A cascade of hops-driven ales

Canberra’s Wig & Pen launched this year’s first hop-harvest beers – three idiosyncratic styles described here recently. Then Foster’s Cascade First Harvest Ale arrived on retail shelves this month, albeit in limited quantities – just 4,300 cases. Max Burslem, Cascade’s brewer, says that this year’s First Harvest Ale, the seventh vintage since its release in 2002, features three new Tassie-grown hops varieties as well as Tassie barley.

It’s come a long way since the first beer – a lager-like ale, I recall, from a team with little lager making experience. But Max says his brewers, through experiment, ‘developed quite a knowledge’ over the years, culminating in a pretty exciting 2008 ale.

It uses early harvested barley – malted especially for First Harvest – and a touch of roasted malt to give a deep amber colour. Max had also been working with local hops growers to have the three new varieties to the brewery within hours of harvest, at their resiny, oily, aromatic peak.

He added the bittering hops, ‘Guy Fawkes’, early in the boil, ‘Mill Line’ a little later for flavour and, finally, just before the boil ended, ‘Strickland Falls’ to give passionfruit and citrus aromatics.

Cascade First Harvest Ale 330ml 6-pack $19.99
This is the juicy, fresh, beer equivalent of Beaujolais. It’s built on plump, sweet malt flavour that’s cut through with the fresh, bracing pungency of just-picked hops. As well, the hops provide a brisk, teasing, lingering bitterness that slightly outweighs the malt sweetness. Limited availability as Cascade produced only 4,300 cases.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2008