Back to some NZ Craft Beer TV – Waiheke Island Brewery

After a brief hiatus from NZ Craft Beer TV where Luke and I got a wee bit busy with running Epic and the 5 beer releases we did last year, we’re back into it and finishing up the breweries we didn’t quite get to. First up is Waiheke Island Brewery and we got up at the crack of dawn, headed to the Auckland Ferry Terminal and jumped on the ferry. A cracking day, we cruised through the Hauraki Gulf amongst big boil-ups of kahawai and sea-birds diving for bait-fish, dodging the keen early morning fishing boats filled with locals pulling up snapper.We got in to the Matiatia terminal and were met by the owner of Wild on Waiheke, Rob Webb. Wild on Waiheke is a fantastic multi-activity venue nestled right in the middle of Waiheke’s wine growing area. Rob and his wife, Karen run a cafe/restaurant, brewery, vineyard and corporate activity/workshops all from the picturesque premises and after a day there, can say they do a brilliant job! Used often as a function centre for stag and hen parties, it’s combination of great food and beverages and a host of activities make it a veritable one stop shop! We headed past the vineyard and into the converted barn that houses a bar, shop, kitchen and showcases some of the great produce that is made on the island. From locally distilled rum (which I can say is pretty damn tasty) to local Pohutakawa honey and their own range of preserves and sauces, they have a great selection and something for everyone! There’s also a cool little playground in front of the spacious deck, making it a brilliant place for a family day out. A few beers and wines for Mum and Dad, an amazing burger or pizza from their extensive and well-priced menu and all whilst watching the kids enjoy an ice-cream or mucking about on the swings? Sounds pretty damn ideal to me!

We met up with New Zealand brewing stalwart, Alan Knight, head brewer of Waiheke Island Brewery. Alan has been in the industry coming up 25 years! An ex-pat Brit, originally he trained as an actor, but while living in Canada, he got sick of drinking the insipid lagers that used to be common place, took up homebrewing and then knocked on the door of a local brewery to see if they had work. Once they found out he had been doing all grain brewing (as opposed to brewing with malt extract), they pretty much hired him there and then and the rest is history! Alan eventually became a brewing consultant and is one of the more widely travelled New Zealand brewers, having clocked up 41 breweries in his 25 years, with 11 of them being in NZ!

We were super-keen for a nice early-morning beer taster, so Alan started us off with his Wharf Rd Wheat Beer. Based on a German Hefeweizen, this poured light and hazy. Alan finished it off with a small of lemon, not something I’d usually do myself, but the fresh citrus worked to lift the subtle banana and clove characters of this nice, dry wheat beer. It was brilliant. Next up we tried the Onetangi Dark Ale, which was close in style to a Porter. Alan told us that when the oyster season was in full swing (and their is a local farm which apparently does oysters to die for), they serve this beer with an oyster in the bottom of the glass. That sounds pretty close to heaven for me! The beer itself was rich with loads of milk chocolate and dark cacao nib on the nose. It’s body was sublime, rich and smooth with the lightest tickle of bitterness from the NZ Styrian Goldings he used. Was this the best dark beer we’d tried on our trip around NZ so far? Luke and I definitely think it may just have been. Alan went on to tell us how the slight brininess of the oyster worked perfectly with this beer. Who wouldn’t want a beer-pickled fresh oyster after a glass of something is superb as this?!?!

Next up, we had a taste of the Baroona Original Pale Ale. This was a Kolsch style brew, hopped to perfection with Motueka hops from the Nelson region. Again, Alan had nailed it. Massively quenching, beautiful hints of passionfruit and stonefruit and one of the cleanest, crispest finishes I’ve experienced for sometime. It was awesome. Alan is the master of taking fine ingredients, keeping recipes simple and nailing the beers. We finished off with the big 7.2% Matiatia Malt Beer and were pleasantly surprised yet again! With Pacifica and NZ Cascade as hops and a blend of 6 malts, this drank like a 4% session brew, going down like silk. Alan recommended this with a good, strong cheese, but I reckon I could have slowly sipped away on a few of them in the blazing Waiheke sun with ease!

After a few samples we had a look around the 1200 litre brewkit. Originally from Tauranga where it was set up as a Mac’s brewery, this simple 2 vessel brewhouse has definitely done it’s time for NZ brewing and I’d say that with Alan at the helm, it will do many more years! The cooling on his fermenters is all manual, so it’s lucky he only lives a few minutes away, meaning he often stops by at night to ensure his babies are fermenting away at the right temperature.

The beers are served from their own cooling tanks through a 47 metre beer line that runs direct to the bar! Not only do they do the 4 core beers, they also do an incredible non-alcoholic Ginger Beer called Hauraki Gulf Ginger, which was devised by Alan in his kitchen and uses around 30 kilograms of freshly juiced root ginger in every 600 litres! Alan also had his very first batch of cider on, which completed a fantastic range. The cider is awesome.

We then headed out into the vineyard and had a bit of a go at archery. Needless to say, the NZ Olympics team better look elsewhere for talent, though Leon from our production company, Augusto, nailed a few close to the bullseye. We then all took our turns at some laser clay bird shooting before heading in for an amazing burger and beer. I can’t recommend this place more highly and if you really want to try some great Kiwi beer, then jump on the ferry in Auckland and get out there as soon as you can. You won’t regret it!

The office beckoned however, so we headed back to the mainland to do some of that proper work stuff. It always seems to get in the way! We’re going to hit Hallertau Brewery tomorrow in Riverhead, west of Auckland and check out Steam Brewery and even ourselves at Epic. Another busy day beckons!!

ReBoot

I’ve spoken before about how beer can change over the years. I don’t really know a lot of brewers who develop a beer recipe and then stick with that exact recipe forever without ever taking into consideration any changes with raw materials. Maybe they do exist and I’d be curious if anyone out there knows of any brewers who adopt the “one recipe forever” philosophy.

My time in the world of beer has definitely taught me a thing or two about recipe development and the importance of raw material selection. Taking cues from what nature provides us means that we have to bend and twist our recipes and processes to be able to continue producing the beer that we have in our mind’s eye. I love the first sniff of a new season hops and the way that the brain takes that combination of aromas and builds a convoluted pathway that slowly morphs into how those wonderful smells will translate into a finished beer.

The same goes with the rush of saliva that accompanies that mouthful of dry, crisp biscuity malted barley. Almost as if those enzymes want to begin smashing up all of the starch granules the minute they hit your tongue (did you know that one of our salivary enzymes and one of the enzymes responsible for breaking starch down into more simple sugars in barley – amylase – are forms of the same enzyme?).

