Thursday, 4 March 2010

Oysters and IPA

The Arrow Brewery is one of our favourite things in Arrowtown – in fact, one of the reasons we moved back to Arrowtown was so that we could walk to the pub. And what a pub it is!

To coincide with the Bluff oyster season, which begins on 1st March, the good folk at the brewery have launched (quite literary) a new beer. This is their take on the IPA (one of my favourite styles). They claim the beer perfectly complements the tangy taste of the oysters. Well, we’ll be the judges of that!

Because IPAs were originally transported from England to India they needed to survive the long sea journey without spoiling. Many hops were added and the gravity was lowered resulting in a strong, bitter ale with high alcohol content.

It’s not quite a passage to India, but the Foveaux Strait has challenges of its own and the barrel was hoisted onto an oyster boat to endure a mini sea journey, accompanied by brewers Darryl and John keeping a close eye on their precious cargo. They also kept out of the way of the oyster catchers (Marina Fish and Oysters of Invercargill) who were working hard to provide everyone with a little (shell)fishy when the boat comes in.

And when the boat did return to shore, the boys got the beer and a giant sack of oysters and made their way back to the pub in Arrowtown where we waiting for this inspirational combination. There was no shortage of helpers to remove the barrel from the back of the ute and the beer was delivered to the hand pump inside where it flowed freely to the punters on the other side of the bar.

The conclusion is that it is better warmer – and it was served at the right temperature here; many Kiwis can’t get their heads around the fact that you don’t have to freeze all the flavour out of beer it it’s any good. It’s got an intense nutty essence and the bitter hops balance the sugary malts perfectly. Almost like barley wine it is 8.1% strength (‘I think’ said Greg) but it is soft and gentle with a velvet mouth-feel that belies the alcohol content.

As for whether it goes well with oysters? Move over sauvignon blanc: this is the new perfect accompaniment. Those plump Bluff beauties were being shucked in the courtyard by a trio of blokes who seemed to know what they were doing (this is not a metaphor; they really were opening the oyster shells and pulling out the meat – that’s not one either).

Each glass of IPA came with a fresh oyster glistening in its shell. You could have them served in a tempura batter, but that would seem almost like overdressing them – they were simply sublime as nature intended.

There is no better way to start the week (and we’ll be back regularly to check on the progress of that ale). Now, that’s the sort of Monday I really do like!

This story was featured on Campbell Live. Check out their footage here.

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