Flagship of the Mussel Inn - brewed since 1995
Inspired by the first beer ever to be brewed in New Zealand, by Captain James Cook in 1773, the Mussel Inn version is a red brown all malt beer flavoured with the freshly picked tips of the Manuka tree and locally grown New Zealand organic hop varieties. Cook’s original recipe used molasses instead of malt and also used rimu along with the manuka. We've tried that - wasn’t so nice.
The only one out of 240 New Zealand beers to rate 10 out of 10 in Keith Stewarts book 'The complete guide to New Zealand Beer' Also featured in 'Best - a New Zealand compendium'.
A very distinctive beer with notes of ginger and rose oil which sometimes gives the perception of a slight sweetness although the beer is fermented dry. Long known for it's medicinal qualities by the native Maori population of New Zealand, manuka's high anti oxidant properties are also to be found in Captain Cooker manuka beer.
NO ADDED SUGARS, NO PRESERVATIVES, NO WORRIES!
And the relevance of the pig?
As was normal on early voyages of discovery to new lands, Captain Cook released several pigs on his arrival. The untouched forests of New Zealand proved to be most attractive to these pigs and it wasn't long before they had spread throughout the land. Great for the pigs - not so great for our forests. These unique pigs are now commonly known as "Captain Cookers" - and likewise, the Captain Cooker manuka beer is commonly referred to simply as "The Pig".
Pig hunting has long been a great New Zealand past time, taking good keen men (and women) and hardy hounds to the most inaccessible nooks and crannies of what remains of our wildest jungles. Now you too can hunt 'the pig'. With a little determination and a little perservarance you never know - you just might get lucky!
PIGS HAVE WINGS.......
In 2004 we were approached by Dirk Standaert of Gent, Belgium, asking if we would be interested in exporting the Captain Cooker to Belgium for him to distribute. Shipping a productÂ that is 95% water, to the other side of the world, in a heavy glass bottle that probably came from the other side of the world in the first place, did not sit comfortably with our environmental philosophies. Neither do we have the capacity or the equipment to bottle - and so the offer was declined and there the pig lay. About a year later, while I was busy revamping our brewery, it occured to me that there could possibly be another way. Belgium - the home to a vast range of fantastic beers and the brewers who create them - why don't we just send the vital ingredient over there (in a dried form) and let them do it themselves?
So contact was re established with Dirk and the pig was roused from it's slumber. de Proefbrouwerij in Lochristi - a brewer of many many fine beers - was contracted to produce the product and manuka was harvested, dried and sent. A trial brew was made (which required us to travel over there to sample - bugger!) and although not exactly like the original Mussel Inn version, was equally as good and so production was started. As has always been our intention, we wanted the brewery to interpret the recipe as best they see fit to produce a product that would best suit the market that it is serving. In this case we have an alcohol content of 5.7%, fermented with an ale yeast, packaged in the standard re usable 330ml Belgian bottle (as used by Duvel and others), sporting a rather swish looking black label designed by Dirks team. Great beer - great look. Check out www.captaincooker.com
Next up - USA. In December 2008, I bumped into Peter Cole and his partner Debra at the Mussel Inn and we got yarning. Turned out that Peter not only shares our concerns for this planet we live on but is also the part owner and founder of the Squatters bar and brewery in Salt Lake City, Utah. Squatters brewery . He is also passionate about all things beery and was keen to give the pig a whirl. So manuka was cut and dried and on the 8th of August 2009, the first American Captain Cooker was released at Squatters down town venue in Salt Lake City, in the good company of Jenny Talley, the brewer and other key staff. I have to admit, that alongside the samples that we had taken to compare it with, the local version excelled. And this is a good thing too - proving once again that beer is best consumed where it is made and really shouldn't be exported around the globe. Besides - pigs really shouldn't be flying (our samples were in riggers - not ideal at 30,000 feet).
November 2010 - release of the Pig Bombers - 650ml bottle version - 6.26% and tasting even better than the first brew. Available from the Squatters bars and the Utah Brewing Co's bottle shop, Salt Lake City.
Latest version - UK.
December 2009 - another fortuitous collision - this time, Matt Clarke, head brewer at the Hawkshead brewery located in Staveley in the Lake District of the UK. After a look around our operation and a few samples, Matt was inspired to 'bring the pig home' - and in July 2010, the first cask conditioned real ale Captain Cooker was dispenced at the annual Hawkshead beer festival - no fanfare, no advertising - but the punters soon caught whiff of it and it was not long before it was cut. Another fantastic interpretation - and hopefully to be repeated in the not too distant future. If you good folk in the motherland would like to once again taste this lovely beer - send Matt a message of plea!
And closer to home.... Invercargill, November 2009.
You couldn't find a brewery further away from the Mussel Inn on the South Island, to contract brew for us but there were reasons that made this a viable choice. First and foremost is Steve Nally - brewmaster of the Invercargill Brewery. Top chap! They also had the means to produce a bottle product and the will to do so. And what was this version like? Damn good! 5%abv, a bit more highly carbonated than the Mussel version and consequently a bit more aromatic. Production at Invercargill ended in late 2012 when we acquired our own bottling machine. Thanks Steve for spreading the love!
So where next?
Got a brewery? Let us know if your interested....