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!

Collaboration – The Post I Almost Forgot to Post

My last blog detailed the background to what we think is the World’s Largest Collaboration Brew. At our latest count, we have 44 breweries involved, all having been visited, brewers contacted and concepts for the brew discussed (resulting in the aforementioned recipe).

It has definitely got me thinking about collaboration. Does it count as a collaboration if you don’t have 50 or so people crammed into a building, each one lined up and throwing in a hop cone in some type of ritualistic manner? I did the usual thing of looking up what collaboration means. It spoke of the act of working together with a person or group of people to create or produce something. This pretty much answered my question… of course it’s a collaboration!

This is a word, though, that some in the beer and blogging world cringe at. Overpriced, luxury beers (in mind’s eye) due to the expense of flying brewers from around the world so as to pay for the cost of such a marketing gimmick. I recall the excellent A Good Beer Blog making reference to this last year, disagreed wholeheartedly and am quite happy to explain why I think collaborations are amazing.

1 – FUN. I used capitals here because they ARE so much fun. You have to remember that the majority of craft (or micro, or larger-than-micro-but-still-completely-awesome, or artisan, or great beer, or well-thought-out-and-perfectly-made-beer) brewers got into doing what they’re doing because they love it and are ridiculously passionate about their jobs. Getting all of these people together, whether in person or as a collection of thoughts, ideas and recipe variations is an absolute blast. For myself, having been out of the NZ brewing community for eight years, this has been amazing. Meeting all of these like-minded, energetic people, having a laugh and putting something together that encapsulates the fun.

2 – Education. What brewers do involves two things. Science and art. I always look at beer development as a bit of a picture. I visualise a pint glass and imagine the flavours that I want in there, the aromas that cascade from the foam of the glass, the colour, the marriage of grain and flower, of malted barley and hops, the balance in the mouth and after the first and second and third swallow, the texture of the beer. All of these things I see and imagine. This is the art. The science then involves the actual process of creating the beer. How to tease the picture from the raw materials. Getting that pint glass just right using that which has come from the soil. The tiny seed that has become the barley grain… the germination, the biochemical process, the malting. The hop bine and it’s shoots bursting from the soil in the spring. The little fungus that changes the wort into beer. The water that has flowed from aquifers or fallen from the skies. You can see how the science and the art meld together so well. The education of collaboration lies in the different experiences that each and every brewer has had. The equipment and the flavours that they have pulled from the ingredients. This is what makes collaboration great.

3 – Creation. Brewers do what they do for a couple of reasons. They want to survive off their hobby (or jobby as I like to refer to it). They want to promote something that they believe is great. They want as many people as possible to taste what they have produced and (hopefully) enjoy it as much as they do. They want to realise their beer-dreams and put these into something tangible. They want to drink beer. Collaboration results in creation of beer. How can that not be good!

4 – Marketing. Like it or lump it, it’s essential for us to get the word out there. If you have not one, but two or even forty four breweries talking about a beer that they’ve been involved with and then push the recipe out there for them all to brew and generate excitement in their local areas with, then it has to be great for beer in general. Most of us have little to zero marketing budgets. We have to be a little savvy and use things like social media and word of mouth to let people know what we’re doing. Collaboration is great for this.

5- Family. That’s what brewers are. Whenever a bunch (or hopsack or zentner or bushel or tanker or flocculation or whatever other great collective noun there is that involves brewing) of brewers gets together there is always a sense of belonging. A sense that we’re all slightly whacky, just like most families are. We laugh together, we disagree, we argue, but we’re all still trying to do the same thing. Collaboration enforces this, brothers and sisters getting together and working on something fun.

Wendy from Valkyrie adds hops into the NZ Craft Beer TV ale

I’ve had the greatest times collaborating on beers. The Thornbridge/Brooklyn Brewery Alliance series with Garrett Oliver from the US, a couple of brews with Agostino and Mauro from Birrificio Italiano in Italy – SuJu, Sparrow Pit (not yet released) and Italia, the hoptastic Epic Halcyon and the Epic Thornbridge Stout with Luke from Epic in NZ, Colorado Red with Doug from Odell Brewing in the US, Coalition Ale and ThornStar with the awesome MarkStar Tranter from Dark Star Brewing in the UK, the sumptuous Fyne Bridge Black IPA with Fyne Ales up in Scotland, each one has been amazing.

Rhys from Peak. Quality Control is essential!

