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!

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…

The Totally Awesome New Zealand Craft Brewing Scene Part 2

So I left off in one of the better bars I’ve been to for ages, The Malthouse in Wellington, talking about the joys of the hop-bomb IPAs, Epic Armageddon and 8 Wired HopWired. Brewers Luke Nicholas and Soren Eriksen had proven that they were Hop Magicians but I was ready for something else to tantalise my already tingling tastebuds.

A couple of Moa beers appeared on the table (don’t you love how that happens!) and we cracked them open. Earlier in my trip I’d tried one of Moa’s brews called Weka Lager.

Kind of like the NZ bird of the same name, but wetter and maltier

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t massively impressed by this beer, even though it was well-made. It poured a hazy yellow-brown and had the tiniest hint of vanilla on the nose with a bit of toffee and caramel in the mouth. The bitterness was light, but persistent and there was quite a bit of top-palate dryness, something I recall from the Moa Original that I tried on my last trip home. The Weka was a decent malt-led lager but I just wanted a little more hop, there was the smallest hint of orange there, but it wasn’t the greatest lager I tasted on my trip home.

Saying that though, Moa seem like a pretty cool brewery and are doing some fascinating stuff. The Moa range uses quite a unique process for their bottle refermentation. Usually bottle conditioning results from residual yeast in the bottle fermenting out residual (or added) sugars in the beer, providing natural carbonation. Josh Scott, Moa’s Head Brewer (and a winemaker to boot) does a standard refermentation, but then utilises the technology that is used in Champagne production, freezes the yeast plug (that accumulates in the neck of the bottle when upside down), pops it out, re-caps it then it’s good to go. This means you get all the sensory pleasure that the subtle, smooth natural carbonation gives without the yeast in the bottom of the bottle. How cool is that!

I’d heard that Moa beers were getting better and better, so was super excited that the two beers that had appeared on my table at the Malthouse were Harvest Moa and 5 Hop Barrel Reserve Moa. The Harvest is described as a wheat beer based lager and a natural cherry extract is added to give it a hint of fruit. The brew gave off a lovely perfumed, almost shampoo like aroma followed by a massive intensely floral hit. This was followed by a little mixed berry character and the tiniest hint of sulphur, which was nice. It was extremely clean in the mouth with a touch of mineral and little discernible malt (not necessarily a bad thing, as this was a great drinking beer). It finished really clean with the slightest hint of astringency. I was happy!

I was even happier after trying the 5 Hop Barrel Reserve! This poured a light copper colour and had a lovely tight, white foam head. The nose showed some similar mineral character that I had picked up in the Harvest but this was overpowered by some lovely dry fruit and rich coconut when in the mouth. It finished with some well integrated light vanilla subtleties and a touch of white chocolate. At 6% it showed little alcohol in the finish and just the smallest amount of acidity. It was a well balanced acidity nonetheless and something I sometimes notice in barrel aged brews.

My vision was beginning to blur slightly by now, so my camera sympathised...

Yeastie Boys’ Stu McKinlay then appeared with a glass of Invercargill Brewery‘s Smokin’ Bishop. Holy guacamole, was this a good beer! Gentle smokiness wafted from the glass and I was amazed at the sheer smoothness of the beer. Bourbon notes, all rich and caramel were followed by a slightly biscuity finish and just like that, I was in love. A 7% Bamberg style smoked bock from NZ’s southern-most brewery had won me over… I always have been a sucker for a dark malty brew though.  The Malthouse’s Colin Mallon then appeared with a couple of bottles of Yeastie Boys Pot Kettle Black, a beer I’d heard loads about and was eager to try. It was brilliant! A slight yet smooth citrus hop character, decadent caramel undertones and more smoothness, all mellow and gentle and luscious in the swallow. Stu brews this porter at then Invercargill Brewery and it did make me wonder if there’s something in the water down south, as both beers I’d tasted from the brewery were wicked!

My night of beer over, it was off for a late night kebab (something I’d never done in NZ before!!) with my mates and home for a kip in preparation for my flight south to Nelson in the morning.