When it comes to a beer like Epic Pale Ale, we are constantly aware of the ingredients that we use. This beer uses only one hop variety, Cascade from the USA and because it is reliant on this for all of it’s hop character and bitterness, we find ourselves engaged in a month-by-month repartee with this enigmatic flower. The thing with hops is that they change. The changes may be subtle and impossible for most to detect from batch to batch, but they nonetheless occur. Whether it is the usual seasonal variation that occurs with almost every plant due to things such as rainfall, ambient temperature, the mineral content of soil or even external attacks on the plant from pests or diseases weakening the bine.

The other things to take into consideration include storage conditions of the finished hops and the hop chemistry of the varietals you are using in a brew. Let’s have a little look at hop storage. Alpha acids, the group of compounds known as humulones are responsible for the bitterness of a beer once boiled. They’re not the most stable of compounds meaning that after harvest, these alpha acid levels begin to fall and this can be exacerbated by storage temperature and the way in which they are stored. Different varieties tend to store differently with some seeming to lose more of their bittering potential over time. Hop aromatics can also change during storage, with some decreasing and others actually increasing in aroma potential.

Would you like some malt, water and yeast with that?

In our experience, US Cascade has tended to throw out a hint more grapefruit peel as it ages and the wonderful rosewater/Turkish Delight note that I instantly recognise as one of the main characteristics of Epic Pale Ale tends to dissipate slightly over storage. We store our hops at 1-2°C and because there is only one harvest per year, we have to be very aware of these changes, responding to them as soon as we can. There is a brilliant table in the book by Ray Daniels, Designing Great Beers, that shows figures from analysis of alpha acids in US Cascade after one year storage at varying temperatures. At 20°C, only 35% of the total alpha acids remain in the hop, at 1°C, 65% of the alpha acids remain, at -7°C, 74% remain and at -15°C, 81% remain.

My advice? Keep your bittering hops in the freezer if you can!

Our malted barley is another area in which we find it necessary to step in and alter the process when necessary. Using malts from as far away as the United Kingdom and Germany in our Pale Ale means that sometimes we may need to change our maltster based on what our malt importer can get in. With a change of maltster can sometimes come a change in malt characteristics. For example, going from Baird’s Caramalt to Thomas Fawcett Caramalt may mean there are slight alterations in malt flavour and colour contributions due to the degree of crystallisation or caramelisation during the kilning process. This has to be addressed as it happens so that we can maintain consistent colour and flavour in our beer. Sometimes however, it’s important to play a little and experiment with grist bills (and hopping rates) to ensure you can get the best results possible from your ingredients. If you can potentially make your beer taste better, then there’s only one choice really!

Which brings me to 2012 and our Epic Pale Ale. We’re patiently waiting for our new shipment of US Cascade hops to be packed up and shipped off, so there are a few months until the new season’s stuff arrives. When it does, this will see more reformulation as we look at blending the remainder of last season’s hops with the new hops resulting in tasty awesomeness (this is a technical term…). Our rebooted Pale Ale has had a few tweaks to it’s malt bill as well as an emphasis on bitterness from late/aroma hopping in the whirlpool and a bit of an increase in our dry hopping rate. Well, a bit more than “a bit”… we’ve increased the dry hop by a third!

If you’re curious in seeing if you can spot the difference between batches, any 500 mL bottles that have a Best Before date of 21.12.12 and any 330 mL bottles that have a Best Before date of 13.01.13 include our tasty rebooted Pale Ale. Also, we’ve just started releasing our kegs of this, so come February, all keg Pale Ale will be rebooted!

My 2011

2011 was a great year. After 8 years abroad and living in South Korea and the United Kingdom, it has been great moving back to New Zealand and living again in this little slice of paradise. I thought I better put together a little precis of what I found great about the last year…

NZ Craft Beer TV award for yummiest Kiwi brews

This one is pretty easy. When Luke and I were touring the country and filming for the Craft Beer TV series, we were blown away by the quality of the beers we tried up and down our fair isles. It was Dave Kurth of West Coast Brewing in Westport’s creations that had us seriously impressed. His International Pale Ale is my favourite NZ beer of the year. He also has the coolest sweaters/jerseys of any NZ brewer. Kudos.

He looks all innocent in his rugby shorts and workboots, but his brewing prowess is impressive!

Ted DiBiase award for Sleeper of the Year

Known for his awesome “Million Dollar Dream” followed by ramming a US $100 bill in his opponents mouth, Ted DiBiase was a wrestler of the 80s that would nullify his opponents with his aforementioned sleeper hold. The brewery that I think deserves this is Sprig and Fern in Nelson. Sure, they’re not really a sleeper in the sense that they’re super successful, running some brilliant pubs in Nelson and the surrounding area (with a new one due in Tinakori Road, Wellington in the coming months). Couple that with the fact that they won a truckload of medals at the 2011 BrewNZ awards (10 in total) and you can see why I think these guys may just be the ones to watch in 2012. Brewing legend and owner Tracy Banner heads up the brewing team and constantly delivers precisely brewed, flavourful beers that put a smile on my face every time I try them. Respect.

I reckon Tracy and her team have a lot more than malt hiding in those bags. One to watch for 2012!

The Ben Stiller Character out of that Mystery Men movie who is Angry all the time Award

Ben doing his angry face (and looking forward to some comments below)

I’ve been told in the past that I’m sometimes too positive when it comes to the craft beer industry. So I’m about to shock you all by posting something negative. Close your eyes and scroll down if you don’t want to read it!

The thing that has annoyed me about coming back to New Zealand is the contrariness of regionalism when it comes to brewing and breweries. I know that it’s mostly tongue-in-cheek and that banter between provinces (and especially banter between anywhere else in NZ and Auckland) is part of our culture, but would be great if we started seeing New Zealand as exactly that when it comes to our impressive array of breweries and beers. I’m not fond of the separatism that comes about from hailing one place as being the greatest and others inferior. It smacks of the Tall Poppy syndrome that reigns supreme over here. Sure… stand up and be proud of the great craft beer selection in the pubs and bars of your city, but as you do that, remember that it was not always so. Don’t complain if you can’t find craft beer in your local or your town or your area. Politely ask operators about stocking products you enjoy. That way we can create Craft Beer New Zealand. Country by country… :)

Those smaller ones will catch up eventually!!!

