Don Kavanagh is the editor of Hospitality magazine.

Don Kavanagh: Time machine beers


Brews from the past are back, and taking Don Kavanagh down memory lane.

Old brands are being repackaged and revamped - and they taste good. Photo / NZ Herald
Old brands are being repackaged and revamped - and they taste good. Photo / NZ Herald

I've been enjoying this summer, despite the foul weather, mostly because I feel like I've discovered a time machine.

For some reason there have been some revamps of old brands and it really does feel like I've stepped back into the late 1980s when I look in my beer fridge.

The first to arrive was the tarted-up DB Export Dry. This has been the most criminally underrated and under-promoted beer in New Zealand since they took it off tap. Creamy, full-bodied and refreshing, put it in a blind tasting and watch everyone say how much they enjoy it.

It's a genuinely good beer that has been given a nice makeover and, regardless of the weather, it's likely to be a long, dry summer around at my place.

Another DB offering that arrived is actually a new product, but it is cunningly disguised. Monteith's Sparkling Ale is a real retro honey, packaged in a decent-sized 500ml bottle and bearing a label that could have come from sometime between the wars.

And it tastes great. It's not a big, clever, "complex" craft ale, but it is a cracking session beer, with a nice maltiness balanced by a zesty hop bite. It goes down very easily, too and it's quite surprising how quickly three of you can demolish a dozen.

There was one that I was a bit leery about, however. The Brown Bomber, the archaic brown beer that fuelled Wellington's social life since forever has been relaunched in a snazzy retro can.

Now I had tried Lion Brown on tap when I first arrived here on a holiday back in the mists of time (or 1990 for those who work in the metric system) and I can't say it made much of an impression on me, other than the fact that I didn't drink it again for 22 years.

To say I was surprised would be an understatement. It was sparkling, cold, refreshing and nowhere near as sweet as I had feared. In fact, it was a big hit around the table, with plenty of good comments and a general feeling that we were surprised at how good it really was.

So, it's been a summer of discovery and rediscovery for me and I can heartily recommend it. Go out and climb into your own personal time machine and check out some of those beers you've forgotten even existed.

- Herald on Sunday

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