Inundation and Appreciation

Life post-brewing has been kind. I’ll be honest, I don’t have any source of income at the moment (which has a few downsides) but there is the hope that one day the house that I’m working on will be up to standard to sell and we get a bit of money for all the hard graft! On the upside, I’m learning a lot about renovating houses, I’m now close to being a master sander/scraper of windowsills and doors and my ability to remove wallpaper and rip up lino is improving every day.

Then there are the other upsides! I’ve managed to procure my brother’s homebrew setup and have promptly entered the world of the home brewer. Sure, I’ve played around on small kits before, mostly when I was with Epic and we cranked up ePicoBrewery to trial new beers, with both Epicurean Coffee and Fig Imperial Oatmeal Stout (codename: ePicobrewery Collision) and Zythos (codename: ePicobrewery Zythogeddon) beginning their lives on this 50 litre scale. 

Being away from brewing for a few months has been both refreshing and a bit disappointing. The last 20 months had been pretty frantic with the new brewery startup at Good George, the birth of our son and the passing of Dad as well as a move into uncharted territory of life PB (post-brewing) and moving ourselves to New Plymouth without any employment.

Laying down a mash in the garage and smelling that beautiful sweet, biscuity malt has been therapeutic. It’s times like this that you completely understand why your lifepath has worked the way it has and had me brewing professionally for close to a third of my existence. It’s been fun to get a little experimental again, something that I’ve always loved to do and I’ve been stoked with the Chamomile and Sage Saison (Sageson) in particular.

There are other things about being freelance that have also been wonderful. Dave Kurth has been extremely generous and sent me a few samples of his delicious canned Hot Water Brewing beers, with the Kauri Falls Pale Ale (my brother, Shannon’s 2013 Beer of the Year) and Walker’s Porter both showing the excellent drinkability that is Dave’s trademark. 

Our family was also very lucky to be supplied by Good George, Epic and mike’s with beer for Dad’s wake, again, it’s so amazing to have support like this from the brewing industry and there were certainly some palates opened up to tasty beer and cider, that’s for sure!

I’ve also just received a box from Mel and Phil of Beertique, a relatively new company based in Auckland who are importing international beers and ciders from around the world for our enjoyment here in NZ. Even though I’ve never met them, they’ve sent me a selection including Thornbridge Jaipur and Kill Your Darlings, Camden Town Gentleman’s Wit, Wild Beer Co (best beer website i’ve seen in a long time, especially the beer descriptions) Madness IPA and the Wild Beer Co/Burning Sky/Good George Shnoodlepip that I collaborated on in the UK last year. Thanks so much Mel and Phil!

Speaking of Shnoodlepip, this was the first actual time I have tasted the beer and I’m super pleased with how it has turned out. The last time I tasted it, it was still wort being pumped into an open fermenter and being dosed with Brettanomyces and Saison yeast strains. We had chucked a (possibly) ridiculous amount of crushed pink peppercorns into the end of the boil. Not a true peppercorn, these fuchsia-pink fruit have a lovely pepper-like note and always impress me with their sweetness and juniper-berry like character. If I recall, Andrew from Wild Beer Co cranked up the barbecue and we had the most amazing pink peppercorn-coated steak sandwiches for lunch on the brewday. A great flavourmemory.

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Myself, Mark Tranter and Brett Ellis hanging out in the open fermenter…

Post ferment, we were constantly in touch to chart the beer’s progress. Not only was this brew to be barrel aged, it was also to include passion fruit and hibiscus flowers. We wanted a little tartness and dryness form the yeast strains, depth of spice from the pink peppercorns (though not too much) that would blend in well with the vanilla and spicey notes from the oak barrels and then a little more tart fruitiness from the Hibiscus flowers. These were to be infused and added for both flavour and the fantastic hue that they give. Finally the passionfruit was there for that heady, rich impact. It’s unique combination of sweet and sharp and an uplifting tropical aspect would hopefully bring this unusual beer to completion.

