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Neil Miller - NZ

My first world exclusive for 2013

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

While well aware of the irony writing this on a blog, I remain a huge fan of magazines and newspapers. In addition to Beer and Brewer and Cuisine magazines (both of which I admittedly write for), a regular pleasure is reading the major Sunday newspapers, often in a pub with a fine pint of ale nearby. In recent years, I have noticed the increasing tendency of stories which appear in two or even all three New Zealand Sunday papers prominently marked “exclusive.” In the words of resident philosopher/swordsman Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” Today, I present a true world exclusive beer story:

Using the Official Information Act 1982 (the Australian equivalent would be the Freedom of Information Act 1982) I wrote to the head of the New Zealand diplomatic corps, Mr John Allen, saying:

I request under the Official Information Act 1982 a list of every New Zealand beer brand served at each New Zealand Embassy, High Commission or Consulate in 2010, 2011 and 2012. 

I know for a fact that it is not the craziest OIA request they have ever received – in part because I made an identical request in 2009 but mainly because there are loads of conspiracy theory junkies out there with lots of time on their hands in their parent’s basements. To their eternal credit, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade supplied the information in full and on time. 

The data, broken down by post and year, shows that:

  • In 89 instances, New Zealand diplomatic posts served no New Zealand beer at all.  (Note: A number of diplomatic posts do not officially serve alcohol due to religious and cultural restrictions in their host country.)
  • In 63 instances, New Zealand diplomatic posts served only mainstream New Zealand beers.
  • In just 4 instances, New Zealand diplomatic posts served New Zealand craft beers. In 2012, the Hong Kong post served Harrington’s, in 2012 Los Angeles procured Moa and in 2011 and 2012 the Washington post also offered Moa. 

In 2009, a similar request revealed that only two posts were serving craft beer - Te Kawa in Seoul and Moa in Washington – so I guess technically this is an improvement but it certainly does not feel like it. Our diplomats go to great lengths (and presumably expense) to showcase New Zealand’s fine wines. They appear to go out of their way to avoid highlighting Kiwi beer.

I can understand the hard-working staff at the Riyadh Embassy in Saudi Arabia being unable to serve Emerson’s Pilsner (it would be illegal). However, I find it hard to believe the Sydney post cannot find any New Zealand craft beers, similarly for Canberra. If Hong Kong can source Harrington’s, I’m sure Australia’s capitol has a supplier or two. 

I’m unconvinced by the Brussels branch asserting that “consumption of beer is low compared to wine” because they are operating in freaking Belgium. New York argues their beer market is “hugely competitive” yet both LA and Washington managed to find New Zealand craft brews. Ottawa says they have been unable to purchase New Zealand beer since mid-2011 but Renaissance Brewery of Blenheim has been listed with the central supplier of alcohol there for two years.

I think our diplomatic posts are selling our craft brewers short and it’s time for some action.  I’m going to the tweet the Prime Minister of New Zealand. 

Neil Miller


Joanna commented on 16-Jan-2013 11:26 AM
From '91-'95, I sold drink tickets at the monthly NZ gathering at the New Zealand Embassy in Tokyo. The drink tickets were either 200 or 300 yen, and were exchangeable for a can of Rheineck, Waikato Draft or ummmm one other kind which I can't remember because I was 11-15 and not interested in beer. I can say though that the post imported large amounts of NZ meat, cheese, butter and wine which staff were able to buy, so I can't see why they shouldn't be able to import beer now. You can send anything in a diplomatic bag!* * No you probably can't.
Robert Catto commented on 18-Jan-2013 12:36 PM
In fact, the High Commission in Ottawa could pick up some fine Renaissance Elemental Porter at either of the LCBO's fine Ottawa locations...the Rideau Street location is a 7 minute drive, or 22 minute walk according to Google Maps.

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