Stoke ‘Gold’ & ‘Amber’

When Lion bought out the Mac’s brewery (to be their pseudo-craft brand, parallel with DB’s acquisition of Monteiths for same), they didn’t really do much with the original site. Unlike their rivals, they never pretended that the beers were still coming from the formerly-independent source — so there was no need to maintain a potemkin brewery like DB did in Greymouth.

So when the relevant contractual restrictions lapsed, younger members of Terry McCashin’s family1 (the patriarch himself still having restraints of trade against him as part of the sale having retired2) re-took the premises and slowly resumed work. They put out a thoroughly yawn-worthy (if you’re me, at least) range of flavoured vodkas (fairly shamelessly aping the 42 Below range), and then some alarmingly-decent ciders under the ‘Rochdale’ name.

Stoke 'Gold' & 'Amber'
Stoke 'Gold' & 'Amber'

Then, at last, came the ‘Stoke’ beers. Which turned out a genuine let-down. Maybe the ironic problem is that they’ve too-faithfully gone back to their roots — the brewing scene has massively moved on since Mac’s gained their fame, deserved at the time as it was.

But that wouldn’t account for the distinctly unwelcome faulty / unfermented remnants-y flavours that made their way out of these beers, as I tried them one night with two fairly like-minded regulars after we all did a training session for a charity-thing I’m involved with. Wafts of dodgy budget homebrew helper come and go with odd and alarming randomness, leaving neither beer with much chance to endear themselves.

And the brandwank is just lazy and boring and awful, too. The beers are uninformatively marketed as ‘Gold’, ‘Amber’ and ‘Dark’. Despite being willing to mumble-mumble past such actually-relevant and potentially-interesting questions such as “what style were you going for?” and “what varieties of ingredients did you chose?” — not addressing such matters in the label text — they took the time to trademark “Paleo Water” and harp on about how the water they use is 14,000 years old.3 I’m not alone in saying that the insight this sort of thing gives into a brewery’s priorities is a bit worrying. It’s definitely time to worry less about the ‘brand’, and to worry more (that is to say, at all) about making the beers not naff.

Stoke 'Gold' and 'Amber'
Diary II entry #27, Stoke 'Gold' and 'Amber'

Verbatim: Stoke ‘Gold’ & ‘Amber’ 20/10/10 freebies from Savior, w/ Steph & Johnny after we did Kaibosh volunteer training. These things really aren’t doing so well. The marketing is just odd; playing up ‘Paleo’™ water for no reason, but equivocating like a crazy-person on actual style, even down to lager v ale. They do both smell distinctly of unfermenteds; like when you open a can of homebrew-helper. There’s a distinct metal zing to each of these, too. Some sips are decent, some are simply rank.

1: Wait. Why the hell does Mac’s have an ‘a’, but McCashin doesn’t? Er, other than the one it does have. You know what I mean.
2: (Edited 15 January 2010.) I was misinformed. Terry’s retired, which makes perfect sense, if you take the time to do the math on how old he is now. Thanks to Emma McCashin for the correction. For a reply to the rest of her comment, see below.
3: Firstly, who cares? Secondly, water is water is water. If it’s pure, being older won’t change it a damn. Thirdly, they can’t decide — with their website fighting their label — whether they want to say “Paleo” or “Palaeo”. Fourthly, the Paleolithic covers about two and a half million years, making the term an odd fit and a bit much of a reach. Fifthly, the vodka they make is ‘26,000’ and named so because of the supposed age of the water involved — which is it? Or are they plumbing seperate irrelevantly-old aquifers? Are they brewers and distillers, or oddly-obsessed geologists? And lastly, who the fuck cares?

22 thoughts on “Stoke ‘Gold’ & ‘Amber’”

  1. Hi Phil

    We just wanted to clarify a few of the points you have made. Terry McCashin’s restaint of trade ended in 2009, the same time as his son Dean’s restraint of trade with Lion Nathan ended. The reason Terry isn’t involved is that he is retired.

    The 26000 Vodka flavours are Crystalline, Raspberry & Lemondrop and Lychee. Neither Raspberry & Lemondrop and Lychee bear any resemblance to the 42 below flavours. This brand was started by two Nelson guys about four years ago and McCashin’s took the brand over from them in July 2009 so it isn’t our brainchild. However, it is great vodka and all three flavours won silver medals at the 2009 San Francisco World Spirit Awards. We’re doing our thing and don’t believe we have anything in common with 42 Below except that the name has a number in it.

