Review #18 – Kaimai Porter’s Rye Ale

Well, it looks nice. That’s something.


It’s a rainy ol’ redemption Thursday here, so it would seem fitting to try one of the dark ales from last year that left me feeling, well, a little cheated. The Kaimai Porter’s Rye Ale I had then was a ridiculously fizzy cola-like thing that was all bubble, toil and trouble as it spilled itself all over the seat. It was a thin, flavourless concoction that had serious issues. Surely though this is just another case of a bad batch or an errant, astigmatic work experience lad who missed a decimal point somewhere, yes?

Sadly, no. Based on a sample size of two, which is probably statistically insufficient but because life is short that’ll be my lot, I’m sorry to say that in my very inexpert opinion this is a deeply flawed beer. The bottom half looks wonderful, a dark, opaque mahogany that promises depth and body but unfortunately it is topped by a massive, off-white, foamy, rocky beast of a head that despite careful pouring at first tries to escape the glass and then sits there sulking at you like a bored teenager. That’s a sign of things to come because this thing is still ludicrously overcarbonated. Even after an unscheduled forty-five minute break from tasting when the cat dragged in a mouse that proceeded to run amok amongst the boxes under the stairs (thanks a lot, useless cat) and despite many increasingly pointless swirlings it was still unrelentingly fizzy. The aroma is initially decent enough with hints of chocolate and maybe dark fruit in amongst the rye but the flavour reveals something off and vaguely sour as well which makes it tough to enjoy what would probably otherwise be a fine dark and roasty chocolate malt backbone. The effervescence seems to upset any balance that might have been achieved as it gives a false impression of zesty sweetness, and the resulting thin mouthfeel leaves an impression of cheap soda stream. The finish feels short and artificially sweet to me but to be honest, I’m thankful the taste of this one doesn’t stick around too long.

To me a dark ale normally suggests something weighty and broody as musical accompaniment, something with a bit of depth and attitude. This beer on the other hand is almost an insult to that idea with it’s faux-cola fizz and anaemic texture. To properly convey my contempt for this beer I would suggest listening to this for starters, a cover of a song made famous by Iggy Pop but originally nicked from a genuine Aussie legend Johnny O’Keefe. Then this. Then probably this one and to round it off have some of that. I’m sorry to be harsh but this beer has fallen well short of the mark, especially for an alleged dark ale. Yes, it’s 6.5% but in terms of body and flavour it’s a subpar soft drink strutting around in big boy pants.

According to Kaimai Brewery’s website Rye Beer basically disappeared for nearly five hundred years, and has only comparatively recently been reborn. I don’t know how true that is, and I know very little about the style but if it’s as difficult and problematic as it seems to be to produce on the basis of this particular offering I’m yet to be convinced the effort is entirely worthwhile.

Name: Kaimai Porter’s Rye Ale

Style: Rye Beer/Specialty Grain

Made by: Kaimai Brewing co., Mt. Maunganui, New Zealand

Alcohol: 6.5% abv.

Price: $4.69/330ml bottle at Thorndon New World

Verdict: I can’t say if this one is typical of Rye Beers, but if so I’ll be giving them a wide berth. Not actually poisonous, it seems, but it has other problems I can’t be bothered with. 42/100. Edit (13/3): Added back 8 points because despite being awful, I hadn’t realised just how difficult and rare rye beers are. I hope to have a good one of these one day.

10 thoughts on “Review #18 – Kaimai Porter’s Rye Ale

  1. I had one of their rye beers, twice. First time was lovely and I really wanted to be a fan. Seemed like I was on to a winner. Then disaster struck, I got a sour undrinkable mess. Fortunately I was accompanied by the knowledgable palette of Vance who quickly confirmed that something had gone horribly wrong and no beer should taste like that on purpose. Yeast was to blame and the usual caveats about beer being an organic product and we should be lucky to have it all. I was just thankful to be in the presence of superior beer knowledge and it was quickly sent back.

    I’ve had my hand on a bottle once or twice since, but to be honest the horrible sour taste comes back and I’m not ready to be challenged again. It’s a shame they have such poor quality controls (or that we are experience an exceptionally, although statistically possible, bad run of 1 out 4 being drinkable) because I want to believe they can make great stuff. Maybe it’s a question of pushing the limits – the reason rye beer died out is because it’s just too damn hard to make reliably.

    • Yep, I figured as much. I’m sure no-one would brew something like this one intentionally but I’ve had two now that were both seriously tainted. Sorry, but I can’t judge on a beer on what it was hoping to be. I’m not sure we’re all that unlucky though, quality control really does seem to be an ongoing issue for these guys if the reviews on are anything to go by. I’ll be trying to check out other Rye Beers to see if it’s a style thing rather than something lax at the brewery but I’m gonna have kill the memory of that taste dead with some proper Porters first.

  2. I’ve had fresh bottles of their beers and they taste great. Rye has a delicious spicy flavour that you just don’t get from any other grains. Rye as a commercial beer ingredient almost disappeared because: i) laws prevented its use to stop brewers and bakers competing for the same grains; brewers got barley and bakers got wheat and rye, and ii) rye is a bastard to brew with because it has sticky, gluey substances that can turn the whole batch into a giant bowl of porridge.

