Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Raconteur Reloaded: Hendo's Hopfest

Steve "Hendo" Henderson
If there's one thing that becomes immediately apparent in initially meeting Steve 'Hendo' Henderson, its that the man just loves beer. Good beer. And hops. He really loves hops.

The former Prickly Moses brewer (now plying his trade at Southern Bay Brewing) loves good beer and hops with an infectious passion that beams from every part of him as he waxes lyrical on the topic, it's the kind of enthusiasm that comfortably treads the tightrope between genius and madman. As with his passion, his talents as a brewer are equally unquestionable.

He has been responsible for some of the finer beers to come out of this country in the recent craft beer explosion, unleashing the Raconteur, the Tailpipe Big Ass Brown Ale and the Black Panther, just to name a few from the Prickly repertoire. It was the first of these that would be the focus of Raconteur IPA: Reloaded, a collection of 5 single-hopped versions of the original hop rocket.

A Crowded Royal Standard Hotel
The Royal Standard Hotel played host on a cold, rainy Monday night, (where Melbourne had seemingly decided that it had probably been a bit half-arsed at doing winter of late and that it was time to pull it's proverbial socks up) and the punters began shuffling in just after 6:30, a throng of beer nerds, industry folk and curious locals all keen to sample the five specially brewed ales.

On the wall, amongst the sporting memorabilia and the Good Beer Week promotions, a poster read "Raconteur IPA: A Love Story About Hops". Probably the most appropriate tagline for the event and the man himself, let alone the beer whose poster it rightfully adorns. The hops on offer were Galaxy, US hop Citra, Brambling X from the UK, Simcoe and the now-rare Riwaka flower, 5 hops with contrasting flavours and characters, some not often used in Australian beer.

Simcoe, Raconteur IPA and Galaxy
As a showcase for diversity in ingredients, the difference from one beer to the next was evident even to the most novice of novice beer drinkers, from the aromatic floral sweetness of the Riwaka, to the deep bitterness of the Simcoe, the passionfruity lightness of the Galaxy, to the bittersweet finish of the Citra, there was much to be analysed, discussed and compared amongst those who had filled the bar.

There was no subtlety with the hops either. Hendo, (who had been seen not two days before, sporting a t-shirt with a picture of a man firing a 'hop bazooka' on it) explained the importance of making each beer a hop explosion, to showcase each hop's individual characteristics. The end result was a feast of six (the five single-hop varieties and the original Raconteur) hop-charged IPAs, each with clear and unique identity and individuality and each capable of being a quality stand alone beer.

The pick of the beers was the Riwaka Flowers version. With origins in New Zealand, there has been something of a shortage of this hop recently. The last available Riwaka flowers in the country for some time reportedly went into this particular brew.

A strong floral sweetness gives way to citrus and grapefruit that take a firm grip without being too overbearing. It's sad to know we won't be seeing the hop used locally for some time, but I thank Hendo for gifting us the opportunity to sample it.


  1. it was a toss up between the Galaxy and the Simcoe for me, definitley not the Bramling (but yes it was a good learning experience)

  2. A great night, and a great write up of the experience. I enjoyed them all, starting with the Brambling X as it was the most contrasting hop with it's earthy spicyness, I planned a tasting sequence which was to go UK, USA , NZ then finish with a pint of the Galaxy version, because I wanted to try the Australian hop last, a plan I adhered to but I did change the order of the US versions, for me the pick of the single hop IPA's on the night was the citra. It would be great to see these beers released in bottles, hopefully that will happen one day. Cheers.

    1. I would love to see an Australian brewery release an extensive bottled range of single hop IPAs... I think Bridge Road have done a good job so far (although haven't sampled the pride of ringwood, has anyone else?) but too few and far between.

    2. bloody good idea, the mixed 6 pack

    3. yes! you better be reading this, Hendo...

  3. What a great idea for Good Beer Week. I enjoyed all 6 beers, loving the variety of flavours. My favourite single hop beer was the Simcoe? Well done Hendo.