It looks rather frightful, that Moa, doesn’t it? Maybe even sufficiently angry-faced that it hardly seems like a herbivore at all, in fact. I honestly still can’t tell if I like the kitsch of it, or if I just think it’s hideous. Something similar happens with the ludicrously-extravagant coasters — just how much money poured into the marketing budget that embossed leather-and-felt coasters got the green light? Like I’ve said possibly too-many times before,1 the brandwank with Moa is relentless, and I’m depressingly unsurprised to report that (as of the time of writing, in mid-October — I’m way behind, I know) it continues unabated.2
Like I said with an earlier pint of ‘Black Power’, the awfulness of the aura of ad-crap the surrounds a Moa beer and trails along behind it like an unforgiveable stench is such that it might get in the way of actually enjoying one of their beers.3 For me, Black Power just wasn’t a worthy enough thing to pierce the fog and make itself enjoyable in spite of all that — but a stonking-great barrel-aged imperial stout? Now that did the trick.
It was helped somewhat by circumstances — not that it really needed much help — in that we had it and several of its siblings pouring at work at once, in a little version of the sort of ‘Tap Takeovers’ that happen semi-regularly at the Local Taphouses (if that is indeed the plural) over in Melbourne and Sydney. And such things are all very fun in and of themselves, of course: excuses and occasions and theme-ifying are some of my favourite things about a night at the pub. But for me, for multiply-peculiar me, a Tap Takeover is extra-special because it means Kegtris — it means a bloody-great Herculian dose of Kegtris, it does — and when it was all done, of course, someone had to make sure that the beers were pulled through and ready to go. Oh, the chore of it all.
And honestly, I really can quiet the fumingly-outraged part of my brain for a little while, with this. It’s just stupidly fantastic: utterly enormous, but not overblown, and it doesn’t come across as trying to do everything at once in a sad one-man-band kind of attention-grabbing — in that (and in its weight, and its barrel-aged-ness — but in not much else, other than its hometown, come to think of it), it’s quite reminiscent of 8 Wired’s masterful ‘Batch 18’. I tried some side-by-side with a little glass of the Scott Base Central Otago Pinot Noir, partially because I assumed (given the founding-family connections) those would be the barrels involved and partially because I just can’t bring the classic Pinot Noir flavours to mind off the top of my head, as ignorant in Matters of the Grape as I am. I’ve since been informed by Dave Nicholls — the brewer, despite what their ad-men might say,4 a (mercifully) excellent chap who just gets on with the making of the beer while largely ignoring the dissonant background buzzing of the marketing machine — that they weren’t the barrels in question, but the comparison was still instructive and I suppose you’d have to have some sort of super-palate to spot, in a 10.2% stout, differences drawn from varying vineyard’s barrels.
There’s a lot of flavour left in those barrels, it seems, and it melds into the stout in surprising and delightful ways; plenty of tart fruit notes, bordering on sour almost, fill in the edges of the beer, taking the whallop out of some of the bitterness and booze you’d otherwise expect from a thing like this. You can’t really tell whether they achieve that through some clever complimentary-flavour trick on the brain, or if they’re just using a more low-brow “Look over here, instead!” tactic. But ultimately you won’t care about the how of it, because the result is worryingly drinkable for the punch it steal conceals in its multi-talented self.
If Moa’s brandwank doesn’t rile you as much as it does me, then just go and get one of these, simply because it’s delicious. But even if you are as infuriated by their ad-men as I am, consider this one worth the trouble, a nice reminder that at least someone there still knows what they’re doing — and a rare and philosophically-instructive example of a situation where the price you pay in conscience (since you’re giving those ad-men a not-inconsiderable sum of money — the thing which is, after all, how they ‘keep score’) might actually be worth it.
Verbatim: Moa Russian Imperial Stout 16/6/11 10.2%, Jesus. Hideous branded glass, as reward for an epic round of Kegtris for tomorrow’s takeover / migration, and all that Moo. The fruitiness from the Pinot barrels do massively set it apart, but are very well integrated. Not just tacked on, you know, like their brandwank. Really couldn’t resist. Enjoying their better beers is a real see-saw. Why does ‘Estate’ = bareknuckle boxing, where ‘Reserve’ = motorcycle? Oh wait. Vice, versa. Shows how superfluous + devoid of meaning, I guess. Wait. The beer. Gloriously huge, but still not overblown. Dangerously drinkable. Whole riots of fun.
1: Such as when writing / ranting / rambling about: the ‘Black Power’ chocolate wheat beer, beer-and-marketing in general, their ‘Five Hop’ ESB, or their (two attempts at a) pale ale — the basic point is that Moa are grossly (but deservedly) over-represented on the ‘Brandwank’ index page.
2: Maybe, maybe there’s a touch of irony in all this. Or an attempt at such. Alice Galletly — of the excellent ‘Beer for a Year’ blog, which makes an absolute mockery of my way-delayed posting schedule — mentioned (in passing), her assumption that their “Handcrafted Super Premium Beverage” tagline (visible on the reverse of the Scary-faced Moa Glass, pictured above) was tongue-in-cheek. I certainly hope so. I hope they’re just rubbish at ironic humour, rather than an actual pack of appalling wankers. Perhaps I’m all jaded and cynical, but I just can’t be that charitable.
3: They are now, in this regard, the opposite of how the Stoke beers were when I first met them. Those I wanted to like, but I just couldn’t. They’re dipping their toes quite enthusiastically into a bit of brandwankery, themselves, but I do keep trying them occasionally to see if I can like them yet. But alas; not yet.
4: Criminally, you could diligently read — on a heavy dose of anti-nausea pills — the entire corpus of Moa’s marketing materials and not have any clue who Dave was, what he did, or even that he existed at all. Presumably, a Suit in Auckland thinks that pushing the myth of Josh-as-the-man-who-still-runs-everything is more ‘marketable’. For that, and their likely-myriad other sins, they deserve a kick in the pants.