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Beer: The Doctor is in the House!

He’s certainly not your average stethoscope sporting type, he’s actually the hippest, hoppiest doc around. Indeed his liquid medicine should be prescribed to all adults with palate melancholia. It’s a preparation he personally puts his name to, which is perfect, as he puts himself, for ‘alaying ailments related to parched and dry conditions.’ That medicine is Dr. Hops World Pale Ale.

This is serious stuff, yet it simultaneously emanates frivolity. Perhaps it’s the bust of wily Dr. Wiley Hops wearing his curvaceously impressive mo’ on the matt label? Maybe it’s the pleasure that the hops, which take centre stage, bring. Aromatic hops should be an unabashed feature of genuine craft Pale Ales and New Zealand’s craft beer scene is establishing itself as formidably capable of harnessing them. I believe our authentic craft brewers are leading the way right now in this regard.

As with any successful man (or in this case, male character), there is an even better woman. Introducing stage left Nicky Claridge, aka Tricky Nicky – an ebullient, fun-loving creature born with the hilarity gene and a good smattering of entrepreneurship. It’s not difficult to see how this combination of attributes could dream up the Dr. Hops concept. Upon hearing of Tricky’s latest project I knew it was something I had to try for myself. Boy I wasn’t disappointed.

I would put Nicky’s attempt at a (World) Pale Ale, her only craft beer to date (I hope there’s more), up there with the best in New Zealand – and as the name appropriately suggests, it competes with some of the best in the world. She doesn’t hide the fact that this is contract brewed for her by the able Invercargill Brewery – specifically, brewer Steve Nally. Indeed I think this was the right way to go. Rather than potter away with a home-brewing kit in a garage like most do trying to break into the scene, she’s earnestly gone straight to a professional brewery, briefed them, and probably learnt a great deal about brewing along the way. Many try to go it alone without a strong enough science knowledge, and end up with stinky, reductive brews or ones that just taste dirty, even worse, microbial. Dr. Hops is as clean as a whistle and is testament to the cleanliness and hygiene protocols of the brewery. There’s a saying in the industry that brewing is 5% brewing and 95% cleaning…

A background in the wine industry doesn’t hurt to understand the science behind brewing, and Nicky, a happy resident of the South Island’s magnificent Central Otago certainly has that. Her direction and stylistic desires clearly assisted in shaping this intriguing WPA which she says was born from a desire to, quite simply, make a beer for herself to enjoy on a balmy Central Otago evening and for her friends who are her family.

Drama was not absent from the creation and brewing of Dr. Hops. Whilst the launch of the beer was happening last year, Nicky was one month out of surgery which she found incredibly challenging. The results of this left her with no other option but to have more surgery. It was surgery which was preventative and a major hurdle in her life – thankfully she remarks, she had the beer Doc at her side to provide a welcome distraction to health concerns (perhaps a little too coincidental!). She made it with the help of her friends and with the help of Dr. Hops. It’s a tale not exactly full of niceties but it is a meaningful one, and one which Nicky reminds herself of everyday.

Dr. Hops is small-batch brewed and so far only available in New Zealand at selected restaurants and bars, and some off-license premises. At 5.8% abv it is on the reasonable side of alcoholic strength yet has powerful hopped characters that are balanced with generous but not overblown malt. The hops used are Motueka (NZ), Perle (German), Target (English), Cascade (USA) and Falconers Flight (a hop blend created by Hop Union in the USA) – an excellent, appropriately worldly array which demonstrate balanced bitterness and aromatics. Late-added hops give pure aromatics of passionfruit, grapefruit and lemongrass while some, like Target are early added to provide heady bitterness.

This WPA gives a clean, balanced finish and the flavours on the palate are long-lingering. It truly is a great example of Pale Ale. With its quirky packaging and brand concept, alongside its enthusiastic patron it will certainly go far for those who love a pure expression of hops with balanced alcohol. You’d be crazy not to get yourself a prescription, but you’d better be quick. Batch 5 arrived a couple of weeks ago and I’m sure with a wonderful summer lined up in NZ it won’t last long.

Dr. Hops World Pale Ale 
5.8% abv
RRP $5.99