Style: Fruit beer
By: Invercargill Brewery
Price: $6.75/330ml bottle (from Thorndon New World)
Some of the very finest beers in New Zealand come out of Invercargill. Whether it’s contract brewing for Yeastie Boys, Golden Ticket or Mussel Inn (yes, I mean the iconic Captain Cooker) or their own creations which include – but are not limited to – the Pitch Black Stout, the Men in Skirts Scottish Ale or, my personal favourite, the mighty Smokin’ Bishop, a smoked bock that tastes like bacon, square foot for square foot this place has a better ‘hit’ rate than pretty much anywhere. Given how far New Zealand punches above it’s weight in terms of craft beer – and I’d argue NZ might have the edge over Australia at the moment which is all that really matters (go on, tell me I’m wrong) – Emersons is great and all, and Imma let you finish but Invercargill Brewery is one of the best anywhere. So I figure I’m entitled to expect something special from the Boysenbeery.
It pours a slightly cloudy purple/bergundy colour with a thin but resilient pink and purple-tinged white head. Odd, but there ya go. The aroma is, as expected, dominated by slightly tart berry but there’s a subtle citrusy thing going on which might be the Riwaka hops (thanks, Wikipedia!) or maybe an effect of the yeast. Flavour is sweet berries up front, then a bit tart in the middle, and as far as the expected dry finish goes, if it’s there at all it’s very short. It’s difficult to pick up much of the ‘base’ flavour which I’m a little disappointed by but you couldn’t accuse it of being oversweet so the bittering hops must be doing their job. You can reasonably accuse it of being overcarbonated but I’m not familiar enough with the style to say whether that should really be considered a fault. In any case it doesn’t quite make it feel overly thin and the tanginess on the tongue is refreshing. I’ve not tried many lambics but it’s slightly fruitier than the ones I’ve had and naturally enough the berry flavour sits in quite well with the base because it is so transparent. So whether that sets it above, say, the Croucher’s Raspberry Bock which really does taste like a decent and interesting beer that someone dropped a couple of nips of ribena into I can’t say. I will say though that the KJD Chocolate Cherry Porter shows that an interesting base properly integrated with a fruity overtone is certainly possible. It is recommended to be served cold and others have claimed there is a sulphur taste that comes through when it warms up – for what it’s worth I let half of it sit for a while and tried to get rid of as much carbonation as I could but I got none of that. In a sign of just how unsuited to this style I may be I actually preferred it flatter and warmer.
It’s still a decent and refreshing beer but it does lack the substance, balance and subtlety it would need to make it truly outstanding. It is supposed to be a variation on a wheat beer so I’d suggest it’s nearest equivalent would be something light, breezy and inoffensive but also something in which the music doesn’t quite stand up in the end and you’re left feeling like you’ve been drawn in by a gimmicky idea that doesn’t quite deliver. This was tough to put music to although in my travels I did discover a Back in Black tribute album entirely by solo female singers with acoustic guitars so the search had it’s, um, interesting moments. I settled on a 90s duo called The Softies, who were part of a movement called Twee Pop and did three albums worth of “love songs using only their two voices and electric guitars” (thanks again, Wikipedia!). It is what it is: shimmery, sweet, happy and light but it gets old fast. The songs are strong though and I’d really, really, really love to hear what this sounds like with a decent rhythm section. As it is you’re inclined to notice more that it lacks something rather than has something, and that’s a shame.
It’s good but I expected more.
Verdict: It’s a nice change but leaves you wondering more than anything what could be achieved if they really let themselves go to town. Very drinkable but slightly underwhelming. 59/100.