Friday, July 23, 2010

BEER O’CLOCK: Here Be Monsters – Hop Monsters

small_Yeastie_Boys_logo_270_0 If you’ve been worried about what’s happened to our once-regular beer correspondent Stu, then don’t be. As our other even-less regular beer correspondent Neil Miller explains, he’s been busy creating a monster.

Here Be Monsters – Hop Monsters
by Neil Miller

They are, according to the Made from New Zealand website, “the hottest and most unusual brewing company in New Zealand right now.”  The Yeastie Boys have just released their latest pair of beers, Yakima Monster and Motueka Monster… 

Because there is no substitute for primary research, I rang Stu McKinlay, the ginger half of the Yeastie Boys, and asked him some thoughtful questions.  The first related to the Yeastie Boys’ moniker.  Some people hate it, most people love it, but where exactly did it come from?

Well, it turns out Yeastie Boys was originally the name of Stu’s award-winning home brewery.  He says he turned up to a home brewing event and everyone else had great names for their breweries.  It was at that moment he realised then he needed one too.  Stu wanted a brewery name with a bit of a musical theme (because music is a huge part of his life) but not one which mentioned malt or hops like so many bars and breweries did. *

_QuoteOff the top of my head,” Stu said, “Little Creatures was the only brewery that referenced yeast in its name.  One day I happened to see a Beastie Boys album and the name just popped into my head.”

He admits to not particularly being a Beastie Boys fan [Me either, Ed.] but that does not stop the brewery and others constantly making references.  One media article on the Yeastie Boys was titled “Fight for your right to party” (one of the Beasties’ more famous songs) and even the Yeastie Boys’ own website has a section called “Swill Communication”, a clear play on the Beastie Boys fourth album title of “Ill Communication.”

Of course, this all meant that Stu’s still fully functional home brewery once again lacked a sobriquet.  His ingenious solution was to call it Eastie Boys, a reference, he claims, to its location deep in the eastern suburbs of Wellington.  “It has the added advantage that when I give a bottle to someone, I can use a Yeastie Boys label and just cut the letter Y off,” Stu explains.

The next question was about how the business operated.  Stu admitted it was a difficult question -

_QuoteI guess we are a brewing company but slightly more complex than most because we make different beers all the time.  We don’t own a brewery but there are lots of them around.  The Yeastie Boys just make good beer.  Maybe the best description is that we are a post-modern brewing company.” [Eeks! – Ed.]

On their Made from New Zealand profile, the Yeastie Boys note

_QuoteWe're also utilising excess capacity at small local breweries that we respect.  So, while growing our own business we are supporting other businesses made from New Zealand that we love.  The whole really can be greater than the sum of the parts. 1 + 1 = 3!!!” 

So far, all their beers have been made at Invercargill Brewery under the watchful (yet huggable) eye of Mr Steve Nally.

Then it was time to talk about The Monsters.  Both are 6% India Pale Ales brewed for winter with 100% UK malt (Golden Promise, Caramalt) and a ‘monster-load’ of hops (9g/L).  Two near identical batches of the beer were produced on subsequent days with the sole difference being the hops used.  Yakima Monster is an American Pale Ale with Nugget, Simcoe and Amarillo hops.  Motueka Monster is a New Zealand Pale Ale using the same amount of Southern Cross, Nelson Sauvin and NZ Cascade hops. **

It turns out that the idea for these particular beers was a long time in the making.  Shortly after the Yeastie Boys were set up, Stu were approached by Joseph Wood, an exceptional home brewer.  Joseph asked Stu to make one of his beers in commercial quantities.  Stu acknowledges that it was a little unusual for a home brewer to ask another home brewer to make a beer this way.

At the time, the Yeastie Boys had basically sketched out all the beers they planned to make over the next year but Joseph and Stu kept discussing the issue.  Finally, they nailed a time to do.  The Yakima Monster is based on Joseph’s beer of the same name.  The added dimension was that Stu had been toying with the concept of “cross town challenges.”

Stu had seen the Annual West Coast Challenge between Epic and Hallertau and, while he loved the beers, found them hard to compare directly because they were just so different.  He wanted people to be able to try two beers where the only difference was the hops.  It would be, in his words, “an education in hop terroir.”  

This was the thinking which led to the recent Nerherder beers from Yeastie Boys.  Nerdherder B used Motueka hops (formerly Saaz B) while Nerdherder D used Riwaka hops (formerly Saaz D).  Fundamentally, the same approach has been taken with the monsters, just with everything turned up a notch. 

So, what is the difference between the two new beers?  Well, Yakima is more assertive and, frankly American.  Motueka is more balanced and, feedback suggests, more complicated.  Both have the exact same bitterness units (around 56 IBU) but Stu believes the perceived bitterness is quite different.  In the mouth, the Motueka seems a lot less bitter.

Stu is reluctant to pick a favourite Monster saying

_QuoteNah – I sway a bit.  Initially I would have said Yakima because I’m much more familiar with aggressive American style rather the New Zealand Pale Ale style.  Now I’m not so sure.  I did a tasting last week and both nights saw pretty much a 50/50 split between the two.  The crowd came up with three or four descriptors for the Yakima and about 20 for the Motueka.  That is interesting but unexplainable.”

The only real explanation is to taste the beers.

Motueka Monster and Yakima Monster are two new beers from the Yeastie Boys, “specialists in all styles.” ***

Monsters are real and they are at Malthouse now [and around the country – Ed.]. 

* * * *

* Exhibit A: Malthouse
** The Yeasties freely acknowledge the irony of having a beer called Motueka Monster which does not use Motueka hops.
*** According to their Twitter profile.  Remember, if it’s on the internet, it must be true.

Cheers


Beer Writer
Real Beer New Zealand 
Beer and Brewer Magazine 

The post originally appeared at Wellington’s Malthouse Blog, which is almost as good as Wellington’s excellent Malthouse Bar.

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