    What you have experienced is nothing to do with rye, just an unfortunate side-effect of any natural product i.e. over time it will go bad. Unless beer is pasteurised or sterile filtered it will contain living yeast and bacteria who will continue to eat, wee and fart. Sadly, I suspect turnover of Kaimai in supermarkets is slow which means there is a higher than average chance of getting what you got – a bottle full of wee and fart with not much beer left.

    Now I’m about to go out on a limb here and committ craft beer heresy so bear with me. Many craft brewers don’t filter or pasteurise. They argue that it effects the beer flavour. I think they are a) being a bit precious, and b) making a virtue out of a necessity because they don’t have the expensive kit to do it. See here’s the killer, in times past there was a saying “don’t drink the beer if you can’t see the brewery” because beer didn’t (still doesn’t) store and travel well. Our man Louis Pasteur invented pasteurisation as a way to stop beer from spoiling, revolutionising the storage and transport of beer in the process, and we are turning out back on this process. I ask you, what has the most effect on flavour, pasteurising which those with refined palates tell us adds a slight caramel note and knocks the edges off some of the subtle flavour nuances, or getting an old bottle that is full of wee and fart. Please stack the kindling around my feet in nice orderly piles.

  3. Burn the heretic! Nah, it’s a fair point but I disagree. Well, mostly. Apart from the Hud-a-wa lst year I haven’t had a beer that had turned so rank as the Kaimai, all the organic beers from Green Man and Mikes, all the Coopers and even that Stone and Wood Pacific Ale which was just about guaranteed to turn rancid once it left Byron Bay, they were all fine. I’m not so sure that travel and storage are quite the bogeymen they are made out to be. Yes, I know you’re taking a chance when you purchase a living product but for most styles I reckon it’s part of being a grown-up beer drinker to accept that it happens but it’s rare enough to not be an overriding concern. And granted, without side-by-side tests of the same brew in organic versus fully treated forms it’s difficult to say that filtration and pasteurization makes all that much difference, and there’s certainly a convenience to saying pasteurization is unwarranted if you can’t afford it but to me, I’d prefer to have drinkers accept that once in a while you’ll get a rank stinker rather than essentially restrict brewing to the big boys with the big kits and the big marketing departments that dictate that every drinker on earth prefers watery yellow lager.

    I did say ‘mostly’ though, and if you can’t brew a Rye Ale with any reasonable consistency or longevity then maybe you shouldn’t brew it, or at least be prepared to take steps to ensure it’s drinkability at the other end wherever you’re prepared to send it. It almost feels too obvious to say but I have no problems with any brewer dispensing of the craft beer ethic if it prevents them from making a decent product. I feel sorry for the American drinkers who have been sucked in by this one, though that sympathy evaporates when they say they’ll never try another NZ beer if that’s what they’re like. Grinds my gears, that does. Anyway, in the end I’m back where I was, maybe it’s a style thing, maybe it’s an misguided adherence to risky brewing practices, maybe it’s just a brewery with very poor quality control standards, but I’m gonna have to check out other Rye Beers to make sure. Any particular recommendations?

  4. i hate you peet, you need to put warnings on your music links.. I followed your links and ended up on a you tube musical journey that took me all the way to the american tale’s “somewhere out there” grrrrrr

    • Ha! Yeah man, if I have to suffer through some of this godawful stuff the least I can do is inflict some of it upon anyone foolish enough to click on it. However, I am legally obliged to inform you that cannot be held accountable for any pain, trauma, mental disturbance or aberrant behavior resulting from viewing material not directly linked to on this site. Anyway, since I’m in a generous mood, here’s some funky chicken to make you feel better.

  5. For what it is worth, and although I don’t have statistical evidence to support me I’m going to go for it anyway, unfiltered and/or unpasteurized beer increases the probability that I’ll feel rotten the next day.

    I hate getting old.

    • unfiltered/unpasteurised beer should be better for you, it’s got lots of lovely B vitamins that are supposed to ward off hangovers. However, craft tends to be stronger and yummier so I’d guess you are consuming more alcohol units on average in a craft session than when you’re drinking whatever else it is you drink over there.

  6. Hi, I just opened a bottle tonight and the first sign all was not good was the way the beer fizzed and foamed when poured. I had my first mouthful only to have an overpowering and distasteful sour taste fill my mouth. On carefully checking the bottle I found it was bottled in Dec 2010. I’m guessing the 20 months in the bottle has caused the beer to degrade significantly. This is one ill be returning to the shop for a refund.

    • Sorry for the late, late reply here and also for your loss. Yep, serious issues with this beer and/or it’s shelf life. I’ll try to check out and see if there are any comparable brews out there because I’m definitely giving this one the wide berth. There are a few beers out there that use about 20% rye that I’ll have to investigate (I think both the Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye and Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye are around that mark though I stand to be corrected), whereas it seems Kaimai use double that so that’s worth taking into consideration. If there’s still a definite rye flavour that comes through there might yet be a way to have it all.

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