Friday, 2 May 2008

Beer O'Clock: Hoppy Pale Ales

Stu from SOBA continues his series on all the basic beer types worth drinking. This week, your Hoppy Pale Ales. . .

PC_hoppy pale ales Hoppy pale ale is king in the craft beer market. Whether it be the wildly popular “hoppy” American pale ale (aka “APA”), or the more traditionally hopped English pale ale (aka “bitter”), pale ales are being hunted down all over the world by almost everyone who loves good beer.  Which, if you're reading this, should mean you.

Those who know me tend to class me as a malt lover, but I do love hops too. These warm afternoons and coolish evenings are as good a time as any to drink hoppy pale ales, so here are three local pale ales that I’m particularly digging right now:

  • Mac’s Brewjolais is, by my reckoning, the best special release I’ve tasted in the last 18 months – from any brewery. Celebrating the late summer hop harvest, Brewjolais is quite different from most other beers in the fact that it uses fresh “green” hops straight from the vine (usually they are dried in kilns before being packed and shipped out to breweries). Mac’s release the beer every autumn and, while being slightly different each year, it has always been a hoppy pale ale. This year’s vintage is an in your face, but superbly balanced, showcase of Riwaka hops (the hop formerly known as Saaz D, and made famous by Emerson’s Pilsner). Get to your local Mac’s bar now and experience the difference.
  • Emerson’s Falconer’s Rest, the latest from Emerson’s experimental “Brewer’s Reserve” range, is the most “English” of the three even though it uses no English ingredients (NZ malt and a combination of New Zealand and Slovenia grown ‘styrian golding’ hops). It’s firmly bitter with a nice base of caramelly malt and a good dose of old-fashioned marmalade in the hop flavour. The beer is very reminiscent of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord (Madonna’s favourite beer, for those who care) and hopsmackingly delicious! Get it in takeaway flagons at Regional Wines and Spirits now but, be warned, it is a very limited release. It’ll probably be on tap at Galbraith’s and a couple of the more well-known Christchurch beer bars soon (if not already).
  • Epic Pale Ale is the most widely known of the three and, very importantly for all my hop loving brothers and sisters out there, it is available all-year around. An excellent example of the classic American Pale Ale it has a lean malt character, which allows the zingy citrus fruit hop flavour and aroma to play the lead role. It’s pale golden, hoppy, fresh and always excellent. Get it almost everywhere (alongside its new brother Epic Lager).

Other good pale ales on our shelves (if you can’t find the ones above): Tuatara IPA, Founder’s Fair Maiden, Emerson’s 1812, Croucher Pale Ale, Invercargill Stanley Green and Renaissance Perfection Pale Ale. Harder to get, unless you’re in Nelson, is Lighthouse Brewery’s wickedly named ‘Fug Nose’ (it’s full of ‘fuggles’ hops, for those not up to play with beer humour).

In a fortnight we’ll look at the American Ale category (within which the popular APA sits, alongside American-style Amber and Brown ales). After that we’ll be greeting winter with the warming ales and darker lagers of northern Europe.

Slainte mhath, Stu


  1. Why is this guy always talking about beers no ordinary person can possibly get?

    Berend, sadly drinking a Budejovcky Budvar

  2. Hi Berend

    Nothing wrong with Budvar (besides the fact that it is usually a bit stale).

    Thanks for the question...

    I'm trying to let people know about beers that are just left (or right!?) of centre - if you want to see some beers that are way off the ordinary path then check out my tasting notes at RateBeer:

    All of these beers, except Mac's Brewjolais, are available at Regional Wines and Spirits (mail order available). Most are available at New World Island Bay and Rumble's Wine Cellar on Waring Taylor. Brewjolais - which I can't recommend highly enough - should be available at any of the Mac's Brewbars (Wellington, Newmarket and Auckland city). Get down there if you can.

    Epic, Emerson's 1812 and Tuatara IPA are available at almost every New World in Wellington.

    As for Aucklanders... All I know of is Hallertau (Riverhead?) and Galbraith's (Mt Eden). They both do takeaway bottles and usually have guest beers on tap.

    As for bottle stores and supermarkets: if you don't ask, you won't get. Foodtwon/Woolworths never seem to have anything decent down here in Wellington. There are a few Auckland-centered suggestions here:

    Many brewery websites, these days, seem to feature a section about where their beers are available. Emerson's and Croucher's certainly do.

    Also, back on the hoppy pale ale subject, I forgot to mention Mac's Sassy Red in this artcile. It's an excellent hoppy pale ale, it is avaialable almost anywhere, and it is right at the top of its game at the moment.

    Good luck with your beer hunting. Feel free to contact me on if you ever need any help.

    Slainte mhath

  3. Epic seems to be available almost everywhere now. If your local bottle store doesn't have it, get them to order it in.

    For Auckland readers, I'm told New World Victoria Park also has a decent range.

    Around my area, Mt Eden's Village Winery bottle store always has a good selection; and Glengarry's in Newmarket has a decent and complementary range, and Liquorland Newmarket sometimes has some goodies.

    For myself, I finally managed to get to the Hallertau when it was open: called in yesterday heading back from Puhoi. I'll definitely be making the detour again.

    Great house beers (shame about the house music), and a decent selection of take-home beers in the fridge, although no take-homes of their own beer. Odd that.

    Anyway managed to pick up one or two few of the 'Wigram' range -- which I haven't seen around before -- including the Munchen Dunkel, which is as magnificent as Stu Says, and the almost as good Three Boys IPA.

    Very nice.

  4. Actually, I'm drinking Epic lager tonight. It's my first taste and I'm impressed. I was a bit ho-hum on them releasing a "boring old pale lager" but it is so fresh and deliciously hoppy. I have to say I'm very impressed.

    PC - I think you can takeaway Hallertau beers if you ask at the bar. You just have to buy a bottle and they will fill it fro the tap (you may be able to take your own, I'm not sure).

  5. Hi Stu, I've asked local bottle stores. No interest for that in South Auckland they say. I even could look at the list of beers they could buy from their suppliers and that was sad reading.

    Thanks for the top on buying bottles from the pub. Might try that one.

    Where's the capitalist that has started the online beer shop?


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