In terms of surprises, that probably ranks up there with finding out that Judith Tizard does not have a particularly stressful job or that Graham Henry is a huge fan of Jerome Kaino for reasons which elude the rest of the populace.
Globally, one of the most popular beer genres is India Pale Ale. New Zealander’s are certainly developing a real taste for this style of beer which 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 all the way from Portsmouth.
Now, given that beer does not like heat or movement, the rough, steamy ship journeys tended to see the beer arrive in an undrinkable state. As this all happened long before refrigeration was available on ships, the brewers turned to their two main weapons against infection – alcohol and hops.
Stronger alcohol helps ward off infections though it can be difficult to convince your employer of this in some circumstances. As well as providing wonderful aromas, flavours and bitterness, hops are also a natural preservative. The result of these changes was a strong, bitter beer style which became known as India Pale Ale (IPA) even though, rather ironically, it has still never actually been made in India.
According to the esteemed judges at the Brew NZ 2008 Beer Awards, the best local pale ale is Tuatara IPA (5%). It picked up a gold medal and Best in Class. The growing popularity of pale ales was reflected in the highly competitive nature of this class. Ten years ago there were few pale ales in production around the country.
The Tuatara brewery is based on a farm about an hour north of Wellington. Cell phone coverage is patchy but they have just completed a new brewery building which has greatly increased production. The expansion was needed because demand has been soaring in recent years and sales received another boost on awards night when Tuatara became the inaugural Champion Brewery of New Zealand. The Malthouse, of course, has been one of the long-standing homes of Tuatara.
Noted public speaker and brewer Carl Vasta accepted the champion award and the warm ovation he received from his peers indicated the respect in which he is held. This is primarily because he is a good man making good beer. However, Tuatara remains one of the few breweries in the developed world to not have a website.
Speaking of good beer, Tuatara IPA is a luxuriant ale with a deep spicy nose, mellow marmalade body and a long, imperial finish. The complexity and balance make it stand out as an excellent IPA. Most modern IPAs are conventional strength though there is a small movement back towards the more traditional 7-8% brews in Britain and America.
This highly decorated beer is always on tap at the Malthouse and occasionally pops up on the hand-pump where it is served the old-fashioned way.
Of course, New Zealand’s most famous self-proclaimed East India Pale Ale is Tui. It is also on tap at the Malthouse if you absolutely insist. Now, there is no such style as East India Pale Ale and Tui is not an India Pale Ale. It is not a Pale Ale. It is not even an ale. It is a lager.
I was recently asked by Chef Martin Bosley what Tui had in common with real IPAs. My considered reply was “they are both liquids.”