Wednesday, 05 April 2017 10:10

Richard Emerson: The Spirit in the Sky

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March was a somewhat rocky month for this blog. I was forced to write solely about sour beers on no less than two occasions. However, I also got to post the 400th Malthouse blog which is right up there as an absolute career highlight. April is already promising to be much better with the impending arrival of Hopstock – a now annual Wellington-wide celebration of fresh, green hopped, beery goodness. [1]

Malthouse will be front and centre with a new fresh hopped beer, and two events pairing beer, spirits, cheese and a near divine force in New Zealand brewing – (Sir) Richard Emerson. For those new to the circus, a green hopped beer is brewed with fresh unprocessed hops, usually within 48 hours of being picked. The resulting beer tends to be sticky, bitter and resinous, a bit like Justin Bieber’s Sydney mansion. [2]

Disclaimer: I like hops. No, I really like hops in the same way I really like pork pies, Dungeons and Dragons, Boris Johnson, Epic Meal Time, Jane Clifton’s prose, Stu McKinlay’s trousers, Vanilla Ice, the British and Irish Lions, Avon from Blake’s Seven, and PJ O’Rourke’s latest book about the recent US election mysteriously titled “How the hell did this happen?” For the record, Mr O’Rourke, a confirmed Republican Party Reptile, would have voted for Hilary. I probably would have too.

Having gotten that political confession out of the way, Hopstock is now in its third year and is organised by our friends at the Craft Beer Capital. The festival sees over 20 breweries making fresh hopped beers paired up with Wellington craft beer bars based entirely on a random draw. Well, not exactly as brewpubs have been allocated their own beers rather than pretending that – for example – the Fork & Brewer miraculously drew Fork Brewing beer again. It just makes sense.

For 2017, Malthouse was fortunate to be allocated Emerson’s Brewery as their Hopstock partner from 19 April to 24 April 2017. It is entirely fair to say that founder (Duke) Richard Emerson is one of the most revered, respected and (frankly) beloved figures in New Zealand brewing and has been for decades. This is despite Emerson’s being sold to Lion around four years ago. Richard still brews, (Father) Chris O’Leary still ensures the quality and apparently “corporation” is not an actual flavour descriptor...

For Hopstock, Malthouse will be pouring Emerson’s Fresher (5.8%), a new green hopped Pilsner made with the first Nelson Sauvin hops of the season. Emerson’s Pilsner was a trail blazing brew which put many a drinker, including me, on the craft beer trail. [3] They know what are doing down there. Fresher will be on tap at Malty from the 19th until the precise moment it runs out. That may well be much sooner than the 24th so get in quick.

In addition to the new beer, Malthouse will be hosting two exclusive Emerson's Beer, Spirit and Cheese Tasting Evenings with (Lord) Richard Emerson himself. [4] On Wednesday 19 April 2017 at 6:30pm there will be a Beer, Whisky and Cheese Pairing. The next day, Thursday 20 April also at 6:30pm, there will be a Beer, Gin and Cheese Pairing, also in the luxurious Malthouse lounge. Both nights are hosted by (Emperor) Richard Emerson, founder/brewer/Yoda of Emerson's Brewery, and Greg Menzies, Emerson's Marketing Guy. [5]

Here is the kicker – there are only 20 places for each session and tickets are already being sold. Bookings can be made by phone or through  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Ticket prices are $60 for one session, but only $100 for the two tastings. That is correct – you can save money ($20!) going to both. [6] Each tasting sessions will see four Emerson's beers matched with four spirits matched with four Kapiti cheeses. Attendees will also get a complimentary half pint of Emerson's fresh hop beer on arrival.


Here is the Beer, Whisky and Cheese Line-up for 19 April:

Half pint of Fresher Fresh Hop Nelson Sauvin Pilsner on entry

Bird Dog IPA 7% (tasting super good at the moment)

  • Glenfiddich 12yo
  • Kapiti Tuteremona Aged Cheddar

Citrus Centric Citrus Infused IPA 6.8%

  • Glenmorangie 10yo (always tastes great)
  • Kapiti Portwine Cheddar (this will be an interesting match)

Maris Gold Golden Ale 5.1% (so glad this beer has come back, it is hugely misunderestimated)

  • Tobermory 10yo
  • Kapiti Cumin Gouda (not usually my favourite style of cheese but the combination is intriguing. It may even make me like cumin infused cheese – something never before contemplated) [7]

Daredevil Red IPA 6.4%

  • Balvenie 12yo Double Wood
  • Kapiti Pakai Smoked Cheddar (think it may be a smoky sweet finish for this event)


The Beer, Gin and Cheese Line-up for 20 April is:

Half pint of Fresher Fresh Hop Nelson Sauvin Pilsner on entry

Bird Dog IPA 7%

  • Cardrona Distillery ‘The Source’ Gin (loving their work right now)
  • Kapiti Tuteremona Aged Cheddar

Citrus Centric Citrus Infused IPA 6.8%

  • Lighthouse Gin
  • Kapiti Portwine Cheddar (this will be an intricate match with flavours that have no real right to get on with each on the table. I think it will be wonderful.)

Maris Gold Golden Ale 5.1%

  • Tanqueray No.10 (Classic for a reason)
  • Kapiti Cumin Gouda

Daredevil Red IPA 6.4%

  • Bruichladdich ‘The Botanist’ (this may well be the standout gin of the night with an amazing mix of ingredients)
  • Kapiti Pakai Smoked Cheddar

I’ve long been a fan of a whisky at the end of a meal but the combination of craft beer and craft gin has been an absolute revelation to me in the last 18 months. I was hugely sceptical and turned out to be hugely wrong. Try a sip of gin, then a sip of beer. The combination – even before the cheese – is amazing. If you are feeling bold enough pour the remaining gin into the beer to create an instant Pipe Wrench. It will change your world.


Next time, we drink to Dr Hawkeye Pierce (Alan Alda from MASH) who said “I will stick with gin. Champagne is just ginger ale that knows somebody.”


[1] Being self-employed I have no idea when Easter is this year or indeed any year. However, I do know the exact moment that Hopstock starts – opening time on April 19th 2017.

[2] Look it up. This is a surprisingly cutting edge pop culture reference.

[3] Shameless Plug – there is a Hopstock trail and prizes! See the link below for details. 

[4] He truly is the Chuck Norris of Craft Brewing – the resemblance is uncanny.

[5] This is his official job title.

[6] That claim is not strictly mathematically or economically accurate, but it is a surprisingly generous offer from Malthouse.

[7] I also never thought that Donald Trump would be President...




Neil Miller

Beer Writer

Beer and Brewer Magazine

Cuisine Magazine

TheShout Magazine



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