The friendly rivalry between New Zealand and Australia manifests itself in almost everything both countries participate in. Brewing is no exception. This competitive spirit was at the heart of a brewing challenge that took place in August of this year, when Emerson’s challenged Australia's Little Creatures to make a classic Saison (a trademark of Emerson’s), and they in turn challenged Emerson’s to brew a Red IPA using Australian hops. No practice brews were allowed and the teams from each would travel to their rival’s breweries for the day of the brew. I was lucky enough to spend the day at Emerson’s for the creation of the Red Rye IPA.
I called in earlier this month on the day the beer was being released. Richard Emerson was putting on an Australian BBQ to celebrate and, while I couldn’t make the festivities, I was damn keen to try the beer I'd had a very small hand in creating. (By the way, If you ever find yourself in Dunedin, a trip to the brewery is always a good idea as there are often experimental brews and hard to find releases available from the store.)
Early on in the brew there were some concerns within the team that it might not turn out so well. Early tastes suggested it was “a bit rubbish", but apparently that's common with this style of beer. As predicted by Richard, it got better and better with time, and though at it was drinking well at release it should improve further in the bottle. The optimal taste test might just coincide nicely with Christmas.
On first tasting, memories of the brew day flooded back as that aroma cocktail came to life again in the taste. Olfactory memory is a very powerful sense and has played a crucial part in protecting our species over the millennia. But while continuation of the human race is important, so too is the gift of beer. This one is a red velvety luscious thing that starts with a malty sweetness and ends with a dry tongue-tingly bitterness with hints of spice. In classic Emerson’s style, it's complexity and balance make you want to keep the beer in your mouth for as long as possible while you play guessing games with the flavours. It is delicious.
Red Rye will be available for a limited time nationwide, but move fast. At the time of writing there was stock available at Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington and from the Emerson’s shop in Dunedin. Soon, we will be seeing stock of the Little Creatures Saison, my instincts tell me Emerson’s will have triumphed in this particular Trans-Tasman challenge.