Beers That Celebrate The Importance Of Place

An innovative New Zealand company brews with winemaking techniques and native-grown hops

wp_moa_main_imageThe French word terroir—meaning the presence of discernible place based upon soil and climate in wine—is rarely applied to beer.

Time to rethink it. True, beers’ ingredients can be obtained from afar, adjusted and stored at length, putting place in the corner when it comes to character. But there certainly are also beers in which place plays a dominant role. Yeast strains can take on house character in their environments, giving certain beers unmistakable fingerprints, while the soil and water for beers’ ingredients vary in mineral content, sometimes affecting flavor, especially in hops, the leafy, green and resinous flowers that impart bitterness and aroma to beer.

Nowhere is this more true than craggy New Zealand, where hops grown on Kiwi soil take on different character than their American and German cousins.

Read on for our complete article on the impact of soil and climate on the best New Zealand beers- and a spotlight on those by Moa.

With flavors ranging from grass to grapefruit, passionfruit, and crushed gooseberry (and even a tolerable analogue to “cat pee”—true), New Zealand has had top hops for over 100 years, the legacy of German and English growers who found the cool, wet, pest-averse environment ideal for the good green stuff. Organic hops are a specialty, prized by growing numbers of American craft brewers.

One of the best New Zealand breweries making expert use of the local bounty is Moa (after an ancient bird the Maori battled), founded in 2003 by Josh Scott, son of Marlborough winemaker Allan Scott. The younger Scott tried gloriously hoppy Sierra Nevada beers (among others) while working as a winemaker in the U.S. and made a change of plans: it was beer time. At the young age of 22 in 2003 Scott became part of a vanguard reshaping Kiwi beer culture, long resigned to industrial lagers. So what about that terroir and those winery methods?

Pale Ale
Moa’s Pale Ale is made with Cascade hops grown in Motueka’s mineral-rich Marlborough soil, which gives the beer a tropical, passion-fruit-like note less prevalent in U.S.-grown Cascades.

The flagship Methode, a feathery-light bodied cross between Saison and Pilsner styles with three additions of locally-grown, whole flower, locally grown Hallertau hops from the delicate “Noble” German strain. All of the beers are made with 40,000 year-old water from the local Wairau Aquifer.

Imperial Stout
This chocolatey Imperial Stout is aged in French oak, giving it a depth of flavors recalling coffee, toast, vanilla beans, and mocha.

Best of all? You don’t have to fly around the world to drink them. They’re bottle-conditioned, meaning a small amount of yeast and sugar ferment in the stainless steel-capped (and sometimes corked-and-caged) 375ml Champagne bottles, which gives the beer a supple mouthfeel and longer-than-usual shelf life. Want a taste? Check your local Whole Foods or look here.

How many beers from Australia and New Zealand have you tried? Tell us below!

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