Our local hop head beer purveyors Purvis Beer in Richmond got in some beer from one of my favorite California brewers - Bear Republic. So we had an impromptu double-blind tasting of Racer 5 and Hop Rod Rye against our local favorites Galaxy and Hopwired.
I labeled four coasters "A, B, C, D" poured a measure of each beer into glasses, noted which beers were on which coasters, and turned the coasters over. Debbie came in and rearranged the order of the beers and the coasters. We sniffed and tasted each one, and then rated them.
There was unanimous agreement among the judges!
In fourth place was the Hop Rod Rye from Bear Republic. This isn't too much of a surprise because it's qualitatively different from the other three beers. It's darker and sweeter, with a creamy head and less hops. It's a malt driven beer, with interesting grainy tartness possibly from the rye?
In third place was Racer 5! Also from Bear Republic, this beer is one of my "go to" beers in California. I first had on draught at Zeitgeist in San Francisco and was instantly smitten. I still love it, but in this tasting it seemed a little closed, without the lovely hop aromas I remember. It's still a lovely beer but it may have suffered in transit.
In second place was Galaxy from Bridge Road Brewers in Beechworth VIC. It's made with (wait for it) Galaxy hops. This was a one off brewing of an American Pale Ale style and it's a winner. I hope they make more. Great hop nose, slight sweetness with a nice pungent bitter middle.
Finally the winner was Hopwired from 8 Wired Brewing in Marlborough NZ. This is my new favorite beer. Big dry hopped nose with notes of grapefruit and pine (though they like to claim passionfruit down here) made with local NZ hops this is a big american style IPA with a lovely burst of alpha acids on the tongue.
When I first moved to Australia, I committed the sin of trying to find the things I loved from home in our new environment. I looked for big hop driven "American" style IPAs and I kept being disappointed. I was starting to think that maybe that style just wasn't popular here.
I was wrong. There are brewers brewing in that style, and it is popular with some people, just not broadly popular. We've found a number of great local craft brewers including Mountain Goat and finally a purveyor, Purvis Beer, who shared our love for unsubtle, one dimensional, purely hop driven pale ales.
We've been trying out various local IPAs and "APAs" for a while now. First on our own, then going through Purvis's selection. We had settled on Hopwired as our favorite though we keep trying new beers as we see them. This tasting was to see how my fond memories of my favorite California hop driven pale ales compared to the new favorites we'd found here.
My conclusion? In beer, "local" and "fresh" wins. Even if Racer 5 were better on its home turf (which isn't actually clear to me) it's obvious that local beers are better - certainly when drunk close to home. So I am overjoyed to have found such great local beers, and a beer supplier who shares my love of hops.
Now off to finish those open bottles - fresh beer doesn't keep...
Hoppy New Year!