Take a malt-driven German beer style that’s more than 600 years old, and throw in one of the newest hop varieties to come out of New Zealand. Why not? New Zealand pilsners have been popular for ages now, but this is definitely my first NZ Schwarzbier.
Schwarzbiers normally keep hops in the background, but when the Akasha team decided to brew one, they considered giving the style the Akasha treatment. Rather than just loading it with hops for the sake of it, though, they ran a pilot batch and trialled it with different levels of hopping
“A few years ago we would have gone straight for the hoppier version without a second thought,” says Akasha founder Dave Padden, “but some of us wanted to work in the more traditional style as well, so we really wanted to try a version without the hops – we did both to see which we liked better.”
Head brewer Gareth Bowen adds: “We ran a pilot test between more heavily hopped and less, and to our taste the hops driven version was simply better – they rounded out and balanced the malts, which still shine but which are not overpowering.
“In trialling it this way we created a little more restraint.”
I found the beer to be less black than many Schwarzbiers; the brewers kept the use of roasted wheat fairly light so as not not add astringency to the beer, and the result is a gorgeous deep ruby hue when held up to the light. After an aroma of cola and subtle berries, the malts (pilsner and Munich as well as the roasted wheat) bring bready, soft chocolate, light caramel and some grounded nutty flavours to the tongue. To me, the dry-hopping with NZ hops Motueka and new arrival Superdelic didn’t so much impose their own fruit flavours, but rather brought a real liveliness and brightness to the overall flavour.
“German-style beer is usually pretty prescriptive about what goes in there,” Dave says, “but this is a bit of a deviation – a safe adventure, you could say.”
Published June 2, 2023 2023-06-02 00:00:00