Sourpussed Kiwis and Breakfast Beer

I always thought New Zealand might be an interesting place to visit. Until recently, when I picked up a beer simply called Moa Breakfast from a New Zealand beer company called Moa Brewing.

It comes in a corked bottle with only this information on the label: “Moa Breakfast • super premium Belgian-style wheat beer, brewed with natural flavor.”

Natural flavor? Which one?

I had no idea which natural flavor it might be when I took my first sip of this effervescent beer, although I did note a distinct peppery finish.

Is it pepper?

So I had to look up the brewery online, and the first thing I came across was an article written in a New Zealand newspaper just days before the beer’s unveiling in April 2011.

That’s where I learned the natural flavor referred to is cherry.

It is also where I learned that New Zealand appears to be an extremely uptight environment.

The reporter mentioned the brewery marketing the beer as an alternative to a champagne breakfast, and included this company marketing quote: “If you’re having a champagne breakfast but don’t fancy champagne, have a beer instead.”

That pretty much told me the whole story – this is a beer for special occasions.

But the reporter, or her editor, apparently saw the name of this beer as an affront to decent Kiwi society, so the reporter talked to two different representatives of the addiction community to comment on the beer’s name, as well as a representative from Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD).

“It’s a completely irresponsible stunt from a health and addiction perspective, because it is normalizing pathological behavior,” one of the addiction sources said about Breakfast beer.

“Here we have fools seeking to profit from encouraging the behavior,” said the second addiction source.

The SADD rep felt it was wrong to encourage a “boozy breakfast” when children were going to school and people going to work.

I think they are taking this delicious beer in the wrong spirit.

For the record, I drank my breakfast beer while making dinner, but I look forward to enjoying this very tasty brew with a leisurely breakfast in the very near future.

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I have in the past expressed my enthusiasm for the grain rye and what it brings to beer (and bread). I recently picked up a bottle of rye ale (1876 Rye Ale) from a Minnesota brewery (Bank Brewing Co.) I’d never heard of in a Minnesota border town I’d never heard of (Hendricks, Minn., on the South Dakota border).

I took the beer straight out of the refrigerator and poured it into a glass and took a taste. It seemed sharp and without much depth of character, which is unusual for a rye.

This is definitely a beer you want to warm up a bit, which I did after the first sip. As I’m waiting for the beer to warm up, I’m looking at the label and trying to figure out the significance of the grimacing cowboy with guns blazing in each fist. 1876. Hmmm, that was the year the James-Younger Gang made a failed raid on a bank in Northfield, Minn., that left one citizen and two gang members dead. But Northfield is almost 200 miles due east of Hendricks. I guess since the brewery is in a former bank, that is enough of a connection.

By the time I’ve figured out the label to my own satisfaction, the beer has warmed enough to release more of its character. And there it is, that lovely spicy warmth that rye imparts.

(A note to bar owners and tenders everywhere: While frosty mugs might add some character when you’re serving a bland American macro-lager, frosted mugs rob rich craft beers and finely made European beers of their character.)

1876 Rye Ale is a nice session beer, but I would love to get my hands on one of the breweries special edition brews called Devil’s Gulch Rye Ale. It’s a 9 percent rye that was aged in rye whisky barrels. Yahoo!

Don’t forget to get your tickets for the Door County Beer Festival & Homebrew Championship in beautiful downtown Baileys Harbor on Saturday, June 14. See you there!