Long-time beer drinker Ross Lewis puts some of Australia's top drops to the test.
Just over 200 years ago James Squire copped the whip for stealing hops, or at least what he thought at the time was the key beer ingredient.
Nowadays the cones are a lot more plentiful and James Squire, the brewery not the long departed first-fleet convict, is using them in an interesting beverage experiment.
The James Squire Hop Thief No.6 has hit the market providing Australian drinkers with a wonderful floral-tasting drop.
As the number suggests it is the sixth incarnation of this beer which has, until recently, only been available on tap. From this month it is available in bottles from the shelves.
The team at Malt Shovel Brewery, which produces the James Squire range, have each year showcased new or fresh aromatic hops in the seasonal American Pale Ale brew.
This year’s incarnation features Simcoe and Columbus cones, which head brewer Jeff Potter selected for the quality and flavour.
“What we’re doing with the Hop Thief varietal series is truly exciting, ground-breaking work. The series offers a beer that evolves with each release by using unique hop recipes, every time. Not many other beers in the world can attest to that,” Potter said.
“When drinking Hop Thief 6 American-style Pale Ale, beers lovers can expect an initial taste of malt sweetness on the palate. This is accompanied by passionfruit and pine-needle aromas from late hopping with Simcoe and earthy, spicy notes from Columbus hops. This gives way to a distinctive cleansing and refreshing bitterness.”
However, this drink doesn’t fall into the trap of being too pungent with the citrus taste and floral aroma and isn't as strong as what was experienced in the previous version that used Centennial and Citra hops. There is also a tinge of pine but not too much malt.
Not surprisingly it has an earthy tone as well.
It has the unmistakable hop taste but will please the regular drinker who may be dabbling in the US west coast style for the first time.
Yet it has such a pleasant appeal that it is difficult to stop at one.
As in keeping with the James Squire range the label pays its respects to the man of the same name who is considered Australia’s first brewer.
Shortly after arriving on our shores Squire stole some horehound as he sought hops for a brew. Unfortunately, he was caught and copped 150 lashes, which just happens to be the name of Malt Shovel’s Pale Ale.
However, Squire’s pain proved to be a gain for Australia’s craft beer drinkers.
The Sip Snip
Hop Thief No.6
Brewer: James Squire (Malt Shovel), NSW
Style: American Pale Ale
Alcohol content: 5%
Standard drinks: 1.4
Bottles: 345ml bottles
Estimated calories: 150
The Sip Tip (rating): Add it to the tasting paddle
Average prices: $4.00 (bottle), $19 (six-pack), $60 (carton of 24)