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Hops to it

There's a Kiwi twist on a smart French idea, beaujolais. The famous French red from southern Burgundy is at its best when very young and fruity, which is how the Lyonnaise prefer it. Now, Mac's Brewery in New Zealand has adapted the idea to beer, and the results are very smart indeed.

This year is the second time Brewjolais has been made, and the first appearance of a new hop cultivar, Wai-iti, which has been developed in New Zealand. Grown near Motueka, the hops are picked and taken directly to the brewery in Stoke without the usual drying and storing process.

Once at the brewery they are added directly to a brew of Mac's Pale Ale, which normally gets a dry-hop charge to finish it off. There is no recipe, and because this is very much seat-of-the-pants brewing, the brewers are as interested as the punters in the result. This was especially so this year, because the team had no experience of the Wai-iti hops.

Unlike the French wine version, Brewjolais is not being raced to a café near you by a bevy of Porsches and other exotic vehicles. Instead, you will find it at one of the Mac's bars listed below, but only for a limited time. Only 150kg of hops were picked (which is a helluva lot, really. Have you ever felt the weight of a fresh hop cone?) and just one vat of Brewjolais 2007 made.

Which means that it will last just a few weeks, not months. So if you want a taste of this brew, get down to your local Mac's bar. But be careful, because although the beer is good for your health (the selenium helps your body metabolise calcium to make strong bones, and the resveratrol keeps your heart smart), hops do have a danger factor: they make you sleepy. The big bunch of hops in Brewjolais could send you off to the sandman before schedule. You have been warned.

Email: keith@sommnet.com

TRY THIS 2007 MAC'S BREWJOLAIS It smells deliciously of fresh hops, all warm and sleepy, with a prickle of citrus - that seems to be a Nelson hop thing - with something cedary to boot. Long-flavoured, mildly malty, dry and comfortable with wicked bitterness, this is a great drink, and essential tasting if you have any respect for the brewer's art. Available: until it's all gone from Mac's Nuffield Street, Northern Steamship Co (Auckland); Mac's Wellington; the Honest Lawyer, the Victorian Rose, Smugglers and the Prince Albert Hotel (Nelson). For: $6.50 a pint.