse list, but not at this time.


Beer no. 3, Dogfish Head, 60 Minute Pale Ale.

Delaware. ABV 6.0%. IBU 60.

As you can see I could easily have finished my five beers of the American craft revolution in the 1980’s. So for beer number three, of the beers available, I leapt ahead to the 1990’s. Sam Calagione and his wife opened the Dogfish Head brewpub in 1995. His first beer was a pale ale but Sam realized that his tiny brewery would need something different if it was to become anything greater. Sam Calagione would be at the forefront of another American revolution. Dogfish would be a leader in pushing boundaries; adding ingredients like organic Mexican coffee and licorice root to the brewing process. Sam would also take the use of hops to new levels, especially with his 60, 90 and 120 Minute Pale Ales, where hops were added to the brew every minute for 60, 90 and 120 minutes.

Now our tasting sort of skewed the order a little here. Mostly, this was due to the available selection at Malthouse. Beer number four was to have been our last, but due to the lower IBU and respect to our taste buds it was promoted up the order.


Beer no. 4, Maui Brewing Company, CoCoNut PorTeR.
Maui, Hawaii. ABV 6.0%. IBU 30.

I had chosen this session-ending beer to reflect the American craft beer scene as it is today. Good beer is being brewed in more far-flung places than ever before (or at least since post-prohibition in the United States). Clever people, using local ingredients are fueling this expansion to meet demand. Ciaran of the Malthouse had mentioned that Dave Kurth of Coromandel’s Hot Water Brewing may have had a hand in the CoCoNut PorTeR, but I forgot to fact-check with him.

A Thirsty Boys tasting, as is our wont, strays and deviates as the night wears on. Along the way we had briefly discussed brewpubs. We had also discussed Phantom Craft, what we in New Zealand tend to call Faux Craft. We had also discussed the similarities between the American craft beer revolution and the New Zealand craft beer scene. And so it was that beer number five also deviated, …into two beers.


Beer no. 5, Rogue Ales, XS Dead Guy Ale.
Newport, Oregon. ABV 8.1%. IBU 60.

Beer no. 6, Rogue Ales, XS Imperial I2PA.
Newport, Oregon. ABV 9.5%. IBU 95.

Like Dogfish, Rogue deserves its place in the extreme beers category. Founded by three Nike executives in 1988, Rogue is a Thirsties’ favourite. The XS range is excessive, and it was a fitting way to end our American craft beer revolution with a beer rating 95 IBU.

Voted best beers? First was Thomas Taylor’s The Landlord, and second was Rogue XS Dead Guy Ale. The Brits scoring one back over the Americans.


The last act of the night, however, was to toast my ancestor, Thomas Graves. In 1781, Graves, a British Admiral, lost a naval battle which effectively for Britain, lost the American Revolution. It is with great pride that I celebrate the incompetence and failure of my family which resulted in the birth of a free nation.

What would your 4th of July line-up be?

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BEER HISTORIES: The Anzacs from the brewery at Mangatainoka

On 25 April 2015, we will commemorate the centenary of the landings of New Zealand and Australian soldiers (the Anzacs) on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey during the first world war. To mark the centenary, and as part of our Beer Histories series, I thought I’d share a story of the sacrifices made by one small district and some of the men who worked at its brewery.

Before the Tui Brewery and rise of the now famous Tui Tower in 1931, the North Island Brewery Co. Ltd at Mangatainoka produced “Tui” beer and stout – popular brews which were distributed and sold throughout the country. The brewery was started in the 1880s by Henry Wagstaff. By 1919, it was reportedly one of the “largest and most up-to-date brewery concerns” in New Zealand, although the impact of the war of 1915-1918 had threatened the brewery’s survival.

At the start of the war, men from throughout the Mangatainoka district volunteered for military service or were called up in a series of ballots. The war would take a heavy toll on Mangatainoka and its neighbouring communities. According to one newspaper report, it appeared as if every man from the district was called to service, and for a time it looked as if the brewery would have to close down. Several employees ended up giving their lives in service of their country.


Lieutenant Henry Rawlings COWAN, Wellington Battalion, NZEF. 17th Ruahine Regiment – and brewer/assistant brewer

The managing director of the brewery, Mr Henry Cowan suffered greatly. He and his wife lost their youngest son Lieutenant Harry Cowan (aged 25) at Gallipoli in 1915. Harry was a single man who was described as “a great favourite throughout the fortymile bush, where he was born and lived his life”. The following year Cowan lost a second son, Sergeant William Cowan, a veteran of the Boer war who died in France. He was an engineer by trade, married with three children. Charles Riddell (aged 36) another brewery employee, survived the disastrous Gallipoli campaign but eventually succumbed to wounds he received on the battlefields in France. Mr Robert Henderson, the brewery manager in 1919, was a volunteer who returned to the brewery after surviving the war.