Creating something and putting out there to be scrutinised by others, however, is always a slightly nerve racking experience. I’m talking lying awake at night, wondering if you made the right choices in the grain bill, querying the beer name and the label design, pondering the maturation period… could it have been longer. All that kind of stuff runs through your head. Beer drinkers are often a vociferous lot (usually more so when it comes to the internet as a communications medium as opposed to telling a brewer to their face), you know that flavour and taste and aroma are completely personal, you know that it’s not going to be for everyone, but you still worry how your baby is going to be received.

Ron from Mike's gets stuck into the hops!

Generally it’s great. Beer is exactly that. Often people pull out the whole beer is just beer call. That is just like your personal preferences when it comes to what beers you like. For the guy or gal who finishes work and is thirsty and wants something liquid to pour down their throat, beer probably is just exactly that. It’s definitely something different for brewers.

Our NZ Craft Beer TV collaboration brew day was amazing fun. Thanks to those who made it… Wendy From Valkyrie, Paul from Croucher, Ron from Mike’s Organic Brewery, Rhys from Peak, Shane and Sam from Steam and David and Tom from Cryermalt. Oh yeah, and Luke and myself from Epic!

Brew Finished!

What Kelly? Another Collaboration!

Yes. That is correct.

My first six weeks of work at Epic Brewing have been exactly what the name of the company I am working for would suggest. Day one consisted of flying south, jumping in a camper van and beginning a trip to visit the great breweries and bars that make up the New Zealand craft beer scene. What more would one want in a job!

Luke takes the campervan cross country...

As we went around the breweries of NZ, we chatted to the brewers and asked them what they thought made up the essence of craft beer. Our goal was to encapsulate this and end up with a brew that reflected the passion, terroir and craft that has resulted in some freakin’ awesome beers. We ended up with a bunch of concepts and ideas. From Canterbury artesian water, through to New Zealand Hops, organic ingredients, New Zealand Malt, offers of help with label and graphic design, the beer began to take a rough shape in our heads. Yet another concept was to help us bring this beer together, coming from 8 Wired’s Soren Eriksen… “No compromise”.

The Three Boys Brew Crew meticulously labeling their bottles

Who is this beer for? I’m going to say everyone, even though this is an impossible statement. The thing with doing a beer like this is that every person has individual tastes. Some like malt or dark, sweet, rich beers. Others prefer the fruity, estery drinkability of Belgian-style beers. Others want a hop-punch. Bitter and massively aromatic and flavour intensified. It was going to be a tall ask for us to please everyone, so we decided on a style that is probably going to do two things. One, it’s going to make some of  the beer cognoscenti around NZ moan about being narrow-minded and spout the usual “one-trick-pony” comments that I seem to have picked up on in my short time here (a shame really, beer and brewing is about getting a family together, something talked about by John Duncan from Founders, and as we all now, every one of our family members brings something different to the mix) and two, it’s going to reflect a modern trend in NZ brewing and that trend, like it or lump it, is Pale Ale.

Mmmm... Pale Ale...

Why did we decide to make a Pale Ale? Apart from the aforementioned reason, we really wanted to showcase New Zealand hops and a Pale Ale is a great vector for this. We could have gone a beautifully subtle NZ Pilsener (think Tuatara, Mike’s or Three Boys Pilsener) or light, malty, quaffable Bitter with subtle hop undertones. NZ hops make amazing examples of both, but tough decision made we stuck with it! I think this is something to think about when you try this beer (either that, or think nothing at all, just enjoy it!).

Hops from around the world generally have their own characters. The earthy, spicy, citrus and marmalade notes form British hops. The pungent, resin, pine and citrus characters of American hops. The delicate, noble notes from German hops. Then there are Kiwi hops. You have to remember that we’ve been growing hops here for 150 years, ever since the first British immigrants brought the beloved plant here to continue the brewing of the ales of their forefathers. New Zealand is where the first triploid cultivars were developed. Triploid cultivars contain three instead of two sets of chromosomes and are seedless (some brewers dislike the impurities that seeds can attribute to their beers due to the presence of oils and fats) which is of a great benefit to commercial brewers. The NZ HortResearch Centre and NZ Hops limited have been working for years and developing new varieties of hops with various characters that suit the brewer and beer. With this development has come fascinating flavours and aromas that I think are unique to New Zealand hops. Then of course there is the disease resistance. This means we don’t need to use any pesticides and a number of varieties are certified organic. Chatting to hop farmers, it seems that even the non-certified varieties are closer to organic than not!