The Kelly Ryan Award for Employer of the Year

You’ve probably figured this one out by now, but I’ve had an incredible year working with Luke from Epic. Tweaking our current recipes to get them exactly where we want them, developing five new beers from brew process through to final packaging, touring the country with NZ Craft Beer TV, launching our new brews at pubs throughout NZ (and a couple in Australia), fiddling around on ePICObrewery - my first foray into homebrewing (I think my first ever brewday as a trainee brewer saw the production of around 100 000 litres of wort, so brewing 30 litres at a time has been lots of fun), supping loads of beers with The Beer Mule, it’s been busy and fantastic. (For the record, my undisclosed award for 2006 was joint win for Fyne Ales and Thornbridge Brewery and from 2007-2010 it was Thornbridge Brewery. I have a feeling that you, the intrepid reader may begin to notice a trend developing…)

Cheers, Luke!!!

The Bruvinity Award

Okay, I mashed together poor spelling of the word “brew” with the word “divinity” as I couldn’t think of a witty title for this award. I know that Søren isn’t actually the reincarnation of a Scandanavian god, but he does seem to be omnipresent at most brewing events, holds down not only his job as Renaissance brewer but also as Head Brewer of NZ’s Champion Brewery, 8 Wired Brewing and presents himself as one of the more passionate brewers I have met. He’s also a bloody nice guy and I imagine that if I was to ever meet a god, he wouldn’t talk with a New Zealand accent (I’ll admit that I keep thinking of Neil Gaiman‘s brilliant book, American Gods as I type this). I wonder if he has special names for his brewing tools… that rubber-headed mallet isn’t called Mjölnir by chance is it??

I'm sure there's an eight-legged horse around the corner (original photo from Jed Soane's wicked http://thebeerproject.com)

Blegendary Blumberjack Blogging Award

Alice Galletly of Beer for a Year has taken on the behemoth task of trying a beer a day for 365 days, keeping us entertained and updated on a (mostly) daily basis about the different brews she tries. She shoots from the hip, tells us exactly what she thinks and through her blog it’s great to see someone’s voyage of discovery. It’s not shrouded in technical jargon (as I know this blog is prone to be!), it’s full of amusing metaphor and more importantly, it makes me want to try some of the brews she describes. Nice!

Is it perspective or is that a large platter... :)

The DeLorean Future Brews

I pull out my Mayan Calendar/Nostradamus Prophecies/Harold Camping Malarkey

There are a couple of these. When they are released, I’m sure you’ll all be shocked and impressed by my amazing predictions and the said brewers will curse me and try and sue me for industrial espionage. Little do they know it’s because of my converted Mazda 6 (with a DeLorean chassis) and the magic speed of 88 kilometres per hour (because 88 miles per hour is naughty and that really stupid ad on tele about Mantrol alludes that it’s not cool to drive your car at 141 km/h). Here they are…

A 2.7% mild hopped at around 17 IBU by Epic

A collaboration Imperial Mexican Lager between Three Boys Brewing and The Four Horsemen named The Seven Rancheros.

A beer made solely with peat by Yeastie Boys. Each bottle comes with a miniature peat spade to aid ingestion.

DB Breweries develop a new craft range beginning with a 9% Double IPA. Joseph Wood from Liberty Brewing acts as consultant.

In fact, I’m sure you’re all pretty adept at coming up with some Delorean Future Brews yourselves… any suggestions??

All the best for 2012! Kelly

Larger – An Imperial Pilsner

Person Number 1: “You spelt it wrong, it’s l-a-g-e-r.”

Me: “No, I didn’t. It’s Larger. It’s like a lager, but it’s bigger.”

Person Number 1: “Oooooh, I see what you did there!”

Me: “Yes, yes you did and I am funny.”

Person Number 1: “No, you’re not. Puns are never funny.”

Me: “I’ll have to agree with you. They’re not funny… they’re punny.”

Person Number 1: <Punches Kelly>

Me: “Ouch. Did you just punch me because that action includes the word, pun?”

I was going to leave this blogpost at the above conversation, but thought the avid readers out there would want a little more information about our new beer, Larger and were less concerned at the fact that someone hit me for using puns. So, I’ll do what I always do and tell you a little story about how this beer came to be.

Our pretty new label...

Often here at Epic we get enquiries via email asking what beers we have, sometimes it may even be a sales order and sometimes, there are spelling mistakes. It’s most likely that the word that is spelt wrong is lager, where an erroneous “R” makes it’s way in. So, it made sense that if we were going to brew a big Pilsner-style beer, that we would annoy everyone out there and call it Larger.  This now means we’re likely to get a load of people ordering the wrong beer at bars, bottle-stores getting confused and generally, a bunch of folk being miffed at us. Which is why it meant we had to make this beer taste awesome enough, that people wouldn’t worry about it’s slightly frustrating name.

So how does one go about doing this? I’ll be honest. My lager-brewing skills are somewhat limited. Sure, the first two years of my brewing career were spent with DB Breweries, pumping out hectolitre upon hectolitre of bottom-fermented lager-style beers and in my time at Thornbridge, we worked together with Birrificio Italiano and brewed a Pilsener called Italia. Here at Epic we brew our nice dry-hopped Epic Lager, but apart from that, my knowledge was sparse. The best thing to do in such a situation is taste beers similar to what you want to brew and read as much as you can about the brewing techniques.

Thornbridge Italia (courtesy of Leigh from goodpeopleeats.blogspot.com)

If we bounce back a bit to February 23rd of this year… Myself, Luke from Epic and a very important chap who ferries super-fresh bottles of beer from the USA to our own doorsteps, Dave “The Beer Mule” Summergreene sat down and tried a Port Brewing Panzer Imperial Pilsner. It had a big, rich malt backbone, quite sweet in character with a touch of caramel to help fight back against the huge noble hop character. It was big, bitter, balanced and beautiful. We were all super-impressed with the brew and pretty much decided there and then, that we wanted to do an Epic Imperial Pilsner at some stage. Dave had met Julian Shrago, Head Brewer and Owner of Beachwood BBQ Brewery in Long Beach whilst in Los Angeles and put me in contact with him. Julian had originally been a US National Homebrew champion with one of his IPAs. Obviously knowing his hops extremely well he then teamed up with the Port Brewing crew and they brewed the Panzer Imperial Pilsner as a collaboration. Julian told me how he’d been inspired by the Samuel Adams Imperial Pilsner back in 2003 and based on his knowledge of Double IPAs, went about creating the brew based on big hopping rates, but went with German Pilsner malt, German hops and a German Lager yeast strain. With that advice on board, we began thinking of a recipe…

Our inspiration! (Pic courtesy of fullpint.com)

April rolled around and The Beer Mule arrived with another selection of fine beers. We sipped our way through Uinta Brewing Company’s Tilted Smile and Karl Strauss Brewing Company’s Whistler Imperial Pils. I remembered back to a year before, drinking an Odell Double Pilsner that Doug had delivered to Thornbridge when working on a collaboration with us. They were all great beers and had seemingly taken the Double/Imperial IPA model and modified it with the use of cool fermentation, bottom-fermenting lager yeast strains and a big whack of hops more typically indicative of German and Bohemian Pilsner/Pilseners.

