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

Epic Beer Dinner at the Internationalist

Date: October 12, 2011

Time: 7pm

Venue: The Internationalist Wine Bar & Bistro, 2 Knights Road, Rothesay Bay, North Shore, Auckland

Cost: $45

Contact: Martin at The Internationalist – 09 479 3095

Take a great little bistro bar nestled in the East Coast Bays area of the North Shore, a team that are mad on great food and flavours and a couple of Epic brewers and it’s got to be a good’n! We got contacted a few months back by Martin Cahnbley of the Internationalist, sat down with him and head chef, Karl and went through our range of beers, suggesting a few food matches as we went along.

The Internationalist team then put together this menu and I’m already counting down the days until we get to go and enjoy this scrumptious looking degustation, which is gonna look something like this!

Epic Lager with grilled Periperi prawns

NZ Craft Beer TV Mash Up with Duck liver vol-au-vents & red peppers

Epic Pale Ale with 3 different cheese blinis

Epic Hop Zombie with prosciutto and melon

Epic Armageddon IPA with beef carpaccio and garlic-butter sauteed oyster mushrooms

Epic Thornbridge Stout with beef pie served on mash with caramelised stout reduction

Epic Barrel Aged IPA with vanilla custard tart, topped with lychees, drizzled with IPA syrup and a globe of French Vanilla Ice Cream.

Who’s coming??

Use your imagination... Goblets o' Beer & Tables o' Food...

Epic Win (for Thornbridge, too!)

I’ll be honest. I’m struggling. Nine fantastic days in Wellington spent judging at the Brewers Guild of New Zealand Awards, hanging out with brewers and beer-lovers alike, attending a fantastic awards ceremony and hanging out at Beervana have all taken their toll on me.

But it was well worth it!

I’ll keep it short and sweet as this blog is a blatant brag 🙂

An IPA wins on International IPA Day!

Epic Armageddon IPA took out the trophy in the US Ale Styles class after picking up a Gold Medal.

Our NZ Craft Beer TV Mash Up took out a Silver Medal in the New Zealand and International Ale Styles class. Who said 44 breweries couldn’t work together?! Not us!!

Epic Thornbridge Stout Brewday (courtesy of Jed Soane http://www.thebeerproject.com)

Epic Thornbridge Stout, brewed in February last year when I was working at Thornbridge took out a Bronze Medal in the Speciality/Experimental/Aged/Barrel & Wood Aged Styles Class. Epic Barrel Aged IPA also did the deed with a Bronze Medal in the same class. The barrels that had been used initially for the IPA then went on to a second fill with the Stout. This beer… our Oak Barrel Aged Epic Thornbridge Stout ended up picking up a Silver Medal! We’re pretty stoked that we decided to call this a Vintage Ale on the label… age has obviously done some great things to this beer as it failed to medal as a younger product in 2010.

First Fill... new oak being filled with Armageddon IPA (photo courtesy of Jed Soane http://www.thebeerproject.com)

A beer that is becoming more of a favourite for me in the Epic range, our Epic Lager also picked up a Silver Medal in the International Lager Styles Class. I was so stoked with this. Due to the dry-hopping, bitterness and big hop notes that this beer has, it’s tough to categorise. I’ll admit that some brewers don’t brew beers according to exacting style characteristics and this is one of them. It makes it a real challenge to get your brew into the correct style category so that judging can be done with similar beers, but we must have nailed it!

Fast becoming my favourite!

Last but not least, the beer that started it all, Epic Pale Ale picked up a Silver Medal in the US Ale Styles class.

Thanks loads to Steam Brewery for looking after our babies so well. A massive congratulations to Søren from 8 Wired Brewing in Blenheim for picking up New Zealand Champion Brewery. Very well deserved!

The secret to Søren's success! (photo courtesy of Jed Soane http://www.thebeerproject.com)

 

IPA – It’s worthy of having it’s own International Day. It truly is. Really.

Not too many sleeps left now! Click the pic...

August 4th is International IPA Day. For those who don’t know, IPA stands for India Pale Ale and is a style of beer that is often well-hopped. I’m not going to give you a history lesson on it. Pete Brown, Martyn Cornell and Ron Pattinson are the masters of that domain and I recommend you read some of their brilliant works.

Courtesy of Ron Pattinson

I love IPAs. My little story below is part of the reason why.