    Most brewers and distillers do care about the water. With Vodka, it is the quality of the water that dictates the quality of the vodka. With beer, famous beer brewing regions are such because of the special properties in the water i.e. Burton on Trent. Pilsen, Brussels, Antwerp etc. As water makes up over 90% of the ingredients in beer, we think the water is a pretty important ingredient. And water isn’t just water, the different minerals in waters from different areas can have a positive and negative effect on the taste of beer.

    Macs has an “a” in it as the name . McCashin does not have an “a” in it. The Macs brand was named as a result of a competition to design a label which was held in the Nelson Mail. Mac’s is not a shortening for McCashins.

    The Stoke beers have all been developed from scratch, and bare little resemblance to previous Mac’s beers. We received the following email which is quite fitting:

    “Seems your beers are getting a bit of a rough reception around the blogs. Sad, as I tried the Amber at Beervana, and thought it was a very balanced, clean, sessionable ale. Here’s hoping the reviews improve! I guess most of the “beer peeps” were hoping for a triple IPA, fermented with Czecho-Belgian hybrid yeast, and dry hopped with upper-Moravian bat guano or something.”

    There is limited space on the label to go into much detail about the ingredients.
    The hops we use are all organic hops. There are limited varieties of hops available organically, so it’s been an interesting challenge, but one that has worked out well. The main hops we use are Motueka, Pacific Gem and Rakau; with a compliment between early and some pretty last minute late hopping. Many of today’s beers are overly focused on hops, our point of difference is that we have toned down the hops and put more emphasis on the malty characters, as a way of complimenting rather than dominating with hops. Not to say we won’t bring out future beers with a good bold hop character.

    We use quite an extensive range of malts; the Gold is a light mix of only three malts to give it the light and smooth character it has, with a little zest and fruitiness coming from the hops. The Amber has a mix of six different kinds of malt to emphasize the red/amber colour and give it a fuller malty body, with a lighter hopping to give it a bit of background aroma and flavour.

    We feel we’ve positioned ourselves well in the market – we’re not trying to compete with the little guys or the big guys – we’re craft brewers hoping to make an easy-drinking, sessionable, but tasty beer. The feedback we have been getting from the public is that we have hit the spot with this. Below are a couple of emails i happen to have in my inbox today from people:

    “Your stoke beer that I purchased is the best beer I have had and I have been looking for about 50 years for quality.”

    “Your beer really hits the spot for me, it is the perfect combination of all the complexity and smoothness I search for in a beer and it feels wholesome on the palette”.

    I’m not sure about the “metalic taste”and u”nfermented remantsy flavour” you talk about. Perhaps Saviour can hook you up with a few more samples to try as this doesn’t sound like same same Gold and Amber I’ve been drinking.


    Emma McCashin
    McCashin’s Brewery
    Stoke, Nelson

  2. At a recent BBQ I was given a glass with an reddish brown coloured beer in it. I wasn’t told what it was, but I tasted it. The beer had an underfermented, un-conditioned ‘worty’ aroma, thin body, and little flavour. I guessed it was one of the BBQ attendee’s first attempt at homebrewing with a supermarket bought malt extract kit. It was Stoke Amber.

  3. Emma & Sam (since some of that comment seems clipped from brewer Sam Wilson’s email to Martin at,

    Fair points first: I was misinformed about Terry’s restraint, so I’ve made that correction, and I had recently talked to Saviour (the local rep) about the 14,000 v 26,000 difference, and was going to come back and adjust my annotation to note that there are indeed apparently two seperate wells being tapped.

    On the vodka: I think it’s pretty obvious that 26,000 was an attempt to bandwagon 42 Below, launching a similarly-pitched range of flavoured vodkas when such things were all the rage. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, it just bores me. Vodka and its flavoured bastard children in general bore me. That was my point — and that such a derivative product makes for an inauspicious start for a resurrected company.

    On water: Obviously water matters. But you’re trying to have it both ways if you cite things like Burton water; they’re interesting to brew with because of their impurities. Your brandwank goes on about the age of your water supply, which is utterly irrelevant and correlates not at all with any chemical facts that would be worth knowing. Obviously there’s limited space on a label, but any number of other breweries manage to fill theirs with non-irrelevant details. As I say, any time and resources invested in trademarking a name for your water because of its age tokens some whacked-out priorities.

