Big new ale fit for a king

Last updated 05:00 13/11/2009

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When I tasted some India Pale Ales (IPAs) from North America seven or eight years ago, they were big beers, that were packed full of hops - by no means undrinkable but certainly a challenge.

Our craft brewing industry is smaller, but in the last few years, it has made great gains. The beers being produced are as exciting as those I tasted all those years ago.

A growing number of people in New Zealand love good beer. They search it out and try as much as they can. Some are even deciding to open a brewery.

Two who have gone down that path are Stu McKinlay and Sam Possenniskie, of Wellington. They have been going for about a year now, calling themselves Yeastie Boys, but instead of owning a brewery, they have the beer brewed under contract at Invercargill Brewery.

At the moment, they are producing about six seasonal beers and this is likely to increase next year as demand grows. Much of it is sold on tap at select bars around New Zealand, but some is released in bottles.

Today's beer, Yeastie Boys His Majesty 2009, celebrates Yeastie's first year as a craft brewer. It is an IPA, and because McKinlay and Possenniskie are diehard beer boys, I am expecting plenty of hop presence in this beer.

A lot of IPAs made in New Zealand recently have been dominated by late hopping, in both the kettle and the conditioning tank. This one is slightly different in that it has more hops put in earlier in the boil, a step designed to give the beer more of that big IPA bitterness.

The beer comes in a stocky 750ml wine bottle with a crown cap. I chilled mine and poured it quickly into a tasting glass.

The head was a perfect size, with closely packed bright white bubbles. The liquid was a pale amber with a golden-yellow tinge. It had a rich fruity nose, more ripe fruit than edgy fruit. It is full in the mouth initially, with a wonderful texture.

The hop presence creeps up on you, rather than smacking you in the mouth. It is a nice mix of hop bitterness and later hop fruit and resins, and the flavours blend as if they belong together.

The hops dominate the middle and the finish, with the bitterness intensifying, leaving a dry, bitter aftertaste. There is also a level of sweet, fruity hop character that mellows the palate. On the third or fourth sip, the bitterness peaks and reminds you that you are drinking an IPA. It has a good, challenging blend of bitterness and hop fruit.

This is the third big New Zealand- brewed IPA I have tasted recently. They have all been hop-tastic. I did enjoy the extra bitterness in this one.

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His Majesty 2009
Style: IPA
Made By: Invercargill Brewery for Yeastie Boys.
Alcohol content: 6.4% abv.
Price: $14 a 750ml bottle.
Available: Fresh Choice Parklands. New World Halswell.
Description: Rounded palate with a strong, crisp, bitter base and rich, fruity overtones.

- The Press

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