Montheith’s – Really Good Ale
November 25, 2011 Rozanne Woodward 0 Comments
The first waves of immigrants to New Zealand were the second sons of land owning families in England. Because of the rules of entitlement, their family estates were passed to their first-born siblings. As such, these ‘second sons’ struck out on their own to discover new lands where their futures awaited.
In New Zealand they found “God’s Country,” a land of perfect temperate climate, lush green rolling hills and clear streams full of dazzling salmon. After settling in, they did what any good Englishman would in this situation of comfort and ease: they set up breweries. What better way to embrace their new home than with beer in hand?
The beers they made were labours of love, crafted with patience and dedication. In New Zealand, where the world comes to an idyllic standstill, the beers have a calming effect, as if the harmony of their brewing environment enters their form through osmosis. The best appraised of these is a Craft Ale called Montheith’s.
Montheith’s was born at a small brewery on the West Coast of New Zealand. As any chef will tell you, in beer as with salads and sushi, the secret is not in complexity but in the quality of ingredients. Montheith’s brewery uses only the finest natural resources such as the purest water, the richest malted barley, and distinctive New Zealand hops. The result is a beer that has its roots in British Pale Ale, yet by that definition, Craft Ale creates a category unto itself.
This amber-hued elixir has been brewed to the same family recipe since 1868. It is this liquid gem that won the 2002 Best International Beer, the equivalent of the Academy Award for the brewing industry. That’s right, Monteith’s is the beer equivalent to an Oscar-clutching Sally Field squealing, “You really like me!”
This is the beer that also won the Monde Selection Beer Awards in Brussels. Made in the traditional way with coal-fired boilers and open fermenters, it is a beer that pleases non-beer drinkers who shy away from the bitter metallic aftertaste of most ales or lagers. It is a beer not to swill but to experience with food. At a recent pairing with a duck confit, the meal’s flavours married perfectly with the subtle berry-fruit aroma of the Celtic Red Montheith’s.
Though the Latin saying “in vino veritas” translates to “in wine there is truth,” it is perhaps more applicable to beer. Like one’s reaction to art, enjoying beer is a singularly personal experience. Accordingly, we assembled a group of tasters to try Montheith’s.
Here are their reflections.
Monteith’s Original Craft Ale
Eric, filmmaker and beer aficionado: I cracked open some Original Montheith’s with a plate of thinly sliced French Saucicon. I found that its intriguing balance of smooth hop flavour and berry fruit aroma complemented the succulent chewy meat perfectly. This beer is lovely, really smooth. I’m going to try this with my favourite Spanish Ham made from pigs fed with chestnuts.
Monteith’s Celtic Red Ale
Celina, socialite extraordinaire: It’s like a British pale ale, but more subtle and with a more resolved sweetness in the aftertaste. Hence it provides a balance to the meal rather than overwhelms. I tested it with a recipe for Peking Duck with Squid Ink Fettuccini and because of this ale’s slightly smoky aroma it marries deliciously with the traces of hoisin sauce and caramelised onion in the duck reduction.
Limited Release Summer Ale
Joanie, restaurant manager: I’m not a beer drinker but this beer is very nice, with an intriguing blend of honey and mild spice that completed the sweet coconut milk-infused Thai dishes I served it with. I also added a wedge of lemon and had it in place of cocktails.