    On style and expectations: Don’t kid yourself that I didn’t like them because I was after something over-the-top. If you took any time at all to poke around my other notes, you’d find that I love easy-going beers as much as I do challenging ones; everything in its right place. Golden ales are a particular obsession; if anyone was going to rave about the ‘Gold’, it was going to be me. I wanted to like these beers, too, I just couldn’t. You’re getting a lot of people — with dizzyingly varied palates and preferences — telling you there’s a whole bunch of metal and homebrew funk in these beers. That’s not easily-dismissed as down to wrong-headed expectations.

    In summary: Your stated goal of making “easy-drinking, sessionable, but tasty beer” is ludicrously laudable. I couldn’t be more on the same page. But if you ask me — and people who read my notes are asking me, in a sense — you’re not there yet.

  4. I’m included to agree with Phil on this.
    When I first got to Beervana last year (to work, not drink), someone passed me a sample of something amber coloured and said it was ‘Stoke’. I didn’t know it was made by McCashin’s back then. I said “that’s VERY average”.

  5. I pretty much agree with you Phil.

    I would like to make one point though. “DB’s acquisition of Monteiths” isnt really correct. Its a testament to the DB marketing department that people think that Monteiths was a stand alone craft brewery in the modern era. Prior to being rebranded Monteiths it was the DB Westland Brewery, the modern use of the Monteiths name and the beers that have been brewed are DB creations. If you go back prior to the amalgimation that formed Dominion Breweries the Greymouth Brewery was in deed Monteiths, but I dont think this is what people/you are thinking of when they say Monteiths was bought out.

    Appoligies if that seems a tad pedantic 🙂

  6. Oh, pedantry is one of those things that never needs an apology, with me.

    And yeah, they really did do a number on the Popular Version of History, didn’t they? I honestly had no idea. Count me among the suckered-in. So thanks for the correction and elaboration!

  7. I recently reviewed the three McCashins beers for a magazine. The samples were purchased from a liquor shop in Richmond where they were stored cold and taken home. I lined them up starting with the Gold then onto the Amber and finished with the Dark. My assessment was based purely on the technical merit of the samples I had in front of me. I thought all three were pretty good and that they were probably what the brewer had intended to be landing in the glass. I’m certain that in most instances they also certainly would have met with consumer expectation. I think people writing or responding to beer blogs lose sight of the fact that they are not sitting around a table sharing a beer and discussing its merits or as is more likely from the amateur set, to be teasing out its faults. A concerning trend in my view is how authoritative people seem to believe they sound, especially to their “groups” while nit picking soft targets who actually make beer for a living and don’t just dream about it from behind the security of their government pensions and monthly bus passes. Lighten up!

  8. Doug, I think you have missed the point regarding this here ‘Beer Diary’. But that’s ok, i’ll fill you in 😉

    Firstly, regarding the author. Phil is in fact a very talented specialist beer bartender in one of New Zealand’s leading beer bars, Malthouse in Wellington. I am lucky enough to be his colleague. Beer IS his living. Many people, including myself, regularly ask him for beer information and advice. These “groups” you speak of make up a large portion of the Wellington craft beer scene, arguably the largest such scene in the country. In this sense he IS an authority don’t you think? If not, i’m uncertain what the criteria is.

    The reason why I personally read this blog is because it is NOT A REVIEW WEBSITE for any commercial beer that is thrown at it. There are other places I can find that. I am here to read a sometimes hilariously grumpy beer nerd ramble and definitely NOT “lighten up” about CRAFT beer and the CRAFT beer scene. There is no formula to Phil’s posts; sometimes detailed tasting notes are absent entirely and the post will instead ramble about friends, or food, or the decor of a bar…or a living room! Nor is there a weighted scoring system. It is purely and simply a personal beer blog/diary that he is kind enough to share with the world.
    If you search the New Zealand beer posts, you’ll be hard pressed to find a write up for DB & Lion products. This is not to say that such mass produced beers aren’t “what the brewer had intended” or don’t meet “consumer expectation”, quite the contrary. Such beers have thier important place in the commercial environment, it’s simply not the sort of beer I want to read about or drink.

    Enter the topic at hand, Stoke beer, presented to Phil (and everyone else) as ‘craft beer’. I feel the reason for Phil’s negative and entertaining (thats why I’m here right?) blog entry on the Stoke beers is obvious; the products fell spectacularly short of HIS OWN expectations as an almost daily consumer of craft beer. Additionally, their marketing is questionable – aspects of which could not be successfully defended by the brewery (see above). This is not an all out attack on Stoke for the sake of some sick beer-snob fetish, nor is it “nit picking”. Simply put, the negative features of Stoke and thier beers (major and minor) cannot be attributed to the majority of other craft breweries and thier offerings. The intentions of the Stoke brewers are irrelevant in this context.

