Beer is Great, Whisky is Good, But What About “The World’s First Whisky-Beer?”

A brewery in New Zealand has created what is being called “the world’s first known whisky-beer,” a 7% ABV golden ale brewed with 100% peat-smoked Scottish distilling malt.  “Rex Attitude,” brewed by Yeastie Boys (ugh) in Wellington, New Zealand, is said to be intensely smoky and earthy, and has been described as tasting like bacon or smoked fish.  Some have also described it as tasting like medicine, but I’m assuming those aren’t whisky drinkers, because most alcohol tastes like medicine to the uninitiated.

It actually took me a moment to figure out how I feel about this beer.  Ultimately, my thought process was a lot like the discussion between two elderly art patrons as they gazed upon a portrait of Kramer in the Seinfeld episode “The Letter“:



Elderly woman: “I sense great vulnerability. A man-child crying out for love. An innocent orphan in the post-modern world.”
Elderly man: “I see a parasite. A sexually depraved miscreant who is seeking only to gratify his basest and most immediate urges.”
Elderly woman:”His struggle is man’s struggle. He lifts my spirit.”
Elderly man: “He is a loathesome, offensive brute. Yet I can’t look away.”
Elderly woman:”He transcends time and space.”
Elderly man: “He sickens me.”
Elderly woman: “I love it.”
Elderly man: “Me too.”

While I find the concept of this beer potentially repellent, I admire the spirit that crafted it.  As a beer geek, I love experimentation and breweries willing to invest in trying out new things, especially when they think they’re going to fail.  Which is exactly what Yeastie Boys brewmaster Stu McKinlay thought. “I thought it would be so intense it would be undrinkable,” McKinlay said.  But his tune changed when he tried it. “We thought we’d have a crack at it, and when we tasted it I knew we were going to have a winner.”  I’d love to taste this beer to see exactly what Stu is talking about.  I’m not a huge fan of beers that taste like fish, but you never know until you give it a try, right?

Stu’s partner is Sam Possenniskie, and he’s okay with the fact that some people are going to be turned off by Rex Attitude. “At a craft brewery you want to make something that people will either love or hate,” Sam says. “It’s not some bland thing you drink for the sake of drinking.”  I like his swing-for-the-fences attitude.

It remains to be seen if Yeastie Boys (it pains me to type that every time) is vying to become the Down Under version of Brew Dog, but it doesn’t look to be the case (otherwise there’d be Kiwi costumes, the beer would be 50 proof and be brewed with Cialis).

Instead, I think this is a case of what’s great about craft beer, especially the American scene – guys messing around trying to come up with some new and tasty.  I say full steam ahead Yeastie Boys – No Sleep ’til Aukland!  (sorry, couldn’t resist).




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Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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23 Comments on “Beer is Great, Whisky is Good, But What About “The World’s First Whisky-Beer?””

  1. Don
    April 28, 2011 at 10:39 am #

    I knew you were a hipster Jim…No sleep ’til Aukland! 😉 Anyway this does sound interesting. And I totally share the ambivalence you share about trying it. It could be great, but it could be a drain pour, but either way I want to give it a try.

    • April 28, 2011 at 10:53 am #

      Yeah, it’s intriguing.

  2. April 28, 2011 at 10:48 am #

    It’s certainly worth a try. I’m sure I’ve had worse and it might even be good.

    • April 28, 2011 at 10:53 am #

      I’m confident I’ve had worse as well. But this one might be like licking a dirty ashtray that’s been holding a dead fish. Even with that, I think I’ve had worse.

      • April 28, 2011 at 11:01 am #

        When they say “smoked salmon,” I’m not thinking “fishy.” I suspect the person is referring to the smoky part. My guess is that it’s a smoky beer with a little funk. Not sure that’s ever been done, possibly for good reason.

    • Don
      April 28, 2011 at 10:57 am #

      I love beer drinker’s sense of adventure…Made with whale urine…I give it a shot, might be good.

    • April 28, 2011 at 11:25 am #

      Smoke, for me, is a flavor in beer that can either be great or awful. If a beer has a hint of smoke (like Left Hand Fade to Black or Great Divide Smoked Baltic Porter) it is a lovely addition to the flavor profile. However, I have had some German rauchbiers and others (like Alaskan Smoked Porter and Left Hand TNT) that have an overwhelming smoky taste. I can’t even finish those.

