September 11 was a day that screamed for a beer or two – whether your eyes were glued to the Oscar Pistorius trial on TV or whether your ears were listening attentively to US President Barack Obama’s announcement of further military action to come in Iraq. Thankfully, the same day also marked the official launch of Monteith’s Beers to the UK.
The launch event took place at the New Zealand-themed restaurant Kopapa in Covent Garden, with Kopapa being a Maori word for “a gathering, to be crowded, and a building to store food in”.
Thus a ‘gathering’ of media and expat kiwis joined the team at Heineken for an exclusive introductory beer tasting and food-pairing session with award-winning craft beer writer Ben McFarland. The tutored tasting session began with Ben leading the guests through Monteith’s illustrious history while he shared his enthusiasm for New Zealand’s craft brewing culture.
“With a plethora of highly sought after hop varieties and a thriving craft brewing culture, New Zealand has emerged as one of the world’s most exciting brewing nations in recent years,” he explained.
“Monteith’s, whose history dates back nearly 150 years, has been instrumental in this.”
The legendary brewing company was set up in 1868 by Stewart Monteith for the pioneering gold mining communities on the west coast of New Zealand. By the 1920s varying economic misfortunes of the mines had led to a decline in population, which forced many bars and breweries to close.
Monteith’s Phoenix brewery merged with several other surviving breweries to form Westland Brewing Co, headed by Stewart’s son, William. The new head office was built on a new site in Greymouth, where Monteith’s is still brewed today. Craft and ruggedness have always been a part of Monteith’s heritage, and Ben believes that this will tie in well with trends in the UK beer market”
“There are over 1,200 breweries in the UK, and people here are beginning to drink less but drink better. Craft beer is popular now, so there’s a lot of room for growth.”
Survey evidence has shown that the British public is willing to pay an extra 33p per pint for a quality craft beer. Monteith’s are clearly looking to take advantage of that trend, as they have done in other European markets, with the introduction of four beers to the UK market.
Monteith’s Bohemian Pilsner Beer
The first beer that Ben McFarland introduced to the audience was the Bohemian Pilsner. This was accompanied with the ultimate Kiwi foods of spaghetti toasties and fish and chips. The Bohemian Pilsner is an eastern European-style lager with strong malt and hops character. This fared well with the tomato based pasta dish and the seafood, as the Pilsners aftertaste tends to be bitter yet smooth.
Monteith’s Summer Ale Beer
The second taster of the night was the Monteith’s Summer Ale. This was accompanied with king scallops and smoked salmon pancakes. A bright gold beer spiced with a single hop variety and a dash of Rata honey – which predominantly comes from the west coast of New Zealand. The result is a refreshing and smooth summer beer, which goes down well with summer salads, stir-fries and light seafood dishes.
Ben encouraged the guests to unleash all human senses in evaluating the Summer Ale, as it has distinctive smells and lasting sweet flavors.
Monteith’s Southern Pale Ale
The third Monteith’s beer of the night was the Southern Pale Ale. This was accompanied with lamb and venison. The Southern Pale Ale is best characterised by its filtered approach between the intensity of North West American hops and the vitality of New Zealand hops. Ben recognises the growing international popularity of Kiwi hops due to their fresh and citrus-based features.
“Hops have been hit by a history of disease in places like America and Europe but this wasn’t the case for New Zealand. So there has been less interference with fertiliser in Kiwi hops. [But] I cannot stress enough how popular Kiwi hops are at the moment,” he said enthusiastically.
Beginning with a zesty aroma, this pale ale has a full malt flavor and crisp finish – which paired perfectly with the meat dishes of lamb and venison, and would also suit fish and poultry dishes or a ripe Camembert.
Monteith’s India Pale Ale
The final beer of the night was the India Pale Ale. This was accompanied with steak and cheese pie and black pudding. Rich maltiness is the key element in this Pale Ale. The unique Kiwi hops create a fruity aroma with a touch of bitterness, which fittingly drives home the hop flavor. The concentration of the flavors matched the intensity of the black pudding and pie appropriately.
As with all beer tasting – as opposed to wine tasting – there was no spitting of the alcohol and hence no drop was wasted, which led to a rather lively and sociable launch event.
Pedro Cruz, Manager Export Western Europe, of Heineken added: “Even before its UK launch date the brand is already developing a powerful buzz on social media across the UK, as craft beer fans eagerly anticipate the arrival of the ultimate expression of New Zealand’s proud brewing heritage.”
Monteith’s have developed a solid and growing fan base outside of New Zealand, and Europe in particular is becoming a new strong-hold. Consumers are enticed towards Monteith’s versatility in pairing their specific beers with contemporary food options. The association with a unique heritage, the wide-ranging quality of flavors and a natural kinship with all types of contemporary food make Monteith’s a great craft beer option for UK restaurants, bars and consumers.