By James Beeson
Recently I ran a half marathon for the first time. As you can imagine, it was very thirsty work. In fact, by the time I crossed the finish line I was pretty desperate for a beer. After driving for almost an hour to get back from the event to Auckland, I would go as far as to say I was gagging for one.
Bounding into the hostel kitchen, I tore open the fridge and my eyes settled on this particularly vibrant looking can from Warkworth’s 8 Wired Brewing Co. 8 Wired is among New Zealand’s most successful craft breweries, and is particularly admired for its it’s exceptional barrel aged beers (founder Søren Eriksen claims to have the largest collection of wine and whisky barrels in the southern hemisphere).
Cucumber Hippy is not a barrel aged beer. In fact, it’s pretty much the furthest thing possible from a barrel aged beer. A refreshing, light kettle sour, made with fresh New Zealand grown cucumbers, Cucumber Hippy was exactly the kind of beer I was looking for in my hot, sweaty, agitated state.
The beer is a variation on the brewery’s flagship Hippy Berliner, which is soured in the kettle using supermarket bought probiotic yoghurt, then brewed and fermented as a normal beer before being heavily dry hopped. Over the years Eriksen has also produced cascara, celery salt, grapefruit tangelo, basil, rosewater and mango lassi variations on Hipper Berliner, but it is the cucumber variant that has proved most popular, and is 8 Wired’s 4th or 5th best selling beer.
“Way back in 2012 I tasted a cucumber saison in Atlanta,” Eriksen explains. “It was one of those moments where one realises something so obvious yet vastly overlooked. Cucumber is seemingly such a bland vegetable but it carries distinct flavours that not only surprise people but also taste really good.
“Since then I wanted to make a cucumber beer but couldn’t quite find the right canvas. It wasn’t until we started making kettle soured beers in 2014, specifically Hippy Berliner, that I knew we had the right foundation for adding the delicate flavours of cucumber.”
Out of the can it pours a yellow to golden hue, with a bright white head that quickly dissipates, leaving behind only a very light carbonation. The aroma is pure fruit salad, an inviting concoction of cucumber, tropical fruit and citrus. At just 4.5% it’s clearly been designed to be drunk cold and fast on a summer’s day, something I’m only to happy to comply with.
To taste, Cucumber Hippy does pretty much exactly what it says on the tin. The characteristic natural yoghurt-like sourness of the Berliner Weisse style is present, but offset by a distinctive cucumber flavour. There is also a touch of lemon sherbet and a hint of salt, combining to create an overall flavour that is somewhere in-between cucumber water and a mild pickle juice. It’s super refreshing and goes down an absolute treat as I rest my weary legs and bask in the sunshine.
James Beeson is an award winning freelance food & drink journalist and the founder of Beeson On Beer. To read more of his work, follow him on Twitter.