DISCLOSURE: Last night, Dissident Beer (AKA my husband, Shawn) wanted ‘one last beer’ and the only thing in the fridge was the final remaining bottle of Camelthorn’s new IPA that was delivered last week. I had been saving it to review but as you might have noticed, I’m a bit crap at the blog these days. So I outsourced – ‘sure, you can drink it, but you have to write the review of it’. So for the first time on this blog, this review was not written by me (although I largely agree with the sentiments found within…)
Camelthorn has had a resurgence since it was taken over by Namibian Breweries a few years back. Its beers, which include a weiss, helles and a seasonal bock, have now been joined by an IPA. Or as it says on the bottle, an “IPA Beer”. It’s great that Camelthorn have decided to push beers that many brewers will not, like an IPA or a bock, and this needs to continue to drive the industry forward. Many brewers have put forth the patronising attitude that “the market is not ready for that,” and while we are still a predominantly lager drinking nation, there is still a large market for really well-made IPAs, sour beers and imperial stouts.
Camelthorn, being from a fairly large brewery, has taken the predictable step of trying to make their IPA a mass-appeal beer which is, according to the bottle, “surprisingly easy drinking.” And it is easy drinking, though it’s unlikely to get the hop heads excited. At 5% ABV and 40 IBUs, it is probably more of a pale ale than an IPA, but it does have a nice grapefruit and floral nose and is distinctly more bitter than many other local brews whose labels promise an ‘easy-drinking’ IPA.
In a way, it is reminiscent of the earlier American IPAs, which were more about using hops for bitterness than aroma. There is quite a bit of caramel-malt sweetness on the palate but this does actually work nicely with the bitter finish and the copper colour suggests a good amount of speciality malts in the mash.
It’s very possible that Camelthorn were going for a beer that could appeal to the ‘beer nerds’ while not straying too far from its base consumer, who ‘may not be ready’ for something along the lines of Aegir’s Giant IPA, Woodstock’s Californicator or CBC’s Cape of Good Hops. But it would be nice, sometime in the near future, for a larger brew to get off the fence and make a beer that really pushes the boundaries of brewing in South Africa. We all love a good easy drinking pilsner or a pale ale, and the market is full of choices for these styles, but I look forward to the time when a large brewery will take a chance and put out a beer that proudly says “probably not super easy drinking…but damn good”.
(Review by Shawn Duthie)