I’m someone you could describe as being highly Kiwi-adjacent. My partner of the past 13 years is a proud New Zealander, and HB&B supremos Jen and Glenn also hail from there, for whom I’ve been writing this beer column for almost seven years!
This has given me a deep affection for Aotearoa New Zealand, and I’ve been lucky enough to spend quite a bit of time there. It is – as you might expect if you’ve ever tasted a beer made using NZ hops – home to a hugely exciting beer scene, particularly in its larger cities such as Auckland and Wellington, but there are some pretty sensational breweries out in the sticks too (don’t skip on Brave Brewing in Hastings, should you ever make it over to NZ yourself).
It’s also worth remembering, however, that New Zealand is a very long, long way away, something that makes its beer scene not all that accessible to most folks. Well, at least until the New Zealand Beer Collective (NZBC) came along a few years ago and began importing some of the best Kiwi craft beer around at the moment. NZBC is also the organiser of New Zealand Beer Month, which saw a welcome return this month, after a Covid-related hiatus prevented it from taking place over the past couple of years.
Not only has NZBC brought over some fantastic Kiwi beer for the event, but it has also teamed up with Scotland’s Fierce Beer to brew some collabs to mark the occasion. Along with a couple of tasty IPAs, they’ve brewed a stout with a twist that’ll almost certainly have sweet-toothed Kiwi expats watering at the mouth.
If there’s one thing New Zealand does weirdly, it’s sweets. Ever had a Pineapple Lump? Weird. They also call what we refer to as honeycomb or cinder toffee (as in what’s on the inside of a Crunchie bar) as “hokey pokey” (yes, really) and they like making it into ice cream. Clearly someone at either Fierce or NZBC thought it would make a great beer flavour too, and so this Hokey Pokey Stout came into being.
If you enjoy your stouts on the pastry side, you are going to love this. It is a big, bold hit of cinder toffee, with a lingeringly sweet finish. The darker malts in the stout also lend it some complementary dark chocolate and roasted coffee undertones, broadening its appeal a little. But really, this is an overt tribute to New Zealand’s favourite kind of ice cream. It’s heaps of fun and very delicious.
If you’ve enjoyed it in cans, check out the events being put on for New Zealand Beer Month this February, and seek out and say kia ora to a few more Kiwi craft beers. (No New Zealanders forced me to write that last part, at least consciously.)
Matthew Curtis is a writer, photographer and editor of Pellicle Magazine. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @totalcurtis and @pelliclemag. Sign up to our All Killer No Filler subscription box and you'll find incredible beers like this one every month, plus more great writing from Matthew and our food writer Claire Bullen.