Rare Beer a chance to say cheers for charity

March 14, 2023

A drop that tastes like prunes, barley wine, or smoke - those at the Rare Beer Challenge being held in Wellington and Auckland today will get to decide for themselves.

While the concoctions might sound unusual, the challenge was raising much-needed funds for Rare Disorders, with $3 from each pint going to the charity.

On a backstreet in Lower Hutt, at the Abandoned Brewery production centre, head brewer Charlotte Feehan offered up a taste of her monstrous creation - a double IPA brewed with energy drink.

"Yeah look, I'm not going to lie, it's a lot better than I was afraid it was going to be," she said.

"There's only a certain amount of trial and testing that you can do you know, you can put energy drink syrup into a finished double IPA and taste it, but then all that sugar's still there, so it's a lot of educated guessing and then a lot of hoping for the best."

On the more savoury side of things, Waitoa Beer brewer and co-owner Tom Baker was inspired by the Italian cooking he perfected during lockdown.

Step one - add pasta to the grains.

"Before we separated the wort from the grains into the kettle, I got the short ribs and just browned that up, tomato paste, browned that up too. Then so we had to glaze the bottom of the kettle with this red wine, let that go, let the alcohol evaporate out of that," he said.

"Fill that up and that's where the sofrito goes in, so the onion and the celery and the carrot."

So, if anything goes, what did not make the cut?

"I decided against garlic, I just thought that was too risky and parmesan cheese, I left that out too, the parmigiano reggiano, it's just too risky to put cheese in a beer."


Waitoa Beer brewer and co-owner Tom Baker.

Rare Disorders chief executive Michelle Arrowsmith said while each type of illness the charity focuses on was uncommon, collectively they affected 300,000 New Zealanders.

The charity advocates for an equitable healthcare system that works for people with a rare disorder.

"There's around six to seven thousand clinically defined rare disorders and there are many more rare disorders that yet don't have a name or haven't been fully clinically diagnosed," she said.

"So we think actually that there's probably over 10,000 rare disorders."


Rare Disorders chief executive Michelle Arrowsmith (left) and Fortune Favours founder and event organiser Shannon Thorpe.

Fortune Favours founder and event organiser Shannon Thorpe said it was the third time the challenge had been run, with more breweries coming on board each year.

"It's not like a lot of other beer competitions where it's about technically how well the beer's made and how well does it fit a certain style guideline," Thorpe said.

 "This competition it's all about connecting that beer with rare disorders, so it's about using innovative different brewing techniques, interesting ingredients and telling that story."

Panhead innovation brewer Ziggy Mountier said it was shocking to hear one in 17 New Zealanders lived with a rare disorder. He took an eclectic mix of 16 gold-themed ingredients and one non-golden ingredient to create a symbolic pale ale.

"So we've got everything from Golden Promise malted barley, golden kūmara, East Kent Golding hops, Golden Queen peaches, Belgian Golden Ale yeast," he said. "We even played Heart of Gold by Neil Young during the whole brew process."

A chance to say cheers for charity.

By Soumya Bhamidipati of rnz.co.nz