Of all the beers I’ve had so far, this one was definitely the saddest.
You see, this was not only my first taste of Monk’s Habit – the Cock & Bull’s multi-award winning flagship beer – it was almost certainly my last.
The chain of pubs, which has been around for nearly 20 years and sells its own range of iconic beers (produced by its brewery arm, Steam Brewing), has recently been bought by Nourish Group. You’d think this could be a good thing; Nourish Group owns a few swanky restaurants about the place and is partly owned by celebrity chef Simon Gault, so a bit of a spruce up and better food could be expected. Sadly, and completely bizarrely if you ask me, Nourish have signed an agreement with Lion and will be discontinuing the Cock and Bull beers.
I didn’t fully register how tragic this all was until I visited the Ellerslie branch last night. It was busy, verging on rowdy, and it had that cosy English pub feel that patterned carpet and wooden joinery provides. The music was crap and there were too many TV screens for my liking, and yet I felt a sharp pang of regret for not coming here earlier. The fact that I could get good beer here, beer that I couldn’t get anywhere else, made all the difference.
The Fuggles, which I loved and wrote about here, is already gone. The Monk’s Habit, which seems to be the one the beer community will miss the most, is nearly all gone. Newmarket have definitely sold out, and I’m pretty sure Ellerslie were on their last keg.
And that’s a goddamn shame, because it really is a delicious drop.
With a name like Monk’s Habit you’d expect something Belgian, but in actual fact it’s a bright, gorgeous IPA.
On the nose it was bursting with American hops – grapefruit marmalade and pine resin, with a underlying toffee sweetness. In the mouth it was super crisp, with fresh green hoppy bitterness balanced by rich caramel malt.
If this has been around since 2005, and Google suggests it has been, then it must have been one of the first really hoppy beers ever produced in New Zealand.
Nourish Group – you are crazy (and frankly, a little cruel.) It’s true these beers will be more expensive to serve than Mac’s Gold, but they are what makes the Cock & Bull great. The thought of another chain of gastropubs (how I loathe the word) serving boring beers with overpriced Salt n Pepper squid: it’s enough to make a grown woman weep.
I guess the best thing we can hope for is that Steam Brewing (who brew beers for Epic and Croucher, among others) can keep making the Cock and Bull beers to sell through some other outlet. To simply let these beers dissapear just seems like a terrible waste.
On a happier note (*cease violins*) today’s thanks goes to very important person – my Mum. Mum has been cheering me on from the get-go; buying me beers, texting invaluable feedback (like “stop saying you’re drunk and can’t remember the beer”), and naturally becoming a total craft beer convert herself. Thanks for everything Mum, see you at Galbraith’s!