Tag Archives: New Zealand

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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Scott’s pick: The best beers of 2012

Text: Mr Horse

The last tasting for 2012 was held in December at the Hopgarden where the boys were joined by members of an informal beer club made up of academic staff from Victoria University. This was the first time the Thirsty Boys wished they had their own business cards….

The session was co-curated by Geoff (aka DJ Kanuk), who is in both groups, and Hopgarden manager Scott Boswell who was our charming host. The following notes were compiled by Mr Horse (H) and Greasylightbulb (GLB), although they peter out a bit towards the end as our writing got progressively more illegible…

1.     Emersons RSB

The 2012 take on the regular brewer’s reserve made in collaboration with Kieran Haslett-Moore from Regional Wines and Spirits

‘More malty and English influenced, in line with Kieran’s preferences’ – Scott

‘Pretty bloody nice’ – Adrian

‘A second-hand bookshop mustiness’ – Scott

‘Tinny finish’ – GLB

There was a lot of debate about the pros and cons of ‘the takeover….’ of Emersons by Lion Nathan. There was also a heated discussion between GLB and Gingerbeardyman  (GBM) about the varying experiences in Wellington’s beer bars, possibly the subject of a future blog…

2.     Anchor Steam beer USA

A classic ‘California Commons’ beer made by this boutique brewery which emerged in the 1970s. A lager with ale traits suited to warmer temperatures. ‘Steam’ was once a style but now is trademarked by Anchor… sound familiar?

‘Good shit. An indelible classic’ – Jesuit

‘Popular at my end of the table but tastes like a beer that’s been open to long’ – GLB

‘Its nice’ – Grant

‘I’ve had this many times before’ – American drinker from Vic with an indecipherable name

‘Theres something ever, ever so yeasty…ah I mean zesty!’ – Malice

3.     Garage Project Uber Alles

Another California Commons lager-style ale but, unlike the US version, Scott felt this had ‘heft’ with more hops and a malt richness. ‘Uber alles’ means ‘above all’ or ‘above everything else’ and is from the German national anthem…. Except it’s actually from a Dead Kennedys song. Don’t know why the beer is named after this.

‘It tastes like a hoppy pale ale so definitely a twist on the style’ – GLB

‘Light and spritzy, refreshing and dry’ – Scott

‘Hops up front but then nothing’ –  Jo

4.     Garage Project Red Rocks Reserve

An interesting 7% red ale from Garage Project which is their first bottled beer (made at Tuatara’s new plant at Waikanae). Brewed with real volcanic rocks from Wellington’s south coast using that hopfenstein technique so well documented on Youtube. Apparently Stone and Wood do it too to their Stone beer. It’s different to the previous batch, a more hoppy amber ale. Doesn’t seem to have the same hop characters, but is still smooth, well rounded and toffee.

‘Caramalised, toffee accented beer’ – Scott

‘Seemed better named than the last beer since ‘it’s red and has rocks in it’ – Jesuit

‘What about the ‘reserve’ bit though? ‘Maybe because the rocks were taken from a Marine Reserve?’ – Scott

‘A rocky beer. Love it!’ – Mr H

5.     Liberty Brewing Yakima Scarlet

A very popular big (7%) red IPA that was a hit with lots of drinkers and critics in 2012.

‘Citrus notes, caramelly, hoppy delirium…beautiful beer. More red, more restrained than the Tall Poppy’ – Scott

‘It’s not often Liberty gets called more restrained than anything” – GLB

‘Rich and caramel, burnt hokey pokey’ – Jo

‘Filthy, smutty, skank and dank’ – GBM

‘Oh, the beer? Don’t know sorry, we’re talking about our writing’ – Two Vic academics from media studies

6.     Kereru brewery Velvet Boot

A strong Belgian ale which some felt did not taste like an 8% beer. Its made by an American in Lower Hutt, New Zealand, who brews on a tiny scale at home, and prompted a discussion about the American influence on the New Zealand craft beer scene. An interesting mouthfeel, described by various drinkers as all of: waxy, rich, unctuous, cheesey, buttery and soapy. This brewer has fans in Scott from Hopgarden, and also Dan from LBQ, and everyone expects big things from him in future.

‘Seems to have a little less life than I’d expect’  – GLB. GBM compared it to a chemistry teacher ‘not interesting,’ or your gran who ‘says a lot, understands nothing.’ He added ‘Hints of curried wee.’

