Thursday, June 7, 2012

CT Column 14/03/2012: Shifting meanings

IN the late 1970’s and early 80’s two American breweries pioneered a style of beer that would eventually take America and New Zealand by storm.
Fritz Maytag, a member of the Maytag washing machine dynasty who bought his local brewery rather than see it close, took a trip to England where he was exposed to the fruity bitter pale ale style. He decided to brew a beer based on the beers he tasted in England, but using local American ingredients and a higher strength. He used the newly bred citrus tinged Cascade hop variety along with the very biscuity American grown two row barley malt. The resulting beer was released in 1975 and called Liberty to celebrate the anniversary of Paul Revere’s ride in 1775. The result was paler and stronger than its English inspiration and accented towards hop flavour and aroma rather than the more yeast influenced English pale ales.
Several years later Californian homebrewer’s Ken Grossman and Paul Camusi cobbled together a micro brewery out of old brewing, dairy and soft drink equipment. In November 1980 the first batch of what was to become the company’s trademark Pale Ale was brewed. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale took influence from Anchor Liberty and used both local malt and Cascade hops resulting in a beer that combined grapefruit and floral notes with a caramel tinged malt profile. The beer was a huge hit and is now the second largest selling craft beer in America.
Sierra Nevada is now a very sizeable concern brewing over 90 million litres a year and the company has just announced that it is building a second brewery in North Carolina to supply America’s east coast.
Both Anchor Liberty and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale went on to inspire a raft of American hopped pale ales that became know around the world as the American Pale Ale Style or APA. Here in New Zealand the style was introduced by brewer Luke Nicholas with his Epic Pale Ale and by Richard Emerson with his seasonal American Pale Ale. As our craft beer culture developed brewers started to develop the style in uniquely New Zealand ways. The most obvious way has been to introduce New Zealand hops varieties, although New Zealand malts have also played their part. The result is a family of beers that are inevitably being referred to as APA’s, Aotearoa Pale Ale that is!
The newest one to hit the shelves is from an unlikely source. Martin Townshend has chiselled out a niche brewing a fantastic range of English style ales. Townshend Aotearoa Pale Ale, however, marks a significant change in direction. Pouring a sunny mid gold Townshend APA throws up a complex aroma of geranium, orange fruit, tomato vine and passionfruit. In the mouth the beer delivers a blast of green floral notes, bitter marmalade and caramel malt with a long drying bitter finish.