from the brand new beer book by world famous beer writers Stephen Beaumont and Tim Webb.  Their 2014 Pocket Beer Book (recently published by the magnificently named Octopus Books) aims to provide a global guide to great beer and, thanks to their incredibly focused writing style, the two manage to cram a phenomenal amount of information into what is a very small tome.

To be honest, New Zealand comes across as a bit of a brewing rock star in the book, appearing far more prominently and positively than our small size would suggest.  Stephen Beaumont [1] seems to be a particular fan of our beer, especially after touring and tasting here last year.  Twenty Kiwi breweries and four local venues featured in the book and there are accolades for New Zealand in the ingredient and beer style chapters.  Disclaimer time: [2] I helped with the chapter on New Zealand.  I’m actually acknowledged on page 320. [3]

New Zealand has been growing hops for over 150 years with commercial production now concentrated in the Tasman region.  Beaumont and Webb wrote “the key to the present and most probably the future of New Zealand craft beer may be found in two elements: contract brewing and native hops…  Kiwi brewers are employing the singular nature of New Zealand hops to put a stamp on styles they can truly call their own.”

On the subject of our hops the authors argue “New Zealand’s hop industry, on the other hand, has thrived precisely because of the country’s isolation, with island-specific varieties such as Nelson Sauvin and Riwaka boasting distinctive tropical-fruit characteristics all their own.  Local brewers, skilled as they are in coaxing flavours out of their native hops, have turned these traits into uniquely Kiwi styles, beginning with the perfumey New Zealand pilsner and tropical-fruity New Zealand pale ale, and finishing only at the limit of Kiwi brewers’ imagination.” [4]

As prescient readers would have already surmised this week’s blog is about New Zealand hops.  There are three breweries featured.  Two of them – 8 Wired and Emerson’s – are in the 2014 Pocket Beer Book and all three – 8 Wired, Emerson’s and Liberty – are likely to be in the 2015 edition.  Malthouse is also one of the four beer venues profiled along with Hashigo Zake [5], Pomeroy’s and Brew on Quay.

The first beer is all about Nelson Sauvin hops.  Liberty Sauvignon Bomb (7% 70 IBU) is a New Zealand Pale Ale which only uses this distinctive hop.  It throws a hazy grapefruit and passionfruit nose, has rich grapefruit, caramel and apricot notes in the glass, then a solid bitter finish which is not over-powering.  The consensus is that Sauvignon Bomb is surprisingly approachable for such a big ale.  At a time where some brewers seem to be frantically competing to see who can fit the largest number of exotic ingredients into their brews, Sauvignon Bomb is a study in simplicity – two malts and a single variety of hops.

Brewer Soren Eriksen says he’s “pretty sure” 8 Wired Hopwired IPA (7.3% 70 IBU) was “the first bottled new world India Pale Ale made with New Zealand grown pale ale malt and 100% unique New Zealand hops.” [6] Those unique Kiwi hops are Southern Cross, Motueka and Nelson Sauvin.  The resulting IPA pours a burnished orange with a huge nose of grapefruit, peach, grass and pine.  I’ve previously described the flavours as a “veritable pyramid of hoppy goodness” and I stand by that. [7]

This Hopwired pyramid is built with bricks of grapefruit, passionfruit, orange and lime.  The foundations are a solid caramel malt backbone and the entire structure is decorated with motifs of grass and pine. [8] While technically intensely bitter, Hopwired has a distinctly hoppy finish but is really quite smooth and was my #4 Kiwi Beer of the Year in 2012.

Emerson’s Pilsner (4.9%) bills itself as a ‘Kiwi Classic’ and a “showcase” for Nelson grown Riwaka hops.  The brewers argue “its overt fruitiness begs comparison with Marlborough’s world-beating Sauvignon Blancs.”  Distinctly drinkable, Emerson’s Pilsner oozes citrus and passionfruit aromas and flavours.  Personally, it was a truly important beer in my development as a craft beer drinker with many pints and jugs consumed as I began to discover the world of beer.  Lion’s purchase of Emerson’s means its products are now widely available and I’ve been delighted to see so many Lion bars being pleasantly surprised by the huge sales of Emerson’s (particularly the Pilsner) and then thinking maybe they might need a few craft taps. [9]

There are three more 8 Wired beers at Malthouse which show the very different ways hops can be used.   The highly acclaimed 8 Wired Big Smoke (6.2%) is a smoked porter inspired by the Rauchbier style from Bamberg.  It uses Bamberg Rauchmalz (beechwood smoked malt) to add depth and character to their already awarded porter.  I’ve written before that the flavour notes include coffee, smoke, chocolate, ash and maybe a hint of bacon.  A commentator on RateBeer later suggested there may also be a smoked salmon note in this big beer.  Well, colour me intrigued – I may have to check that out.  I have not had smoked salmon since breakfast.  

8 Wired ReWired (5.7%) is a brown ale, a beer style brewer Søren Eriksen says is both “misunderstood” and “often overlooked”.  It is also a style which I have frequently been accused of disparaging in previous columns. [10] Whatever my bias, ReWired is undoubtedly one of the finest local examples of the style.  Unsurprisingly, it is brown with an off-white head, there are citrus, nuts and malt on the nose, caramel and hints of chocolate in the body before a firm bitter finish.

The final beer is 8 Wired Tall Poppy (7%) – an India Red Ale.  With the generous use of Warrior, Columbus, Simcoe and Amarillo hops, this is more a showcase of US hops than local products.  Critically, it is the balance of this beer which makes it so memorable and versatile – caramel, oranges, earthy, creamy, bitterness, pine and maybe a suggestion of peach.  I remember trying this beer with Chef Martin Bosley when we were preparing a beer and food matching seminar and I’ve never seen him rattle off so many dishes that a beer would go well with.  It’s a stunner.

In other news, Ciderhouse – the management sanctioned infestation of cider at Malthouse – is officially over for, at least another couple of months.

Next time, we drink to having the entire 2014 election settled by a game of beer pong between John Key and David Cunliffe.      

[1] My second favourite Canadian after (Sir) William Shatner.

[2] Sometimes I think disclaimers are the most discussed feature of this blog after the famous footnotes.

[3] The book is 320 pages long.

[4] It is the ability to turn a phrase like “finishing only at the limit of Kiwi brewers’ imagination” which explains why Stephen and Tim are so highly regarded as writers (and gentlemen).

[5] How on earth did HZ make it into a publication I was associated with?  Oh wait, it happens all the time.

[6] I have not seen definitive proof of the claim either way.  Thoughts gentle readers?

[7] Particularly because I can’t think of a better turn of phrase.

[8] This is almost certainly my longest and most complicated beer metaphor ever.

[9] Hey, if it can happen at the Backbencher and the Thistle Inn it can happen anywhere.

[10] Correctly so – one example was me describing brown ales as “not quite as pointless as fruit beers”.  There were also several references to Coronation Street, cloth caps and whippets.  However, it has been drawn to my attention that many brown ale aficionados own cats.


Neil Miller

Beer Writer

Beer and Brewer Magazine

Cuisine Magazine


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