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Moa better beers
Whoa! Moa!

Many exotic critters are native to the Down Under nations of Australia and New Zealand. These animal oddities — koala bears, kangaroos, penguins — crop up on wine labels to both identify the region of origin, but to also lure in the legions of koala–huggers.

And, as you know, I have, let’s say, a certain disdain for critter wine labels.

But beer, that’s another story. Beer oughtta have a fun label. Those Germanic, powerful typefaces get overpowering and cliched.

Heck, I bought Terrapin Rye the first time because there was a banjo–playing turtle on the label. It — and my matching T–shirt — remains a favorite brew!

So when I saw the trio of 750ML beer bottles brandishing a Moa bird, I knew two things: The beer was from New Zealand, and it was gonna be a fun drink.

Moa Brewing Co. was established in 2003 by Josh Scott, a wine maker with credentials in Napa and his family’s company, Allan Scott Wines.. The company’s premium, boutique beers are bottled fermented and conditioned to give a natural carbonation and flavors.

Think farmhouse ales or Belgian–style beers — with aspects of the Champagne business. Moa beers go through a similar disgorgement like sparkling wines.

My first sip of Moa Original, A German–style Pilsner, revealed a much higher hops character than I expected. Hops for these beers are native to New Zealand, so, I should have suspected a definite terroir difference. There’s plenty of complexity in this brew and, if you like the yeastiness of bottle–conditioning, make sure you pour this beer into a glass and bring the yeast residue with it. Wow, citrus notes and hints of fresh bread!

Moa Blanc, a wheat beer, has a fruity aroma and taste. Banana, vanilla, citrus and bubble gum fruit flavors dominate. This is a highly drinkable wheat beer that should go nicely with scallops or shrimp — or our steamy summers. It’s refreshing and a good “starter” beer for folks who just aren’t sure about stepping away from their big–brand comfort zone.

Dark beer fans get their taste of NZ with Moa Noir, a European dark lager/Munchner Dunkel. It is a dark brown beer with hues of red. Malt dominates with chocolate, coffee and biscuit flavors apparent. Subtle bitterness rounds out the after taste and mouth feel.

All of these beers taste best when served at around 42 degrees.

The cork–finished, 750ML bottles scare off some consumers, but seriously, that’s only equivalent to two regular bottled beers. Share these with a friend, or pair with course–by–course of food.

I was impressed with the relatively low alcohol content of 5.5 percent — a range reminiscent of those farmhouse ales I mentioned earlier. While the beers do not strictly represent the styles they are named for — at least by an American palate —  these are very drinkable, refreshing beers that stand a better chance of survival than the now extinct Moa bird for which they are named.