Cap badge, 17th (Ruahine) Regiment, circa 1916, maker unknown. Gift of the Defence Department, 1916. CC BY-NC-ND licence. Te Papa (GH021133)

The First World War impacted the lives of all New Zealanders. It changed the people who went to war, and those who stayed at home. The story of the Anzacs from the brewery at Mangatainoka reminds us of some of the ways communities, families and businesses in small towns were affected by the war. Sometimes these stories are lost in the grand narratives of history and the nation…as we share a beer with friends this week, let’s not forget them.


North Island Brewery Co. (newspaper article 1919)

H.R.Cowan (newspaper article Roll of Honour 1915)

Charles Riddel (newspaper article 1919)


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BEER HISTORIES: The ‘six o’clock swill’

Guest Blogger: Stephanie Gibson, Curator Contemporary Life & Culture Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Many New Zealanders will remember the years of six o’clock closing of pubs. Urban pubs were often overcrowded, charmless places, where binge drinking took place in a race against the clock, resulting in the infamous ‘six o’clock swill’. Until the 1960s, alcohol could only be sold and consumed publicly in licensed places that provided accommodation. These were known as public hotels or ‘pubs’ for short.

In October 1917 New Zealand became the only country in the world to impose a nation-wide ban on the sale of liquor after six o’clock. Many believed that restricted access would result in less drinking. The ban lasted for 50 years until October 1967, when closing was brought forward to 10 o’clock by public vote.

Glassware, mid-1960s, by Crown Crystal Glass, New Zealand (GH021024-25, GH023164, GH024221, Te Papa) Standardised glassware was introduced by the Hotel Association of New Zealand (HANZ) in 1963.  The 8 ounce glass on the far right was favoured by male drinkers.  The smaller 7 ounce glass on the left and the small sherry glass were favoured by women drinkers.  Jugs were considered an innovation in the early 1960s.

Glassware, mid-1960s, by Crown Crystal Glass, New Zealand
(GH021024-25, GH023164, GH024221, Te Papa)
Standardised glassware was introduced by the Hotel Association of New Zealand (HANZ) in 1963. The 8 ounce glass on the far right was favoured by male drinkers. The smaller 7 ounce glass on the left and the small sherry glass were favoured by women drinkers. Jugs were considered an innovation in the early 1960s.

Until then, six o’clock closing dominated New Zealand’s social life. Drinking at the pub was mainly a male affair, with workers drinking as fast as they could on the way home from work between 5 and 6pm. Beer, the most favoured drink, was dispensed from plastic hoses (connected to a tank in the cellar) to speed up the process. Patrons could either drink at the bar, where their glasses were refilled by hose, or they could fill a jug and retreat to a standing table for a more leisurely intake. Pubs had little furniture in order to fit more drinkers in, and were lined with linoleum floors for easier cleaning which was often no more than a hose-down after patrons went home. Windows were frosted so that passers-by couldn’t see in and be tempted to drink. In practice, women could drink upstairs in more respectable private bars.

Some felt that early closing promoted poor drinking practices, while others considered it good for family life as it encouraged men to go home for dinner. Many believed that a worker’s leisure hours should not all be spent at the pub. The industry itself didn’t mind six o’clock closing because it meant shorter working hours. Staff were paid relatively well because of the limited number of pubs due to the restricted amount of licences available. However, in rural areas (particularly on the West Coast), six o’clock closing was widely disregarded as many workers had little opportunity to drink before six.

A crowd drinking at Porirua Tavern is captured on the last day of 6 o'clock closing in October 1967. Photograph by an Evening Post staff photographer. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington (PADL-000185)

A crowd drinking at Porirua Tavern is captured on the last day of 6 o’clock closing in October 1967. Photograph by an Evening Post staff photographer. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington (PADL-000185)

The liquor licensing laws imposed extra restrictions on Māori and women. It wasn’t until 1962 that it became an offence to refuse to serve liquor on the basis of race. Women could not be employed in bars except for members of the licensee’s family and barmaids who were already employed when legislation was passed in 1910. Consequently, professional barmaids were very rare and rather elderly by the time this particular legislation was repealed in 1961.

The introduction of licensed restaurants in 1961 began to transform social life, enabling patrons to drink alcohol with food. The combined influence of New Zealanders travelling abroad, the arrival of new migrant groups and growing numbers of international tourists, helped to broaden gastronomic expectations and develop the wine-growing industry. From the mid-1960s there was an explosion of new restaurants in New Zealand’s larger cities, and in turn pubs began to upgrade their facilities. Floors were carpeted, seats provided and décor improved.

Since then, New Zealanders have seen a massive liberalisation of the drinking laws and associated culture – possibly the fastest such change experienced anywhere in the world. By the end of the century, more alcohol was available through more venues and longer hours, and to younger people.

This article originally appeared in  Glory Days Magazine

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