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If there is one thing that Garage Project’s lagers are not, it’s bor ing.
Point in case, as I write this article the brewery is canning up their “La
Calavera Catr ina”. The seasonal day-of-the-dead-inspired beer is a pale
lager, cheekily brewed with the addition of maize, an ingredient you’d
nor mally associate with much blander lager offer ings. However, this
beer is fired up with a generous addition of organic Habanero chilies,
rose water and water melon.
Or take for example their “Rosé De La Vallee” which, at its heart, is
a cr isp pale pilsner. But then the beer is infused with freshly crushed
Pinot juice from Martinborough’s “award winning” Escar pment
Winer y.The beer is then briefly left to rest on the red Pinot skins to
give it what (in Rosé parlance) is descr ibed as ‘onion skin’ orange with
a light blush of pink, that creates a cr isp vinous lager with citrus and
strawber ry notes.
Still another of Garage Project’s eccentr ic but delicious sounding
lagers is their “Day of the Dead” release. “Day of the Dead” is a strong
black lager inspired by the Aztec beverage xocolatl.The beer is brewed
with smoked chipotle chili, re-fer mented with organic blue agave syrup
(the basis of Tequila), and conditioned over raw cocoa nibs and Tongan
And the list of avant-garde ingredients you might find in a Garage
Project lager goes on. This list includes items as unexpected as red rice,
lotus and chrysanthemum flowers, sumac, hibiscus, lemon, jasmine
and white tea just to name a few. But, Jos stressed, it isn’t just all about
exotic ingredients. He also pointed out that the success of their classic
Czech Pilsner style lager, humbly named “Beer”, or their highly
regarded “Pils ’n’ Thrills” lager, which is the brewery’s ir reverent take
on a classic European Pilsner; given only a slight kick by the use of
high-citrus Amer ican hops.
“There’s a retur n to simple styles of beer”, Ruffell explained. New
Zealand has always been very heavy on Pilsner. But every time I go
up to Amer ica lately I have great fun racing around drinking stupidly
hopped double IPAs, and big pale ales. But eventually someone puts a
nice, well-made lager in front of you and it’s just a real treat. They do
have something to offer as a style. They’re fantastic and they’re not the
easiest things to make. They do have a bit of a bad rep, but I think that’s
changing. I think that’s going to be a broader trend.You’re going to see
more people looking for some of those classic styles of beer.”
I asked Jos what he felt about the growing trend of hopped up lagers,
such as those that many brewers have christened the “India Pale Lager”.
In response, he cautioned against the need to define certain beer styles.
“I think we’d prefer sometimes not to try to put a label on something.
For example, I’m actually quite interested in what an India Pale Lager
would taste like, but just calling it an IPL somehow puts me off a little.
I think that’s it ultimately. Maybe the “La Calavera Catr ina” is where
we end up, you know? It doesn’t matter if it’s an ale or a lager. Is it
interesting? Do you like it? Are you excited by it? Do you want to
share it with other people?”That’s what matters.
I thought about what Jos said, and I couldn’t help but think about
the fact that one of the things most often focused on when reporting
on craft beer is market share. Such as, what percentage of the beer
market has craft beer claimed this year? Craft beer, while it continues
to grow the world over, has always seemed to struggle to break through
a certain ceiling.That said, the major ity of craft beer sales have been
fueled by more left-of-center ales, such as IPA, pale ales, Belgian beers,
and stouts, to name a few. And yet, the average palate simply does not
respond to many of the rougher edges of these styles. There is an entire
segment of the market that year ns for something “better”- something
of “quality”. However, that “something” must also be a thing that they
genuinely enjoy. And I wondered if the nouveau lager is the answer; the
beer that will take craft beer beyond that ceiling and make craft “the
rule” rather than the exception. If nothing else, we do know one thing
about the world’s feelings regarding lager beer, they certainly do like it,
and they definitely want to share it with friends. n
Rosé De La Vallee - a perfect mix
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