    I’m sure as a beer reviewer for a magazine (the name of which you forgot to disclose), you have tasted many craft beers. If you SERIOUSLY think the Stoke offerings are anywhere in the same realm of quality as offerings from 8 Wired or Three Boys, please let us know which magazine you write for so I can avoid it. No offense, but your beer column is obviously not directed at my palate.

  9. Hello Peter,
    My comments were an observation targeted more around respondents to beer blogs in general and not necessarily at Phil’s Beer Diary as such. I am not a stranger to Phil’s scratching’s and for the most part in agreement with Neil Millers’ recent quip on his Beer Diary being “criminally under-read”. I do see where we might be at odds though and that is in the definition of “Craft” as applied in this context.
    You see in my view it is only the individual consumer who can make the distinction as to whether what they are buying and enjoying is a craft beer, not you or Phil or anybody else for that matter. As for me I review and judge beer on merit and within style not on personal preference, comparisons or categorisation. The drinking of beer is many things to many people for many reasons and as such, it is and should be an inclusive rather than exclusive pass time. My advice to “lighten up” given previously still remains, elitism is insidious to the development of a true beer culture and it is education not denigration that will get us there.
    I took no offence from your comments, although I found the whole last paragraph a little tacky. I purposely did not relay the name of the magazine as I used the situation purely as a setting for the tasting.
    As an aside I also reviewed Moa Pale Ale for the same edition.

  10. Doug, thanks for your reply to my rant. Here’s another for you ;-).

    I stand by what I said originally – although I do feel my final couple of sentences were snarky toward you where I had no reason to be. I apologise for that. I’m sure your review-style work is greatly appreciated by your target audience, and is valuable to providing an unbiased review for COMMERCIAL purposes. Your ability to play musical chairs with different types of consumer palate is suitable considering the context of your work I guess.

    Considering your original criticism WAS targeted at blog writers too, and the fact that it appeared on Phil’s blog, was reason enough for me to defend him personally. That was my reasoning for focusing on him and his blog in particular. Sorry for being so narrowly focused. If it is blog respondents you have more of a problem with, your choice of targets in THIS instance “who think they sound authoritative” are interesting, perhaps even unlucky. One of the respondents here in agreement with Phil is Kieran Haslett-Moore. Kieran is a manager at Regional Wines and Spirits Wellington, writes a beer column in Capital Times and is considered a top national beer judge in beer competitions (among other accolades). Another respondent is Dave who himself hasn’t publically displayed his full name so I won’t do it either out of tact; but I can tell you he is highly regarded in the craft beer scene. Both are avid homebrewers of exceptional quality.

    Even though your branding of “amateur” and “elitist” was way off the mark in this case, I acknowledge the fact that you are using this highly viewed blog post (numbers discovered via Google analytics) to address what you consider to be a broader problem; beer blogging in general and the resulting public forum it creates. I gather that you think this is potentially damaging to the craft beer industry.

    I am lucky enough to have been working on what is literally the frontline of the craft beer industry in New Zealand over the past 6 years. Craft beer as far as I was aware can primarily be defined as ‘the product from smaller breweries and brew-pubs’. I don’t think we have been interpreting this in different ways. Craft beer drinkers have come to expect a certain level of quality control within the brewing process, quality-in and relevance-of the ingredients used, originality and inventiveness of the brewers, and integrity and value in the product’s marketing. But MOST importantly (as a craft beer drinker/taster/reviewer yourself in sure you’ll agree) what matters is how the beer smells, tastes and looks to the individual drinker. As such, beer blogging is an extension of this subjectivity, driven by passion representing the author’s OWN OPINION. Writers such as Phil are not paid for their work, nor are they focusing on potentially matching a beer to an audience that is not them, nor are they attempting to squeeze some ‘good’ out of a sub-par beer in homage to the ‘good intentions’ or ‘hard work’ of the underdog brewer. How is such an honest, contribution encouraging, conversation and debate sparking, interest forming, informative and entertaining medium doing any damage to the industry? In this particular case, people who actually give a damn will read this and buy Stoke beer to find out first-hand ‘what’s up?’. They can then form their own opinions. I did! Quite enjoyed the Dark by the way!

