It breaks my heart a little bit to see what has happened to Monteith’s because I used to think they were something special.
Lets go back to 2003 and my then-girlfriend now-wife and I went to New Zealand for a holiday. One of the stops was the lovely coastal town of Kaikoura. Staying in the youth hostel, we walked along the coast road into town to find somewhere for a drink and dinner. The only place we found was the local pub – the sort of place where the locals turn to look at you when you walk through the door. We weren’t eating there. So we headed back along the coast road and past the hostel, hoping there was somewhere decent around the point. And my word there was; a completely renovated pub across from the wharf which was surprisingly empty.
Surprisingly because the place was brand new inside, the husband-and-wife owners were friendly and the food was great. So much so that we went there every night for dinner. And they had this beer we’d never tried before in these squat little bottles. It was Monteith’s and we loved it and drank a few every night. When we returned home, Monteith’s became the barometer by which we judged every other beer we tried. But bottles of this great new beer we’d discovered were hard to come by in Australia. It was a cause for celebration if we stumbled across some in a bottle shop.
But I don’t feel the same way about Monteith’s any more. Some beers I drank in the early days of my good beer journey, while I don’t drink them any more, I can still see what it was I liked about them. I can’t do that with Monteith’s, can’t find what it was that transfixed me about 10 years ago. It’s like they’re not the same beers any more.
And some of the new beers they’re coming out with are just embarrassing. There’s the
Pale Ale, which I found so ordinary it should have been called “Fail Ale” or the IPA that is a ridiculous 35 IBU.
But, despite being so often disappointed by Monteith’s beers, I keep buying each new beer they make. Maybe it’s linked to some yearning for the Monteith’s of old, the chance that I might rediscover what I liked about them. Which is why I’m slightly suspicious about the fact that I like their new Ginger Beer. I found it was one of the few beers in this style that doesn’t just taste like a soft drink. It tastes like a beer with ginger in it.
But do I really like it, or is it just okay and my wishing for the Monteith’s we found that day in Kaikoura makes me amplify any slightly good-tasting beer from the Greymouth brewer? I do know that I like this beer than almost any of the other Monteith’s beers I’ve had in recent years.
Which may or may not be saying much given how unimpressive I’ve found most of their beers lately.