It was time to develop the recipe. We contacted Wyeast to discuss the possibility of getting a decent amount of Bohemian Lager Yeast sent over for us to grow up in a batch of our Epic Lager. We usually use California Lager Yeast in Epic Lager and were really interested to see how this strain would effect the flavour profile in this beer, as well as it being an essential part of the process in which we got a pitchable quantity of yeast for the Imperial Pilsner. The Bohemian Lager Yeast brewed Lager showed a slightly cleaner, crisper finish, a touch more bitterness and the tiniest amount of sulphur throughout fermentation. Although it was a longer fermentation and maturation with this yeast than it was with the Californian Lager strain, I was personally impressed with the characters that this yeast had brought to the beer. It probably wasn’t enough to make a considerable difference to the overall character of Epic Lager, but it exhibited characteristics that we knew would be perfect with our Imperial Pilsner.

The wonderfully fragrant, and lightly biscuity Pilsner Malt

For the grist, we decided on Weyermann Pilsener malt as our base. We wanted a nice, clean malt grain character and the German malt was perfect for this. It makes up part of our grist in the original Epic Lager (along with Bohemian Pilsener malt), so we knew how it behaved in a brew and were pretty pleased with it’s flavour profile. The aim for this beer was to hit around 8.5% alcohol by volume with an Original Gravity of 1.077 and a Final Gravity of 1.012-1.013. This would mean we’d need some good attenuation from the yeast to get the beer as dry and clean as we wanted it. I was nervous about this… the last thing we wanted was an underattenuated strong lager!

The bitterness we were aiming for was quite high at 70 IBUs, but this was tempered by the fact that we chose one of my favourite bittering hops, Pacific Jade. This hop exhibits an intense Noble hop character in that it is very low in a hop alpha acid called Cohumulone. This alpha acid is often responsible for a harsh bitterness, so a low level can give a softer perceived bitterness in the finished beer and in my opinion, Pacific Jade is one of the best at giving a well-utilised, soft, clean bitterness.

This little guy helps us with some nice, soft bitterness at low levels

Pacific Jade was paired throughout the brew with three hops of German parentage. Liberty and Santiam, both grown in the US and the hops used in our Epic Lager, were used liberally throughout the flavouring and aroma additions, their Hallertau ancestry lending well to the character we were after in this brew. These were joined by US Tettnang, another of the noble hop varieties and finally finished off with some Kiwi-grown Kohatu. The blending of US and NZ hops had worked well for us in our earlier Hop Zombie, so it made sense to do something similar with Larger. The plan was also to do a massive dry-hop with Larger, using Liberty, Santiam, US Tettnang and Kohatu over a number of dry hops based on how the flavour of the beer was progressing during the lagering process.

When it came to water chemistry and the mash regime, it was all down to compromise and trying to coax as many fermentables as possible from the grains. The temperature-stepped mash started low to really work the maltase, peptidase and β-glucanase enzymes and this was followed by an increase to push the proteases and β-amylases. The majority of the mash rest was done at 66°C to favour α-amylase activity and limit dextrin content. The grist itself was mashed quite thin, emulating the type of liquor:grist ratio that is used in continental decoction mashing (even though this was solely infusion). This thinner grist was chosen as it helps to aid amylase heat resistance at the water mineral content we were looking at using. Because Auckland water is very soft (in fact it is quite similar to the water profile of Plzen), it was decided to use only a small amount of Calcium Sulphate in this beer. The lower calcium concentration was part of the reason a thin grist was used and hopefully the low level sulphate ions would bring some crispness and dryness to the finish.

Just like the blog before this one, we now wait for our beer to be finished. It is sitting patiently in tank, exactly one month from brewday today and developing the flavours that we want. It’s slowly picking up the aromatics from the massive amount of dry-hopping. The finish and bitterness are exactly where we wanted them, the lower alpha acid hops are working in a different way than the big high-alpha beasts we used in Hop Zombie, providing us with something big, yet refined. The body is perfect, nice and light and summery, which is convenient considering this is to act as our Christmas release beer from now onwards!

Less than a month to go…

Our keg tap badge... who will be the lucky recipients of our small number of kegs??

From Thought to Fruition – Coffee and Fig Imperial Oatmeal Stout

Sometimes the road to creating a beer can be a long one. Brewers of old, with their porters aged in vats, 21 year old ales and the like, as well as those more modern brewers of wood-aged loveliness would testify to that statement. Sure, brewers are slightly more impatient than winemakers or whiskey producers when it comes to wanting to make something drinkable as quickly as possible, but there are times when we have to realise that some things take exactly that… time.

Our latest beer has been a six month labour of love, and that was just us getting to brew day! Not all brews have this much time and energy invested into them, but this one has been fun, had a lot of challenges and will hopefully be a great beer.

Back at Thornbridge, I worked with Simon Bower of Pollards Coffee and we developed a scrumptious Coffee Milk Stout with a blend of beans. I’m a massive coffee fan, so it was a fun project and involved lots of coffee bean steeping trials as well as some labour intensive lactose dissolution (thanks to James Kemp of Buxton Brewery for that!). Lactose is not a big fan of dissolving in water, but as JK found out, stirring will get you there eventually :) The resulting beer turned out exactly as hoped, it was like drinking a cool, slightly alcoholic pint of slightly sweet coffee, replete with crema on top (the joys of handpulled cask-conditioned ale).

Coffee plus Stout plus Lactose equals Pollards

With that experience in mind, I thought it would be pretty cool to work with a New Zealand coffee roastery and sent out a few emails to the New Zealand Coffee Roasters Association, who then put me in touch with Jess Godfrey from Caffe L’affare, a roastery based in Wellington. She was really excited about the concept and so began the process of choosing the beans that had the characteristics we were looking for. I was sent some analysis sheets from the roasters at L’affare, Kerry and Dan and went through their cupping notes. Cupping is the process in which the flavour and aroma characteristics of the roasted, ground beans are ascertained and involves weighing a set amount of ground beans, placing with hot water and going through a series of sensory analyses. But more about that later…

The initial samples that Caffe L’affare sent us were Guatemalan Asobagri, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, Ethiopian Sidamo, Colombian Pitalito Huila, Brazilian Monte Alegre and Honduran. Sample bags were cracked open in our office and we nosed through them all. The way of using the beans in the brew meant we were looking for aromatics more than anything else. The roaster’s tasting notes described fragrance, aroma, sweetness, acidity and flavour amongst others, so we looked at our notes and compared them to theirs. There were a couple of beans in particular that really stood out for us and they were both from Ethiopia – the Sidamo and Yirgacheffe and they both exhibited a dominant citrus character, with a subtle floral background. The only way to really know for sure that the character would work in a beer though was to brew one.

