Celebrating Seasonal Beer Variations

Fresh Beer Image

Any time we find ourselves at a brewery we like to ask how the current batch
compares to prior versions. These variations reflect the character of the
brewer, and are one of the joys of drinking small batch beer. Sometimes the
brewer has an idea to improve the product, while other variations occur because
of the availability of ingredients, or even randomness built into the brewing
process. Many brewers got into the business because they felt they could make
beer more to their liking, and often they are still trying to make the perfect
one. Two local beers make perfect examples of these kinds of variations.

Tasman Brewing Company’s Mocha Porter is one of our favourite seasonal
beers. At least it can be. Every year and indeed every batch is a little
different. Sometimes it is sweeter, more chocolately, and at others it is
dryer, with more predominant coffee character. Not that any of them are bad
beers, we just prefer the malty chocolate notes in our porters and stouts. A
version of this beer, made with Kush coffee, is currently on tap at local Sprig
and Fern Taverns, and well worth checking out if you like a dry roasty porter
with distinctive coffee flavors.

Founders Brewery is poised to release its Showhopper II Organic Lager,
brewed for this year’s Nelsons Arts Festival. First brewed for the 2008
event, it proved very popular and sold out two-thirds of the way through. This
year they have anticipated the demand, and brewed two batches. In Founder’s
style, neither will be exactly like last year, or exactly like each other. They
are using the same recipe, but according to John Duncan, the first batch “ran
short”, with less water making a somewhat stronger, maltier version that will
taste a little less bitter and hoppy. The second batch is expected to be closer
to last year’s brew with more similar alcohol content and hop character.

John said he used the same recipe for each brew, but mentioned some
variation in the grain bill between this season’s two batches. Three kegs have
already been sold, billed as a “mystery lager”, with two selling
out in record time at the recent beer fete, and then another at the brewery.
“It was selling so fast, we had to take it off to ensure we have enough for the
festival” said John. Just like last year, some of the first batch was bottled
for sale in the Granary Cafe during the event. The second batch has been
conditioning, but will be ready for the event.

We had a taste of the first batch of Showhopper II, and found it to be a
great beer, though less hoppy than last year, if memory serves. As a lager
version of Founder’s award winning Fair Maiden Ale, Showhopper is lighter
in colour than its inspiration. Its sparkling golden clarity, white head and
fine carbonation invite one to take a sip. The aroma is slightly sweet and
bread like, with notes of honey and citrus. Yet the slightly muted nose does
not reveal the experience of drinking. It is a full flavoured beer, first the
biscuit flavours of the malt flow into the hop flavours and then the pleasing
hop bitterness at the finish. The very drinkable flavour profile hits all the
spots on our palates. It is assertive enough in flavour to remind us of
European Pilsners, yet avoids the “scrape your tongue” bitterness of some
examples. We look forward to sampling the second batch to see which we like

We applaud Founders for releasing another edition of their Showhopper Lager
especially for the Nelson Arts Festival. It’s a fantastic idea to keep this
beer special for the Arts Fest, even if it is a very popular beer that might
sell well as a more regular release.

Originally published in the Nelson Mail.

About Fritz and Maria

Fritz and Maria have been living, drinking and brewing together for over 20 years. As beer commentators and educators they strive to create a beerocracy where people exercise their palates by voting for quality in the marketplace. Their interests include the personalities, business, and culture of craft beer worldwide. As distillers for Rough Hands, they loved being at the place where magic meets science. Fritz and Maria can be found speaking at beery events, holding guided tastings, judging competitions.

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