Michael Donaldson delves into the latest from the beer world
Session beer – the term is all the rage at the moment as brewers recognise a growing demand for lower alcohol products.
There’s no doubt there’s more lower alcohol beer on the market – in fact the growth areas in the beer industry according to Statistics New Zealand’s annual chart of “alcohol available for consumption” showed volume growth in both beer more than five per cent and under 2.5%
But what is a session beer? In fact, what is a session? Is it even a responsible term?
Some people will take a session to mean an afternoon at the pub and therefore a session beer is one you can drink without making a fool of yourself and falling asleep in the toilet. Or does it mean a beer that allows you to have a couple of pints and still be fit to drive?
Either way there’s a subjectivity to it and at the moment it’s an ill-defined marketing term to replace “lite” or “low alcohol”.
And what should the alcohol band be for a beer to call itself “sessionable”. Certainly beers in the 2.5% to 4% fit the bill but other products marketed as sessionable are up around 4.5 to 4.9% alcohol which could be problematic for the unwary consumer.
Sessionable to me means more than just low alcohol, it has to be about flavour – a beer you could quite happily drink two or three pints of because it tastes great regardless of the alcohol level.
Tuatara Iti (3.3%) is a good example of a modern session beer with a great body and lovely hop character while Emerson’s Bookbinder at 3.7% is probably the original sessionable craft beer and it’s tasting as good now as it ever has.
Speaking of Emerson’s, the brewery has completed its move to its new premises in Anzac Ave in Dunedin. The site opens officially on July 4 and will allow the iconic southern brewery to increase production. But there’s also room to do smaller and experimental brews on a truly “micro”brewery located in the brewpub.
An Epic win
The trophies keep piling up for Epic Beer’s Armageddon IPA, which claimed its fourth major crown in less than a year when it was named best in class at the New World Beer and Cider Awards.
Armageddon had previously taken out trophies at the Australian International Beer Awards, The New Zealand Brewers Guild Awards and the Stockholm Beer and Whiskey Festival.
Epic owner and brewer Luke Nicholas, not usually one to be lost for words, was dumbfounded by the success.
“When it won its third trophy, in Stockholm, it was described as `the stuff of fantasy’ – well I think we’ve exhausted the adjectives now, it’s beyond my wildest dreams,” Nicholas says. “The IPA category is one of the most fiercely contested in any beer competition and to come out on top in four consecutive competitions is mind-boggling.”
Nicholas was equally delighted Epic Pale Ale retained the title it won last year against stiff competition. Coincidentally, this trophy came almost 10 years to the day Epic Pale Ale burst to prominence when named supreme champion at the New Zealand International Beer Awards in April 2006.
“When it was released it was revolutionary – a big hoppy pale ale of the sort New Zealand hadn’t seen before. And despite the huge growth in the pale ale category, 10 years later it still stands above the rest,” says Nicholas.
Dave Kurth of Hot Water Brewing in the Coromandel had a lot of his fans shaking their heads in disbelief recently when he announced he was quitting brewing to make hamburgers. Kurth, who built his reputation at the West Coast Brewery in Westport, is leaving the beer business to join his wife, Keren, in running a food truck specialising in hamburgers. Kurth jokes he’s “way better at making burgers than beer” but he will be sadly missed in the industry.
Just as Kurth left his brewery, Jason Bathgate was making a brave return to work.
Bathgate was severely burnt in an accident at 8 Wired Brewing in Warkworth last year and after a long, hard rehab process has decided not to go back to 8 Wired. Instead he has taken on the role as head brewer at McLeod’s in Waipu, which is about two hours north of Auckland.
Bathgate, a trained chef who started as a homebrewer in Nelson, worked at Renaissance in Blenheim before joining former Renaissance brewer Soren Eriksen at his 8 Wired operation in Warkworth.
Along with Behemoth’s Andrew Childs, Bathgate was badly burned when a pressure build-up in a kettle sent hot wort over the pair. They spent numerous weeks in the burns unit at Middlemore Hospital.
Bathgate struggled both physically and psychologically following the accident and admitted he would have found it hard to go back to work at 8 Wired. We wish him the best of luck in his new job.
BY POPULAR DEMAND
Crowdfunding is becoming quite a thing in beer circles. We’ve seen Yeastie Boys and Renaissance raise capital through Pledge Me and Snowball Effect while writer Jules van Cruysen successfully funded his book Brewed through public pledges.
The latest success story – and not everyone succeeds by the way – belongs to Upper Hutt’s Kereru Brewing Company.
They had previously brewed a gluten-free beer, Auro, but had stopped making it because of lack of demand. To test the market they started a campaign through Pledge Me where people could basically pre-order the beer.
As a result, Auro will be hitting the shelves this winter. It’s a light-bodied beer made with sorghum and rice syrup and is completely gluten-free. The new version will be dry-hopped to create more aroma than the original.
Brewer Chris Mills is rapt to be producing something for gluten-intolerant beer fans and hopes it’s now here to stay.
By Michael Donaldson