The Big Beer Bang, Fresh Hops And I.P.A.’s:
“Isn’t that just hops ‘n’ shit.”
Myself and NZ Beer’s equivalent to Tony Montana, Phil Cook often have these deep and meaningful’s over Twitter. Like two long distance lorry drivers moaning about roadworks on a CB radio. This is two Beer Geeks on its 21stC equivalent, humouring the herd.
“IPA isn’t that just hops and shit”
was the latest exclamation over the bar. I hope (but I’m unsure) that the ‘n’ shit’ part of this statement was an attempt to be gangsta* not a genuine belief that excrement forms part of the malt bill.
Other gems from the past few months include:
Customer, abruptly: “Specials? Got any?” Me, unable to resist: “Only ‘Ghost Town’ and ‘A Message to You Rudy’.” Customer: [blank stare]
@phil_cook No1 comment of the wknd. Is the Hefe the only wheat beer on tap? Yes. Try a sample. Oh no, look it’s all cloudy I’ll have a Stella.
Sadly, for me anyway, The Malthouse will no longer be the Scarface mansion with ‘All The Beer’ it once was. It’s still arguably (and relatively recently, voted) the best beer bar in the country, but it’s main face, the man with a talent for retort like a loose chainsaw in a shower, has moved on. Whatever he gets up to this, I suppose, is a public cheers and good luck to Phil. A beer person, who is; constantly educational on all things beer, annoyingly accurate, unashamedly passionate, probably a bastard to work with and what pisses me off most about him, has the ability (out of all the Wellington beer tenders, with their pretend facial hair) to sport a tremendous beard. Hopefully this freed up time lets him attend to his roses or more importantly the best beer blog in the country.
On over the bar banter and chit-chat, perhaps the most common buzzword that riles me lately is, ‘hoppy’ as in;
“Give me your hoppiest beer”
It’s fucking meaningless, not unlike going into Bunning’s and asking for the best paint, or the most metallic screws. I’m certainly guilty of using this phrase, but it’s getting out of control now. It’s as if all beers are meaningless, tasteless liquids unless they have the ‘hop’ moniker.
What worries me is that craft beer is sharply spiraling to a pinnacle. A pinnacle that’s arriving so fast that the yet to be converted see, ‘craft’ as a slightly more bitter/ fruitier/ higher alcohol version of his or hers chosen generic Saturday night cooking lager. While malt accented beer’s, experimental ales’, Spicy Belgian style Dubbels and Stouts and Porter’s (unless they sport a CHOCOLATE or COFFEE, prefix) will remain the preserve of the seasoned beer aficionado, and ultimately, fall out of favour again.
I realize historically, popularity has readily been the driving force behind brewing trends, I just feel the ‘know all’ suit crowd that drink Steiny on a Wednesday after work and a pint of that ‘weird bitter stuff that gets you mullered’ on a Friday, will start having more of a say with their wallets, in what brewers continue to look to produce.
I see, and know of, more and more people swapping what they drink and reaching for well-produced pints. Even in Wellington, New Zealand’s craft quaffing Mecca, many people who form part of the demographic that should be turning to craft have been slow on the uptake. Sure they’ll buy the odd Tuatara Pilsner or Epic Pale Ale, perhaps even a Bookbinder. But these people aren’t REALLY turning to craft beer; they’re just in a bar with friends where there is no Monteiths. This huge group that should be buying into the ideas behind great craft beer (and furiously supporting it,) may have organic carrots in the fridge, but do they really get it? Socially in front of friends or colleagues, would they be willing to shun a brew from the big boys when out on a Saturday evening, perhaps as the would caged eggs in the supermarket? I’m not so sure.
Social drinking habits aside, I have nevertheless succumbed to all this hop-scotch of late. I like the seasonality idea behind wet hopped beers. Like a good wassail shin dig in cider circles, wouldn’t it be great to have this annual celebration of ol’humulus lupulus. Beaujolais Nouveau at Hashigo the other week showcased a great array, the launch of Conehead, and Mayday hopefully highlighting Tuatara’s new brewery intentions with regards to more experimental limited releases.
I’ve said it before, I’m no hop head, but there have been several resiny highlights of note this last month. St George’s day was a patriotic affair**. Welcomed in with a searingly hot madras made with Fire Dragon Chilli’s Black Taniwha, along side I recon , the best double IPA in the country; Liberty CITRA . Spice and Hop bitterness just go so well together.
That ‘tongue G.B.H’ was surpassed however, with 8 Wired’s Fresh Hopwired. A juicy, mouth filling beer, with waves of hop aroma and varying levels of bitterness. I found it a chewable IPA, something you can dive right into. There isn’t over powering tongue clawing dryness but levels of zesty bitterness. If Hopwired were packaged as chewing gum It’d get one of those adverts that has a million dollar budget, usually ending with someone getting dunked into a sea of gently bobbing tangerines and grapefruit. I’ve snapped up a couple of bottles and urge anyone in the know to do the same. I didn’t think one of New Zealand & Australia’s most highly rated New World IPA’s could be bettered. Fresh Hopwired although highly seasonal and limited, may well have done it.
*Or whatever my teenage niece would call cool talk these days.
**Considering old Georgey boy was from somewhere near modern day Syria, chicken Tikka Masala is (was, the last time I looked at a daft opinion poll on the subject) Britain’s favourite dish and I.P.A’s have their origins firmly in England, it’s certainly seemed to fit the occasion, albeit completely unplanned!