    I then consider reviews such as yours being published in a magazine. Are you telling us that your reviews, being merit focused, are always positive? Have you really diluted your palate to the point where it doesn’t matter what you taste as long as it’s drinkable by someone out there? Do you not feel like you are bastardising your supposed passion? I would find this to bar a far less honest, not to mention a completely STATIC medium that encourages no contribution or communal feel whatsoever. Said community and contribution (in person and via social media) are arguably what fuels the craft beer scene! Don’t blogs embody this? Sharing and caring? Giving people an opportunity to speak, be heard, and be responded to. Doesn’t this extension of the scene help to spark passion in so called “amateurs” where a mundane magazine review for the sake of punch-pulled commercial interest doesn’t?

    Back to Stoke, my final words on Stoke with relevance to our debate. Emma McCashin attempted to defend their product, essentially stating Phil must not have enjoyed their beers or marketing because the craft beer enthusiast are elitist and incapable of enjoying a subtly flavored beer which is targeted at a mainstream audience. That is pure baloney! I have tasted and enjoyed many craft beers that have a mild flavor profile to appeal to a mainstream palate; Tuatara Helles, Mussel Inn Golden Goose, Cock & Bull NZ Draught to name a few. So no, Stoke Gold and Amber are not getting a bad rap because they are tailored to a wider audience – it is because of all of the BAD flavors we can taste that are associated with a sub-par effort. For your sake, I can only assume you and I had different batches when we both tasted these for the first time (gold and amber). The inconsistency between mouthfuls, unwelcome metallic flickering on the palate and lack of any sort of style adherence I experienced are echoed throughout the other comments here and elsewhere on the internet. I am the first to judge a craft beer on its merits, these just had none that appeal to ME.

    Hopefully the criticism, as harsh as it may seem, can be used constructively by Stoke to address the negative aspects of their product as pointed out by the blogging community. Craft beer drinkers like Phil and I WANT the beer to be good. I’ll taste it again in a few months to see if anything has been taken on board by Stoke.

  11. Hello Peter,
    I wasn’t looking to get into thrust and parry over this, although I should have known better. I’m not a regular contributor to beer blogs as I often just find myself biting my lip while reading them through the cracks between my fingers. The reason I inserted myself into this particular thread was purely timing as it hit while I was working through some other things that shared similar elements.
    It’s obvious that you and I aren’t about to agree so I’m happy enough to leave it at that but will respond on points raised to clarify a few things around my position. Most importantly you should be aware that in the real beer world, beers unworthy of review don’t get reviewed. What possible purpose could writing up and publishing information on flawed beer serve the industry? It’s not some quasi consumer protection group, the very reason beer magazines exist (in all their forms) is for the promotion of beer.
    Without knowing me you certainly have drawn a considerable number of conclusions, some actually bordering on offensive. I guess maybe it’s just your style which certainly comes through in your tone.
    If you really want to do something for the industry, promote positive commentary and not criticism in what gets published on line. It’s your choice but I can tell you which of the two carries the greatest reward.
    Beer in all its forms has enough critics without finding them amongst its friends….

    1. Hi Doug,

      Sorry for drawing you into a debate you did not wish to partake in. I could not let your original post go unaddressed, especially considering the context and the gravity of my personal disagreement with your stance. You seem to believe you speak for the majority of professional commercial reviewers, so any jab bordering on offensive I made was not at you personally as ‘Doug’, but at this wider group to which you belong.

      Here are my final words on this matter as we have deviated a lot and I am no longer fishing for a response from you; as welcome as you are to do so of course.

      This “real world” YOU speak of is a world of commercial reviews, be they online or in print, where a writer for the most part would be contracted and paid to write to a certain style and within the expectations of the publication’s editors/stakeholders. I understand that in this world of yours, if one was to draft up an opinion-piece bashing a product based on how it measures up to its peers, said ‘review’ would not be accepted for publishing. You also mention in this world that beers unworthy of [positive] review don’t even get reviewed, and “friends” (otherwise known as regular consumers of beer) should not be critical in a public spotlight about what they, as end-users, have just put in their own mouth and swallowed.

      As I read it – what you are saying, regarding beer, is that there WON’T BE ANY negative professional reviews and SHOULD BE NO negative publicised consumer opinion; not now, not ever. An opinion suppressing, even suffocating saying from my childhood comes to mind: ‘If you don’t have something nice to say, then don’t say anything at all’. President Hosni Mubarak also comes to mind.

