In recent years, a number of home-brewers have taken the step up to releasing their beers commercially. Amongst these is Dale Holland, who has established Dale’s Brewing Company. Dale’s story has probably become well known to craft-beer lovers over the past 12 months. He won overall Best Beer award at the 2010 Society of Beer Advocates (SOBA) National Home Brew competition with his Belgian Pale Ale.
One of his prizes was to have a 1000L batch of the beer brewed at Hallertau Brewery in Auckland. In early 2011, a further batch was brewed at the Sprig & Fern Brewery in Nelson. The beer was made available to a larger audience at last year’s Beervana. Late last year, Dale’s Brewing Company was launched. The first two releases are the Belgian Pale Ale that stared it all and an American Amber Ale. The beers were available initially in kegs and, since this year, in bottles.
Dale held an Auckland launch in December at Galbraiths. As I’ve posted before, the launch was a great opportunity to talk with both Dale himself and long time beer-writer, Geoff Griggs, while enjoying a few samples generously provided by Dale. At that time (and in my subsequent visits to Galbraiths that week to help finish of the kegs), the Amber was my clear preference and, in fact, made it onto my Top 10 New Zealand beers of 2011. This was something of a surprise as the Belgian Pale Ale / IPA style (as exemplified by Flying Dog Brewery’s Raging Bitch) is one of my favourite beer styles. Since that launch in December, I, along with many other Auckland beer-lovers, have waited impatiently for the appearance of the bottled versions of the two beers. I’m glad to say that they have begun to appear over the last few weeks.
After the strong impression it made, I was most keen to try the American Amber Ale. The beer poured a deep amber, almost mahogany colour, with a slightly creamy and cream-coloured head. The head dissipates quite quickly. The aroma was of a juicy fruity flavour. Something more than tropical, with hints of darker fruits; like berry or plum.
The palate was lovely and full, slightly creamy and a bit sticky. The initial flavours are of fruits (plum, something lighter like peach, plus some tropical notes), but the juicy malt flavours also come through quite soon. The malt flavours, of chewy, toasty caramel, carry the middle. The finish reveals the hop notes again, but also a pleasant spicy taste, with a mild bitterness. The beer displays a good length, with those spicy, juicy notes tantalising the palette.
All in all, the Amber Ale is a very good beer; but I thought the tap version was slightly superior.
One the other hand, I preferred the Belgian Pale Ale in the bottle than on tap! Its great when beer continues to surprise like that! The Pale Ale is hazy, orange gold colour. It displays a full, fluffy, slight off-white head, that diminishes. The aroma is delightful, with lots of typical Belgian notes. Juicy Fruit bubblegum, orange, sweet spice, together with some aromas of tropical fruit.
The palette is quite bright and spritzy, yet still with a full mouthfeel. The yeast influence caught my attention first, juicy, bubblegum, clove and cinnamon, with hints of orange. The hops come through the middle, with the Motueka hop flowers contributing passionfruit and a bit more citrus. The hop flavours definitely mingle with those from the yeast though and don’t overwhelm them at all. The finish is sweetly spiced, delicate tropical notes and the merest hint of something more pungent to finish. The finish is totally moreish, leaving you ready for another taste. Dale has produced a very good example of a Belgian Pale Ale with this one.
So, two fine first up-beers from Dales Brewing Company. I clearly preferred the Amber on tap and thought the Pale Ale was better of the bottled versions. I suggest you try them both without delay!