Don't know how lucky we are

02:11, Mar 24 2014

In 1975 - a good decade before I was born - a Palmerston North-born man dressed as a comic book character created a Kiwi cult classic by singing about how good it is to live in New Zealand.

John Morrison Clarke, in the guise of Fred Dagg, made his way to number 17 on the national music single charts with We Don't Know How Lucky We Are.

While singing about fishing up the North Island or feeding the backline may seem frivolous, Dagg did have a point; we are lucky to live here, and sometimes we do forget how good it can be.

It is often the people who come here from overseas who embrace the place and its unique features the most.

One of those people is Chris Mills, best known as the founder of Kererū Brewing Company. 

A native of Boston, Mills and his wife Natasha Dahlberg moved to New Zealand about 11 years ago and have not looked back.


A graphic designer by trade, Mills traded a mouse and keyboard for a mash paddle and hydrometer in 2010 when he set up Kererū under his house as a 50 litre nano-brewery.

Last year the company expanded production 36-fold to an 1800 litre brewhouse.

Unable to slot it in under the house, the brewery is now based in a former Feltex linoleum factory in Upper Hutt.

While bottles of Kererū's brews do make their way to Palmerston North - and they are hard to miss, with their whimsical labels featuring anything from dancing cartoon kumara to overly-cheerful bats - the best place to sample the beer is always at the place it is made.

So on a recent trip to Upper Hutt, I really had no choice but to whip past the brewery for a tour and some tastes of Mills' finest.

Taking a peak at the tap bank, what quickly pops out is the number of beers with ''weird'' things in them.

The sublimely smooth For Great Justice porter is flavoured with wood-fired toasted coconut.

Apart from imparting a sweet milkiness to the brown beer, the coconut also strips out some of the tannins and bitterness from the respective malt and hops.

Pick up some of the un-coconutted porter, appropriately named For Science, if you want to check for yourself.

The kumara brown ale has golden kumara added, while the aroma on the golden ale is transformed with the addition of pohutukawa honey.But the weirdest of the weird is Karengose. 

The base beer is a gose; said go-sah, it is a wheat beer spiked with coriander and made with salty water.

Salt is usually the last thing you want in a beer, unless you are trying to replicate the brininess of Three Boys' excellent Oyster Stout.

But Mills takes his gose a step further by adding karengo - native edible seaweed.

While I have never eaten karengo, the gentrification of ramen has made me familiar with its saline-tasting cousin, nori.

The beer did not taste like seaweed though.

Instead, there was lemony tang from the malt and yeast which slowly broke away to a mild brine-like saltiness and tartness.

Just imagine the sour-and-salty balance you get from putting lemon on salted fish - but without the fishy funk - and it should start to make sense.

Besides using native flora and fauna, Mills also tries to use malt and hops grown in New Zealand wherever possible.

Mills says he uses those ingredients for a few reasons, but most of it comes down to them being local.

Beer, before it was industrialised, was made from ingredients grown nearby.

It only makes sense to make it from what we have around us, especially when our hops are sought after by brewers around the world and our malt is easily as good as any other, Mills says.

Hearing that from an American, while some New Zealand brewers are obsessed with United States hop varieties, helps put things into perspective.

It is enough to make you realise how lucky we are.

Manawatu Standard