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August 2, 2010 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

A Week of Emerson’s


New Zealanders are lucky to have so many great craft breweries producing so much amazing beer. But if you look back a decade, the picture was somewhat grim.

But in those dark times, Emerson’s brewery was a ray of light—creating craft beers to challenge the country’s palate.

Recently Regional Wines and Spirits dedicated a whole week to celebrate the pioneering brewery, which included tastings, beer and food matching and (my favourite) a lot of free beer.

I was lucky enough to be invited to a beer and food matching at Crazy Horse Steakhouse. In somewhat of a beer and wine showdown, six courses were each matched with a beer and a wine.

My best match of the night was Emerson’s JP 2010 (8%), matched with a chai cheesecake. This may have had something to do with the fact that it was the final course, so 10 samples of beer and wine were amplifying the experience…

Emerson’s JP is an annual release, named for Jean Pierre Dufour, the food scientist who helped a budding Emerson’s brewery get off the ground. Every year, since his passing in 2007, Emerson’s has released a Belgian-style beer in his honour. This year’s release is a Belgian IPA.

Most Belgian IPAs use traditional Belgian yeast, which gives the beer a big clovey note and lots of hops. Richard Emerson felt that cloves and hops clash in a beer, so sought a cleaner Belgian strain, and settled on the yeast used in the popular Duvel.

The result is a unique IPA, screaming hops to the nose, but the Duvel yeast has contributed a herbaceous character to the flavour, which links in perfectly with the big, fruity hops. Perhaps that is why it matched so well with a chai cheesecake. Drink this at room temperature to fully enjoy the delicate yeast flavour.

The second event I attended was a ‘meet the brewer’ event at Hashigo Zake. Free samples of two Emerson’s brews were available to all. On tap was Emerson’s Weizenbock (8%) and this year’s vintage tastes just as good as last year’s—which took out the wheat beer category of the Australian International Beer Awards. Big and dark, with an aggressive flavour, yet still possessing the fun banana flavours of a wheat beer, Weizenbock is a must-try for everyone.

The other beer on offer was Emerson’s Regional Special Bitter (5.3%), an English ESB (Extra Special Bitter). This beer was developed by Regional Wines and Spirits beer aficionado Kieran Hasslet-Moore, who travelled to Dunedin to brew a small five-keg batch. RSB is perfectly balanced, and a rich full-bodied malt flavour gives a great backbone for an assertive bitterness to come through, though neither dominates. An orangey hop flavour from the New Zealand-grown English hops keeps it interesting each sip.

Unfortunately, RSB sold out in two days, but there will be one more chance to sample it. One keg remains for Beervana (August 27th and 28th)—best get your tickets now!

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


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Comments (3)

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  1. Sam Whitney says:

    Well written and informative Mr. Beer Guy Thanks!

  2. button says:

    I’m not a big beer drinker (the sugar!) but I love the beer column. It causes me to hover over the imported beer bottles in Chaffers New World to consider an interest in specialty beers. So… well done.

  3. smackdown says:

    just havin a few cold pints with a couple of good blokes

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