Squire’s Hop Thief 8 gets the jump on 7

Life & Style Weekend - - EASY EATING - with Si­mon Ir­win

LAST Oc­to­ber, Hugh the Neigh­bour and I had the op­por­tu­nity to taste the James Squire Hop Thief for 2015-16. It was a very, very pleas­ant drop in­deed, and be­came a bit of a favourite around the Ir­win home.

Made with the Galaxy and Mo­saic va­ri­eties of hops, it was a com­plex and in­ter­est­ing beer which was em­i­nently drink­able – noth­ing less than one would ex­pect from a brewer of the stature of Malt Shovel, of course.

So nice was it that Hop Thief 7 sold 1.9 mil­lion litres in­clud­ing more than a few on tap around some of the state’s bet­ter pub­lic houses.

This year sees the re­lease of the eighth it­er­a­tion of Hop Thief, and while it is a very dif­fer­ent beer from the “7”, it is a bot­tler. HTN and I sat down to en­joy a cou­ple of “8” and were about half­way through the first glass when Hugh opined that it was a pity we didn’t have any of the “7” left to taste along­side the new one.

For­tu­nately, my lack of a proper beer ro­ta­tion sys­tem in the out­side fridge fi­nally paid div­i­dends, for af­ter a bit of a rab­bit around, I found two Hop Thief “7”s in what would be the salad com­part­ment of a more con­ven­tion­ally used re­frig­er­a­tor.

Put them in glasses side by side and the dif­fer­ence is huge. A dark al­most red colour in the glass, the “7” is much more malty and rich than the “8”.

At the time I think I said it was a good beer with which to in­tro­duce your non-craft beer drink­ing friends to the plea­sure of com­plex­ity in beer, and it was still all of that. The “8” is much lighter in the glass and a far crisper, cleaner beer on the palate.

It is brewed us­ing the Crys­tal and Cas­cade va­ri­eties of hops, both still from the US, but re­ally de­liv­er­ing a classic Amer­i­can-style pale ale flavour. It has a cit­rusy nose with a flo­ral whack of hops that gives it bit­ter­ness but with­out the mouth-puck­er­ing smack of an IPA.

HTN said he pre­ferred the “7”, the in­creased malty sweet­ness align­ing more to the flavour of his favourite house beer, the James Squire Chancer. I ac­tu­ally pre­ferred the “8”.

For mine, the ton­ing down of the malt and the ad­di­tion of the flo­ral over­tones of the new hops make it a beer that will lend it­self to long af­ter­noons of en­joy­ment as the weather warms up. I can­not wait to find it on tap.

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