Hops growing in Wakefield, Nelson

Let’s take the Nelson Sauvin hop as an example. Into its 11th year of production, this hop has big Sauvignon Blanc characteristics. From gooseberries to lychees, from cat-pee and passionfruit to grapefruit. It’s character is diverse and fascinating and is still only just begun to be shown off to its full potential in beer. From the early days when Lion Breweries were using it (now still used to good effect in Macs Hop Rocker) through to Twisted Hop’s Sauvin Pilsener, 8 Wired’s Hopwired and Yeastie Boys’ Europa, the hop is used to great effect and is very close to my heart (this was used in Thornbridge Kipling in the UK and won us many awards). The US have also become interested in NZ hops and are using them to great effect in their beers, notably Sierra Nevada’s Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale that uses Pacifica, Motueka and Southern Cross (they want them so fresh, that they even fly the hops over straight after harvest!).

With this in mind, we decided on a few hop varieties. First up, we thought of Riwaka, with its citrus, grapefruit and floral notes, this has always reminded me of Nelson Sauvin’s younger brother. Originally developed from Saaz parentage (and previously known as Saaz B), I have noticed a sweaty, turpentine/kerosene note when overused, but when balanced out with other hops or used delicately in a subtly flavoured brew, this is incredible.

We also decided on NZ Cascade. Cascade is originally an American hop released commercially in 1972 and is the aroma hop that has helped the amazing Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Little Creatures Pale Ale become the success it has. Closer to home, Epic Pale Ale has also made a point of showcasing this complex and fascinating variety. With citrus as it’s backbone and a combination of gentle spice and floral rose-water characters, it’s a fantastic hop and I was excited at smelling the NZ-grown variety. I was amazed at the similarities between the US and NZ versions, similar citrus and floral, with the NZ variety maybe showing a slight hint of Nasturtium flower, a tiny bit of mown grass, maybe a little more green-ness. Either way this is an impressive hop and I was looking forward to the contribution it would make to the brew. Another reason we chose this hop was because of the diversity we have in NZ with regards our brewers. With Dave from Wanaka Beerworks being originally from California, Paulie from Dux de Lux from Portland, Oregon and the Renaissance* duo, Andy and Brian also from the West Coast, it seemed a logical choice.

Finally, for use as a bittering hop and for a welcome addition to our dry hop concoction, we decided on the NZ Southern Cross hop. I’d used this back in the UK in a collaboration brew with Dark Star Brewery called ThornStar in which we took their American Pale Ale recipe and twisted it around, using solely NZ instead of US hops and then playing around with the grain bill to change its colour from pale to black (but in doing so, trying to impart as little dark malt flavour as possible). Luke had also had some experience with this in a collaboration brew with Dogfish Head in the UK called Portamarillo, but we were both curious to see how the lemon and spice character would come through and whether the low cohumulone content would soften out the bitterness.

A crazy looking hop growing at Mike's Organic Brewery in Taranaki

Hops sorted, we sat back and thought about what malts we could use that would help us define what NZ craft beer is about. With a style in mind and some impressive beers tasted throughout our travels that had been using some local malt, we thought that using some Canterbury-grown Gladfield ale malt would be a great idea. Talking to brewers that have been using Gladfield malt for a few years, it was evident that the maltsters had gone from small scale with the odd inconsistency that can come about from this, through to a much higher quality, consistent malt. Some of the lagers and ales we tried had fantastic malt characters to them, making the choice to use some NZ malt an easy one. We also wanted something that would reflect on the number of British brewers that are resident in NZ and making some amazing beers. Martin from the Twisted Hop, Martin from Townshend Brewery, Matt from Monkey Wizard and those who spoke of the huge influence the British brewing scene had on their choice to get into brewing – Carl from Tuatara, Keith from Galbraith’s, Chris from Rooster’s, Dave from West Coast Brewing, Richard from Emerson’s*, Ralph from Three Boys. You get the picture. So we also chose some Thomas Fawcett Maris Otter Pale Ale malt, grown in East Anglia and floor malted in North Yorkshire. It just seemed right to give this nod to the country that is responsible for so much diversity in our brewing.

As for the brew day and the beer itself… will fill you in tomorrow!

*Unfortunately the guys were a bit busy for us to get there and film them. Love their beers!

 

From Dunedin to Invercargill – We Head South!

Green Man Brewery in Dunedin takes a sustainable approach to brewing and actively encourages used bottle and cardboard box returns.  Not only that, they are fully organic and produce all of their beers under the German Purity Law (Reinheitsgebot). This is helped by the fact that their brewer, Enrico is a trained German brewmaster, so each of the beers we tasted had a definite German character to them. The Krystal Weiss, their filtered wheat beer and the only example of this style in the country, had a good blend of light caramel malt and banana ester character and was ridiculously thirst quenching.

