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July 12, 2010 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

The Great Hop Conspiracy


I’m worried about my teeth.

In what can only be seen as a conspiracy to increase dentist’s business, two breweries have released beers so hoppy, they strip the enamel from your teeth.

We’re no stranger to hoppy beers here, we’ve had plenty of excellent hop-laden brews released in the last few years. Now we’ve reached the next level of intensity: Imperial.

When you see ‘Imperial’ in front of a beer style it essentially means the brewer has decided to double (or triple) the ingredients in a beer, while keeping the volume the same. American brewers have been doing this for quite some time, and have made imperial versions of almost any beer style imaginable—though I’m yet to see a true imperial mild.

Ironically, the latest New Zealand brewery to apply this logic to a beer is a brewery famous for its mild ale—Mike’s Organic Brewery. Their latest seasonal offering is a showcase of American-grown hops, Mike’s Premium Organic double India Pale Ale (9%).

I was surprised to hear that a brewery whose main range focuses on more sessionable styles of beer was tackling such a huge beer, and was slightly sceptical. Thankfully, my scepticism was unfounded. As soon as you crack the cap the immediate vicinity is bathed in tropical fruit aromas from the insane volume of US hops used. These hops continue into the flavour, supported by a rich, sweet malt body. This sweetness makes Mike’s IIPA a great nightcap beer. Try to experience this beer ASAP, because hop flavours this intense fade after a few months. Mike’s IIPA is available exclusively in bottles from good craft beer stockists.

Most imperial beers started out as a crazy idea in a home brewer’s head which they decided to have a crack at. It’s very fitting then that the latest contract brewery to emerge is run by the owner of an online homebrew store. Jo Wood of travelled to Hallertau brew bar in Auckland, to brew a commercial batch of a homebrew recipe he’d been working on.

Liberty Brewing Summ!t IPA (8.3%) is a beer showcasing the unique Summit hop variety from the US. As Jo says: “Summ!t IPA is in the style of an American Imperial IPA. It predominantly uses a new variety of hop from the States called Summit. It is a dwarf variety that grows on a low trellis and has to be hand-picked, because the conventional harvesting methods don’t work on this growing system. The result is a hop that doesn’t get bruised, therefore preserving the essentially clean characters of the hop as it was on the plant.”

This beer will blow you away with a huge aroma, similar to an overripe fruit bowl. The hop flavour is similarly intense, however, this Imperial IPA is much drier than usual, making it dangerously drinkable.

When you see this on tap at Hashigo Zake and Malthouse don’t pass up the chance to experience beer at its best.

If you have any questions about this week’s beers or any comments, please contact me at


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