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October 5, 2009 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

A Conflict of Interest


I remember the first time I walked into the Malthouse. I saw fridges full of random colourful beers from all over the world which I’d never seen before. I was filled with awe and excitement for the time to be spent tasting each and every one. My wallet cringed.

I was filled with this awe again recently, when I first saw the range at Wellington’s newest home for beer: Hashigo Zake.

What the hell does Hashigo Zake mean? In Japan it is used to mean ‘pub crawl’, but literally translated it means ‘liquor ladder’. Hashigo Zake’s philosophy is to allow patrons to raise the quality of the beverage in their glass by providing only the highest quality beer, wine and spirits.

Their philosophy is one thing, but coupled with the exclusive range of beers imported by themselves from all over the world, I was overcome by anticipation and excitement. So much so that I got myself a job there.

I know this presents a large ‘conflict of interest’, but I’d be gushing just as much if I was on the other side of the bar. Which is where I’ve found myself many times, in the name of research of course.

This research has taken my taste buds to Norway, Greenwich and the US. The most exciting trip has been with the Danish ‘gypsy brewers’: Mikkeller.

These guys don’t actually have a brewery. The Mikkeller brewer travels the world, borrowing the equipment of some of the best breweries around to create edgy, experimental brews. It is this experimentation which has led to some insanely tasty beers.

The range of single hop IPAs are all identical except for one ingredient per beer—the hop. Each single hop IPA is created using one variety of hop while every other aspect remains the same. This showcases what a particular variety of hop provides a beer in the way of flavour.

The best I’ve tasted so far is Nelson Sauvin Single Hop IPA (6.9%). Patriotic pride aside—this beer uses the new variety of hop developed in New Zealand: Nelson Sauvin—so named for its flavour similarity to the Sauvignon Blanc grape.

A huge citrus aroma emanates from this hazy amber brew. This is a flavour bomb of bitter grapefruit, pine and grass with a dry finish. Nelson Sauvin shows up the American hops with superior strength and depth of flavour.

Obviously, Mikkeller love their hops. So they decided to use masses of them in a dark beer: Jackie Brown (6%). Named for the Quinten Tarintino movie, this brown ale is filled with citrus hop attitude and chocolaty roast malt smoothness. This is a great example of an American brown ale—but brewed in Belgium.

Why not come down and try to climb your liquor ladder under Zibbibo on Taranaki St, where Hashigo Zake will help you with each rung.

If you have any questions about this week’s beers or any comments, please email me at


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