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Beer in New Zealand

Posted November 29, 2013 | 11:00 am, by Mirella

I was very happy to be invited down to Dunedin, New Zealand, to give a talk on ‘the science of beer’ as a part of the Science Teller Festival run by the University of Otago last month. This is only the second time I’ve been invited to give a talk outside of North America – the last one being in 2010, when I co-hosted a guided tasting in Italy with my maestro, Lorenzo Dabove.

I was particularly excited to have this opportunity to explore a different beer scene. New Zealand has been getting quite a lot of attention for its hops, the most well-known variety being Nelson Sauvin, which has been used by a number of Canadian breweries – usually in special limited-edition brews. The Nelson Sauvin is described as giving white wine (more specifically Sauvignon Blanc) notes to beer. I was able to test this theory by enjoying a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc immediately followed by a beer made with Nelson Sauvin hops and the notes were remarkably similar.

I also had the pleasure of rubbing a few different New Zealand hops with brewer Richard Emerson, and the range of notes we found included Sauvignon Blanc, Passionfruit, Black Current, Lemon, Bell Pepper and Floral. During my stay in Dunedin, I sampled a number of styles brewed with New Zealand hops – from Pale Ales (that they confusingly call APAs – Aotearoa Pale Ales) and IPAs, to Pilsner, Helles, Stout, Spiced Ale and even a Steinbier! Overall, I’d describe New Zealand Hops as fruity and elegant – adding a lovely round dimension to beer. To my palate, they are particularly well suited to ales because their intense fruity character seems somewhat out of place in Gerrman lagers.

It was  great to meet a number of people in the local beer scene, from writer Geoff Griggs, who assisted me in picking the beers for my talk, to local bar managers and brewers, as well as passionate craft beer drinkers and advocates. There appears to be an active community supporting the local industry and I look forward to seeing where it all goes…

On a side note, the ScienceTeller festival was fantastic and my talk was very well received. Both the University of Otago folk and the members of the local beer community were incredibly welcoming. I even ended up on the news! All in all, I’d go back to New Zealand in a heartbeat.

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