As luck would have it, Epic was due to take part in the Beervana Media Brew Challenge in which brewers were paired off with media pundits from around New Zealand. We were paired with Victoria Wells, Editor of Dish magazine, whilst other brewers were paired with the following; Writer Haydn Green and Paul Croucher of Croucher’s (Rotorua); radio broadcast journalist Sean Plunket and Carl Vasta of Tuatara; Simon Morton of Radio NZ’s This Way Up and Stu McKinlay of Yeastie Boys (Wellington); Lucas de Jong of TVNZ Breakfast and Pete Gillespie of The Garage Project (a Wellington brewery launching this week); Geoff Griggs, beer writer, and Soren Eriksen of 8 Wired (Blenheim); Matt Markham of The Press and Ralph Bungard of Three Boys (Christchurch) and Michael Donaldson of Sunday Star Times with Richard Emerson of Emerson’s (Dunedin).

Victoria came along for the day to brew with us on our little ePicobrewery set up and we decided to mix things up a bit and use some Turkish Figs in the boil. Initially just a fun idea, we realised that these were gonna add some interesting character to the brew. To get as much character as possible out of the figs, I caramelised them up with some of the Stout wort, which resulted in a sticky, delicious mess, and internalised vocalisations of that “Now, bring us some figgy pudding” song. Probably lucky for Victoria and Luke that I internalised them, to be honest.

The stout itself was a blend of malts. The Malt of Champions, Maris Otter made up the bulk of the grist and was accompanied by it’s good friend, Mr. Oat Malt and a few of their ragtag bunch o’ friends, namely Mike Melanoidin, Andrew Abbey, Chris CaraAroma, Carol CaraAmber…

At this point in time, my great idea of personifying malt types as if they were members of a motley Munch Bunch instantly faded into oblivion. It just didn’t seem to work at all. Damn it. The other malts we used were Black, Pale Chocolate, Chocolate and Roast Barley.

Corky Coconut... a fitting Munch Bunch character for this beer, I think...

This was quite a complex grist, but in the back of my mind, I always ponder the legs of a stout. If it’s gonna be a bit on the strong side and you can get the grist just right, then you’re going to have something that will reward you over time as it matures away in the bottle. The chunky, intense CaraAmber and CaraAroma were there to provide some body and some ageing potential… Initially, these malts can come across slightly intense with a roasted bitterness, especially when combined with the other dark malts in the beer, but as the beer ages away (somewhere cool and dark, not on your windowsill in the kitchen!), they push out complexity, they soften and they open up a world of new flavours. I love the darker malts for these exact reasons. They are like inverted assassins… hiding in the wilderness, being patient, then all of a sudden leaping out and unkilling a bunch of great flavours.

The water for the mash has also been treated with Calcium sulphate (gypsum) and Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). The Auckland water is quite soft and it was important to get this right. Calcium is important for some of the enzymes that work away during the mash rest, helping to reduce the pH and providing some heat stability to the amylases responsible for breaking up the starch molecules. It’s also important for a bunch of other things… pH stabilisation, protein coagulation and bitterness extraction in the boil and even yeast flocculation. The sulphate ions are important for a bit of crispness and dryness in a beer. Because of the smooth character that the oat malt provides, coupled with the slightly high finishing gravity of this beer, these were important to create a balance that shifted the beer into the realm of drinkability (well, sippability really… this is 8% alcohol!!).

The bicarbonate ions actually do the opposite of the calcium ions and increase the pH. This helps reduce the acidic, harsh compounds that dark malts have, meaning the resulting character from these malts will be more palatable. The sodium ions actually give an impression of sweetness, so again would help with the balance of drinkability. Brewing is the art of compromise and begins with your water. Always something to keep in mind when developing a recipe.

Every brew needs a montage. This is no exception... Media Brew Challenge Brewday!!!

Back to the brew… Victoria, Luke and I brewed up a storm and I ended up adding whole beans to the finished wort. We chose the Caffe L’Affare Ethiopian Sidamo bean as our first trial bean, impressed as we were by their vibrant aroma. The fermentation went to plan, I toasted up some coconut in the oven and added some of this to the fermenter prior to it going into the fridge for a period of cold conditioning. The beer was then bottle conditioned and off it went to the Beervana Media Brew Challenge. Collision (as we had named it then) cleaned up the competition with an awesome 41/45 score. We knew we were on to a winner!

Our magical fermentation cellar... Well, actually our Epic HQ office and an oil heater...

But it could be better… Whilst in Wellington, we caught up with the Caffe L’affare crew and spent a few hours with them at the roastery. We cupped a bunch of different beans, discussed their characters and had a look around the roastery with roasters Kerry and Dan. It was amazing to talk shop with them, discuss different coffee bean varietals, processing techniques and the amazing myriad of aromas and flavours that the humble bean could provide. The cupping did prove one thing to us… our choice of the Ethiopian Sidamo bean was a fine one. Even during the cupping process, this bean exhibited the characters we were after… citrus, zesty and subtle floral touch. Kerry and Dan explained to us that they could get this bean in two different forms, either Dry Process or Wet Process…

Getting ready for some Cupping action at Caffe L'Affare's roastery in Wellington

There are many arguments of the merits of the processing method on the character of the beans, but these tend to depend which country the beans are from. Generally, it could be said that wet processing is the more modern method where the fruit is removed from the bean prior to drying. The smaller parts of the fruit mucilage can be removed either by a short fermentation process or by mechanically scrubbing the clinging flesh from the beans prior to drying, yielding a bean with higher acidity and a cleaner, brighter, more fruity character. Dry processing is the more traditional approach where the whole bean, fruit covering and all is dried in the sun to the appropriate moisture content, prior to machine de-hulling, which removes the dried flesh. This results in a bean that can be more heavy in body, with more smoothness and complexity.

There could be only one thing to do… trial the Wet Process Ethiopian Sidamo against the Dry Process Sidamo and see which gave us a better aroma. This next set of trial brews, saw the beans been added at the end of fermentation (along with the coconut) as this was the method that would likely be used if we were to upscale the recipe. The beers were eventually bottled after an extended cold maturation, we waited for refermentation to occur and tried the two. Both beans were great, but the wet process edged it. It had more intensity, a little more chocolate, cleaner fruit characters and made our decision easy. We had ourselves a bean for the job!

