Friday, 17 November 2006

Beer O'Clock: Black Mac

An old favourite reviewed by Real Beer's Stu. Enjoy.

Mac's and craft brewing are very nearly synonymous in the New Zealand beer lover's vernacular. Terry McCashin's Stoke brewery, near Nelson, was the epicentre of a sluggish craft brewing revolution that now has New Zealand breweries making some of the best beer in the world. The beer was good and the bottles were strikingly different, a perfect recipe for success. After building up a nice little trade Lion came in with the cheque book and the rest is history. Until now...

Mac's are about to be everywhere you look. They are going through a rather large re-branding exercise, and with this one comes some fairly brutal consolidation. Gone are the old regulars from the Mac's Brewery Bar (Verboden Vice, Wicked Blonde and Sultry Dark) and with them go some of the more recent additions to the Mac's family (Reserve, Blonde and Copperhop). The survivors are Gold, Black and Sassy Red, while the pitter patter of tiny feet is heard from the new kids: Hop Rocker (a crassly named but tasty hoppy lager), Great White (a cloudy wheat beer) and Spring Tide (a low-carb something or other, cough, cough).

I'm always excited when new beers come out, some re-branding occurs or a new head brewer takes on a job. The results of any of these changes are usually an improvement in flavour, at least for the first few batches (as the accountants struggle to work out $/litre), and so I approached my old friend Black Mac with a renewed sense of excitement.

Black Mac, or Mac's Black as it was also briefly known, was one of the original stable of Mac's beers brewed in 1982. It's been through a few changes but has always remained a fairly dry, mildly hopped dark lager. It was also one of the first beers to grab me by the scruff of the neck and shake the DB Bitter can from my hand (or was it Speight's Old Dark?).

This year's model pours the usual dark brown with garnet highlights and a lacy tan head. The nose is surprisingly hoppy, with herbal lemony hints of the famous Fuggle hop dominating an underlying toastiness. Once in the mouth the beer is assertively toasty and quite fizzy, which is to the detriment of the dry cola-like caramel notes in the background. It's also a little overtly astringent (that warming sensation around the front and roof of the mouth). However, before I get too disappointed there's a late flourish of hop flavour to please the palate. Far from mind-blowing, but it is, I guess, a beer worth another investigation.

After emptying a couple of the bottles and staring at the new labels, I do find myself wondering how much money Mac's have donated to the school of the winning entrant in their branding competition. A smart idea, which surely must be cheaper than paying the marketing department to come up with something stylish. Perhaps the Auckland Waterfront Stadium Sub-Committee should look into the idea - they could probably award one prize each for the Mallard and Hubbard stands.

Slainte mhath

LINKS: Real Beer
Mac's (coming soon)
Mac's (old school)
Mac's Brewery Bar
Society of Beer Advocates

RELATED: Beer & Elsewhere


  1. I've yet to try it Stu. I've been in a huff and feeling boycott-y. :)

  2. Excellent review. I'm currently downing a Black Mac as I write this, tasty enough without been anything mind blowing. The worst thing about the Macs rebranding is Copperhop no longer been made, I miss that beer...

  3. Black Mac isn't a lager, or should I say I've drunk black mac ale and I don't think that you can call it lager.


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