Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Sauvy Wee Pilsner

Four Pines Brew Bar in Manly, NSW
When I first moved to Sydney I was appalled at the state of the country's micro/craft brewing industry - it felt to me as if New Zealand was light years ahead in this regard. Over the last few years, however, my outlook has been greatly improved and not least because I have discovered havens of beery goodness that I had missed with my first precursory glance at the scene. 

My initial perceptions were not aided by the fact that I had landed in New South Wales - a state whose hotels were (and still are) predominately owned by larger concerns operating several if not dozens of venues. This has resulted in Sydney bearing more than its fair share of characterless pubs bound by contracts to large breweries that only offer characterless adjunct ridden brews. But not all Sydney's pubs were or are still content with being bland - shining lights include Clarence Street's Redoak, The Lord Nelson and The Australian both in the Rocks or more recently Four Pines in Manly and the Local  Taphouse in Darlinghurst. 

It's not just these specialty brew bars and micro-breweries that have started to making changes to the way people view beer offerings. Thanks to their example and those of our craft brew loving Victorian neighbours, most Sydney bars now offer more than the obligatory six lagers (insert generic local or imported brands here) two of which may be low-carb. In my mind it's akin to having a wine list that only offers the now ubiquitous Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

My views on brews have me often labelled as a snob, an ale-elitist and a hater of all things lager. Whilst the two former comments may be sooth the latter is indelibly slanderous. There is, in fact, one lager that I truly love and count among my favourite beers of all time - Dunedin's own Emerson's Pilsner.

The ambrosial Emerson's Pilsner
For those who haven't been lucky enough to let this golden nectar pass their lips I will divulge that it has a distinct aroma of grapefruit peel and tropical notes like passionfruit. Despite early slander on the varietal, this brew's enticing nose can be described as Sauvignon Blanc like due to the liberal use of Nelson grown Riwaka hops. Much of this fruit passes onto the palate carried by just a little malt sweetness, but before there's any chance of this drop becoming confectionary generous bittering hops dry out the brew to make it utterly thirst quenching and crisp.
This classic Kiwi Pilsner has yet to find a match in Australia although a very close second is the Knappstein Reserve Lager that again uses a Nelson grown hop (Sauvin hops) to create an almost Savignon Blanc like aroma. I highly recomend that you track down some Knappstein as the bottle of Emerson's pictured above will set you back about $10 a pop and that's if you can find it.

So there you have it  - I will drink lager and enjoy it. Under duress (as in the bar being dry of anything else) I will also go for Little Creatures, Trummer Pils, or Pilsner Urquell. Unfortunately these brews have very little of that citrus and passionfruit aroma remaining (especially the last two) which makes Emerson's so appealing, though pouring it into a glass will help somewhat.



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