      Finally, if this IS the case, I take it that reviews pertaining to beer stand alone within this medium. With regard to professional reviews (i.e. fully sanctioned and paid for by a publication); I often read movie reviews that tear into terrible screenplays, video-game reviews that attack poor quality in graphics and controls, or restaurant/cafe reviews scattered with negative feedback and 1 star ratings. I feel such criticism offers the public immense value. There’s no need to shelter the businesses behind such products and services; they can take a hike if they can’t handle a little heat, especially if they continue to offer a sub-par service and don’t attempt to take any criticism from their audience on board. These businesses know they have entered a competitive commercial environment where literally everyone is a critic. Instead of telling bloggers and respondents to “lighten up” how about telling businesses to “harden up”?

      I’m sorry Doug, but in my eyes yours is a one-sided, conservative, and over-protective stance. Not to mention a completely outdated and inaccurate representation of the ACTUAL “real” world; a world in which freedom of speech is now exalted, a world where you often can’t get away with a sub-par effort or else you’ll be punished, a world where criticism is usually the only way to give those who need it a serious wake-up call.

      I know we will never see eye to eye on this, our opinions and morals are too different at an intrinsic level. I thank you for the time you have taken to reply to me and have personally enjoyed our “thrust and parry”. Looking at what we have covered from an objective viewpoint, I feel we have added value to the beer community by publically representing two sides of a relevant argument.

      Doug, I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavours. Keep it real mate.

  12. Hello Peter,
    I couldn’t let this one pass without some comment, if even just to set the record straight on a couple of things. Great response by the way, even if a touch pious. Not sure how I ended up being tarred with the Mubarak brush, although that in itself is pretty funny considering I’m a devout shades of green lefty. I am also not a professional reviewer. The beer reviews I write are on a purely volunteer basis, they are editorial on invitation. I have never received any form of payment at any time. I write them because in certain circles my opinion is valued and I feel it adds a level of credibility if peer review is actually performed by peers. My reviews are not sugar coated, nor are they written to a brief or formula. I am fully independent of the publication and I have a choice of what beers I review and submit.
    Samples are supplied by the brewery or occasionally purchased, most importantly they need to be at their peak to ensure that the brewer is afforded every opportunity of a good showing. Needless to say it’s unlikely a review would be formulated on some tired beer that was handed to me at a barbeque as I think the brewer deserves the benefit of the doubt. Such a sample may have been liberated from a Christmas party and spent New Year and the best part of January in the glove-box of Uncle Bevan’s Vauxhall for all anyone knows.
    As an example last year I received five beers (one bottle each of different styles) from a New Zealand Craft Brewery who were wanting to have their beers written up for a magazine. Two of the five carried traces of a wort infection so they were not reviewed. I wrote up the remaining three, two of which were just OK so they received a review that said they were OK, one was reasonably good so it received a review that said just that….I then contacted the brewery and told them about the two suspect beers, this was very disappointing feedback for them and not the easiest subject to have to broach with a brewer. This may be described by those looking in as a one-sided and over protective stance but in the beer world that I live in it is known as a professional courtesy, as outmoded as that may seem.
    I understand things are much easier where you’re coming from because the brewer, being deserved of a wakeup call, could just read all about their wort infection along with the other 20,000 subscribers in the next edition. So let me see if I’ve got this straight, you find my approach outdated and conservative and that in some way it conspires to cheat the public while it may even have possibly contravened a couple of UN resolutions on human rights…wow, we sure have come a long way on this one considering my initial comments were basically only to see if a curbing on the cheap shots being fired off from the side-lines could be achieved..
    On the other types of reviews you have mentioned I find it a little difficult to draw a comparison. They are generally found in mass media and beer gets a bad rap from the critics from time to time in those forums as well. I pay little heed myself to what the critics have to say, especially movies….I saw the Green Hornet (3D) recently after reading a less than charitable review and thought it was a hoot! I particularly don’t like certain restaurant reviews which appear to of transmogrified into editorial features, written by humorless bourgeois bores, which equate to zero in the charisma equation and can get totally out of shape if there are rice grains in the salt cellar. Sorry that’s off the subject…
    So we’re agreed to disagree.. I have enjoyed the banter and the opportunity to hear an opposing view, it certainly drew me in, maybe we can pick it up along with a beer sometime in the future as long as you go easy on me.
    To finish on, the Dark was my pick and I also know Kieran and I’d hope he’d be aware I wasn’t taking a direct pop at him.