The Pils and lager showed great hop bitterness, again highlighting the style of beer that Enrico enjoyed brewing. The star of the show, however, was the 14.5% AbV Enrico’c Cure from 2008. This beer had been produced with a Champagne yeast and had no sugar at all added to it. Enrico explained that he preferred the character that malt sugars give, compared to any artificial sugars that are sometimes added to produce beers of this strength and I can honestly say that this approach paid off. The rich fruit and chocolate nose of the beer amalgamated perfectly in the mouth, where more chocolate and vanilla and luscious sweetness melded to soften the warming alcohol finish.

We were also lucky enough to try a relatively fresh sample of the Stout, which although young, tasted absolutely perfect to us! We chatted with General Manager Jeremy Seaman and he mentioned that Green Man were affiliated with a bar, Metro, just off the Octagon. We headed off to drop the campervan back at the site so that we could all enjoy a tasty beverage or two.

The Octagon impressed with a couple of craft beer bars in the vicinity. We had visited Tonic the night before and been stoked with the wide selection of craft beers in their fridges as well as a good bunch of great NZ draught beers. The banter from barman, James was awesome. It was great to see a keen as dude working the bar so well.

We visited Albar on Stuart Street for a quick pint of cask ale. We all went for the Albar Ale which is brewed by Invercargill Brewing. It had a nice citrus hop character and it was great to see a couple of handpullss in a bar so close to the Octagon.

We then hooked up with Green Man’s Jeremy at Metro and went through their range of beers, including a tequila and lime juice infused lager. It was the Strong that was my favourite beer of theirs though. This is a blend between a Whiskey Bock that they produce in the winter months. This is made by cold conditioning the beer with oak staves that have been previously soaked in whiskey. This beer is then blended with Green Man’s Best Bitter. The resultant beer has hints of oak and vanilla and this batch also had a slight tartness, almost similar to a Flemish sour beer. Whether this note was intentional or not, it didn’t matter to me, as I’m a big fan of sourness in the right type of beer and this worked really well.

Also of interest was the Man Chips that they had on the menu. This was a massive plate of chips covered in various pieces of chopped up meat – bacon, ham, pepperoni and beef and then doused in gravy. This was serious food for our hungry bellies!

We headed back to Eureka for a couple of beers with owner, Dave, bumped in to a few local Twitter followers and headed back for some much needed sleep.

Dunedin done, the next day was going to involve a bit of driving and Luke was amped to get down to Invercargill to catch up with Steve Nally of Invercargill Brewing. We cruised down and stopped in quickly to see Tom from Crafty Beers and Vicki from Beltane… their purple house is impossible to miss! It was then on to the Presidential Highway from Clinton to Gore (see what they did there!) We got into Invercargill and were amazed at the changes that had occurred in the place since we had last been down there over 10 years ago. Maybe Mayor, Tim Shadbolt’s magic was working!

We met up with Steve and Murray from Invercargill Brewing, both passionate, energetic guys who are pumping out some incredible beers. We checked out the brewery, which Steve told us was about to be upgraded to allow double the amount of beer to be brewed. Invercargill do a lot of contract brewing and bottling for other NZ craft breweries including Yeastie Boys, Valley, Golden Ticket, Pink Elephant and Mussel Inn. Their own range of beers includes a delicious Honey Pilsner, Wasp which had a hint of honey on the nose, some sweetness on the tongue and a nice dry, crisp finish. B.Man was another top drop, a great take on the NZ Pilsner style. Sister Gina was a Belgian style brew that Steve had brewed with a Witbier yeast and was a great example of an Abbey-style Dubbel with wisps of clove and fruity esters.

The Boysenbeery however, was the pick of the bunch for me. This beer is brewed and 15% Boysenberry juice is added near the end of fermentation. The resulting brew smells like boysenberry icecream, with a pleasant vanilla and berry nose. The vibrant red colour makes you think that this beer is going to be sweet and potentially syrupy, but this is anything but! The berry fruit makes itself known, but the beer finishes crisp and dry and your mouth stays filled with fragrant boysenberry notes without any cloying characters. Steve told us he was a massive fan of ciders and fruit and this is evident in the beer. His Nally’s Cider is another example of a greatly crafted product, aged for 18 months prior to release.

The one thing I think Steve gives to his beers that is paramount is balance and drinkability. They finish dry and crisp and are testament to his brewing skill.

We left Invercargill where Luke had his first encounter with a Jimmy’s Pie, and iconic taste of the southern region of New Zealand. I had to have two, just to make sure they were tasting okay. They were and we were all pretty happy with the experience. Our arteries however, may not be so happy…

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