Second Chance Beer: Ben Middlemiss Brewing Hodgson IPA

Hodgson IPA

Hodgson IPA seen here with my Marchfest Che Glass and Gordon Freeman

Beer: Ben Middlemiss Brewing ‘Hodgeson IPA’
IPA (?)
ABV: 8.8%
From: Regional Wines and Spirits
Date: 17/01/2013

I’m a sporting chap.  I like to give a beer an honest chance. And if I don’t like them, such is life.  But every now and again I like to give a beer a second chance.  With this in mind I swung by Regional on my day off and I grabbed a couple of bottles, including this little suspect.

I’ve had Hodgson IPA before during a trip to Christchurch (ostensibly to get some practical brewing experience at Three Boy’s brewery).  As you might have guessed I wasn’t a fan: I found it fat and flabby.  The massive sweet-caramel malt body made it cloying and gave it a character similar to oxidation.  This may have been the point as the bottle blurb suggested it was reminiscent of actual IPA that had crossed the ocean but to me it just tasted old.1

I had several reasons to give this beer a second chance.  Firstly, I like Ben Middlemiss.2 Secondly, his Nota Bene abbey ale is excellent.  Most interestingly though, I heard (from Ben himself) that this batch was brewed at Tuatara, using his house blend yeast, the same one that gives Nota Bene it’s wonderful funk.  It also greatly helped that it now came in a 330ml bottle.  At 8.8% this made it less intimidating than the big 500ml bottles and if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t be stuck with it for too long.

The Beer

As I remember from last time, it was brown-orange colour with an off-white head.  As soon as I got my nose near it though, I knew something was different.  There’s a distinct funk to this beer this beer that I didn’t find in the last one I drank.  Hello there, Nota Bene Yeast.

The taste was pretty different too.  If last time I found the beer fat and slow, this bottle was much, well… faster.  The malt body seemed not so much lighter but less encumbered, like it had had an engine upgrade to give it a better power-to-weight ratio.  There was also a pronounced sweatiness that comes from the yeast and a lively hop character that over all made it quite a complex and enjoyable beer.

So it seems that this was a good choice for a second chance beer.  But it does come with a warning: it’s not in any modern or contemporary sense of the term, an India Pale Ale.  For starters it’s 8.8%.  In modern beer style terms that make it an Imperial IPA.  The closest comparison I can make is to a fuller-bodied and hopped up Nota Bene, or perhaps a maltier Green Flash Rayon Vert.  The funkiness  integrates quite well with hop character, but is pretty out of place in an IPA.

You might consider this to be failing the “does what it says on the tin” test.  But then again, I might be missing the point.  The stated goal of the beer is to replicate an IPA of the 1700’s.  And maybe a beer shipped across the ocean in a none-too-clean barrel would develop a pronounced yeast funk.  I don’t know, I was too young to legally drink back then.

My point is, this is an interesting beer and well worth trying.  Just don’t expect your classic IPA.

My other second chance beer was Moa Breakfast.  No comment.

Addendum 3/02/13

A brief online exchange between myself, Kieran from Regional and Ben Middlemiss has brought something to light: the bottles currently on sale at Regional are not brewed at Tuatara, but come from an older batch at Harrington’s (as did the one I had in Christchurch).

Now this is interesting because my journal from Christchurch describes a completely different beer from my blog notes.  What’s changed between the two bottles?  Possibly it was a contextual thing: I was just in the wrong mood to enjoy the beer the first-time around.  The explanation I’m more tempted by though, it that I simply had an off bottle for some unknown reason: possibly handling or storage, it might have gotten over-heated or whatever.  It’s unusual, but not unheard of.

Either way, it makes me all the more glad I gave Hodgsons another go.

  1. I’ve been reflecting on this.  The bottle was purchased some months after Hodgson was first released.  On second thoughts, it may actually have been the case that the bottle had been mis-handled or perhaps had some other issue with it.  All the more reason to give it a second chance.
  2. At Beervana 2011 he was the only Brewer seen consistently hanging around where his beer was being poured, which earned him a lot of points in my book.  He’s also a nice chap.

By Way of Introduction

This blog exists because Jo Wood told me I needed to start one, and when Jo Wood tells you to pull your socks up you have to listen.1

This whole thing started over a year ago when I began co-writing writing the Beer Column for Victoria Uni’s Salient Magazine.  For several reasons, that finished after only two columns.  Unfortunately however, I’d developed a taste for foisting my opinions on the unsuspecting masses.  I’m back co-writing that again with my colleague Dave the Beer Guy, but it’s only once a month and my need to put pen to paper (or 1s and 0s to silicon) is strong.

The real catalyst for this blog though came from me achieving the impossible: winning an argument on the internet.  You see, in the early days of 2013 I attended a beer tasting.  This one to be exact.  The whole thing was a bit controversial and kicked off a bit of a kerfuffle.2 Terms like ‘elitist’ and ‘wanker’ got thrown around a bit and I decided to throw in my $0.02, with what I hoped to be a considered and (fairly) polite response.

Long story short, I found myself with an apology and a deal of notoriety around Wellington.  I was also gathering praise, both from people at the tasting and strangely, people who weren’t   The thing that really got to me though, was the number of people telling me I should take up blogging.

Now I won’t lie, I’ve considered it before.  But it seems like every Man, his dog and his dog’s fleas are writing blogs at the moment.3  So you might understand why I was reluctant to start this whole thing.

The kicker came when Sean from the Thirsty Boys asked me to write a guest entry for their blog (pending).  What is this?  Is the whole world conspiring against me?  To write a blog?  I asked Phil Cook this and he said “Yes, we had a meeting.  It’s been decided.”  Well, ok world.  You want me to write, I’ll write.  Qué será, será.  Just remember world, you asked for it.

I don’t know precisely what form this beast will take.  It’s been suggested I do a beer-for-a-year style thingamy, but I’m reluctant.4  I want it to be a beer log-cum-reviewing exercise but who knows?  Maybe it’ll go the way of most other blogs: half-a-dozen updates then eerie silence that makes you wonder it the author died and was eaten by their cat.  I guess it’s time to find out.  Pass me the bottle opener please!

1. Miss-quote, Jo Wood quoted by Michael Donaldson in A Beer Nation (Penguin Books, 2012: 213).  Credit/blame should also go to Phil Cook, who mentored me, often by proxy.

2. I considered writing a blog post about the tasting as my opener, but I have very little to add and didn’t want to stir up that shit-storm again.

3. Pardon the excessive gendering of those pronouns, but it’s an old saying that loses punch with “hirs” or “xe’s”.

4. The updating schedule is the main impediment, but also because working in the somewhat-ivory-tower that is Hashigo, finding a new beer that I’ve never had before every day is a bit of a challenge.