  13. Hi Doug,

    I’m not used to serving myself a big slice of humble pie, but you have made some very good points and are not the person I assmed you were. My views remain, but I feel the need to re-clarify some of my perhaps over-the-top allusions/directions.

    Thanks for clearing up the angle of the work you do. I am genuinely humbled from learning the writing you do is pro-bono, and you are not some cookie-cut beer reviewer following legacy editorial guidelines for the sake of a buck. That would be disappointing. I do sometimes fall victim to making unfounded assumptions, although I usually hit the nail on the head which seems in this case to have caused over-confidence; I blame bartending ;-). For that I am sorry.

    The reference to Mubarak on my part was an admittedly overly-extreme, yet topical and black-humorous (I feel) allusion to an apparent support for supression/persuasion of a particular public forum; which in my opinion is not on, regardless of any ‘damage’ said public voice is causing.

    My comparison to reviews within other industries were slightly off, perhaps a knee-jerk reaction better suited to high-school debating. However, I defend the essence of my point to a degree; without ‘bad’, the more deserving ‘good’ fail to stand out from the pack. It’s like giving everyone an A+ for effort, much to the dismay of those who are either exceptionally talented or have worked thier butt off to excel and be recognised. It also kills any incentive for those lagging behind to work harder to meet the quality of thier peers. It’s just not how things should work – I feel.

    Looking across our posts objectively, I have also seemed to take the approach of ‘offence is the best defence’; attacking professional beer reviewing being carried out in the style you described. While I somewhat regret fueling this creep of scope, my original intention was to highlight that your described discipline can ALSO be seen to negatively affect the industry in a polar fashion to amateur blogging. That is being unfair to the public who both desire and deserve a FULL picture, as opposed to being unfair to the struggling micro-brewery.

    As such, my stance still stands on my general dislike for punch-pulled writing; overall I just find it…well…boring. Of course I have never read your work so this is not a comment on that at all. I will concede in that YOUR personal reasons for omitting negative aspects of products are sound enough considering your personal values, your status in the industry and the desire to maintain good relationships with your peers.

    What I originally had a problem with (fueling my first post) was in fact your simple desire: “to see if a curbing on the cheap shots being fired off from the side-lines could be achieved”. You are in effect asking the blogging public to follow your lead where they have no similar reason to do so. What must be understood is that a large portion of the general public do not share a similar interest in preserving the sort of professional courtesy expected by an authorised reviewer such as yourself. I am the first to cringe at terrible comments on Youtube videos, or anything viral for that matter; it is an unfortunate bi-product of social media; but we can ignore THAT fluff. Beer blogging and responding (for the most part) is not carried out by poo-flinging apes, but by passionate and intelligent members of the beer community who may not otherwise get a chance to be heard. The safety of being behind a keyboard is not something to always bash either, it gives the more socially timid of us a chance to contribute where we may otherwise shy away.

    Again, thanks for the conversation. I also was drawn in and looked forward to your replies. I always enjoy an opportunity to hear an opposing view, especially from an experienced and respected individual. I’m sure our paths will cross some day over a laugh and a beer.

    Cheers Mate

  14. Good argument guys… I laughed, I cried, I cringed, I nodded and I shook my head. Some very good points made on both sides and I’d have to say that although I agree with many of Doug’s points, and definitely thought his delivery was the winner, I mostly agree with Peter’s sentiment (when you can find it in amongst the rant).

    It got me thinking about my thoughts on criticism.

    A few years ago a guy won a t-shirt in a competition we’d run at our first Beervana. He wrote an email to us, accepting the free t-shirt (yet also muttering something about becoming a walking billboard for us… something he could have avoided, quite simply, by not entering the competition). In his email to begrudgingly accept the prize, he told us, in no uncertain terms, what he thought of our beer:

    …no offence, but Pot Kettle Black is not nice. It taste like drinking a Christmas tree. I like a hoppy beer but that is not drinkable. Looking forward to trying your other brews.

    I was not offended at all by this criticism. We do not brew beer expecting everyone to like it… quite the opposite, in fact, we brew it because we expect to like it (and some days we like it more than others). We have to take the good with the bad, so I was not offended at all by his thoughts. In fact, on the contrary, I was very encouraged by the fact that he would openly criticise the beer to us, rather than keeping quite about it in the email but then banging on about it to all his friends. And, I loved his analogy so much that we used it on our website. There it is, to this day, alongside a quote from none other than Doug Donelan on our website:

    In short, I am happy with criticism (no matter how harsh) as long as someone puts their name to it. I think the world is a better place for it (though a good argument is always better over a few beers, rather than over the internet).