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Shnoodlepip wort

Do you know what? It worked! A touch of pink in the colour, almost like a pale ale has been blended with a Rosé wine, a fantastic effervescence in the mouth with bubbles that almost seem larger than they are, but in a good way. That underlying tastness from front to back, balanced with body and sweetness from the fruit and vanilla-like oak. The passion-fruit finish, brining it into the realms of NZ Sauvignon Blanc but with in a tasteful one-dimensional way. It is just passionfruit, no gooseberry or lychee or anything else getting in the way.

It was the memory of my Nana and Grandpa’s passionfruit vine on a hot summer day in Oakura as a child. Cracking open the super-ripe crinkly-skinned passionfruit that littered the soil under the vine, usually with your teeth (sometimes to the point where the sides of your mouth hurt from eating so many of those addictive, acidic delights). I shared some with my Mum and Catherine, their eyes opening wide, both of them impressed with this beer from the other side of the world.

I love collaboration and I love doing something slightly different. And I am so appreciative of being inundated with these fantastic brews.

Inspiration begets Inspiration.

I’m off to write a beer recipe…

(By the way, another little side-project I’m involved with involves brewing, a nano-brewery and New Plymouth… Brew Mountain is getting closer!)

 

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Farewell brewing. You’ve been amazing!

I’m leaving the world of brewing.

Hopefully not for too long though…

It’s been a tough decision, but we’ve decided to move back to Taranaki to be closer to my family and my Dad who has got cancer. Jobs come and go but we all only have one family and it’s going to be great to be living around the corner from Mum, Dad and my brother and his family so we can spend loads of quality time together.

Good George Brewing will continue on, with our great brewers Nate Ross and JB Martineau taking the reins and doing the Good things that they’re currently doing and I’m sure I’ll be keeping in close touch with them, especially as I want to see how our barrel aged and sour beers go over the coming months and years and taste my babies as they progress!

Thanks for everyone in the brewing world’s support. It’s been an incredible 13 years since I began as an innocent trainee brewer. I’ve made friends for life and will hopefully keep meeting all of the brilliant people that surround this industry.

And if anyone wants to set up a brewery in New Plymouth and throw heaps of money at me… You know where to find me 🙂

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Rock on!!!!

 

 

 

A Close Encounter With The WilliamsWarn Personal Brewery

Technology is a great thing. It has driven brewing practice through the modern era and in turn technology has been honed and perfected because of brewing. Refrigeration is the first thing to come to mind. Essential in brewing due to the fact that when fermenting, the yeast metabolism produces heat and also for the cool conditioning or lagering stage, we take for granted the fact that we have access to refrigeration systems.

Did you know, however, that it was breweries that were the first commercial users of refrigeration in the 1860s and 1870s? No more harvesting ice from icebergs and dragging it from Arctic climes to aid in lagering. It was brewing supporting new technology and I’m sure their support helped lead to even more innovation.

The malting process is another fine example. The development of coke/anthracite-fired kilns for the drying of malt during the Industrial Revolution was instrumental for the applied control of heat during this important stage. Coal had the potential to release arsenic when burnt… not too good to have in your pint pot and wood-fired kilns generally led to brown, smokey malt. Another example of technology driving brewing – in this case allowing production of malts of varying colours and roasts, something that led to the development of lagers and ales that had a golden hue.

What do you mean, "No pale ale malt"?

The modern era has brought about the industrialisation of brewing. Many a beer advocate thinks this has been a negative thing with breweries being run by bean counters, ingredients scrimped on and beers generally tasting like soda water with a dash of alcohol that has had the chance to have a brief kiss with some grains and hops, their perfume still fresh on the insipid beverages lips. Often quality is forgotten about. The fact that industrialisation has driven consistency and beer quality, minimising infection and oxidation, perfecting brewing techniques, carbonation, fermentation control, yeast management… The list is long.

Sure, we would have all loved the Brettanomyces character of those slightly sour brown malt-rich Porters of London’s yestercentury as did the folk of the day, it’s what they knew, but the modern beer movement needs to be thankful for the role technology has played in brewing.

Yesterday, the Epic Duo (Luke and myself) went along to meet Ian Williams, the brewmaster behind the WilliamsWarn Personal Brewery. Ian has a fascinating history in brewing, starting out with DB Breweries at Tui in Mangatainoka as a Trainee Brewer (just like I did… we even lived in the same brewery house!), becoming New Zealand’s first ever Brew Master (completing the Institute of Guild and Brewing Diploma – now, the Institute of Brewing and Distilling), brewing in China, Japan and Denmark along the way and then spending seven years of his life working on the WilliamsWarn.

