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May 14, 2007 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Discovering Good Beer

At first I found his actions completely baffling. Why would anyone who had the choice of nearly 100 beers at the new Malthouse pick a Tui? That’s like going to the Sevens and actually watching the rugby.

Then it hit me – that guy used to be me.

I remembered the days when I would sit in the old Malthouse with a comfortingly familiar pint of Tui, glaring suspiciously at the fruity pale ales, exotic Belgian brews and chocolatey stouts being quaffed around me.

It’s true – I haven’t always appreciated good beer. It turns out beer writers are made, not born.

My beer drinking career got off to a rough start with my first recollection being a slightly warm six-pack of Rheineck. This unpleasant experience certainly put my beer appreciation back several years.

Teenagers called Rheineck ‘weasel piss’, which was unfair. If my pet weasel passed Rheineck, I’d rush him to the vet.

In time, I became a solidly loyal beer drinker. My first allegiance was to Lion Brown (“Lion Brown till you are lying down,” intoned my friend Mr Shin), then Tui.

I’d like to say I made the change based on taste and nutritional value but the real reason was Tui had cooler free stuff. I still have the hats, Hawaiian shirts, television and matching couch to prove it.

For me, Tui suited every social occasion and matched every type of food. The Tui team were probably using me as a case study of the perfect consumer.

Then, slowly, things began to change. For several years, a very good friend of mine known as Dr G had been trying to tempt me away from my favoured ‘East India Pale Ale’ (yeah right) with any number of fine local and international beers.

When all around him had a box of the generic lager de jour, Dr G could be relied upon to have a veritable cornucopia of Pilseners, extra special bitters and barley wine. He would always exhort me to “try a bit of this, sir, instead of your bog standard New Zealand lager”.

Two events finally converted me.

First, I was completely convinced that mainstream New Zealand beers did indeed all taste the same when a member of my cricket team (Bok) mixed up DB Draught (which he claimed to love) and Lion Brown (which he claimed to hate) in a blind taste test.

We were being loyal to an image, not the actual product.

Second, I met a Pink Elephant Mammoth. I initially tried this beer because it was strong – I kept drinking it because it was so flavoursome. Ironically, this conversion happened on the balcony of the old Malthouse when I should have been in PHIL101 helping decide if Ken drinks Steinlager (“unlikely but possible!”)

Whole new vistas of beer were opened up to me and I’ve been frolicking happily in them ever since.

The development of my beer taste has paralleled the welcome development of a real beer culture in New Zealand. I’ve gone from a single-brand mainstream drinker to one who appreciates a wide variety of beers.

I know which lifestyle I prefer.


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