Geoff Griggs: Brewers are prolific right now; even winemakers are getting in on the act
Judging by the number of couriers dropping off samples of new products to me in the past few weeks, Kiwi brewers must be working overtime.
The irrepressible Luke Nicholas of Epic Brewing is one such case. He's recently released a trio of new beers. Unsurprisingly for a brewer whose generosity with the aromatic green cones is legendary within the industry, all are variations on the hop-driven IPA theme.
Epic Snow White (6.5 per cent) is labelled an "Alpine Pale Ale" (not a style I've ever heard of), but in reality is a crisp, quenching White IPA. A marriage of 30 per cent wheat malt, crushed coriander seed, and American Cascade and Centennial hops combined with a notably warm fermentation rewards the beer with a zingy citrusy hit and gentle tartness. The result is a flavour-packed, late summer quaffer.
Nicholas describes Stone Hammer IPA (7 per cent) as "seriously hop forward" and, given his reputation, that should be taken as a warning as to its intent. Intense and oily are just two of the adjectives that spring to mind to describe the onslaught of grapefruit and passionfruit aromas and flavours from the Citra, Mosaic and Simcoe hops. Thankfully, there's just enough sweet malt on the palate to balance the ferocity of all those hops.
The third new Epic beer is a toned-down version of Thor, the final beer in last year's Stone Hammer Series. Labelled a "Brave IPA", Epic Son of Thor pours a bright yellow gold hue beneath a fluffy white head. Medium-bodied and sweetish, it reeks of dank American (Simcoe) and grassy and passionfruit-like New Zealand (Nelson Sauvin) hops, and drinks far too easily. It's a delightfully – if perilously – suppable beer, which belies its hefty 6.8 per cent alcohol.
All three Epic beers are highly recommended – assuming you like big, hoppy IPAs.
But it's not just our established brewers cranking out new beers; one recent delivery came from a Christchurch-based company better known for its grape-based beverages – Giesen Wines. Three brothers – Marcel, Alex and Theo Giesen – are introducing a range of beers into New Zealand's already crowded beer-scape.
Best known in New Zealand for wine, the Giesen family has a German brewing heritage dating back some 150 years. The family of the brothers' great grandfather, Leonhard Kaiser, ran the Kaiser brewery in the Bavarian village of Bischofsgrun from the 1930s until the mid-1970s, when it was sold to the brewing giant Heineken.
Now the Kaiser name has returned to brewing, only this time on the other side of the world.
Early batches of contract-brewed beers under the Kaiser Brothers Brewery label have appeared since mid-2016, but the company has recently installed a 1000-litre brewhouse at Giesen's Sockburn headquarters, and all beer is now coming from the new brewery. Local brewing stalwart Dick Fife, the former long-serving brewer at the Dux de Lux brewpub in central Christchurch, has been engaged to oversee brewing.
As of next month the Kaiser Brothers Brewery range will comprise a German-style Pilsener (5 per cent), American Pale Ale (5.5 per cent), and an English Special Bitter (5 per cent) – the latter currently in conditioning tanks at the brewery. A limited seasonal release, Weizen (5 per cent), a German-style hefeweizen, will follow in May. All four beers will be available in 500ml bottles and on draught (50-litre kegs).
My recently delivered samples were of the American Pale Ale. Pouring a bright coppery hue – perhaps a shade darker than I was expecting – the beer offers an inviting combination of zingy citrus and pine-like hops set against a backbone of rich toffee, salted caramel and a suggestion of toasted malt. The mouthfeel is firm and resiny, with a late and lingering mineral dryness emerging in the finish.
At the time of writing, 500ml bottles of Kaiser Brothers Pilsener and the American Pale Ale are popping up in supermarkets across the country, and a limited seasonal release, Kaiser Brothers Brewery Tangerine Dream (4.5 per cent) is on tap in a few outlets in the larger cities. The brewery describes it as "a golden wheat lager displaying aromas of ginger and marmalade enhanced by lush fresh notes of sun-ripened NZ tangerines".
Sounds delicious. Cheers!