To me Nelson means one thing and that is hops. So following that reasoning, I hoped that with hops would be beer and I wasn’t to be disappointed! Upon arriving and being picked up by Catherine’s brother we cruised to one of the Sprig and Fern taverns. Brewed just out of Nelson in Richmond, the Sprig and Fern do a great range of beers, from Pilseners to strong lagers to pale ales to bitters to stouts and porters, even Doppelbocks and ciders! The Milton Street pub was fantastic, it’s interior akin to a light, sun-filled, airy house, a super-relaxed yet buzzing Friday afternoon atmosphere and a great line-up of draught Sprig and Fern beer on the bar. I cracked into a 6.5% Tasman Lager and was instantly impressed. Hints of fruity, almost Nelson Sauvin-like hop, impressively clean and crisp with just the tiniest touch of that fresh sweat/gooseberry goodness that you can also find on the regions Sauvignon Blancs. The mild finish tantalised with a lick of bitterness and suddenly all was good in the world. I had a sip of Cat’s Ginger Lager, all buckets of earthy ginger root with ginger everywhere… in the swallow, in the burp, the works! It helped by not being too sweet and the flavour kept developing long after the swallow which was cool. Their Pilsener was nice and clean, not too much hop on the nose though with some nice biscuity and dry malty notes and a hint of caramel that worked well. A hint more bitterness wouldn’t have gone astray but another well built brew. Next I had a quick sip of Cat’s brother, Craig’s Three Berries Cider. It was delicious with buckets of boysenberry character on the sniff and a lovely apple cider mouth. They’re talking about 2010 being the Year of Cider in NZ and with brews like this one, I think they might be right!

With a surname like Mueller of course they're gonna love those European style beers!

Last up Craig and I went for an 8% Doppelbock and it was divine. Deep brown with a light tan head. Rich malt, chocolate and caramel perfume, smooth, and nutty in the mouth, lashings of molasses and the tiniest touch of liquorice. This was delectable and velvety and finished slightly sweet with a little hazelnut and a touch of grassy hop. Definitely one of the best I’ve tried. It sure put a grin on my face!

Doppelbockalicious

We decided to bust a move over the hills from Nelson to Takaka to head to the beach, check out a couple of brewpubs and somewhere inbetween catch a salmon at a little salmon-catchy place where the kind folk then fillet and smoke it for you while you wait . Yeah, I know… it’s not the challenge of river fishing, but it was bloody tasty!

Before twisting our way up the Takaka hill, we passed fields and fields of my favourite plant in the world… hops!

Hundreds of flowers waiting to martyr themselves in the name of their god.. the Pint

We headed to the famous Mussel Inn as I was keen to try their well-known Captain Cooker, a beer brewed using the leaves of a small native New Zealand tree called Manuka as part of the process. It was a beautiful day and this hazy copper brew went down a treat with it’s herbal Manuka and lavender character dominating the nose and refreshing the mouth, followed closely by a distinct all-mouth bitternes. The Manuka slightly number my tongue and their was a bit of lemon and propolis lozenge character in the finish. It was a unique and interesting beer. Their Golden Goose was a nice lager with a touch of kiwifruit and gooseberry with little flecks of caramel and honey. It was a tad on the dry side and it’s lack of bitterness made for great drinkability. More gooseberry came through in the finish and then a touch of residual sweetness appeared out of nowhere which was nice.

We also checked out the sacred Te Waikoropupu springs where some of the clearest water in the world erupts from underground springs. It was a fantastic place with tourists everywhere and some big happy brown trout lazing around in the pools. The water itself is tapu (sacred) and reputed to have healing properties. I reckon it would make a fantastic beer!!!

I reckon that watercress would go well with some pork bones in a good ol' Kiwi boil-up!!

Things had almost begun to get a little un-beery until Craig surprised me on the way home with a little side trip to Mapua in Golden Bay (just out of Nelson) where we visited the Golden Bear Brewery and had a lovely American-inspired pint of a 5.85% Patriots Pale. Run by Californian expat Jim Matranga, I was expecting big things with this beer and it didn’t disappoint. He used Sticklebract and Nelson Sauvin as well as hop extract in the brew. It poured a deep red-brown colour with a thick, creamy white head. Hints of passionfruit came through with a little lemon, some sherbert and a finishing nuttiness. The bitterness was long and lasting. I’ve written in my tasting notes that it was lush… and it was! I love brewpubs!

How's that for a cool looking brew kit!!!

Our trip South almost over, we prepared ourselves for our flight back to the North Island and our drive up to the Hawkes Bay. But that, and my trip to Auckland, an Epic brew day and some great fishing up North can wait for another day!

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