Wednesday, 17 October 2018 09:31

McLeod’s Brewery – There can be only one

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It is no secret that I am quite a fan of McLeod’s Brewery from Waipu, the beautiful

shiny heart of plucky little Northland. That has probably been revealed by my

previous expressions of devotion in print and on-line, and the fact that I am wearing

one of my two McLeod’s t-shirts while writing this, and drinking a McLeod’s Tropical

Cyclone Double IPA at the same time, though solely for research purposes of


I have noted that McLeod’s is a brewery founded on “sand, surf and Scottish

heritage”. These are words which are rarely uttered in the same sentence. Since

2014 this growing and prolific brewery has been producing a range of award winning

beers. One of their best decisions was to hire the highly regarded Jason Bathgate as

head brewer over two years ago.

They won the coveted Beer of the Year award from the members of the Society of

Beer Advocates (SOBA), a discerning horde of brewing enthusiasts. In a huge upset,

McLeod’s Paradise Pale Ale beat perennial champion Panhead Supercharger. That

is no simple task. They also picked up a pile of bling at this year’s Brewer’s Guild

New Zealand beer awards. [1]

I have a strong link with the McLeod name as it is my mother’s maiden name and my

brother’s middle (clan) name. Me, I am a Campbell, a clan with the worst reputation

in Scottish history based solely on centuries of treachery, treason and double-


The McLeod name has also been tarnished through no fault of their own. I am

referring to the character Connor McLeod in the multiple Highlander movies and later

animated series. Now, the first Highlander is a more than decent action film, greatly

helped by the soaring Queen soundtrack over well choreographed sword fight

scenes. They should have stopped right there. The other sequels fall away rather

dramatically and tragically in quality and star power, to the extent that I think they

were not even trying near the end. [2]

The seeds of destruction were however sown in the first and best movie. The

producers had hired Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery, two major stars.

Somehow, they made the decision that Lambert (who is French) should play the

Scotsman, and Connery (who is Scottish) should play the Egyptian. To his credit,

Sean does not even attempt an accent but this simply serves to show up how bad

Lambert’s “Scottish” dialogue really is. [3]

McLeod’s Brewery’s Scottish theme is clear on the beer labels and tap badges with a

bold image of what is known in my homeland as a “hairy coo” (Highland cattle for the

you lowlanders). Sometimes mistaken for a yak, the coo is basically a waterproof

and hirsute bovine which survives in constant rain. To my cultural shame, I have

never eaten one.


McLeod’s is taking over Malthouse on Friday 19 October 2018 with ten taps of

genuine McBrew. Pouring on the night (subject to change) will be:

McLeod’s Longboarder Lager (5%) – The brewer does not mince words – this beer

is their flagship and it wins a lot of awards. Rightly so, as it is subtle and nuanced

with notes of peach evident near the end.

McLeod’s Heathen Session Pale Ale (3.8%) – A balanced session IPA with citrus

hops over a solid biscuit malt backbone.

McLeod’s Paradise Pale Ale (5.5%) – Paradise is my second favourite beer from

McLeod’s. The winner will be become obvious very shortly. It is a plump New World

pale ale with notes of orange, lime and lemon.

McLeod’s Tropical Cyclone DIPA (8%) – To the complete non-surprise of regular

readers, my prize tipple in this range is the Double IPA. Tropical Cyclone has a

veritable downpour of orange, papaya, grapefruit and glory.

McLeod’s Traders Scotch Ale (7.2%) – This is a strong Scotch Ale, a style often

known somewhat ironically as Wee Heavy. It is dark and rich with traditional notes of

caramel, peated whisky and honey. A dash of rye provides body and dryness, while

the New Zealand twist is the addition of a spicy Horopito tea after fermentation.

McLeod’s Lochaber West Coast IPA (7.5%) – How can I not adore a West Coast

IPA named after a historical Scottish axe? Well, the actual beer is a mix of citrus,

pine and sticky resin that really lingers.

McLeod’s 802 #12 Fresh, Unfiltered IPA – This is the very latest in their series of

fresh hopped IPAs. This one is particularly dank and cloudy in the East Coast IPA


McLeod’s Smugglers Bay Belgian (9.4%) – A big Belgian style ale bursting with

notes of bananas, bread crust and barnyard. It is much more delicious than I just

made it sound. Sorry.

McLeod’s Smugglers Bay Red Sour Ale (6.6%) – Appropriately soured with two

classic wild yeasts - Brettanomyces and Lactobacillus – this vintage has been aged

for just over a year in French barriques (barrels) which once held Marlborough Pinot

Noir. The result is a deep and decadent brew.

McLeod’s Bourbon Barrel-aged Brown Porter (5.7%) - Head brewer Jason

Bathgate describes it as "like tearing into a freshly baked loaf of homemade

sourdough bread, a piece of chocolate and a glass of bourbon." I like two of

those three things.

Coming up Malthouse will be hosting beer events featuring Yeastie Boys,

Urbanaut, ParrotDog and Epic breweries. There will be more details in coming

weeks but it is going to be an exciting end to the year.


Next time we drink to the new book by my favourite author PJ O’Rourke. I can’t wait

to tuck into None of my Business. ‘[4]

[1] A pile of bling is hereby officially defined as “thirteen medals” in this context.


[2] The Highlander series fell apart worse than the Starship Troopers franchise or the

Star Wars prequels. Even Lethal Weapon films with Joe Pesci were better.

[3] To his credit, Lambert is a serviceable lightning god Raiden in the much

misunderestimated classic Mortal Kombat film.

[4] Thanks to my lovely partner who procured me one of the first copies in New

Zealand through a miraculous new invention called “interwebs shopping”.


Neil Miller

Beer Writer

Cuisine Magazine

TheShout Magazine


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