It seems like almost every week new beers are being announced and made available here in Thailand. As importers and demand alike begin to pick up steam we should begin to see an even greater selection being introduced on a near daily basis. A few months ago we saw some new beer from New Zealand made its way into the country.
Like most other countries, New Zealand has been going through their own craft beer revolution and there are a number of excellent brewers churning out some excellent beer. The thing is, unlike the bigger craft beer industries in the US and UK, craft beer from New Zealand is relatively unknown to many. Last week, we reviewed a beer from Japan, so this week we are going to review a Bohemian Pilsner from New Zealand brewer Tuatara.
Tuatara (pronounced TOO-AH-TAR-RAH) is a craft brewery founded by Carl Vastra and is located on the west coast of New Zealand’s north island, just outside of Wellington. The brewery is most well known for producing excellent true-to-style beers. What does this mean? Well, when they say they do an American Pale Ale, it means they use the same ingredients and brewing methods commonly associated with the style.
The company also follows the Reinheitsgebot or the German Purity Law of 1516 meaning you will only find water, hops, malt and yeast in these beers. In other words, if you are looking to try new beer styles, don’t skip over Tuatara’s offerings.
Don’t let the name fool you, this beer is not going to gypsy on you or give you an incredible urge to put on sandals and a turtleneck while you sit in the basement and listen to early Dylan. The name comes from the yeast, which comes from Bohemia in the Czech Republic – where modern day Pilsner originated.
The label is clear with large font that really draws the eyes. You know right away that you will be drinking a Pilsner. On the back is a blurb about Pilsner, explaining how everyone loves a good Pilsner – me included! It also explains how the yeast is key in developing a Pilsner’s characteristic bitterness. As with last week’s beer, I was looking forward to trying this. I have always been a fan of Pilsners, it’s the style of beer that I really started to like way and is still to this day my favorite style of Lager.
The beer pours a clear golden color, in fact, when people say ‘gold colored beer’, this is the color they are talking about. Looking closer you can see lots of tiny bubbles rising quickly to the top of the glass, much like a fine glass of champagne only smaller. There was a thin white head that stayed throughout the whole glass which is excellent to see in Lagers of any kind.
The first thing that went through my mind when I took a sniff was “Wow, this smells amazing”. I could smell grapefruit, passion fruit, light malt, and a tiny bit of grass. To be honest, it smelled like a great Pilsner, but also had a smell similar to a stronger American Pale Ale – likely due to the higher quantity of hops used in this style of Lager.
While this is a Lager, the first thing that hits you is bitterness, this beer is a lot more bitter than your standard Lager and a great many Ales as well. I also noticed a strong lemon like taste along with grapefruit and a bit of pine.
There was also a good level of malt backbone, meaning I could definitely taste it, but it was neither overpowered by the other tastes or overpowering.
Swishing it around in my mouth I noticed that this beer was very clean, had lots of carbonation and feels medium bodied for a Lager. It is also hard to not notice the higher concentration of hops which led to a bit of dryness in the mouth. The interesting thing is, the beer finished quick and clean. You get this full blast of taste which lasts a few seconds before fading.
Well, the Tuatara claims that they brew true-to-style beer, and based off of their take on the Pilsner, I would agree 100%. This Pilsner was the best I’ve had in a very long time and should be a benchmark for other Pilsners. It hits all the notes of Pilsners – strong, slightly bitter with higher than average carbonation and a clean finish. If you like Pilsner or your beer to be more on the bitter side, then you have to try this beer.
That being said drinkers who don’t like Pilsners, or are big fans of milder Lagers like the ones brewed locally in Thailand may not want to start out with this beer, it has a bitterness that may be off putting at first. If you are keen to try it, why not try it with a nice curry. The bitterness should cut the spice nicely.
Wish of the week
Brewdog – Tactical Nuclear Penguin
I first heard about this beer a number of years ago when I first tried BrewDog’s beer in Hong Kong. I enjoyed the beer I tried and decided to look the brewery up, and the first thing I saw was a video going over how they make this crazy Imperial Stout. Coming in at an astonishing 32% ABV – that’s reaching hard liquor territory – this super strong beer is a crazy experiment would be awesome to try. The question is, is it really beer or a liquor?