Tis the season to be hoppy

Think of winter beers, and you’ll usually be looking at porters, stouts or strong ales. But the last few weeks have seen a sudden round of new, hoppy pale ales hit the bars, and over the weekend I set out to try a few.

Epic Pale Ale set a benchmark four years ago when it introduced many New Zealanders to the grassy, green pine needle aromas of American hops. It was recently joined by Tuatara APA, which takes the green hop aroma a touch further but has more prominent malts. Both use imported American hops including Cascade – you just can’t replicate this distinctive resinous flavour with hops grown outside the northwestern USA.

Renaissance brewery in Marlborough will probably disagree with me there – its APA uses locally sourced Cascade and Willamette hops that just don’t seem to be a brash as their US cousins. Or perhaps it’s the slightly lower alcohol content – Renaissance APA comes in at 4.5% while most of the other beers I sampled were more like 5.5%-6%, and alcohol does carry flavour.

Emerson’s Brewery in Dunedin releases limited edition Brewers Reserve beers each month. I don’t know if this is brewers having fun or if it is carefully analysed market research, and I don’t care. I get to try a new beer each month from the best-respected brewer in the country. This month’s offering is Hoppiest Indian, which combines US Cascade with High Alpha New Zealand hops. It works, and another, tweaked version is promised soon. Try it if you find it, and try to find it.

Yeastie Boys is the most innovative commercial brewer in the country and its Yakima Monster is another example of resinous American pales. Yakima is one half of a Yeastie experiment – the other is Motueka Monster. These brews use the same malt and yeast, but Yakima is fuelled with US hops and Motueka’s hops are from – anyone like to guess? I haven’t tried them head-to-head yet but American hops smoke my tyres, and Yakima Monster displays them cleanly. It was my favourite from a hoppy weekend.

Not a bad mob at all – what did you try this weekend?

If too much hops is never enough for you, look out next week for the third annual West Coast IPA Challenge where Epic and Hallertau go head-to-head with weapons of hop construction.

More soon.

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©Martin Craig. No reproduction without permission.


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