Jason Bathgate comes from Vermont. So does Heady Topper, the archetype unfiltered IPA from The Alchemist.
So when Kiwi brewers started experimenting with the Vermont style, Jason decided it was time to assert some local knowledge. The result is McLeod’s Brewery’s 802 series, a monthly limited release of variations on the unfiltered IPA theme.
“802 is the area code for Vermont. Whenever you leave Vermont you talk about ‘leaving the 802’, so anyone from Vermont will get it”, Jason says. “It’s kinda my heritage.
“Obviously there’s been this controversy about – and I’ll say this once and hopefully never again – the ‘East Coast IPA’. The reason I started brewing in New Zealand because I had become completely addicted to John Kimmich’s beers from The Alchemist brewpub. When we moved to New Zealand in 2009 there were some beautiful English-style handpulls, but Auckland was still a pretty bleak landscape for beer. So really I wanted to make fresh, unfiltered IPAs, because they’re clean and about that quick turnaround. It’s all about fresh beer.
“There’s been a huge amount of hype around it as well so that gives me an opportunity to slide in and provide some solid examples of what I believe are similar styles to what I was enjoying so much back in Vermont.”
Jason believes there’s a fundamental difference between leaving a beer unfiltered, and brewing hazy for the sake of hazy.
“I was pretty disappointed when I saw [a photo of Garage Project Party & Bullshit] that they’d chosen to put that in the marketplace, but honestly I tried it at Beervana and it wasn’t bad. It was a bit on the muddy side for me, which is what’s happened in the States a bit. A lot of folks have jumped on this bandwagon and their focus is to make a hazy beer. They’re not trying to make a good IPA, they’re just trying to make something that’s fucking cloudy!
“Unfiltered beer is all about the hop oils and the flavour and aroma compounds. When you filter, you strip an enormous amount of those out, so if you don’t filter, and you can keep those flavours. That’s our ultimate goal – to keep more hoppiness in beer.”
802/#1 is out this month. “It’s a pretty stock standard example of the style – Mosaic and Citra is a pretty common hop combination. Unfiltered, quite fresh – it takes a week or two of conditioning time so it’s not yeast laden with huge amounts of shit floating around.”
Number 2 next month is an unfiltered dark IPA, and then Jason plans to experiment. “I’ve got a lot of 20kg boxes of hops from around the world and this will be the perfect opportunity to showcase some of those.”
All of the 802 series will be unfiltered and available in small releases, just like Heady Topper. “They will all have our house yeast strain, and I don’t tell anybody what that is. It has that big, juicy, fruit character to it, and they’re all fresh in keg only.”
With about 700L per batch, you’ll have to hunt out the 802. It will be available at McLeod’s Pizza Barn in Waipu, Regional Wines in Wellington, and a few other lucky venues.