I thought it would be cool to review a craft beer once a week.
Mainly just for my own records. There are so many different crafts beers to choose from. This will help me remember which one’s I’ve had, which one’s I liked and which ones I didn’t.
At the same time, you might find something you’d like and you might be able to recommend something worth trying.
So here is a bit of an introduction.
I’m a reader. If I’m into something, I’ll often take the time to find a couple of good articles or even a book I can read on; “current subject of interest.” I like to give myself a bit of a heads-up. The theory helps me better understanding what’s happening in practice, and of course, what is happening in practice helps make sense of the theory. This means I’ve read all sorts of books, books on; golf, marathon running, weight training, stray lining for snapper, bonsai trees, coffee, pipe tobacco, vegetable gardens, wine, and so on. Taking the time to do a little research makes a big difference when it comes to understanding, enjoyment and participation. You don’t have to be an expert, it’s just nice not to be clueless. A little bit of knowledge goes a long way. This is certainly the case when it comes to craft beer.
While I can’t claim to be a fountain of craft-beer-knowledge, I’m not hopeless. I used to be. I used to wonder why anyone would want to wreck beer and make it “crafty.” Now though, I can’t work out why anyone would bother to pop-the-top on a regular beer?
It seems that craft beer is pretty “in vogue” at the moment, more truthfully, beer has mostly always been “craft beer.” Throughout history beer has always been brewed locally, in small batches, with local varieties of hops and barley, and according to flavour profiles appealing to local consumers. Travelling from town to town, or even from tavern to tavern, you’d discover beer varied immensely. It was a “cottage” industry and all beer was literally “craft beer.” With the dawn of the industrial age most of this changed. Beer could now be mass produced. Factories and machinery took over and the “art” of brewing lost out to the “business” of brewing. The corporation decided to tell us what we were to like when it came to beer and most people were none-the-wiser. What’s in vogue at the moment is really a craft-beer-come-back. While it started in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, now it is a phenomenon. People are discovering that less is more. Which is my motto when it comes to beer; don’t drink a lot, just drink something awesome! It seems at the moment, that if it can be brewed then someone is brewing it; everything from deep dark curry stouts, to golden pale ales withmango, mint and chilli. Now we’re talking!
Each time I review a beer I’ll try and do a few things…
1. I’ll try and place it on a chart that offers a sense of where it fits next to other beers. It will end up being a flawed system as there are so many different types of beers and trying to relate them all to each other may be impossible. I think it could be helpful though. My chart will set hops against malt, and also complexity against simplicity.
2. With each review I’ll try and explain a particular feature of beer. I.e. in this first review I’ll try and explain hops. At least as I understand it. With this in mind, I’ll also try in the first reviews to look at beers that sit out on the extremes of the chart, malt, complexity and also simplicity.
3. If I’m not explaining an aspect of the beer flavor, I’ll try and explain a type of beer. What is a stout, a red, an IPA, an APA, a pilsner?
4. I’ll try and post each review on a Friday so that you can get your hands on a bottle and give it a try over the weekend. This one is a day early.
5. I’ll try and actually do the above!
Tuatara is a Wellington based brewery and one of the most well-known brewers of craft beer in New Zealand. Even their bottles are easily identified. Their bottle neck features a depiction of the scales and spine of New Zealand's famous native lizard, the Tuatara.
I’ve chosen to review the Double Trouble for two reasons. Firstly, it was my favourite craft beer for a while and secondly because when it comes to hops, few beers are as “hoppy” as the Double Trouble.
What are hops? The “hops” used in beer are the flowers (or seed cones) of the hop plant. They are used to stabilize and preserve beer and also to balance the sweetness of the malt in beer. Hops are what makes a beer bitter and also provide the different flavour and aroma profiles at times described as grassy, zesty, spicy, lemony, citrus like, or floral. It all depends on the type(s) of hops used in the brewing process.
In craft beer world a scale is used to measure the bitterness of a beer. It’s called the International Bittering Units scale (IBU). The Tuatara Double Trouble is rated a 167! To put it in perspective a standard IPA is just over 40 and yet a beer where you would expect some bitter tasting notes to come through. So when it comes to the Double Trouble expect it to be bitter! 167 is mental, but that’s why I’m starting with this beer, to highlight the “hops” factor. I’ll try and explain an IPA and an APA another time. Now it’s time to pop-the-top and have a taste.
Price: $11.99 for 500mls (This makes it one of the more expensive NZ craft beers).
Alcohol content: 9% (IPA’s and APA’s traditionally have a higher alcohol content. In the case of the Double Trouble I think Tuatara just wanted to make it an all-round big beer. So use common sense please. 500mls is 3.6 standard drinks).
Colour: Golden but off set with a touch of cloudiness that gives it a slightly brown hue.
Aroma: Sweet and floral. Not floral in the sense of flowers or perfume though, rather more like floral in the sense of having just weed-wacked everything that might even be a little bit over grown in the back yard.
Palate: A very sweet beer with lovely citrus / herb like notes. Sweet and savoury. Lovely to swirl around in your mouth.
Finish: The finish is what makes this beer. When it comes to IBU, 167 is massive and the swallow and aftertaste of bitterness in this beer is off the charts! The bitterness of the aftertaste sticks around for ages and you’re left with no doubt as to the “hoppy” side of craft beer. There is a slightly sweet malty taste left in your mouth but it is incredibly subtle. There is also know hiding the high alcohol content, it is kind of obvious.
On the Chart: The Double Trouble is a fine example of a very hoppy beer. What subtle malt flavours you might pick up don't tone it down in the slightest. At the same time it is certainly not watery in any way. There is depth and flavour all the way though. The complexity of this beer is the hops though rather than hints of tropical fruit, spice, etc. With that in mind, I'll place it all the way out to the left but right on the line.
Conclusion: Tuatara has nailed it, but in nailing it they’ve likely created a beer that is pretty polarizing. If you aren’t used to hops, you’ll find the finish overwhelming and it’ll potentially put you off ever trying a craft beer. What you have to appreciate is that this beer sits out at one end of the scale, the hop scale. Others, we’ll find, are a little more balanced. So while it used to be a favourite, ultimately I found it too expensive and too bitter. But still awesome!