Beer to quench a Hobbit's thirst

NEIL MILLER
Last updated 05:00 21/11/2012
hobbit

A GOOD DROP: Hobbits Pippin, left, and Merry sup ale in a film from The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

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JR R Tolkien famously said, "I'm very fond of a beer", and the hobbits he created inherited his love of ale, usually drunk in a pub and accompanied by plentiful but simple food.

Beer plays a central role in the beginning of The Hobbit. Balin, the second dwarf to arrive at Mr Baggins' hobbit-hole, declines Bilbo's offer of tea, saying: "A little beer would suit me better".

As more dwarfs come through the perfectly round green door, "some called for ale and some for porter", although the great wizard, Gandalf, takes only a little red wine. Fortunately, Bag End has cellars for storing beer barrels, as well as numerous pantries for bread and pies.

Beer is considered the most popular beverage in the Middle Earth world. Even the rather stupid trolls in the forest clearing wash down their roast mutton with beer drunk from enormous jugs. After the trolls are defeated, the company takes their gold coins, unsullied food, two jewelled swords and "one barrel of ale which was still full".

While Hobbits drink mead, wine and stronger spirits, their first love remains beer.

In The Fellowship of the Ring film, few will forget the look of pure joy on Merry's face when Pippin demonstrates that beer can indeed be served in pints.

In the three The Lord of the Rings movies, the beer usually drunk on camera was Sobering Thought, a 1 per cent dark stout created specially by Harrington's Brewery in Nelson.

Sir Peter Jackson makes a cameo appearance as a drunken, carrot-eating inhabitant of Bree, although he does not have a pint in his hand. For The Hobbit, two New Zealand craft breweries are producing special ales to mark the premiere.

Cult brewing darlings The Yeastie Boys have made a beer called Golden Perch. The Golden Perch is a famous inn in the shire which Pippin believes serves the best beer around.

As the Hobbits leave the shire at the start of The Lord of the Rings, Frodo guides the party away from the Golden Perch for fear of losing his companions for several days at the legendary pub.

The beer is a 4.4 per cent golden ale using ingredients from New Zealand, the United States, Germany and Britain to, in the words of founder Stu McKinlay, "showcase the diversity of the film industry".

The beer will be in bottles for the premiere and media gift packs, but drinkers will also be able to try it on tap at selected bars, mainly in Wellington.

McKinlay wanted to create a unique beer for the premiere as a personal thank you to Sir Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, who were "neighbours and friends".

Although he is not a Hobbit fan, McKinlay appears in The Two Towers as an orc, a Rohan warrior and an elf. However, he notes that if his brewing partner, Aucklander Sam Possenniskie, "had a subject on Mastermind, it would be the writings of Tolkien".

Good George is a new brewpub in Hamilton run by Kelly Ryan, who has brewed at Tui, Thornbridge in Britain and Epic Brewing Company.

Ryan, who is "absolutely" a Hobbit fan, has produced a "nice easy drinking English-style bitter" which will be served at the Green Dragon Inn in Hobbiton, Matamata. The Green Dragon is another famous inn where Bilbo catches up with the dwarfs at the start of their journey to Misty Mountain, but he is running so late that he does not go in.

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Ryan describes Hobbiton as "awesome" and is "pretty excited to have one of my beers in an old Middle-earth pub".

That may be partly because his nickname while playing rugby in South Korea for three years was "Frodo" because of his "long, curly hair and hairy feet".

Surprisingly, he is also a closet role player, describing his younger self as "one of those weird folk who played rugby, went surfing and indulged in Dungeons and Dragons".

The Green Dragon Inn, which featured in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and was burnt to the ground for the last instalment, The Return of the King, was rebuilt for The Hobbit.

The reconstruction turned what was a set front into a legitimate licensed pub, open only to those on the Hobbiton tour.

The movie set could attract up to 1000 visitors a day after the premiere of The Hobbit next Wednesday. Up to 130 international media will catch an early drink at the Green Dragon the next day, on November 29.

After the victory at Edoras, Merry and Pippen sing a song about the Green Dragon:

"Oh you can search far and wide

You can drink the whole town dry

But you'll never find a beer so brown

As the one we drink in our home town."

- Wellington

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