‘A possibly kinder comparison was ‘curried banana’ – GLB

‘Its what you smell when you open up a packet of candles’ – Malice

‘Stale?’  – DJ Kanuk

7.     Yeastie Boys His Majesty’s

Next up in  a ‘bling’ bottle, very festive strong Belgian style IPA (8.5%) from the Yeastie Boys, from a range designed to be a treat and shared,  drank now or cellared, a bit like bubbly. The His Majestys seem to be a bit English influenced?

‘This one has Belgian yeast, but ‘the cleaner side of Belgian’ – Scott.

‘Best beer tonight, a sassy complex beer: rich, cloying, chocolately-orange, evervescent’ – GBM

‘Quite a lot of malt too. Nicer than last year’s one, more drinkable’ – GLB

Some indecipherable comments re the connections with REM and The Smiths – The Jesuit and GBM

8.     Townshends Flemish Stout

Townshends from Nelson do their own twist on some UK styles, and this 7.5% limited edition stout with Belgian influences is a good example of their craft. The beer has been a hit this year with drinkers, brewers, and the hospitality industry. Everyone at our tasting was impressed as well. Responses included: ‘Stewed apple’, ‘marmite’ and ‘really good liquorice’, ‘molasses and tar’.

‘Tastes a bit sour, tastes as if it’s aged’ – someone or other (‘I can’t even read my own writing’ – Mr H)

‘Nothings fighting to be overheard and nothing is hiding in the corner’ – GBM

‘Outstanding’ – Scott

‘I’m all over this shit’ – GLB (by now our comments getting looser obviously)

9.     Dubuisson brewery Bush Noel

And finally Scott presented the now merry gathering with our last beer of a marathon tasting, appropriately a Xmas themed monster at 12% that had us all waxing lyrical in a rather incoherent fashion.

‘Horribly festive label, was expecting a crap beer, but its pretty good. Sweet and dark and potent’ – GLB

‘Faaaaaaarck!’ – Mr H

‘Like drinking oak trees’ – The Jesuit

‘Like wine, like Christmas cake wine’ – GBM

‘What you need to drink before Santa comes down the chimney’ – Malice

Mr Horses’s last words scrawled on his notes were: ‘And the everything fell apart…’

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BEERVANA 2012 – Session #1 : A short review and the T-shirts of Beervana

Beervana, the nirvana of New Zealand beer enthusiasts lasted just over four hours for me. No, I didn’t pass out, I actually staggered home in a fairly orderly, non-drunken fashion. I had quenched my thirst and gained some insight into the state of craft beer brewing; and it’s in good health I tell you, a hoppy state of being.

The Thirstyboys lined up for Beervana with the rest of the beergeeks from about 11.20 am at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand. The gates opened at 12.00pm so we had to amuse ourselves for a while counting the number of people with beards, sideys and anoraks. When the gates opened, we calmly walked in. picked up our glasses and beer tokens and proceeded to try four beers in the first half hour. We slowed down a wee bit after that but a sense of anticipation was definitely there. We noticed the Australia section was busy. Here is a photo of the crowds.

I joke, I joke…because much later we tried some excellent Aussie brews – the Mountain Goat Brewery: Gypsy & the Goat black peppery IPA was a favourite for three of the thirstyboys.  The Garage Project stall was jammed with thirsty people, those guys got a fan club going…but in this first session other stalls like Macs and Stella Artois seemed to struggle to attract punters. The non-alc stall was quiet too.

However, throughout the afternoon there was a friendly, low key vibe if not a crowded buzz…perhaps in the evening session it would get a bit rowdier, once everyone escaped from work, and are feeling thirsty and hungry.

For our thirsty crew the best beers we tasted were:

Garage Project: Red Rocks Reserve tied with Mountain Goat Brewery: Gypsy & the Goat Black Peppery IPA 7.3% – Karorifryup

Emerson’s Brewery: Regional Best Bitter 4% – gingerbeardedman

8 Wired Brewing Co: Superconductor 8.0% – PJ

8 Wired Brewing Co: media brew – the Jesuit

Mountain Goat Brewery: Gypsy & the Goat black peppery IPA 7.3% – the draughtsman

Yeastie Boys: Gunnamatta Earl Grey IPA 6.5% – malice

Overall, from my point of view Beervana was well presented and organised. The Beervana guide was sharply designed, easy to find your way around and informative. There were over 200 beers on offer, and a great variety of quality food. The service was friendly, it was good. There was ample space and room to move, to sit down or stand up and drink beers and more beers. Though we did lose a few guys from time to time in the growing crowd.

