Alice Galletly delves into the latest from the beer world - from rethinking fruit beers to delicious new openings
Judges at the annual West Coast IPA challenge in Wellington this year (West Coast being a specific American style of IPA) were perplexed and slightly offended by an entry which smelled like an IPA but looked like… well, mud. After a lot of fuss was made over its murky appearance on Twitter, it emerged the culprit was none other than Garage Project (who else), and their entry was not a West Coast IPA at all, but an East Coast IPA. The scandal!
Although it didn’t place in the competition (Moa won with their Sky Perris Juice) Garage Project’s rebellious entry, “Party & Bullshit” got everyone chattering about East Coast IPAs. While not an official style, many of the IPAs being brewed in New England, US, are more malt-forward than their West Coast siblings, with a distinctive hazy appearance, restrained bitterness and juicy hop flavours. People recently started branding these beers “East Coast IPAs” or “New England IPAs”, with the benchmark for the style being Heady Topper, a cult IPA from Vermont
The popularity of the ECIPA has spread across the US and now to New Zealand, with several Kiwi brewers putting their own spin on the style. Epic has released the Stone Hammer Series — Thunder Pale Ale, Stone Hammer IPA and Thor Double IPA — a trilogy of East Coast-inspired beers with lower levels of bitterness than their regular brews. Townshend and Choice Bros both tell me they have ECIPAs in the works, and Garage Projects Party & Bullshit is now available in cans. “When you drink it fresh — as you should — it’s like drinking tropical fruit/mango juice”, Garage Project’s head brewer Pete Gillespie tells me. “If the haze offends people I suggest drinking it from the can, or with their eyes shut.”
Fruits of Fancy
Years ago, while sitting in a Belgian Beer Cafe with a friend, I boldly declared that I hated all fruit beers.“They’re all too sweet”, I said, even though the entire sum of my fruit beer experience at that point had been one sip of my friend’s cherry kriek. “They’re for people who don’t like real beer”.
Cut to summer 2016, and I’ve realised how wrong I was. Fruit beers – or perhaps I should say “beers with fruit in them” – are everywhere at the moment, with citrus, stone and tropical fruits being added to enhance rather than dominate the other ingredients. Some are hoppy — Sawmill’s seasonal Grapefruit Double IPA or Garage Projects Death from Above IPA which contains mango, for example — but the biggest trend we’re seeing now is for tart, cloudy styles like Berliner weisse and gose to have fruit added.
A few examples: Garage Project’s White Mischief (a gose brewed with white peaches), Kereru’s Guava Weisse and Choice Bros “Strung Out On Lasers” gose with raspberry, lime and salt. Or, if you crave proper mouth-puckering sour fruit styles, Moa’s Sour Grapes and 8 Wired’s Wild Feijoa will do the trick. It’s a good lesson to always keep an open mind when it comes to beer.
New look for an old favourite
Tuatara Brewing Co. has just launched new names and packaging for their core products as well as two new products. “Reflecting on our journey and the evolution of our beers, we needed to update our packaging in line with our beer,” says Tuatara’s Blair Harley. While the brown stuff in the bottle isn’t changing for their old favourites, two new products – Tomahawk American Pale Ale and Amarillo American Dark Ale will also be gracing the shelf from November.
While boozy IPAs are dominating craft beer sales here, session beers are going to usurp them in the next three to five years, according to British beer writer Melissa Cole. Speaking in Auckland at the Brewers Guild Trade Conference in October, she urged brewers to focus on mastering beers around the 3% ABV mark. “Trust me. You’re in the Big IPA phase now, but sessionability is coming,” she said. This shouldn't have surprised any brewers in the room, as we’ve seen a growing demand for lighter alcohol beers in New Zealand for a few years. Croucher Lowrider (2.5%) is a favourite in the low-alcohol range, while mid-strength beers like Emerson’s Bookbinder, Epic IMP and 8 Wired Semi Conductor all deliver plenty of flavour.
Brewpubs are popping up around the country and in the interest of professional research I plan to visit as many as possible. Here’s what’s new/newish.
Auckland: In July, Sawmill Brewing shifted operations from the old timber mill at Leigh to a shed in a paddock near Matakana. As well as a shiny new brewery, the new purpose-built venue features a beer garden and beautifully designed “Smoko Room” where you can match dishes like smoked kahawai and barbecue pork cheeks to your brews. Meanwhile, Brothers Beer is on the verge of opening a new outfit in Orakei.
Wellington: Choice Bros Brewing have been busy transforming a Ghuznee St boxing studio and laneway into a brewery, coffee roastery, eatery and bar. The new site, named Husk, is set to open in November.
Bay of Plenty: Mount Brewing Co. expanded and rebranded their Mount Maunganui brewpub, opening as The Rising Tide Brewery and Eatery. The refurbished venue features 32 taps and a pub menu, as well as dumplings and pork buns from Johney’s Dumpling House.
Dunedin: The country’s biggest new brewpub is Emerson’s Taproom and Restaurant in Dunedin, which opened as part of the new $25m brewery in July. The new venue offers punters the chance to tour the brewery, drink experimental Emerson’s brews fresh from the tanks and watch the team at work while they dine and drink.
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