Meanwhile, all other details that involve getting a beer from idea to package were going on. We were working with our suppliers to get a new 750 mL Amber bottle to put this baby in. We were working with our design company on an awesome new label design and concept for a range of beers that would be a little quirky. Steam Brewery (where we brew our beers) were working hard getting their packaging line sorted so that they could take these bottles, bottle cases were designed and ordered… the machinations and the associated bouts of temporary insanity that these entail were clanking and grinding away, culminating in our big brewday!

The day before, I spent a few hours patiently caramelising figs and the barbeque burner in our warehouse. 30 kilograms, done in batches until the plump, sweet figs (Lerida variety from Turkey) began to push out the tiniest wisps of rich, dark caramel… I’d sit there, mesmerised by the bubbling fruit until a bubble would burst from their surface, a plume of steam and toffee smoke letting me know that it was time for the next batch to go in.

A behemoth lump of diced, caramelised figs... hardly looks like a couple of hours work!

Everything went as planned, Luke, myself and Steam brewmaster Shane Morley went to work and teased some deep, dark rich wort from the assembled grains and soft Auckland water. Lashings of Cascade hops were dumped into the brew – the perfect companion to the citrus/floral Sidamo bean that was to be later used. The biggest challenge though was the figs… we lowered them into the boil, loosely wrapped in muslin and tied to some stainless steel wire. The boiling wort weaved its magic, sucking out the fruit and caramel goodness, a bit of homeopathic fig memory now in every bottle (and no, I don’t believe in homeopathy and you should all read Ben Goldacre‘s Bad Science.

We let the Wyeast American Ale Yeast II munch up all the goodness for 6 days before the beer went on to chill. The stout was tasting great… deep brown in hue with a silky. medium body and deep, roast flavours. Hints of char and dark, alcohol-steeped fruits… a touch of flavour that reminded me of those small dried-up raisins… the runts of the litter that sit there all shrivelled and lost at the bottom of your bag of mixed fruit and nuts… the last currant that no one wants because it looks over-dried but is actually rich and sweet and deep in flavour. Yeah, I got some of that character as well…

If I had some buttons, a carrot and a scarf, I could have made a Coffee-Bean Man!

The assorted speciality grains had done their trick, the complexity, the wisps of leather and roasted astringency, the intensity was perfect, exactly as it had come across in our trials. The mild Cascade bitterness integrated well with the smoothness that the oats had supplied. Happy? Yes!

Thirty kilograms of freshly roasted coffee beans from Caffe L’affare and eleven kilos of toasted coconut were the next editions. Stainless steel wire and d-clamps were sanitised, muslin bags steeped in peroxyacetic acid to sanitise, then rinsed with hot water… bags hygienically loaded with lots of beans and coconut and we were ready to place them in the tank. Shane from Steam had organised for a couple of eyes to be welded onto the inside of the fermentor for us, so everything was securely fastened and it was “Bombs Away” as the fragrant packages were sent to their demise in the freshly fermented brew. It was important for us to have a system where we could remove the coffee and coconut either together or independently once the flavour in the conditioning tank was where we want it, so this will hopefully do the trick.

Now is the tough part. We wait for the water and alcohol solubilisation of all of the wonderful flavours and aromatics from the coffee and coconut. The coffee will come to the fore, ideal for when the beer is fresh. The coconut will linger in the background… It’s there to bind flavours together, to act like those wonderful American Oak lactones that shout Vanilla and Coconut swear words at you as they travel down your gullet. The figs are quiet… dark and silent and lurking until the beer begins to show some age. It’s here where the synergistic relationship with the roasted malts brings forward some vinous notes.

I hate waiting…

Kelly

Our pretty label :)

Support is Choice!

For those non-New Zealand readers, “choice” is a term that Kiwis tend (or tended) to use to refer to something being cool, nice or just plain awesome. For example, “Check out my Mazda RX-7, bought it today!” to which the answer would be “That’s choice, bro”. I would use different words, but hey, RX-7s were never for me…

As most of you are aware, Luke Nicholas of Epic Brewing Co. and myself (also of Epic Brewing Co. as of this year) embarked on a 17 day road trip back in January and February that saw us visiting and filming 44 breweries and resulted in a collaboration beer called Mash Up, the world’s largest collaborative brew. We are still trying to get this out there as a bunch of webisodes, with each one highlighting breweries or areas that we visited.

My lovely tea-stained Mash Up coaster. I guess it should be beer-stained!

The idea behind this was to get some footage of what it is that these breweries are doing, having a chat to the brewers and owners and generally allowing those in the comforts of their own armchairs to have a glimpse inside some of Aotearoa’s great breweries. The challenge with such a mission is that it cost money. Campervans and film crews and food and brews along the way. Sometimes we had amazing custom from people along the way, other times it cost us a bit. Then there is the editing. This also costs keg-loads of money and we assumed that the sales from the beer throughout the year would cover the costs of brewing/production/packaging as well as the trip and the editing. It didn’t.

So a shout out was made on Facebook and Twitter for people to buy a Mash Up instead of a green-bottled beer to show their support, not only for our project, but for a certain rugby team that was playing in a certain final a few weeks back. I’m sure now that the event that couldn’t be named due to hardcore copyright madness is now able to be named, but just to be on the safe side, I won’t name it. I can give you a hint though… it’s initials are the same as the following… “Right Wing Capitalists”. No link between the two of course.

Then Luke had an idea… We need about $10 000 more to complete the editing, a batch yields us around 10 000 bottles and the $1 profit we make per bottle would pay for it! So we’re gonna brew another batch tomorrow, which should see Mash Up around for the next couple of months. I’m not gonna beat around the bush. We hope people buy it and we get to finish the NZ Craft Beer TV project. That’d be cool.

We’ve also taken the liberty to alter this recipe a bit… We’re using more NZ malt than the previous batches and we’re gonna increase the dry-hop to balance out this change in grist. Better than the first two batches? We hope so!

And the back of the coaster... Mmmmm, Jimmy's Pies....

So, if you drink a Mash Up, take a pic and post it on the NZ Craft Beer TV page or elsewhere in Facebook to show your support for the project. We’ve had some awesome support from a few brewers around the country who have given the recipe a whirl: Martin Bennett from The Twisted Hop, Joseph Wood from Liberty Brewing, Fraser Kennedy from Ad Lib Brewing and we’ve heard rumour that Dave Kurth from West Coast Brewing and Stephen Plowman from Hallertau Brewery are also gonna give it a go. The recipe is also on the NZ Real Beer Forum if any of you keen homebrewers out there want to have a go. We’re thinking that we’d like to try your brews, we’ll judge the best one and give you a sweet little prize.

