Geoff Griggs, looks back fondly at one of the pioneer craft breweries in New Zealand.
I’ve felt a connection with Mike’s ever since I visited the brewery during my first ever trip to these shores in November 1990.
Ten years later the craft beer scene had yet to bloom, but Mike’s had put Urenui well and truly on the radar of most Kiwi beer lovers.
This is what I wrote in 1999:
“In an age where new beers are constantly being launched and others quietly withdrawn (remember Lion Gold, Longbrew and Steinlager Blue?), one classic Kiwi brew has just celebrated its tenth birthday. The beer is called Mike’s Mild and it comes from the White Cliffs microbrewery in the small North Taranaki town of Urenui.
Having taken redundancy after working on oil rigs, Mike Johnson used his savings to set up a brewery and in September 1989, he released his first batch of beer. Launched at a time when the Kiwi market was still totally dominated by mass-market sugary brown draughts and golden lagers, Mike’s Mild was one of the country’s first dark beers. The launch was a brave move, but it paid off.
Ten years on a wide selection of Kiwi-brewed dark beers is available, but for my money Mike’s still ranks as one of the best.
The English mild ale style still dominates the beer market in parts of Wales and the West Midlands where mining and heavy industry were, until recently, the major employers. Sweeter and with less hop astringency than the stronger bitters, mild ales were originally designed to be consumed in quantity and provide rapid energy replacement at the end of a long, physical working day.
They also taste great! Although Mike chooses to brew his beer with a conventional Kiwi lager yeast, his beer is otherwise clearly modelled on the English style. No sugar is added to the brew but the range of quality malts contributes delicious biscuity and chocolatey notes with a hint of smokiness. Best appreciated at a Pommish 10 degrees, Mike’s Mild has a sweetish, creamy palate and a drying roasty finish.”