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Martinborough Brewing Company

Keith Bowman



Welcome to Martinborough, famous for beer?
‘Mmm beer…’ (Homer J Simpson)
Indeed, and what you’ll get from us is all about the mmm! So if you’re not bothered about the taste, save yourself from reading any of our reviews, grab your coat, go down the bottle store and get yourself a cheap dozen of the same old advert driven, chemical ridden, pig swill.
However, if you’re keen to quaff some of New Zealand’s 60s micro-breweries samples which promote natural ingredients and consequent quality beers (but do the commercial breweries get this? Yeah right!) then let Beer Essentials be your surprise $14 outsider which comes in as easily as beer we refuse to drink comes out.
Anyway we kick off our first review of the season with the MBC (Martinborough Brewing Company) as Bob et al took a wee trip over the Rimers only last week and literally stumbled across this lovely brewery amongst an abundance of wineries.
The brewery is situated just off New York Street in a converted saw mill. The modern brewery was built by Chris Little (formerly of Macs) and includes a small bottling plant. The brewery currently produces about 20,000 litres of beer a year in 2,000 litre batches.
The head brewer is Ben Middlemass who previously worked in Auckland’s acclaimed brewpubs Galbraith’s and the Cock and Bull. The beer philosophy is simple –
produce simple yet well constructed beers.
The Martinborough Brewery has been up and running since December 2002 and
currently produce four bottled beers which we have sampled below:
White Rock Wheat (5.3%)
A Belgian white beer style of the Hoegaarden ilk, though much lighter in both appearance and taste, is more of a quaffing beer. The nose and taste have strong orange and coriander notes, which is not surprising given orange peel and coriander seeds are added to the brew. The fruitiness of the beer is balanced by a light hoppy spiciness from the Saaz hops (evidently). The beer has the thick white head and cloudy, unfiltered appearance associated with the style. An absolute cracker with a pot of steamed mussels and a bowl of fries.
Martin’s Lager (5%)
A European style Pilsner although with more emphasise on the fruitiness than the traditional European pilsners. With a yeasty nose, this golden beer has a balance of malt and hop flavours with hints of spices and floral notes in the nose and mouth. Very drinkable – especially straight off the tap. Martin’s Lager is, of course, named after the founder of Martinborough. Fantastic with a good ruby and you can actual taste some of the flavours even if you are having a spicy one.
Square Ale (4.5%)
This English style pours into the glass a rich brown with a thin head. It has a malty, strong aroma and the full flavours include nuts, malt and a rather tangy fruitiness which we decided was most similar to pineapple chunks. For an ale, it is actually fairly light and mild which is great news for quaffability as a session beer It’s named after Martinborough Square (the centre of town which forms the infamous Union Jack). Try with grilled pork chops and a touch of apple sauce or a simple antipasto to bring out the complexity of this beer.
Tora Dark Ale (4.5%)
This rich dark malt beer has a fruitcake nose, coffee and caramel flavours in the mouth (from the mix of roasted and dark malts) and a gentle hop bitterness to finish the beer up. It is named after a popular local coastal area and made up with genuine ale yeast and malts to help bring out the “old style” ale flavours. Keith got all nostalgic with its similarities to K&B’s Old Ale from Sussex, England and rated this brew with a chunky steak pie, followed by another beer to wash it down!
MBC beers are on tap at bars around the Wairarapa, and are available in bottles at Regional Wines and Spirits and coming soon to Imbibe, The Malthouse and Bar Bodega.