Shot fellas (Do you see what I did there? I finished with another Kiwiism…) “Shot” means “thanks” and “fellas” refers to you lot!

Kia ora

New Zealand Brewing Dream Team – The Thirst XV – The Outside Backs

Well, the Thirst XV is near an end, the All Blacks are World Champions for only the second ever time, making for a most happy of nations and without further hesitation, it’s time to name my selections for those speedy, jinky, try-scoring machines that hang out at the back of the field and on the sidelines, chatting up the crowd and sipping at pints hidden behind those weird little barrier things that players always have to jump over.

Number 11 – Left Wing

As someone who played in the outside backs for 21 years, there’s a huge amount of players that I tried to emulate and as a youngster, it was the Terry ‘Greyhound” Wrights and John Kirwans that took pride of place i my minds eye for their remarkable turns of pace and their ability to make their way over the try line when the odds were against them. Wright showed that you didn’t need to be of Lomu-esque stature to score tries and the Kiwi brewer who would be certain to emulate his try-scoring prowess is none other than Steam Brewing Company‘s Shane Morley. One of the few Institute of Brewing and Distilling Brewmasters in NZ’s craft brewing arena, Morley has pace to burn, a goose-step that would outgander David Campese and an unerring ability to dot the ball down over the line. It’s Morley’s slinkiness that makes him the ultimate left wing. Coming in from the blind-side, it would seem entirely unlikely that he would be able to make it through a defensive line up of a scrum-half, fly-half and openside flanker, but it is exactly this point where Morley’s nickname, “Weasel” becomes apparent. Duck, slipping, turning his body. It’s another try to the Thirst XV. Morley. Outstanding.

The Slinky Dinkster himself. Thought of by rugby journos and international beer judges alike as one of the best...

Number 14 – Right Wing

You can never have too much pace out wide and having a good noggin on a player is always a bonus. With a Brewmaster on one wing, it seems a good idea to put a former Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Science university lecturer on the other. Balance is important, both on a rugby field and in a good brew. Dr. Paul Croucher of Croucher Brewing fits the bill perfectly. A savvy brewer, a brain for bubbles (similar shape to a rugby ball) and a turn of pace akin to winger Morley, Croucher would be the ideal man to have out wide. Whilst The Weasel has the ability to find gaps that don’t even exist, The Doc is more about turning his low centre of gravity into a huge advantage. Not the largest of wingers, he has one of the highest power to weight ratios on the pitch, hours of lifting kegs has paid off and if you ever see him, ask to see his guns. He’ll show them to you. In fact, it’s impossible not to notice them. It’s The Doc’s guns that transform him into the tackling powerhouse that he is. He once tackled a player so hard, that both of his legs were instantly amputated. Luckily The Doc put those hours of lecturing medical students to good use, the man’s legs were saved.

Watch out for the Guns...

Number 15 – Fullback

A position very close to the Thirst XV selector’s heart, the Fullback is a key position in both powerful counter attack (John Gallagher springs to mind) and huge, field-covering defense. The ability to field the high ball, to shrug of defenders with intense determination, to tackle low and hard and to run through contenders at will puts only one NZ brewer in the mix for this sought after position. Now, I know you all think that Kelly Ryan would be the ideal candidate, but it is Stu “Scottish” McKinlay that gets the nod. With a playing style akin to Scottish rugby legend, Gavin Hastings, a penchant for peat and a love of kilts, it’s difficult to see where his nickname comes from. I’m sure one day, someone will figure it out though.

McKinlay’s main attacking attribute is his powerful, tree-trunk legs. He also has his very own trademark, in that he is the only player to not wear shorts on the field. Known for his beer and trouser colour matching prowess, Scottish McKinlay always plays in brightly coloured trousers, often dyed yellow or orange with the flowers of Heather (in true Scottish tradition). Some rugby journos worry that the bright colours act like flames to moths, attracting opposing players and increasing the likelihood of Scottish being tackled, but the intense musculature of his legs make it ridiculously difficult for this to happen. The Scottish Bomb is known worldwide for it’s ability to put fear into the hearts of the opposition. This midfield kick gains such altitude and comes down with such speed, that opposing players grimace when trying to catch it.

How many dudes that you know can hold a rugby ball with the power of their beard? I told you he was good...(Photo courtesy of the awesome http://www.thebeerproject.com by Jed Soane)

Coming soon… The Thirst XV reserves…

New Zealand Brewing Dream Team – The Thirst XV – The Centres

Sometimes thinkers, sometimes raw power, the inside and outside centre work as one of the great partnerships on the rugby field. Always communicating, deft at moving the ball with the skill of David Bowie from the Labyrinth (you must remember all the cool things he used to do with those little glass spheres) and having the ability to destroy the opposition with superb textbook tackling, it is this combination that can be key to the backline in both attack and defence.

Think of those great combinations throughout the years – Walter Little and Frank Bunce, Tim Horan and Jason Little, Phillipe Sela and Thierry Lacroix, Gordon D’Arcy and Brian O’Driscoll, there has been some brilliant rugby played by these lads, but they’d have nothing on the ultimate brewer combination…

Number 12 – Inside Centre/Second Five Eighth

Someone with smarts, a sidestep larger than the ones you’d need to climb the Pyramids and the tendency to sneak through the opponents defensive wall, there can be only one Kiwi brewer that would make the grade. Stephen “The Plough” Plowman of Hallertau Brewbar and Restaurant is so named for two reasons: 1) The obvious one – his ability to plough through the opposition’s defence. 2) His unerring skill of devouring an entire Ploughman’s lunch by himself. When the lunch was intended for the whole team.

Although slight in stature, The Plough has a physiological condition that means his bones and muscles are twice as dense as the average human. He may look 70 kg, but due to his anomaly, he actually weighs in at 140 kg, making him one of the most powerful men on the team (second only to the mighty Dave Kurth of West Coast Brewery). Due to this, his need for cheese and ham and other protein-rich foods is incredible. In fact, the NZ Brewing Dream Team has two catering companies assigned to it. One for The Plough and one for the rest of the squad. His other nickname… Stuntman, refers to his immunity to fear, he smashes his opponents left, right and centre and his ability to offload the ball to players around him borders on the divine.

Where's my lunch?!

Number 13 – Outside Centre

With such a communicative and powerful inside centre, the outside centre has to be about size and skill. We need someone built like a lighthouse, able to take a thrashing from the opposition yet be sturdy and safe as houses under the high ball. They would need the smarts to spot a gap and set up their team mates for the perfect pass as well as having arms like tree-trunks and the ability to phagocytose members of the other team. Who better than the mighty Dick “The Gentleman” Tout of Lighthouse Brewery in Nelson to take on the mantle of the mighty centre!