The Beer Thinkers

We went to his newly opened showroom in Penrose, Auckland to check out this revolutionary piece of technology. Ian talked us through his museum which included the machine’s prototypes and we tried the Blonde Ale which had been a can of hopped extract, some dried malt extract, water and dried yeast only a week earlier. Ian oozed the type of excitement and passion that was to be expected when 7 years of stress, torment and decision-making had culminated in such a sleek bit of kit and the beer was all the proof that I needed.

Ian chatting about the WilliamsWarn as Luke live streams it on UStream* video

It was clear, it was clean tasting and it was better than any extract kit beer brewed by a novice brewer that I had ever tried. If I had my beer judging hat on, I would say that there was a slight honey character (not indicative of oxidation), a hint of powdery astringency and maybe the tiniest side palate dusting of acidity (acetic just on the verge of my taste threshold), but that is nit-picking. This kit had brewed a decent, remarkable drinkable ale in one week. It had taken less than a couple of hours to go from a bunch of ingredients to wort dosed with yeast and it had not made any mess at all.

Ian was unashamed in his description of the WilliamsWarn Personal Brewery. He touted it as the world’s first brewing appliance and was openly hurt at the scathing comments made by home brewers (mostly) around the world. Comments by many a home brewer on many a forum, where they have boohooed the invention, ranging from people stating it’s just a mishmash of different technologies to the fact that it takes the fun out of building the brewkit after spending days and weeks scouring stores for the right pieces of equipment at the cheapest prices.

69 litres of beer...

Technology has driven brewing, brewing has driven technology. I’m sure these same home brewers don’t bemoan their state of the art smack-packs using advanced laminated foil, the most modern of yeast cultivation techniques, hours of time spent in laboratories isolating colonies and cultures and calculating the optimum nutrient rates to allow the yeast to give the minimum of lag time when placed into the home-brewers wort. They don’t harumph the fact that the hydrometers that they use have been expertly blown and weighted using balance scales capable of measuring to numerous significant figures to ensure they get the most accurate reading of their wort or fermenting beer’s gravity. They don’t boohoo the latest iPhone app that enables you to figure out wort colour or the amount of grain needed and the various hop additions to brew the ultimate IPA in their nice shiny stainless steel 304 brewing saucepan, heated using natural gas sourced using the best technology has to offer… seismic surveying, computerised valve systems, the lot.

I don’t think this system has been developed with the advanced home brewer in mind. It has been developed for all of those home brewers and interested beer suppers out there that have had a go at extract, now have a small plastic fermenter sitting up in the rafters of their garage and still remember the headache they got from the out-of-control fermentation that got up to thirty degrees celsius and half stewed the brew. Saying that… as a brewer and as someone who loves to experiment, I see HUGE potential in this piece of kit. The more WilliamsWarn kits that are sold will mean a more affordable (well, to some) price due to the economies of scale. It will also mean that there is the chance that they will advance this idea even further. Who knows… there may be an option to incorporate something like the Speidels Braumeister (an automated all-in-one version that allows mashing, lautering and wort boiling) with the WilliamsWarn. At the end of the day, this is a fascinating invention made right here in New Zealand and thought up, developed and realised by a couple of Kiwis who not only absolutely love beer but see how an appliance such as this can help with the education of the beer-drinking public.

When I first posted about this on my Facebook page, one of the first comments was along the lines of being amazed at how many beer styles there were. Straight away someone learns something about beer. That’s freakin’ awesome.

On that note, I may have to go… I need to prep my water-wheel to run the millstone to grind the wheat that I have just reaped from a nearby field so as to make flour to add water to to allow it to slowly begin fermenting and acidifying so as to develop it’s own natural wild yeast microflora and then wait 7 or so days for the culture to be at a high enough level for me to add more flour to so I can knead it and then proof it and then place it in my wood-fired oven so I can get some bread. Hang on… they developed machinery for that!

*You can check out the UStream footage here

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