Share an IPA with someone. It may make them happy.

Courtesy of Martyn Cornell

I thought I was tasting my first IPA as a trainee brewer here in New Zealand. I’d worked hard, had a couple of science degrees under my belt and here I was in my first job. I was yet to become a beer adventurer, the guy who is sitting here now with thousands of different beers tasted and pondered. I was fresh and young and keen and was about to begin brewing the most well known IPA in New Zealand.

But it wasn’t. I didn’t.

The beer that has once been based on the famous East India Pale Ale, turned out to be a 4% alcohol, slightly sweet, brown New Zealand-style draught lager. Strangely I was fine with that. It was okay with me to be in a brewery churning out 100 000 litres plus of the stuff in a day. I was learning. I was building knowledge. I was running the microbiology laboratory whilst training as a brewer. I loved it. Every day was a new challenge. Troubleshooting micro issues that we had, routine testing and garnering an understanding. Doing weekly beer tastings with brewery management and developing my palate as I had been taught at university. Hunting through the delicate aroma molecules and perceived tastes and flavours starting to become second nature. Fridays spent throwing crates on to a conveyor belt with the people that became my friends. What was not to like.

Was this faux-IPA I was tasting every week filled with flavour? No, and I loved that. There was nowhere to hide for anything that shouldn’t be there. Slightly high in fruity esters. Why? A hint of wild yeast spice. How? The faux-IPA and its kindred schooled me in brewing practice and analysis. Sure, it could’ve been called something else instead of an IPA, but that was irrelevant to me then.

It allowed my curiosity to continue seeping, my love of food and aroma and flavour becoming more apparent to me with age and understanding. I knew I needed more of these things in the beer that I was to spend my life creating.

Fast forward a few years and I found myself in Scotland. A craft brewery – my first job as a craft brewer with a brew volume that would take half a year to brew what my very first brewery could produce in a day. I worked for board and food and a bit of spending money and I fell in love over again with my chosen profession.

I was brewing, but this time it felt a little more real. Smashing up hops and burying my face into them, learning names that I’d only read in brewing books. Centennial, Chinook, Styrian Goldings – back then I was as familiar with the individual characters of these hops as my faux-IPA brewery was with hop character in their faux-IPA.

It was a brand new voyage of discovery. The myriad of malts, the heady intoxication of the heavenly hop cones. The hop-junkie journey was beginning and I was eager. It led me from the small slice of Scottish paradise to the picturesque Peak District. A grand Country House nestled in the rolling hills of Derbyshire, its behemothic presence softened by beautiful gardens and bubbling brooks.

I rediscovered IPA here. I joined the small brewing team of Martin Dickie and Stefano Cossi, a Scotsman and an Italian who were forging ahead and developing beers with flavour. Thornbridge called it a contemporary take on traditional thinking.

It was. Jaipur was big and bold and hoppy. It was smooth and drinkable and bitter. It was a giant, angry fruit machine spitting citrussy, grapefruity, tropical tumblings of aroma at me. All this from one variety of malt and two varieties of hops. I was impressed.

Martin left to join Brewdog. I remember my first brew day. I had been there for one week. Washing casks, asking questions. The annoying Kiwi constantly prodding the Italian and the Scotsman. Learning from them as they learnt from me. Bringing big brewery ways to their craft. Talking sanitation and procedures and analysis and flavours and aromas and mash temperatures. Brewer porn.

That first solo brew at Thornbridge was nerve-racking. Jaipur. A few days of watching the boys and taking notes. They were off to meet Michael Jackson in London. A visit that was to change a certain Martin Dickie’s life path and resulted in Brewdog. I held the fort with Dave Corbey, the guru brewing consultant that helped set up Thornbridge. I brewed my first IPA. Lashings of bright yellow and green hop cones. Steam, sweat, nerves. I was hooked, green-tinged hop-filled veins and all.

From the first IPA to the development of Jaipur over years as ingredients change and as perceptions alter. As the brewer strives to make every batch better than the last. The English style IPAs, the Imperial IPAs. It was exciting.

It still is.

I found myself back in the land where I first brewed (what I thought was) an IPA. They didn’t teach me a lot about beer styles at university. Lots of ethyl acetate and citric acid cycles and glycolysis and the advantages of darauflassen, but not so much about the classic beer styles of the UK. But I came back with some knowledge.