      It seems like this beer fits into the latter category, since the Alaskan Smoked Porter reminded me of licking a grill that had been cooking salmon all summer.

      • April 28, 2011 at 11:27 am #

        Yeah, I’m not a big smoke fan, but my favorite is the Mikkeller Rauchbier. It’s their breakfast stout with loads of smoke. That said, Mikkeller’s Black Tie is like drinking a honeyed ashtray.

      • April 28, 2011 at 11:27 am #

        I still wince a little when I think about New Holland’s Charkoota Rye, which tasted like a smoky BBQ disaster to me.

      • April 28, 2011 at 11:33 am #

        The Left Hand TNT really caught me by surprise, since they say it’s flavored with tea, but all I got was smoke. I nearly gagged and poured most of my glass down the drain (I almost never do that).

        I’ve never heard of the Mikkeller Rauchbier, although that isn’t too much of a surprise considering the countless varieties of beer that dude makes.

      • April 28, 2011 at 11:43 am #

        Ooh, the Charkoota Rye is vile. Thanks, Jim. I had washed that from my memory. Now, I’ll be gagging all afternoon.

        • April 28, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

          My pleasure 😉

  3. corbomite
    April 28, 2011 at 5:17 pm #

    You said the medicine taste could just be alcohol, but I have had beers that were over done with peat malt(never near 100%!? though) and there is a medicinal taste that comes through and is not pleasant. That being said, I would love to try it.

    • April 28, 2011 at 9:17 pm #

      I’m not sure if I’ve ever had a beer that’s brewed with peat malt, so I’ll take your word for it. I’d love to try a Rex as well.

  4. April 28, 2011 at 9:04 pm #

    Hi Jim

    Nice piece… I’m glad we got you thinking.

    Sam and I are HUGE Seinfeld fans, in fact our second ever beer was called “Golden Boy”, so I love the analogy.

    All beer to me, as an out-and-out beer lover of the highest order, is about balance. One man’s balance is not another mans… but this beer is intended to be a permanent addition to our range, not a one-off attempt to gain notieriety.

    Here’s the first report on the beer… we release the beer tomorrow but offered up a little for a crew of whisky lovers at a Bowmore tasting (the distillery that inspired the beer – though I think it is more akin to Caol Ila):

    Keep an eye on Shelton Brothers, who we are about to start exporting to USA through… they’ll probably get some of this in their second shipment.

    Slainte mhath

    • April 28, 2011 at 9:15 pm #

      Thanks for checking in Stu. I figured you guys were serious about this one. I’d LOVE to get my hands on a Rex. It’s the kind of beer you need to experience to understand.

      Thanks for being creative – weird beer I’d good beer!

      • April 30, 2011 at 6:26 am #

        My pleasure Jim… The claim was a bold one but I know beer well, and I stand by it.

        In a vast Internet of rehashed press releases, it is lovely to pick up a google alert for something that is thoughtful.

        Keep up the good work.

        Sláinte mhath

        • May 2, 2011 at 10:33 am #

          Thanks, Stu. Let me know when your stuff is available in the NYC area. I’d love to get a taste.

  5. jdsasquatch
    April 29, 2011 at 8:07 am #

    Beer made with smoked malt is nothing new. Most people don’t use peat, granted, but that doesn’t make anything about this beer a “whiskey” beer. The headline is totally misleading.

    • April 29, 2011 at 9:15 am #

      Well that’s what they’re calling it – “Whisky-Beer.” I agree that it’s not whisky (it’s not distilled) but I bet the peatiness makes this puppy remind folks of Scotland’s finest.

    • April 30, 2011 at 6:22 am #

      It’s made with “heavily peated distilling malt” which is specifically made for “Whisky”. Rauch malt is malted specifically for beer, peated malt is generally only used in tiny quantities in beer, and most other “Whisky” beers are barrel aged in Whisky barrels.

      Haven’t had a complaint from anyone who tasted the beer at our launch. They mostly appeared blown away… and not a single person seemed to think it was a gimmick or marketing ploy.

      If you read the full press release you may change you mind…

      Sláinte mhath

  6. Ric
    April 29, 2011 at 10:53 pm #

    Not sure if it’s the same brewing process/type, but I’ve been buying & enjoying greatly for awhile now a product called “Tullibardine 1488 Premium Whiskey Beer”, made by Tullibardine Brewery from Scotland! It’s a 7% brew, & tastes fantastic! The website is if anyone wants to check it out! Awesome stuff!

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