A trip to Dan Murphy’s for the missus’s bargain verdelho uncovered this hitherto undiscovered gem from New Zealand. Stoke Dark (@McCashins), which is part of a trio of beers (Gold, Amber and Dark) is brought to us by the McCashin Family. The label talks about how the beer is “Actually NZ Owned” and warranted futher investigation. It turns out we have a brewing family that started off micro, had it’s brand bought out by a macro, had the brewing moved from the local area and has gone full circle to start up another micro in the original brewery.
The patriarch of the McCashin family is Terry McCashin, whose name is invariably followed by the phrase “who is a former All Black”. To get a sense of New Zealand’s view of Rugby compared to any other pursuit in life, one only needs to read the opening paragraph of his bio on allblacks.com. Terry McCashin has been one of those rare All Blacks whose deeds in his after life have probably exceeded anything he achieved in rugby, worthy though his career was. Maybe it is because Terry never played a test for New Zealand, but toured as a hooker on a few trips to Australia and Fiji, that they’ve conceded his brewing exploits exceed his rugby achievements.. He was a reserve in many New Zealand tests, when reserves only made it onto the field if the run on player had broken their leg, coughed up a lung or lost an arm (even then it was doubtful, whether you’d get on). Aaaahh. Real rugby. If it he’d be playing today he’d have probably racked up 50 test caps. I love that his debut was against that rugby powerhouse – Tasmania. All Blacks v Tasmania – classic.
So, despite sticking his head in numerous scrums in the tough bygone era, Terry still had enough grey matter to become quite the entrepeneur. The potted history is that he bought an old cider factory in Nelson (north of the South Island), got in an ex-Carlsberg brewer and became a microbrewing giant. He sold his brands off to Lion Nathan and leased them the brewery. Macs still keeps its identity and makes some pretty good beer, but it is no longer brewed in Nelson. So canny Terry (or maybe his son Dean) has taken the brewery over again and is knocking out beers and ciders. McCashins don’t use sugar in their beers, and they pride themselves on the purity of their process.
I’ll be heading down to get the Stoke Gold and Stoke Amber, because if they are half as good as Stoke Dark, then they’ll be bloody brilliant. Stoke Dark was supremely good. A dry, smooth dark beer with plenty of toasted maltiness. The label predicted faint honey – but I didn’t get that. Great restraint shown not to murder the six pack very quickly. Even the bottle (albeit 330ml – grrr) was classy with a unique olive hue that was between the traditional brown. Would love to try on tap – but this’ll become a regular tipple.