Words & Photos - Matthew Curtis
I think it was when I was sat soaking in the sunshine on Dianne's folks deck drinking a Liberty Yakima Monster I realised that I much prefer the citrus burst of North American hops to the prickly, tropical fruit flavours produced by in those grown in New Zealand. I'd been on the North Island for almost two weeks now and I'd tried a heap of different NZ pale ales, a few were average some were good but a few such as those from Tuatara and Hot Water Brewing were exceptional. This effort from Liberty though was a sensational US hopped beer and it was a superb refresher after I'd bombarded my palate with so many similar Kiwi pales.
Being 17000 kilometres from home starts to have an effect on you after a couple of weeks, I missed my cat and my stuff and my friends. It had been a brilliant holiday visiting Dianne's family and it was almost time to come home but thanks to a little pleading from myself there was still time to squeeze in one more brewery visit before I caught my flight. During this trip I had managed quite well to 'accidentally' experience the burgeoning New Zealand beer scene but for a change this visit was quite intentional.
Hallertau Brewery lies just outside the town of Riverhead which is about half an hours drive from Auckland. It's surrounded by interesting looking, boutique vineyards. Had I the time or the inclination I would've loved to visit some of these too. Pulling up to the tap room and restaurant that also houses the brewery I'm once again reminded of the enticing, friendly spaces created by the breweries of Colorado. There's plenty of room here, lots of tables and a decent amount of taps situated right in front of the brew kit, yep, this was definitely my kind of bar.
It was the early afternoon before the post work rush so the brewery was pretty quiet when we got there. I was also delighted to learn that this is where Liberty Brewing contract brew their beers and they have a dedicated tap on the bar, this time pouring the grassy and herbal Halo Pilsner which Dianne immediately got stuck in to. I went for a tasting flight while Dianne's Dad, Darryl who had very kindly driven us down here opted for a Statesman Pale Ale. I worked my way through a Kolsch, the Statesman pale, a red ale and a schwarzbier which were named 1, 2, 3 and 4 as they were the first four brews ever produced by Hallertau. There was no doubting that they were all very well made, well balanced beers but none of them quite managed to pique my interest. I'd tasted some big and brilliant beers over the last two weeks so I was personally left a little disappointed by this quartet.
Then I moved on to Hallertau's Heroic range and I ordered a beer called Maximus Humulus Lupulus a 6.8% American Style IPA. My jaw hit the floor before I'd even taken a sip, what an aroma, that mango, those pine trees, such grapefruit. Wow. I could tell I was going to love it in an instant and I wasn't disappointed. I don't know if it was because I was particularly in the mood for this style of beer but it felt like I hadn't had a beer this good in a long time. The hops simply sang while the malts waltzed across my tongue, this beer was heavenly make no mistake. The Stuntman double IPA, with its depiction of a Roman chariot rider flicking the devil horns on its label didn't disappoint either. It wasn't quite as balanced as the Maximus but it was still an absolute delight.
There was a sign outside the taproom that didn't escape my attention as we entered. It said; "FOUR HORSEMEN: EPIC, LIBERTY, HALLERTAU COLLAB - HOPOCALYPSE - 12%, 180 IBU." They must've known I was coming.
So before it was time to leave I ordered a Hopocalypse which as it turned out was a triple IPA in the vein of Pliny the Younger. It was amongst the best of this style I've tried and I've tried a few. I wonder if the beer geeks of New Zealand lost their shit over this in the same way we did over Magic Rock Un-Human Cannonball. They should've done, this was a mountain of hops perched delicately on a perfectly crafted pillar of malt. It was less 'Hopocalypse' and more 'Hop Heaven' but when beer's this well made I'm not one to quibble over a name.
I left Hallertau Brewery with a smile on my face, or at least I think I did as I slept the beer off in the car ride home. They had a beer for all types of palate on draught and for this I applaud them. It can be difficult to strike a balance between making beer for locals who just want a cold one after work and out and out hop heads like myself but Hallertau had pulled this off and I was seriously impressed.
That afternoon pretty much drew my short time in New Zealand to a close, all that remained was the ritual of carefully packing bottles into my suitcase before catching the long flight home. I knew I'd be going back in the future though and I knew there would be a wealth of great beer waiting for me when that time came around.