I’m brewing IPA again in New Zealand. Not so much the classic English, racked bright-jammed with hops-pitch lined barrel-in a boat-off to India for the troops version, but a modern take on the beer style that I love. Lots of American hop character, bright, shiny and fresh with a lovely caramel malt flavour and a palate impressing bitterness.

I shared this beer with my dad. He usually likes to drink the faux-IPA. Why shouldn’t he? It’s what he has drunk for years, he can buy it cheap and it’s easy to get.

“That has to be one of the best beers in the world”, he said*.

I am proud.**

* The beer in question is Epic Armageddon IPA.
** So proud that I will be celebrating International IPA Day on August 4th whilst at the BrewNZ Beer Awards Dinner and will then celebrate it again on August 5th. Because New Zealand is awesome and the first country in the world to see International IPA day, it just wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t celebrate it again when it is August 4th in places like the UK and the USA. Luckily I will be at Beervana, the New Zealand Beer Festival (held in Wellington on the 5th/6th). If you are going, it is essential that you hunt out IPAs, give IPAs to your friends that have never tried them before and sing lots of fun songs whilst replacing the lyrics with IPA.

Burton on Trent, for IPA Pilgrims?

Things I Learnt This Weekend

I like yeast. I also have a soft spot for Lactobacillus. With this in mind, a few weeks back I decided to make the leap and advance my ridiculously rudimentary baking skills with the preparation of a wild yeast sourdough starter.

I used the amazing tool that is the internet and searched out a bunch of recipes for basic sourdough starters. I then transmogrified said recipes, decided that I knew best and whatever educated decisions I made would be worthwhile, had a great time telling Catherine that with Microbiology and Food Science degrees under my belt this would be a cakewalk (perhaps I punned it up and even said bakewalk) and began.

A blend of whole wheat flour, plain flour and a scattering of millet was hopefully going to provide the wild yeast and bacteria that I was to need for this to work. I threw caution to the wind and added a dash of cider vinegar (oh, how swashbuckler-like I can sometimes be) to slightly lower the pH of the water and grain mixture and then decided that a pinch of mixed Lactobacillus culture from a yoghurt-making sachet I had in the fridge would definitely help with sourdough action. I fed it daily, talked to it on occasion and even jumbled together a few songs on the guitar… Bake Me Up Before You Go Go, All My Oven, Po Atarau (Now Is The Flour)…

At day eight, I had a nice, slightly alcoholic, slightly fruity smelling doughy concoction that I successfully made my first ever Whole Wheat Sourdough Loaf with. I was impressed, patted myself on the back with flour and dough encrusted hands and began to think of all the interesting loaves I could make in the future.

Stop me if you've heard this one... A buckwheat loaf, a whole wheat loaf and a sourdough starter walk into a bar...

This weekend, I decided to make a Buckwheat Loaf with the starter. Buckwheat is interesting in that is free of gluten, meaning that I was likely to end up with a loaf that was more like a rock than anything else. Gluten is important in baking due to its elastic nature. When dough is kneaded, it acts like a big net, trapping the granules of starch and little pockets of carbon dioxide produced by the yeast, giving bread it’s nice soft, chewy texture. I cheated a little and used some whole wheat flour as well. I didn’t want something that could have been used as a projectile by some Middle Ages siege engine to take down castle walls.

This is where I come to the most interesting thing I learnt this weekend. When at Thornbridge, we brewed a beer called Bracia using Chestnut Honey sourced from Italy. Chestnut Honey has a very unique character. It borders on medicinal, is bitter and sweet and wholesome and has a fragrance that I can only really describe as smelling like Chestnut Honey. I’ve had a go before and come up with descriptors like “window putty” (which I found out gets its aroma from linseed oil), woody or musky, but have never been able to hit the nail on the head.

Bracia as it used to look...

Bracia smells like Buckwheat bread! As a brewer and beer judge, I spend a load of time smelling and eating as many random things as I can. It’s a great way to build up a repertoire of descriptors for describing a beer. Bracia had always stumped me, but now I can say it smells like buckwheat, window putty/linseed oil and woody, musky honey.

The snazzy new Bracia label!

That’s what I learnt this weekend! You know you wanted to know that…

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

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!

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