Published on June 27th, 2011 | by ladyparker4
Hop to it: New Zealand Craft IPA’s
There is a certain element of mystery that surrounds the ingredients in beer. Unless you’re a beer aficionado or brewer yourself, you’re most likely to consume one to quench your thirst at the end of a working day without a second thought as to how this magical concoction smells or tastes like it does.
It is an increasing trend though, that you and I, as willing consumers are eager to find out just what goes into making a craft beer batch. And not just the generic ingredients of yeast, hops, and grains… I’m talking about the particulars.
Which variety of hop gives a beer its distinctive aromas or bitter quality, or what grain bellows that particular aroma of roasted hazelnut and chocolate?
New Zealand is recognised as an excellent producer of hops, and increasingly malt. This is undoubtedly a factor why its craft beer industry is an emerging superlative star as craft breweries utilise the best of what is at their doorstep. The fact New Zealand yields such fantastic quality ingredients is all the more reason we should be alive to the aromatic nuances and palate structures of these craft brews. It should be noted that most boutique breweries provide helpful information on their labels, or on their websites (some have technical tasting sheets, much like wine, including hop varieties, malt and yeasts used) so you can discover and improve your own beer tasting skills.
New Zealand’s hop capital is also the sunshine capital, Nelson. So suited because of the warm, dry climate and salubrious soil-types. Benefiting from years of ongoing research and development by the entity HortResearch since the late 1980’s, New Zealand’s hop varieties are now many and varied and some of the most sought after by both craft and large-scale breweries.
Hops are the female flower clusters of Humulus lupulus. Essentially they are a bittering agent, though much like New Zealand’s famed ability to produce pungently aromatic Sauvignon Blanc, the hops produced here have aromas you’ll be smitten with.
The two distinctive types of hops, which perform different functions, are Aroma hops, and High-Alpha hops, though extensive research and development of varieties has now normalized the use of Dual-Purpose hops. Aroma hops are self-explanatory, typically added right at the end of the brewing of the wort as a ‘late gift’ where the precious but volatile hop oils cannot be damaged by boiling, resulting in a beer with luscious citrus and floral aromas depending on the variety used.
High Alpha hops’ resin is geared up to produce the coveted bitterness which makes them suited to first kettle additions.
Largely however it is up to the brewer to decide how to orchestrate the brew to achieve the intended final product – which hop varieties to use, what additions to make and his or her timing of these additions is critical.
EPIC ‘Hop Zombie’ – “Need… More…. Hops!”
This latest release from Auckland-based EPIC is exactly that. Always a brewer to sire unique, stylish and often satirical blurbs on their distinctive labels, and damn fine brews, ‘Hop Zombie’ is no exception.
If you were to personify its nose, it would be loquacious, rich, balanced and generous, which I know is slightly oxymoronic. A bounty of passionfruit, mango, lemon, pineapple, and mandarin, the floral aromas are liberating, synchronized with herbaceous notes of resiny pine, fresh cut grass, and a slight malt biscuit character.
Double IPA in style (decidedly love-it or loathe-it in nature because of its extreme hoppy-ness and typically high alcohol levels), this example from EPIC is approachable and balanced. Hop Zombie lures you in by its panoply of aromas. Tasting it, there’s sweetness from the alcohol which importantly balances out the irrefutable bitterness. Because of this bitterness, the alcohol at 8.5% is not hugely discernable and the lengthy dry finish ensures you’ll be satisfied after a glass and converted to the hop way.
Both New Zealand and US hops are used, and malts from Britain and Germany add richness and flavour to the body.
Food Pairing: Karikaas Vintage Gouda and quince paste – the sharp acidity of the Karikaas brimming with crystals and sweet fruity quince paste is simply superb with the bitter but rich Hop Zombie.
For a first release, it’s novel, adventurous and certainly not a soulless corpse.
Epic Brewing Company
$NZ10.80 / 500ml
Most New World supermarkets
Regional Wines & Spirits
8 Wired Brewing Company’s HopWired
Radically making a name for himself and his very Kiwi-dubbed brewing company, Søren Eriksen of Danish descent, has an impeccable flair for beer. I’m consistently impressed with his batches, brewed in Marlborough at the Renaissance Brewery in an arrangement which sees Eriksen renting equipment from this long established brewery, who he also creates beer for.
The HopWired is exclusively New Zealand – that is, 100% New Zealand hops, and New Zealand grown pale ale malt, which has to be commended. It has beautiful passionfruit, tangerine and citrus orange, pine needles and lemon peel aromas. Interestingly enough and regularly commented on, the HopWired exhibits a ‘Sauvignon Blanc’ character of gooseberries. This comes from the Nelson Sauvin hop variety used – its unique oil profile displays a fresh crushed gooseberry aroma, this character obviously is responsible for its name.
On the palate, the citrus and tropical fruit is again deliciously conspicious followed by what seems a polite bitterness. The finish is refreshingly dry, but the 7.3% alcohol level is quite pronounced on the palate.
Food pairing: Well suited to a calamari or prawn salad, or seafood pizza.
Watch out for Eriken’s other 8 Wired mentality brews – always ingenious.
8 Wired Brewing Company
$NZ9.65 / 500ml
Most New World supermarkets,