I'm a bit of a hop fan. Why? Because more hops = more flavour.
Different styles of hop produce a variety of bitter flavours. Hop flavours can be subtle or in-your-face, fruity or peppery, and leave quickly or linger long after the last gulp.
Nelson is considered to be the hop centre of New Zealand, where a number of different hop styles are grown, harvested and distributed to brewers all over the country. Better still, due to our position on the globe, New Zealand is the first country in the world to harvest their hops every year.
And this is why I love Brewjolais. Since 2006, Mac's Brewery have produced a hop-packed beer using the first hops of the season. What's more, is that the hops are picked, packed and brewed in the same day. Fresh anyone?
For the past three years, this deal has not been a problem. The hops were picked in Nelson, packed in Nelson and brewed in the Mac's Brewery in Nelson. Easy-peasy.
But in December last year, the Nelson plant was closed. All of the Mac's brewing is now done in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. This was all fine until hop-harvesting season rolled around at the end of February, and Head Brewer Alasdair Clem realised there was wee problem: the closest brewery to the Nelson hop fields was now across the Cook Strait.
Despite the obvious difficulties, Alasdair was determined to produce a 2009 vintage of Brewjolais. Armed with a dodgy rented vehicle and beer connoisseur Neil Miller (lucky bugger), Alasdair and his accomplice picked and packed the first Cascade hops of the season, then shipped them over to Wellington and started brewing before the days end. Even missing their return ferry did not deter the pair.
And what a finely balanced brew this year's Brewjolais is.
Mac's Brewjolais 2009 (5.5% ABV)
This year's American Pale Ale pours a honey brown with an off-white head. It smells strongly of hop, with malt and vanilla aromas to complement and a hint of yeast. It has a smooth and balanced flavour with strong hops, a vanilla sweetness and a malt body. The hops taste incredibly fresh and have a herb character, with a burned hop bitterness on the finish. A beautifully rounded beer, yet the hop shines through in a bold and tasty fashion, as one would expect from Brewjolais.
The 2009 Brewjolais is a step up from the 2008 vintage, with a more balanced flavour but just as much hop character. And I can't get enough of it. Available at the Mac's Brewery bar Shed 22 and the Craftsman on Courtney place, I think I could single-handedly get through the limited number of kegs before the month's end. So hop fans, get in fast - Brewjolais never lasts long, especially when I'm around.