    As for the beers… I’ve still not tried a single Stoke beer. I’ve heard mixed reviews, tending poor from the beer literati, and ok from the rest… Most recently my dad had one at the opening of The Hop Garden and it certainly met his seal of approval (though the price helped, I’m sure). His palate has earned my respect on many occasions, so I’m sure I’ll get around to trying them myself one day.

    Slainte mhath

  15. Hi- I followed the comments and found them very interesting. I’m more of a wine guy myself, but I have tried Stoke beer when I was visiting New Zealand. I’m a Canadian and our beer is a bit different from the Kiwi’s. We have our mass market beers, imported beers and our micro-breweries. My impression of the Stoke beer? I like the Dark the best, followed by the Gold. Decent beer. Of the ten beers (NZ) or so I tried I would range it at no. 6 (Dark). I found it a lot better than the Steinlager – the only NZ beer available back home. My ratings are strickly what I’m used to drinking in Canada. For reference my favourite beer is Rickard’s Red (a British Columbia beer).
    The 26000 Vodka and 42 Below are both available here. 42 Below is considered a very average vodka, tastes okay. 26000 is a pretty decent vodka. Better than average. As far as copying the name- that is a stretch. Bottles and labels completely different. Pricing different. When you see a shelf with two dozen different vodkas on it, there is no way one would see any connection between the two. As far as flavoured vodka is concerned, they sell. Not my choice but the consumer gets what they want.
    By the way- love the New Zealand wine. You’re making great juice there 🙂

  16. Hi, In the early 90s, black macs was my favourite beer, but over the years the macs range tasted more and more like the cheaper, non dark beers, macs gold has actually reached cheap beer status in my opinion. Recently discovered stoke beer and it reminds me very much of the great original Macs. Stoke and Tuataras are now my new favourites, and a home-made feel to products actually is appealing in our days, Might be one of the reasons why the stoke beers which you’ve all been critisising are actually selling and quiet trendy.

  17. Good lord! I have only just drifted back to this thread that I have become slightly involved with!

    Doug I havent seen you spar like this since “the Cider is’nt brewed” debate at the guild AGM 🙂

    I take no offense by the way.

    The issue of critism or not is vexed. In my column I take the policy of only focusing on good beer and making what publicity the industry does get be positive. With the exception of the Radler debate I have kept to this rule. As a result a lot of beers get released that I never write about. But I certainly believe that there is a place for critism and that blogs are probibly one of the best avenues for that. Yes this means that people can turn around and say “look at the elitist bloggers!” but I don’t think that is really valid. In fact the two bloggers who did critise Mccashins were I would argue the 2 least elitist bloggers around, Martin Craig and Phil.
    It’s a big wide world and sometimes feedback is not what the brewer would like to hear but that is life. Sometimes with technical faults its better for a reviewer to contact the brewer directly with feedback. One of the issues is that many of those writing about beer are not necasarilly skilled at technically evaluating it ( oh god now I’m sounding elitist amongst bloggers! ). Funky and metalic seem to get used to describe a wide range of faults in beer. In this instance the critism was leveled both at the contents of the bottle and branding and marketing which seems like a perfectly reasonible situation to go public. In part it was the craft beer world’s high expectations which meant many felt the disapointment all the more when the beers were released.

    As for the Stoke beers they have continued to expand the range and have released some interesting beers . The marketing and branding is still rather confused. The Bohemian Ale for instance is plain wierd. The smoked beer offers a serenly gentle introduction to the style but that is not necasrarily a bad thing. The IPA has been solid on one occasion I tasted it and rather flawed on another. As I understand it the Stoke plant is not the easiest to use and many improvements put it by Lion were removed when they left. This perhaps is to blaim for some of the technical problems people find with some of the beers, some of the time.

    Life would be boring if we all got along all the time.

    1. Phoenix Foundation said it well…

      “we should have a parade
      to celebrate all that is different in this world
      and then live without hate
      and without love”

  18. Ha! I was talking to Luke Budda the other day and he was complaining about some blogger who said they looked like homeless people with all thier wool cardys. “Wool is expensive you know!!”

Have at it: