James Squire Hop Thief


Hop Thief is totally hop driven and is a celebration of the current hop harvest.

Chuck Hahn, Brewmaster & Director, Malt Shovel Brewery

For too long Australians have been fed one bland lager after another. Aussies argue till they are blue in the face that this beer (which just happens to be the one they grew up with) is better than that beer (which isn't), or, if they have a good job and reject their local beer in a fit of snobbery, that this premium lager is better than any other. But really, like Eskimos arguing over snow, there isn't much between them when the full range of possible beer experiences is considered. And if you did pay that extra cash for the premium beer for its taste, then why aren't you drinking it out of a glass? Every beer lover knows you lose 90% of the beer experience out of the bottle.

It wouldn't be so you could flash around that premium brand would it? Who can tell you are rich enough to pay extra if you put it in a simple schooner?

Anyway, for all you people out there that do care about craft beer, about tasting something that makes you stop and think, that isn't just another crisp, golden, bloody-great-on-a-hot-day-out-of-an-esky lager, then the Malt-Shovel's Hop Thief is for you.

It's different.

If you haven't frozen the beer to the point where it is the same as every other frozen beer, then the first thing you will notice is the aroma. There is one. And we don't just mean that floral (or as some like to say, herbaceous) aroma that so characterises the pilsner style of beer. Nor the crikey-that-malt-is-roasted smell that you'll get out of a great stout.

No, if you stop and smell this little bugger, you'll smell passionfruit. Or something like passionfruit. Perhaps it's peaches. It's definitely a fruity smell. But not in your classic pale ale fruity sense. It's really something else.

Follow this up with a generous mouthful. Amazingly, that smell is now a taste. And it's all over your tongue. To me, it's passionfruit. It's complex. It lingers in the middle of your tongue long after it should have dissipated.

It's unusual. It will get you talking to your mates. Making them try one. The way good beer does.

Chuck Hahn invented this beer. It's not a classic style. It isn't a clone. We spoke to Chuck about how he did it. He played his cards pretty close to his chest, but he was obviously pretty proud of his work, and compared it to a fine wine.

It's actually hops that does the work. The name gives that part away. Chuck says it's a celebration of this year's hop harvest. When we think of hops we think of bitterness, such as that found in Hahn Premium (a 'deep throat experience'). But hops can also give aroma, as classic pilsners demonstrate.

In the case of the Hop Thief hops are also used to create this unusual and stimulating taste, along with an aroma to match. Chuck said a combination of hops was used. But he isn't telling which.

No doubt they were added late in the brew, at least in part.

This beer is a limited release. Go and try some now, before all the suits in Sydney drink Chuck dry. You won't have tried anything like it before, and may never get the chance to do so again.

Food For Thought:  This beer will get everyone at the table talking. I would try it before and during the main meal. Following the meal move to something darker, like Chuck's other contribution this year: the Vienna Red, or perhaps a Carbine Stout.


Take a break from drinking like the author of this article did - Read why and how in his book Between Drinks: Escape the Routine, Take Control and Join the Clear Thinkers