Tuesday, December 21, 2010

CT Column15/12/2010 : A year in beer

LAST year I wrote that choosing a list of favourite beers for the year was like “choosing a favourite child, difficult, dangerous and sure to end in controversy!”.
As that statement is no less true a year later, I have decided to review the year that was by writing about the themes that have characterised craft beer this year rather than picking favourites.
This year the craze for big aromatic hoppy India Pale Ales developed to encompass a range of highly hopped but also richly malty amber ales. These ‘India Red Ales’ were particularly popular through the winter where their bigger body seemed to suit the cooler weather. Emerson’s carried out a comprehensive investigation of the style by releasing three different Brewers Reserves on the theme. Hoppiest Indian, Oreti Red and Last of the Mohicans were all incredibly well received and hopefully we see something along those lines again next year. 8 Wired’s Søren Erikson has just released his interpretation of the style, named Tall Poppy. It’s sure to be as big a success as his other beers have been.
Another theme from 2010 has been the emergence of collaboration brews where a brewer from one brewery has travelled to another to brew a beer with them. Epic’s Luke Nicholas started the trend by brewing with Kelly Ryan at the Thornbridge brewery in the UK in 2009. In February this year Kelly returned the favour by travelling here and brewing the Epic Thornbridge Stout. Later this year Luke travelled to Delaware in the US and brewed a festive brew with Sam Calagione at the Dogfish Head Brewery for BrewNZ. A second batch named Portamarillo was brewed in Auckland just before Beervana. Discovery Channel filmed both brew days, and Beervana and will screen the Brewmasters series here next year sometime. I made my own foray into collaboration brewing by brewing a beer with Richard Emerson in Dunedin.
This trend seems set to continue next year. We might even see collaboration between the Yeastie Boys and 8 Wired, a union that is sure to create something wonderful.
Finally, we have seen a number of beers that have taken conventional styles and have fused them together. The Yeastie Boys have led this charge by taking Belgian yeasts and using them on other styles of beer. Return to Magenta took the hoppy amber ale style and gave it a spicy yeasty twist, Her Majesty 2010 gave the same treatment to a strong brown porter and any day now His Majesty 2010 will be released blending the fruity rounded English strong ale style with the piny citrus like hop character of an American IPA. Richard Emerson also got into the style bending mood by making this year’s Belgian JP release an American double IPA fermented with a tart fruity Belgian Golden Ale yeast.
All in all it’s been a great year for interesting beer and next year promises to be even better. Cheers

Monday, December 6, 2010

CT Column 1/12/2010 : Seeing the light

I FIRST met Kirsten Taylor while judging at BrewNZ in 2009. At that point she was helping Lion Breweries to formulate the malt extract homebrew kits produced at their Christchurch Brewery. By the time we judged together again this year Kirsten was working on something much more interesting. Having decided that she wanted to move into the craft brewing part of the industry Kirsten teamed up with Richard Fife, a brewer with over 20 years experience. They formed a company called KJD Brewing and released a dry crisp cider called Eves NV. Now they have come up with their first beer.
KJD Chocolate Cherry Porter is a very grown up, original and complex fruit beer. It’s a beer that combines the complex smooth richness of a porter with the deep fruitiness of cherry brandy. The beer starts its life as a rich smooth chocolaty beer brewed broadly in the Baltic porter style, a branch of the porter family that developed in the Baltic States using smooth lager yeasts rather than fruity ale strains. On the second day of fermentation 80kgs of Marlborough cherries were added to the fermentor adding their own complex ‘red’ fruity character. Chocolate Cherry Porter offers up aromas of caramel, toffee, dried berry fruit and a hint of Christmas spice, in the mouth the beer offers up loads of sweet malt, toffee, chocolate, dried fruit and cherry fruit flavours with a surprisingly lean mouth feel. At 6% the beer is robust enough to match with food. Kirsten recommends serving it with Christmas Cake, beef and cranberry stew, and Maasdam or blue cheese. I think it’s a perfect match with traditional northern hemisphere Christmas fare, try it with a slice of rich fruitcake and a generous wedge of Stilton cheese. Both Eves NV Cider and Chocolate Cherry Porter are available from Regional Wines and Spirits, while the Porter might be making an appearance at Hashigo Zake sometime soon.