Our team of writers share some of their favourite drops from the past few weeks.
Double Vision Red Rascal
This little rascal has to be my favourite in the core range from Double Vision Brewing Company, and incidentally my favourite red IPA at the moment. It seems like these are becoming increasingly common as a staple for breweries, I for one, am all for. Red Rascal has a gorgeous amber-ruby colour and not too much carbonation. Let this little devil get a bit warmer and all those caramely, biscuity malts come out to play with the zesty citrus marmalade hops. An impressive beer for a relatively new brewery with only a handful of beers in the market.
Tui East India Pale Ale
Sometimes a girl has to do what a girl has to do. And that’s benchmark against New Zealand’s original beer style. I’ve heard it described by very reputable writers as “brown fizzy water” – and I agree wholeheartedly. It looks like beer, it doesn’t necessarily smell like beer, and if you line it up against some craft ales, you’ll be inclined to think it doesn’t much taste like beer. Nether-the-less consumed in moderation, this won’t kill you. Best consumed chilled to within an inch of freezing on a very hot day. Try not to repeat.
Since Kaikoura’s quake we’ve meant to go visit and give support to their struggling breweries, but haven’t managed it. We were thrilled then when a keg of Citramatic by Emporium showed up at the Moutere Inn. It’s a proper West Coast APA, with Citra aroma jumping out of the glass and just enough malt to carry a considerable lingering grapefruit bitter kick but no cloying sweetness. We tend to be “grazers” rarely repeating beers in a session but found ourselves going back for more of this well crafted drop.
Mount Brewing Mermaid’s Mirth
It used to be that needed you go to Mt Maunganui to get your hands on one of these, or as I did, get a friend to bring up a freshly filled rigger. But Mount Brewing are stepping up their game – including a deal with Funk Estate (see page xx) – and their beer is now in bottles. Mermaid’s Mirth is a 6 per cent America Pale Ale with all the requisite citrus – tangelo and orange pith – bitterness as well as an earthy, savoury note. Laid across a lean body this is the Mount’s famous sunshine in a bottle.
Epic Hop Harvester
What’s this? The King of American IPA making a New Zealand IPA? Luke Nicholas has finally proved he’s not a one trick pony after all, with this beer dancing in a different direction to his flagship Armageddon IPA. It literally does what it says on the tin – juicy fruit chewing gum from your childhood (well my childhood anyway), passionfruit from the vine and the smell of the freshly cut lawn, including the lawnmower fumes. Just when it threatens to be too much sweet hop on a light body there’s a zingy bitterness that cuts through. Total awesomeness.
Cassels & Sons Brewing Company XPA
After being an on-tap staple around town since 2009, Christchurch brewery (and restaurant) Cassels & Sons have come full circle and finally re-entered the bottled market with a couple of their most successful beers. This Nelson Sauvin dominated XPA is fresh and fruity, a little floral and very light bodied with a slightly more bitter than average kick on the end. Not quite light enough for a session beer at 4.9 per cent abv, but certainly one that another glass or two of won’t do you any harm. Available in both bottles and six-packs, and I highly recommend the latter for better value.
Moa Hop Swap ‘Eureka’ IPA
Experimental single hopped IPAs are usually the domain of Epic brewing, but now Moa is having a go with their ‘Hop Swap’ series. A newly developed hop out of America, Eureka was formally known as “Experimental Pine Fruit” and that rather neatly sums up the beer. Hugely pungent pine needle aromas on the nose, with some pithy mandarin rind and a little match-head sulphur in the mix. The palate is more restrained, with ripe stonefruit and a warm spiciness rounding out the pine, and a surprisingly long, juicy finish. It might not be for everyone, but well recommended for IPA fans looking for something genuinely new.
8 Wired: Cosmic Chaos Sour Black IPA (7.5%abv)
There are two beers I’m still yet to get completely on board with. Sours and Black IPA’s. This kaleidoscope of styles from 8 Wired is both, so I saw it as something of a personal challenge. The nose is surprisingly subdued, with soft but nicely fresh pine and stone fruit hops, burned biscuits from the dark malts, and just a slight tang giving it away as a sour. On the palate, that sourness only just reaches the ‘tangy’ end of the spectrum and doesn’t dominate the fairly gentle hop flavours and extremely mild bitterness. As the name might suggest, it’s a beer that’s a little bit all over the place, but certainly not as aggressive as one might expect.
8 Wired Flat White Coffee Milk Stout
This is an easy guzzle-able dessert beer that goes well with a chocolate anything. A prominent coffee taste is softened by sweet cocoa flavours and malty vanilla notes. Its light bodied and not too strong at 5.5% abv, so you won’t notice it quietly slipping down. A short, lace-leaving, creamy tan head and vanilla-coffee aroma with caramel notes round out the package. Brewed with coffee, vanilla beans and lactose this one delivers what it says on the label.
Wild and Woolly Sooty Albatross, Peat Smoked IIPA
From the paper-wrapped 750ml bottle to the last (no, it can’t be the last) drop, this is something special. Peat smoked malt and the type of bitterness you get from an IPA – they said it couldn’t be done. But finally, someone has put two of my favourite beer flavours together in one place – smoke and hops. I half-expected it to jangle like cymbals fighting electric guitars but it’s the subtlety the smoke astringency and the restrained use of hops that keep this beer together in a joyous harmony pulled together by big, sweet, alcohol (9 per cent). One of my beers of the year. Get it where and when you can.
Mike’s Second Coming IIPA
Hopefully a prophetic name signalling that mike’s – having gone into voluntary liquidation – is back on its feet. Second Coming does everything big – loads of the usual American hop suspects (Citra, Amarillo, Centennial, Chinook) on a rich, malty base, sometimes nutty base. Smooth, delicious, dangerously drinkable – it’s probably the best hop-driven beer to come out of mike’s. May there be more.
North End Iron Sands
I have probably drunk a keg of this beer on my own this winter. I cannot think of a better way to survive the awful Manawatu weather than this oatmeal rye stout. The oatmeal and chocolate wheat give it body, but the rye helps it dry out. Slatherings of chocolate and nutty malt character make it an especially comforting pint.
An excellent article about this Trappist brewery inspired me to pick up a bottle of this 9.5 per cent ale. Described as the “mother of all tripels”, its soft mouthfeel its accented with spicy hop aroma, complex fruit flavours and a finish longer than a pace bowler’s run-up. Delicate yet assertive, approachable but complex, Westmalle Tripel is all killer, no filler.
McLeod’s Traders Scotch Ale
I’m a big fan of drinking out of season – Stout is my favourite summer tipple – but there are some styles that are just built for a single season. Wee Heavy – also known as Scotch Ale – is never more sensational than when slowly sipped on a chilly night in front of a cosy fire. Being a blue-blooded Northerner, my fave is McLeod’s Traders Scotch Ale; but we’re blessed in this country to have several stunning examples of the style (Renaissance Stonecutter and Sprig and Fern Scotch Ale, to name but two others). Pour into a large red wine glass, and put your feet up.