Friday, 15 June 2007

Beer O'Clock: Speights Porter

Stu the SOBA beer writer contemplates Consumer's winning beer.

Speight's Porter - the great unknown NZ beer - has just been included as one of Consumer magazine's beer tasting top picks [blogged here at Not PC earlier his week - Ed]. For years the Porter beer has been sitting, almost unnoticed, on the supermarket shelves while people have lingered nearby purchasing it's poor excuse for a big brother - Speight's Gold Medal Ale. The fact that the Gold Medal Ale is not even an ale is surely suggestive of something, but to put the spotlight back on the positive let's look at Speight's Porter.

The positives:
• Is it good? Hell yes!
• It is available almost everywhere - of course it's on tap at Speight's Ale Houses but it's also at bars, restaurants, cafes, bottle stores, supermarkets all over the country.
• On the world's best beer consumer website (, It is currently rated as 33rd best NZ beer, and the top beer from either of the two big breweries - even higher if you remove the ten or so beers that are no longer available. The notes from some of the world's most prolific beerhunters are very encouraging too.
• It's pretty good value at around $12-$14 per six pack.
• Their Pilsner isn't too shabby either!

The negatives:
Speight's hardly even promotes the stuff, focussing instead on their well-known watery caramel fizz.
• Much of it is brewed in Auckland, rather than in the famous open-topped Kauri fermenters that the label implies. I'd love to try these versions side-by-side, if possible.
• The sad indictment on New Zealanders is that there is probably more Tui and Lion Red spilled each year on beer-barn carpets around New Zealand than the total volume of Speight's Porter that is brewed.

Stu's taste test:
A very dark chestnut with reddish highlights and a light tan head. Coca-like coffee notes on the nose, with a whiff of caramel. A silky mouthfeel that's complex enough to savour but simple enough to enjoy relatively mindlessly (bitter chocolate and a slight hint of fruit). Dry roasty finish with a little showy caramel note. Not as full nor as robust as many porters I'd normally drink, but one of my common "go to" beers in the relative desert of NZ bottles stores and bars.

For proud southern men:
For all those proud southern men whose chests are swelling with pride, when hearing that Speight's made the grade, it might be interesting to note that Speight's Porter has, for the last few years, been brewed by a woman - and an English-woman at that! She's a hard road finding the perfect woman, for sure, but Speight's have sure made the grade here: Tracy Banner, who once resurrected the Mac's range from the pitiful state into which it had fallen, has for the last couple of years been heading up the brewing team at Speight's, and has recently moved back to Nelson to retake the reigns at Mac's spiritual home. Hopefully the Speight's craft range will not suffer from her loss.

Have a beery good weekend, no matter what you're drinking.

Slainte mhath, Stu


  1. Would beer expertise be a sign of 'culture'? :)

    Just saw the Harvey Keitel Steinlager ad. Wonder how much he cost?

  2. Im in Wellington and I cant find Speights porter bottles anywhere!! does anybody know where I can find some?

  3. Its now 2010, its disappeared. Which angers me.


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