This is one story that's certain to make you thirsty

LAST October, Hugh the Neighbour and I had the opportunity to taste the James Squire Hop Thief for 2015-16. It was a very, very pleasant drop indeed, and became a bit of a favourite around the Irwin home.

Made with the Galaxy and Mosaic varieties of hops, it was a complex and interesting beer which was eminently drinkable - nothing less than one would expect from a brewer of the stature of Malt Shovel, of course.

So nice was it that Hop Thief 7 sold 1.9 million litres including more than a few on tap around some of the state's better public houses.

This year sees the release of the eighth iteration of Hop Thief, and while it is a very different beer from the "7", it is a bottler. HTN and I sat down to enjoy a couple of "8" and were about halfway through the first glass when Hugh opined that it was a pity we didn't have any of the "7" left to taste alongside the new one.

Fortunately, my lack of a proper beer rotation system in the outside fridge finally paid dividends, for after a bit of a rabbit around, I found two Hop Thief "7"s in what would be the salad compartment of a more conventionally used refrigerator.

Put them in glasses side by side and the difference is huge. A dark almost red colour in the glass, the "7" is much more malty and rich than the "8".

At the time I think I said it was a good beer with which to introduce your non-craft beer drinking friends to the pleasure of complexity in beer, and it was still all of that. The "8" is much lighter in the glass and a far crisper, cleaner beer on the palate.

It is brewed using the Crystal and Cascade varieties of hops, both still from the US, but really delivering a classic American-style pale ale flavour. It has a citrusy nose with a floral whack of hops that gives it bitterness but without the mouth-puckering smack of an IPA.

HTN said he preferred the "7", the increased malty sweetness aligning more to the flavour of his favourite house beer, the James Squire Chancer. I actually preferred the "8".

For mine, the toning down of the malt and the addition of the floral overtones of the new hops make it a beer that will lend itself to long afternoons of enjoyment as the weather warms up. I cannot wait to find it on tap.



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