The opening of our pub in Rotorua, BREW, highlighted an opportunity for the brewery. Being a pub dedicated to NZ craft beer, it became obvious that there is a lack of low alcohol yet tasty craft beers - every brewery and it's dog is cranking out 6-10% hop bombs like they are going out fashion, but there are virtually no craft beers below 4%.
This, and meeting a brewer from the UK whose brewery produced about 10 or 14 beers below 4%, was the genesis of the idea for Croucher LOWRIDER our first low-alcohol IPA at 2.7%.
Making a low alcohol tasty beer is tricky - it is a battle between balancing flavour without tasting too thin. We were exceptionally pleased with our first effort, you could smell the hops in a glass of Lowrider from across the bar.
We were then asked to contribute a beer for the GABS (Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular) in Melbourne. They approached a whole bunch of Australian and New Zealand craft breweries asking us all to create a new beer especially for GABS. We knew that the vast majority of brewers would go for something BIG and BIGGER... so we thought we go for something BIG and SMALL (BIG hops, SMALL alcohol). So taking what we had been learning about lower alcohol hoppy beers, we decided to create ANZUS IPA.
For those born after 1984, ANZUS was a military alliance between Australia (A), New Zealand (NZ and the United States of America (US). The alliance hit a slight snag when in 1984 New Zealand decided it wouldn't let American nuclear (powered or weaponed) navy vessels in to our ports.
What we hoped with ANZUS IPA was to give these three nations another shot at working together in harmony - however rather than it being on a military basis, this time it would be on the craft beer frontier... specifically HOPS! Representing New Zealand was the newly released Kohatu, the Australian representative was our new favourite hop Galaxy, and the new US release Zythos.
We were pretty pleased with the result - in all honesty it probably could have had a bit more aroma (we blamed the Aussies!), but the malt character was superb for a 2.7% beer. Paul kegged his heart out, we shipped the beer, and despite a few frustrating delays the beer made it to Melbourne in time for GABS.
Needless to say, we were a little nervous... how had the beer travelled? Would a low alcohol beer stand up to the rigors of trip across the Tasman? And on tender hooks we waited for the first news. Fortunately one of the great things about the world we live in is that mobile phones, websites and apps make feedback easy and immediate. GABS kicked off, and before we knew it there were Tweets and Untappd reviews ticking in.
The making, selling and response to this beer has been a fun ride for us. Thanks to EVERYONE who tried ANZUS IPA at GABS, even if it wasn't to your taste. We appreciate that you were open enough to try a lower alcohol beer (believe us, there are plenty of people who turn there nose up at the thought of a lower alcohol craft beer).
We'll leave you with some of the fantastic (as well as the less fantastic) comments about ANZUS IPA from GABS attendees. It is hard to please everyone, so we don't even try!
Nige & Paul
> "This proves we've been conned into thinking that light beers have to taste like nothing. A really wonderful beer." WHMY, via Untappd
> "Best light alcohol IPA out there.", VicbeerOclock, Untappd.
> "That was a great brew. You got my vote ANZUS IPA", noizurgy, Twitter.
> "Lovely example of low alcohol, high hopped and bitter pale ale. Awesome." Matt, via Untappd
> "A great hop kick & low ABV. THIS is what should get served at the football." Matt Goddard, via Untappd.
> "I could drink this all day; thin and watered down but all the lovely hop notes I love", LaitueGonflable, Twitter.
> "Excellent light beer" Dean, via Untappd.
> "Amazing for 2.7%", Allan S, via Untappd
> "Yeah that's ridiculous for 2.7... it does have that low alcohol taste to it, but it's amazingly well balanced", Ale_of_a_time, Twitter
> "Too light in flavour", Ross, via Untappd
> "A little too watery", Jenn Davidson, Untappd
> "Yikes. In need of some aroma hops me thinks", Nathan Costello, Untappd.
> "Hops and not much else, thin", John G, untappd