This man is all about the team. He keeps the squad together with his brilliant anecdotes and yarns, his jokes ensuring the NZ Brewing Dream Team works its abdominal muscles to their full potential. He is sound, he is solid and he is 100% dependable. One of the more experienced members of the backline, Tout is the Tana Umaga to pair perfectly with The Plough’s Smokin’ Joe Stanley toughness. I’d pay top dollar to watch the pair smash any other centre pairing in world rugby.

Dick "The Gentleman" Tout showing off his awesome skills by balancing a rugby ball on his foot whilst tackling two innocent bystanders

Coming soon… the Outside Backs!

New Zealand Brewing Dream Team – The Thirst XV – The Halves

The pretty fellas. The ones that always have a tube of moisturiser in their after-match bag and often tend to have some sort of aftershave spray that they insist they put on in the changing rooms so that the forwards can get together and punch them.

While the forwards are the guys that do the hard yards up front, it is the responsibility of the backs to pass, catch and kick the ball in the hope of scoring loads of fabulous points so that their team comes out victorious. While there are 8 forwards, there are only 7 backs, most probably because the forwards always want to win if they have to ever fight the backs…

I digress…

Number 9 – Half Back

The most raucous member of the team is usually the link player between forwards and backs. The ability to ferret in, throw forwards out of the way, snaffle the ball, question every decision the ref makes, show disgust at the dodgy calls and scream adulation when the team does well are all attributes well sorted to the feisty scrum half. I’ll be honest, this decision was a tough one for the Thirst XV selectors, and the other candidate will be named in the reserves (as a super-sub of course) but the player likely to be wearing the mighty Number 9 jersey on the pitch is none other than Luke Nicholas, Mr. Epic Beer himself. Never afraid to stick his head out of the gopher-hole and with the knack to make an underhopped lager blush with shame, Nicholas would bring a great set of skills to the team. Antagonising opposition players and fragmenting the refs calls would be his strong points and I imagine post-game, Nicholas would lather himself with pure lupulin glands instead of the standard “soap-on-a-rope” option. Great players that spring to mind? A cross between Graeme Bachop and George Gregan…

 

"Product placement? I don't know what you're talking about..."

Number 10 – Fly Half/1st Five Eighth

The playmaker and clinical to a tee, this position is one of the most important on the field. The ability to make or break a game with a deft chip kick, ninja-like offload of the ball or a low, hard tackle mean there is no room for error. None other than Tracy Banner, Sprig and Fern Brewer extraordinaire could fit into this role. Originally from football territory in the north of England, a cool demeanour and a scientific eye would make Banner an unstoppable tactician on the field. With her brewing prowess encompassing a range of 18 or so beers and ciders as well as a handful of pubs, the ability to analyse play on the field would be a walk in the park. Those early days surrounded by Everton and Liverpool supporters would also pay off with Banner’s boot being one of the more formidable in the game. Kicking goals from anywhere on the field would be a breeze for her and her skills at reading play on the field would mean that hardly a player would get past her text-book tackles. Carter and Wilkinson… beware!

Super skills - The ability to pour 8 pints of beer whilst showing how to execute the perfect spin pass is a walk in the park for Banner

 

Coming soon – The formidable Centres!

New Zealand Brewing Dream Team – The Thirst XV – The Loose Forwards

Loosies, the speedy ball-hungry virtuosos of the forward packs. The players that love to tackle and to win the ball whenever and however they can. Hunger in their eyes. Determination. Success is in their hands.

The tight five have been revealed already with Tuatara’s Carl Vasta, Emerson’s Chris O’Leary and Liberty’s Joseph Wood in the front and a locking combination of Cryermalt’s Dave Cryer and Three Boys’ Ralph Bungard. Bring on the loose forwards!

Number 6 – Blindside Flanker

With a mane of hair that is only rivalled by Captain Cryer, the blindside position would have to be filled by none other than New Zealand Hops‘ very own Doug Donelan. An import from across the other side of the ditch, the former Malt Shovel Brewery‘s Head Brewer would be the perfect blindside flanker. His Australian pedigree means the hunger for success and victory would result in him putting his body on the line. Snaffling up the loose ball, putting in the big hits and giving the odd facial to any opposition players at the bottom of a ruck. Not just any facial, mind you… Donelan’s trademark would likely be a pocketful of NZ Super Alpha hops, ready to be rubbed in the noses of anyone on the end of his merciless tackles.

His uncanny ability to offload the ball anywhere on the field being demonstrated at The Malthouse

Number 7 – Openside Flanker

Openside flankers have to be as hard as nails. They would probably need an upbringing on the Waikato, with it’s impressive rugby pedigree, would need to have worked on some great breweries around the world, Sharp’s in Cornwall springs to mind (where another hard as nails rugby player and UK Brewer of the Year, Stuart Howe, would have been his boss) and  would be able to wear real proper Craft Beer sweatshirts like this…

Craft! Bear! Get it?!?

Yep, we’re talking West Coast Brewery‘s very own Dave Kurth. A utility forward with the ability to smash people in the front row as well as sprint around the field like a brewing version of Richie McCaw, eating opposition players for breakfast and using their shredded rugby jersey’s as toilet paper, Kurth would bring the thing that all team’s need. Hardness with a little sprinkling of mongrel. I imagine his ability to cut down even the biggest people in their tracks would give him legendary status. The type of fella that doesn’t speak much, but when he does, you better listen, otherwise you may find yourself on the bottom of the mash tun at 6am in the morning, wondering why there is 75 degree celsius foundation water and milled barley malt raining upon you from above.

For training, The Hardman tackles those vessels behind him tho the ground. Then picks them up again. By himself.

Number 8 – The Number Eight

Brutish size, hands like dinner plates and forearms like Popeye as well as a blistering turn of pace are attributes needed for this position at the back of the scrum. The ability to tackle players so hard that an archaeological excavation crew are needed to pull the poor sod from the Earth’s outer core are also a benefit. Who in New Zealand brewing could we liken to the legendary Wayne “Buck” Shelford? It would have to be Invercargill Brewery‘s Steve Nally. This tough Southern Man is used to getting results and success is his middle name. With beer’s like Pitch Black, it’s evident that there is one thought going through Nally’s mind as he jogs on to the field. He tackles to knock the opponent’s lights out. Not only would his ability around the pitch be awe-inspiring, it’s likely that he would be able to lift the entire front row in the line out. Now, that would guarantee a win of the ball!

Nally wrestling the ball from his strength training coach, Murray Cleghorn (former holder of The World's Strongest Hand title)

Up next? The pretty boys of the Dream Team… you guessed it… the Backs!

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