I decided not to do a full review of Beervana. I think there will be plenty of beer-scribes who will provide expert commentary on what was on offer and the good and bad of the event. It was my first Beervana at the Westpac Stadium so I couldn’t make a comparison. However, just to add something different to the literature that will emerge around this event, I thought I’d give you an insight into the culture of beer geeks at Beervana 2012 through their t-shirts. I have added a few quotes I overheard during the afternoon…just to break up the images. Thanks to all those who agreed to be photographed, especially those who won’t remember.

“Going for the session beers from here on, in, is probably the way to go…”

the draughtsman

“If you go down the other end and look at ciderguy…he is lonely.”

The Jesuit

“That’s what separates the Thirstymen from the Thirstyboys…”

the jesuit

Gingerbeardedman with his beervana goody bag and his strange beer drinking hoody


“Flatter than last year, bigger does not always equal better…”


“It has been excellent, I had a really good time and made numerous jokes at your expense, not all of them racist…don’t write that down!!”

The jesuit

“I wasn’t here…”


LINK: http://beervana.co.nz/media

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Garage Project 24 /24

Hashigo Zake – cult beer bar



5 September 2011

It’s …about approaching things with a garage mentality. It’s about playing around, making do and thinking outside the box.” Garage Project

I have heard of garages being used as pool rooms, bedrooms, meeting rooms and used for Samoan tattooing, hydroponic horticulture projects and parties, but I’d never heard of them being used for beer brewing, although I was not surprised.  You see, garages the world over are for storing things, making things, and tinkering or experimenting with what has been stashed away or what comes to hand.

We are only just catching up with the Garage Project (because we have, y,know day jobs). It is an interesting brewing concept set in a local Wellington garage.  Experimentation is at the heart of the Garage Project as is the challenge of working to a gruelling beer brewing timetable. According to the three brewers, Pete and Ian Gillespie and Jos Ruffell, the guiding principle of the Garage Project and motivator behind 24/24 – is to brew 24 new beers in 24 weeks. The brewers say they are “nano brewing” rather than micro brewing – they are working on a very small scale, enjoying the opportunity to experiment and be nimble in their process. You can read more about Garage Project http://garageproject.co.nz/WHY

We thought it was worth commenting on the Garage Project because it is building a profile and drawing a few keen drinkers down to the dark depths of Hashigo Zake – cult beer bar on Tuesday afternoons. Our engagement with the project began three beers ago, just before the half way point.

Here we check out two Garage project beers – brewed for weeks 11 and 12 of the big 24…


11/24 Red Rocks MP

We went to Hashigo Zake cult beer bar in downtown Wellington right on 5pm to find out what all the buzz was about. Waiting for us was Red Rocks, beer number 11 of 24. There were only 19 litres available.

Red Rocks is a hoppy red ale, named after the sea shore location of the same name on Wellingtons south coast. Yes, the rocks are actually red in places. The Jesuit and I had a half pint off the tap. It looked good and tasted great. The Jesuit decided that it was “Not as hoppy and not as overwhelming as a New World IPA”. He remarked “It is very Belgian!” After a few sips a sour after taste becomes apparent. It was a good drop and one we got through quickly, but we left before the keg dripped dry.

There were little square feedback coasters for the Garage project (see image) with the questions “What did you drink?” and “What did you think?” They asked us to rate the beer, from 5 (great) to 1 (not so great). We gave it 3.5…

Red Rocks went well with the chocolate brownies they were serving at the bar to celebrate Hashigo Zake’s 2nd birthday (more on Hashigo Zake in a future post); it was an unusual combination consumed in the spirit of experimentation. I’m sure the Garage project lads were into that.

12 September 2011

12/24 Salt and Pepper Porter MP

The Jesuit and I were joined on the 12th by gingerbeardyman and Karori Pai Ita at Hashigo Zake for the release of the Salt and Pepper porter. Once again there were only 19 litres which was a pity because it was really more-ish. The beers were served quite cold and gingerbeardyman would have preferred his beer a bit warmer. He said it had hints of pepper on the nose, and was a little bit briny. It had faint coffee tones and a dryness of taste.

“Best to drink after dinner with a
cheese platter before you start on the whiskey…”

 We had a chance to talk with one of the brewers Jos Ruffell who was in attendance. It was great to hear first hand from him of the projects origins; about the transformation of an Aro Valley garage into a Health and Hygiene certified premises, and that the old sofa in the garage was bigger than the actual brew kit.

Aaaah…three guys making beer in their garage and selling it to random people…it’s that Kiwi do it yourself thing. Made the Jesuit go misty eyed about his punk days playing bass in a garage in Christchurch.



Garage Project http://garageproject.co.nz/WHO

Pint-sized brewery opens in Wellington by Jono Galuszka


Beer Diary Podcast episode 5: The Garage Project by Phil Cook


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