It’s two hours since I finished a glass of Yeastie Boys’ Rex Attitude and my mouth still tastes like an ashtray. I just burped and it smelled of smoke. Oh, how I’ve missed this beer.

The 7% “heavily peated golden ale” made entirely with peat-smoked malt is the single-most divisive beer ever brewed in New Zealand. (As a reference point, maybe 5-10% peat-smoked malt would be a good amount.)

Rex Attitude hasn’t been available in New Zealand for a few years, disappearing well before Yeastie Boys themselves upped-sticks to the UK. For a while I feared a generation of new Kiwi drinkers may never have the palate-blowing experience of tasting a beer that has wrecked a thousand palates and launched as many metaphors.

My personal journey with Rex Attitude started with seeing mentions on Twitter and being captivated by the name. Such a cool name: taken from a named for a track by the French electronica DJ Laurent Garnier. And as I wrote once: “the whisky-impersonating Rex Attitude imbues the essence of late night Parisian clubs of yesteryear, complete with a smoky haze in the air”.

I hated it at first, but grew to like it, then love it. Once you push past the smoke, band-aids, disinfectant and ashtrays there’s a lovely perfume note hiding in plain sight and a gentle sweetness. I would share it with people just for the reaction.

As beer writer Phil Cook noted at the launch of Rex Attitude, Yeastie Boys’ founder Stu McKinlay “seemed slightly disappointed that more people at the launch weren’t disgusted by it.”

One of my favourite Rex-adjacent stories is that when Yeastie Boys were having it brewed at Invercargill Brewery, a little of the peat-malt was left in the augur and ended up in another contract brew being made there: Pink Elephant’s Mammoth. By the time the mistake was discovered, it was too late, and Invercargill had a large batch of lightly smoked golden ale. They rebranded it Men’n Skurrts and it was one of the most delicious beers of its time.

Ahead of the relaunch I asked McKinlay for some of his favourite comments and hate-emails about this beer.

Some of his favourite comments were:

  • Tweed, firesmoke and kippers… It’s like tonguing your granddad. 
  • It smells like that time I pissed on a fire to put it out.
  • Rex Attitude pouring on one of the taps at work tonight, it was almost like bartending before the smoking ban.
  • You know they’re pouring Rex when the barman is holding his breath and looking away…
  • More fun than drinking bacon grease or having a toilet explode under you.
  • It smells a lot like one of the security guards at work, which is a little unusual.
  • On the one hand, it was very interesting and unique. On the other hand, it was a serious hassle to drink and I never want to try it again.
  • I tried Rex Attitude tonight. I like it but also have a sudden weird urge to thatch the roof on our house. Is that normal?
rex attitude

And from the emails (which I’ve edited for good taste):

They said it couldn’t be done, that it would be undrinkable! I think they were right, after passing it around the table we all agree it is completely undrinkable.

PS and it stinks a little too!”

“Last week I purchased one of your Rex Attitude beers from the supermarket and was quite impressed with the packaging and excited to drink it. I am sorry to say that this has been the most awful beer I have ever tasted. Possibly I got a bad batch, but either way a bottle full of what tastes like, cigarette butts soaked in a bronchitis patient’s bed side bucket and cannot be considered a craft beer. I am not a ‘only Lion Breweries’ drinker by any means, and am aware of what a strong maltie or hoppie beer can taste like, and am just really worried that this 100% heavy peat distilled beer has escaped taste testers and will continue to poison people around the country.” 

“Well here in Louisville, KY it is 6:18 p.m, Thanksgiving Day. Had a huge dinner a few hours ago. Sitting around thinking about a drink and remembered that I had bought a couple of bottles of Rex Attitude. Wondered about the name but when I opened it I understood. First sniff and I thought Bowmore, then poured and let it set a bit. A little sip and Oban leaped to mind. Don’t know if either have any connection but I will go with Oban. Anyway thought I would let you know that your “Islay” beer is hitting the spot.”

“I just wanted to thank you from the heart of my bottom for finally freeing up my left hand at the end of the night by creating Rex. i am a smokey whiskey fan that can now just finish my night with a beer. I am a long time listener and first time caller. I would marry rex if it was single. I would steal it from its husband if it was married. I would perform necrophilic acts if it was dead. It has changed my life. In the words of the immortal bootsy Collins, your Rex is the shizzle. Yet somehow your double Rex takes the original Rex and bog washes it in front of the school assembly. No disrespect. It’s late and I’m having a good time…and that is thanks to you and your courageous brewing efforts and your “fuck off and die you fucking cunts” attitude. I am a devoted fan who owns a bar that serves your Rex and every time I sell one I tell the customers if they aren’t happy with the beer give it back and I’ll pay for it and drink it myself. I wouldn’t dream of wasting a drop. Thank you again. For everything.”

To whom it may concern, 
I purchased your beer for $5.50 thinking it would be the nectar of gods. As the nectar quickly turned into ashes in my mouth … I would prefer to drink my own urine after a night of drinking “NORMAL” beer as an alcoholic beverage. Tui may taste like water but yours is genuinely shit … Bear Grylls once described such a beverage as elephant feces. They say a sucker is born every minute, and I very much feel like one. I hate you…

And to finish, a comment on the 10% double version, Xerrex:

I cannot sit on the fence with this beer. The aroma is a strong pungent skunk and the taste is pure peat smoke; it is liquid that paradoxically is not wet and seems to evaporate before it hits the palate ensuring a dry smoking aftertaste. For me it is right on the boundary of love and hate and covers the entire spectrum of emotions – I love the smoothness, but hate that I can only drink a small mouthful at a time; I love the aftertaste, but hate that it lingered far too long and turned almost rotten; I love the smokiness, but hate that I probably now have terminal lung cancer. I have a huge conflict now with this beer – do I buy as many as I can and give them to my friends, or do I buy as many as I can and pour them down the drain so they never have to experience it? I rate this 5.0 because I cannot rate it 0.0. As I say, I can’t sit on the fence with this beer.