As evidenced by my last beer review, every risk does not bring with it a happy Discovery. So it is with some trepidation that I stepped off the cliff and prepared to sample the third of Renaissance’s beers that I had purchased, this one an imperial aka “double” India pale ale (DIPA).
I love love love a good DIPA and I’ve had some good ones of late (see 10 Bitter Years). This one, however, is not going to join those hallowed ranks because of, again, the over-the-top carbonation that plagued Discovery. Why Perfection, the first of the trio, didn’t follow the pattern is a bit difficult to fathom because it is hard to imagine a brewmaster that loves carbonation this much putting so little in the English pale ale. All I imagine is that the brewmaster isn’t accounting for the natural carbonation forming from the sur lies fermentation method, or perhaps it isn’t meant to be shipped halfway around the world, but whatever the reasoning, I disapprove. Quite frankly, if it doesn’t transport that far, don’t sell it ….
Back off my high horse, there are elements in this beer that I quite like. I love the hops, for example, which is I think the point of this self-styled beer: Marlborough Pale Ale. The layering of the hops through the imperial method produces a well-structured beer that you don’t have to fight as hard to discover as its predecessor – because the flavours are that much bigger. I love the Rakau hops, a new varietal that is hitting the mainstream and making an impression. I also applaud Renaissance’s use of other local varietals making this a truly made-in-New-Zealand brew. The flavours paired exceptionally well with the spicy chorizo and quinoa dish I made (recipe to follow) – which is consistent with the back label’s pairing notes.
The nose is strong and full of caramel and yeast, consistent with a strong beer that is unfiltered. Up front, it’s caramel, big and like satin. In the middle of the tongue, there lingers a tantalizing burnt orange peel, almost like Grand Marnier without the sugar. However, on the downside, there is also a ton of alcohol here as well. This isn’t surprising in a high-test beer like any imperial brew, but superior brews slip the alcohol by you whereas this hits you in the face and then proceeds to rip out our tonsils (if you still have them). This is only made ‘worse’ by the heavy carbonation. The ending along with the after taste is, however, where this beer gets some separation from other also-rans and gets solid B-honours. It’s here that the unique hops shine and provide an unparalleled finish. The ending is sweet, almost tropical, like mango and guava (even kiwi?) and it is definitely smooth, creamy and exceptionally bitter without the failure of being astringent.
Overall, M.P.A. is an uneven beer largely marred by the unwieldy carbonation. But pour it and wait 30 minutes, letting the carbonation dissipate, and the beer improves and lets the all important and very unique flavours shine through. While Renaissance isn’t likely to put Marlborough on the international beer map as the sauvignon blancs of the region have, this is definitely a beer worth tasting, especially because you can buy just one and explore it without the commitment of needing to drink it again.
Stats: DIPA/Imperial IPA. 8.5% ABV. Marlborough, New Zealand.
Colour: Deep amber dark-orange – unfiltered and very opaque.
Mouth Feel: Intense carbonation upfront and in the middle, but a silky smooth and buttery finish.
Pairings: Quinoa Jambalaya with Chorizo.