I’m a great believer that beer needs to be drunk in the proper context.
Ordering a jug of Speight’s at the excellent Leuven Belgian Beer Café is very poor form. Conversely, drinking 8.5 per cent Duvel at the cricket will have you completely trumpeted by tea time.
The quest for proper context was my excuse at least for eating gourmet hot dogs and watching the opening match of the NFL while sampling the first bottle of Emerson’s American Pale Ale (6 per cent). The star-spangled label would outrage Nick Kelly and Keith Locke – always a huge bonus. It pours a deep burnished gold which would not be out of place in Fort Knox.
This is a big, strong and independent beer with plenty of rich orange and grapefruit notes – like snogging a Californian fruit salad – before a unilaterally firm finish. The day this beer is released each September should be a public holiday. No one would really miss Labour Day.
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American Pale Ales (APA) are the boisterous new cousins of the traditional English style pale ales. Historically, pale ales are firm, fruity, nutty and relatively bitter. A fine example is the Croucher Pale Ale (5 per cent) from Rotorua. The brewer, Paul Croucher, is a reformed university lecturer who is fiercely passionate about food and beer.
His Pale Ale throws a punchy malt nose with lashings of stone fruit. In the glass, it has a full, biscuity body with pronounced orange and caramel notes. A lingering dry finish leaves the drinker immediately ready for the next taste.
One of the popular beer genres is India Pale Ale. This style of beer was developed when Britain still ruled the Raj. The troops – heaven forbid – would not drink local brews, so barrels of good old English pale ale (pip! pip!) were shipped in from Portsmouth.
Given that beer does not like heat or movement, the rough, steamy ship journeys tended to see the beer arrive in an undrinkable state. Long before refrigeration, the brewers turned to their two main weapons against infection – alcohol and hops (a natural preservative). The result was a strong, bitter style known as India Pale Ale (IPA) which, ironically, has still never been made in India.
Made from authentic ingredients and true to style, Tuatara IPA (5 per cent) is a luxuriant beer with a deep spicy nose, mellow marmalade body and a long, imperial finish. It is great to see this beer appearing in supermarkets around town.
Another university lecturer who went on to gainful employment is the effervescent Dr Ralph Bungard who runs the boutique Three Boys microbrewery in Christchurch. He says his Three Boys IPA (5.2 per cent) is unique because it uses a selection of New Zealand-grown hops which produce similar aromas and flavours to modern IPAs and APAs, “but extends those styles in a genuinely New Zealand direction.”
His golden beer has a herbal and citrus nose, a well balanced body with lashings of grapefruit and a cleansing finish. Another magnificent beer and one more reason to All Hail Pale Ale!