Editorial: Summer 2009-10

NickKia ora and welcome to the seventh edition of The Pursuit of Hoppiness. Quite an international feel to this one with articles on craft beer from both Argentina
and Japan, most useful for that OE you’ve been thinking about for 2010!

THE Christmas and New Year festivities have come and gone, but not without myself and fellow beer scribes reflecting on the preceding year and making the traditional spurious ‘best of’ lists. In an incredibly surreal way, my own list intended for publication here, turned out to be almost identical to Neil Miller’s ‘Ten Best Beers of 2009’, as featured in The Wellingtonian at the end of December.

The chart clearly reflects both our tastes for big hoppy beers but, while some may be hard to find, every beer is well worth trying. Here is Neil’s selection, with last year’s ratings shown in brackets, which I am most happy to concur with:

10. Croucher Pale Ale (7) – This is the flagship beer from Paul Croucher’s craft brewery in Rotorua, the Aromatic Capital of New Zealand. It remains a boisterous, flavoursome pale ale with plenty of character and charm.
9. Tuatara Pilsner (NEW) – From the beer-making superstars in Reikorangi, this Pilsner blends the classic Czech style with top-quality local ingredients. The end result is a crisp, dry, approachable lager which can conver t people to craft beer.

8. Invercargill Pitch Black (10) – From the country’s southernmost brewery, Pitch Black proves that beers do not need to be strong to have flavour. It showcases a wonderful balance of chocolate and coffee notes before a clean finish.

7. Yeastie Boys His Majesty (NEW) – Newcomers the Yeastie Boys have stormed onto the brewing scene in 2009. His Majesty is a bold and cleverlymade India Pale Ale with bursts of citrus notes before an insidiously refreshing bitterness.

6. Three Boys Oyster Stout (NEW) – A modern recreation of a Victorian recipe, the use of real Bluff Oysters helps create a silky, sweet, decadent stout. It should not work but it really does.

5. Three Boys Golden Ale (NEW) – This seasonal release had never registered on my beer radar before. This year, a few brewing tweaks have produced a zesty, quenching summer delight.

4. Emerson’s Pilsner (2) – Now the only organic beer from New Zealand’s champion brewery, this New World Pilsner is a balance of fruity hops and cleansing bitterness. It is the standard by which others are measured.

3. Epic Pale Ale (1) – A rare combination of fullflavour with drinkability, this is rapidly becoming a Wellington beer fixture. The brewer loves his hops and it is evident in every glass.

2. 8 Wired Hopwired IPA (NEW) – One of the first brews from a new Blenheim brewery, this is my new beer of the year. It has a billowing hop aroma, big passion fruit and citrus flavours, late bitterness and subtle power.

1. Epic Armageddon (3) – Easily one of the most highly hopped beers ever made in New Zealand, this huge beer showcases massive orange and grapefruit notes, a solid malt backbone and lingering bitterness. It should be enjoyed as if it was the last beer on earth.

The holiday break and the associated wild Wellington weather gave me an opportunity to resurrect the ‘Days Gone By’ feature which had appeared in a couple of earlier editions. This time I decided to delve back to the very early origins of the brewing industry in New Zealand, to track the history of a business that first was founded back in 1864.

Not unsurprisingly, through a series of takeovers and mergers, this family-run brewery ended up being acquired and subsequently closed by one of the ‘Big Two’ Kiwi nationals, in this case DB Breweries.

One of my favourite items of UK ‘breweriana’ was a framed wall poster graphically depicting a UK breweries’ ‘family tree’, circa 1980, where the origins of all known beer producers were displayed and their history mapped. I am not aware of any similar publication here, but would be interested to know if anyone has carried out detailed research in this area, or who would be keen to produce a similar type of poster.

Fortunately, with the recent growth in localised craft beer production, we are now seeing a resurrection of local brewers who are replacing those that disappeared over the years due to corporate
conglomeration. Let us hope they all continue to thrive and retain their independence for many years to come!

Finally, a special thank you to the Puke Ariki Museum, New Plymouth and The Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, for allowing publication of the historical images.

Nick Page, Editor

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