Saturday, March 19, 2011

CT Column 9/03/2011 : Underwired

BREWERS often set themselves technical challenges. Sometimes this takes the form of nursing their yeasts to achieve high alcohol levels, sometimes it consists of using unusual ingredients, and in several cases I know of it has involved creating a beer with a very low carbohydrate level, a dubious if highly marketable goal.
Last year 8 Wired brewer Søren Erikson decided he wanted to take up the challenge of brewing an aromatic and highly flavourful beer but at an alcoholic strength that would allow it to fit the legal definition of ‘low alcohol beer’. To hold a liquor license in New Zealand a bar or restaurant must provide a beer with 2.5% alcohol by volume or less. Søren decided he wanted to brew a low alcohol version of a hoppy American style India pale ale, a style that usually uses a relatively high alcohol level to deliver big flavours.
Brewing lower alcohol beers usually means adding less malt, Søren decided to take a different tack by adding a large percentage of an unfermentable type of malt called Crystal Malt. Crystal Malt tends to give the beer it is used in nutty, caramel flavours and helps to give body. Usually brewers use 10 to 20 percent, Søren decided to use 66% meaning that the resulting beer did not ferment out to a high alcohol level but did retain enough body and malt character to balance out the big hop flavours and aromas that Søren packed into the beer.
The result was named Underwired as a humorous reference to Søren’s 7.3%abv assertively hopped IPA Hopwired. The resulting beer offers up a big fruity aroma with some floral notes and a distinct whiff of grapefruit. In the mouth Underwired is fruity and hop accented with just enough body and caramel malt character to balance the hops. While the beer is definitely on the thin end of the spectrum it’s highly drinkable and infinitely more satisfying and characterful than the other low alcohol beers on the market. Cheers!

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