Yeastie Boys vs Dog Fish Head

15 Aug 2012 by Joel Macfarlane
Last week I was reading a car magazine at Whitcoulls in the Airport. You know how you do, when you've got half an hour to kill and zero intention of actually springing for a magazine. Most of the mags headlined with the new Toyota 86. I was interested to see Toyota having another crack at the sports car market. I've had a few Toyotas so I expected it to be fast, average looking and able to do 250,000km without an oil change. Unfortunately it looks like they forgot to put an actual sports car engine in the 86. The result is all hat and no cattle, as the Texans say.

It's the direct descendant of the Toyota Levin, a car accidentally named after the booming metropolis slightly north of Wellington. I'm not embarrassed to say I owned a Levin for a while. It was an average ride but at the bitter end it proved it was made of the right stuff. My better half drove it into a herd of cattle at 100kph late one night. Now if you hit a cow at 100kph you're lucky to survive. She hit and killed seven. The humble Levin was destroyed but she was unscratched.

Anyway shaggy dog stories almost aside, I was reading about the 86 vs the Porsche Boxster. You know those shoot-out articles where journos junket two cars across country comparing them and I had a flash of inspiration. Why not do a shoot-out with beer?

I thought Yeastie Boys latest release, Gunnamatta, would be a good candidate. Yeastie Boys brews always offer a thick vein of beer journalistic gold. It's getting harder each year to get excited about writing about IPAs. Stu from the Yeastie boys felt the same way about the recent trend of chocolate and coffee beers. In another move away from the status kuo they created an IPA infused with Earl Grey Blue Flower tea. Like previous YB's beers Earl Grey tends to polarise.

I popped into the Village Winery in Mt Eden for a bottle of Gunnamatta. Their selection is second to none, so I scanned the shelves for a comparative rival. I settled on a Dog Fish Head Apricot IPA.

Dog Fish Head produce “off centred ales for off centred people”. They are the original masters of brewing with unconventional ingredients. Recent beers have featured items like surfboard wood and chewed corn. In NZ, Yeastie Boys are claiming that space with whiskey beer and now tea beer. So, an excellent match for an international comparison.

I sat down with a couple of homebrewers and opened some bottles for a comparative shoot-out.

Both beers look good in the glass, the Dog Fish is the darker of the two with a larger head. Its aroma flirts with apricot and a little grassy hops. It's subtle and pleasant but leaves me wondering if the peach aroma is all in my mind. In this respect

The Gunnamatta has an aroma that certainly appeals to real off centred people. I got a lemon and Dilmah tea, with a slightly soapy peach aspect.

Moving from the nose to the tongue the difference between these two beers becomes even more pronounced. The Dog Fish is super tasty, the sweet apricot comes across something akin to salty toffee. The hop backbone is grapefruit, which balances out the sweetness perfectly. It sticks to your tongue with every mouthful. This is good beer, perhaps great beer but I wouldn't say different beer. It's sports car on the outside and luxury sedan on the inside.

Once again the Gunnamatta comes through with a big difference. This is what Yeastie Boy's delivers in spades. They aren't scared to make a beer with oddball ingredients which actually tastes that way. Like the Dog Fish it's got the grapefruit hops, but it also is floral like potpourri. This is pure Earl Grey Tea. It's not hinting at it. It's punching you in the tongue, while waving a tea bag in your face.

The Dog Fish is a victory, subtle and tasty. As a car it would be a hybrid. Nothing as extreme as a plug in electric. Something more consumable, the sort of thing that movie stars drive. All environmental cred with none of the inconvenience.

The Yeastie Boys is hard to compare, it's not really in the same class. It's more like a battery powered hovercraft. Like the Rex (their whiskey beer) it's going to polarize. It will surely win big awards while creating fans and detractors around the same table. One of the guys professed to lacking the intellect to understand it. Another couldn't get over the soapy taste. But others like co-blogger Prajna think it's a revelation.

If I'm honest they are drinks for different occasions. If I had to drink six I'd take the Dog Fish. For old-school excitement however, there's nothing like a Yeastie Boys, but perhaps in less quantity.
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