A few hours south of Cupitt’s Estate is Ryefield Hops, a small, family-operated hop farm near Bega. Each year since 2018 (excluding 2019, when Ryefield didn’t get a crop due to drought and bushfires), Cupitt’s have used fresh whole hops from Ryefield to make a beer at hop harvest time. But, while anyone visiting Cupitt’s at the right time of year will have enjoyed this annual celebration of the green cones from the bine, 2023 is the first year the brewers have canned their Hop Harvest Ale.
It’s a pale ale that pours deep gold, with Munich and crystal malts used to amp up the malt character. This was a good move on the brewer’s part: the varieties of hop in this beer are Cascade, Centennial, Chinook and Victoria (a once-abandoned variety making a comeback in the hands of some of the country's small hop growers), all of which can carry heavy flavours that welcome a beefier malt profile. The result is an almost candied fruit character, with toffee coming together with citrus peel. A borderline honeyed sweetness balances out the dank resin in the background, but it all wraps up with a mostly dry finish that’s not far off tacky on the tongue.
It’s a steady 5.2 percent ABV, which is coincidentally the same strength as our next beer.
Cupitt’s Dark Lager bears all the marks of a good schwarzbier, straddling simplicity and complexity. It’s extremely drinkable, but also gives you something to ponder. There are roasty notes with a touch of cola, and a subtle chocolatey vibe like someone’s just popped open a tin of Milo in the next room. The carbonation keeps the flavours lively on your tongue, and the bitterness grabs you like a hug from a friend you haven’t seen in a while: it’s pleasant, but also tight enough that you can still feel it in your muscles and joints after they’ve let go.
Published June 19, 2023 2023-06-19 00:00:00