While out at Kereru Brewing in Upper Hutt, I didn’t only come across what some wags have since called “glutengate” – but, getting that story out, including into mainstream media, seems to have provoked MPI into action. At least, they’ve communicated to Chris at Kereru and to SOBA that they intend to “find a solution” to the “gluten-free beer problem”. Shouldn’t be too hard to find a solution, I’d think – re-write the guideline to remove the specific instruction that “gluten-free” is a statement of nutritional value. But, I digress.
While there, Chris also introduced me to my first encounter with Herne Brewing Company, a little outfit based out of the picturesque West Otago town of Tapanui, who contract brew at both Kereru and at Wanaka Beerworks. Herne’s the latest brewing endeavour of Tom Jones, or “Tom the Pom” as he’s sometimes known, who has been around the local brewing scene for many years, including a stint at Emerson’s and founding Dunedin’s Green Man Brewery.
On Kereru’s big shiny new kit, Herne are brewing ‘Tāne’, a “Manuka Smoked IPA.” I do love smoked beers; the flavour of smoked or peated malt can add a delicious sophisticated warmth to beers both light and dark. But I don’t think I’ve ever had a smoked IPA, and as I took the bottle home with me from Upper Hutt I was wondering how the sweetness and hoppiness of that popular style would sit well with a malt smoked over manuka chips.
Happily, I can report that the smoke and hops play really nice together in this interesting and very drinkable brew.
Tāne pours with a delicious rich brown colour, and off the top lifts an aroma of smoke and honey, the manuka adding a tint of tang with hints of grapefruit-like hops around the edges.
In the mouth this ale is crisp and tart, the sharp manuka flavour quite apparent. It’s very rich, a solid base seemingly more in the style of English than American IPAs, and a sweet sultry smokiness comes through round and full as you swallow.
The aftertaste is long and lingering, warming with its bitterness coming through very nicely. The smoke, hops and sweetness all balance nicely, no one element overpowering the other. And, with a moderate 5.9% abv, Tāne hangs together as a satisfyingly drinkable and interesting India Pale Ale variation.
And the interplay between the name of the beer and the name of the brewery also pleases me – Tāne, the god of birds and the forest in Maori mythology sitting along Herne the Hunter of Tom’s English background. The combination continues onto the bottle’s green label art, with the brewery’s stag’s head symbol sitting in white above a verdant green koru pattern; the stag amongst the ferns.
A very nice beer; would certainly buy it again if it crossed my path. I hope to see both more of the Tāne, and more from Herne Brewing Company in the near future. Tāne has now been officially launched by Herne, so hopefully this tasty beer will be appear up here in Wellington in the very near future.