NZ Craft Beer TV

Our awesome production company, Augusto have put together a little teaser trailer from the footage of our South Island craft brewery mission.

Check it out, comment on it and spread the craft beer love!

We’re about to hit the North Island tomorrow. 15 breweries and bars to visit, 2000-odd kilometres to travel and 6 days to do it in. Godspeed!

Keep updated on http://www.nzcraftbeer.tv

NZ Craft Beer TV – Nelson, Blenheim and Circumnavigation

It wasn’t quite over for the breweries of Nelson and the following morning we packed up and headed to Founders Brewery. Situated in Founders Heritage Park, a small village showing what the Nelson of yesteryear would have looked like, it is a picturesque little building and brewery tap offering great coffee, food and pizza from a wood-fired oven. We are met by owner and head brewer, John Duncan who eagerly tells us of the history of his family, the brewery and his beers.
Founders Brewery is the first in Australasia to be certified organic and is also vegan and kosher, making it unique in its offering. John, a fifth generation brewer and his sons, Matt and Callum, head up the brewing and manage to tease a plethora of flavours and aromas from the slightly more limited variety of organic ingredients available to New Zealand Brewers. With the sixth generation working hard and constantly bouncing ideas off each other, it’s easy to see why the Duncans have such a loyal following. Their year-round brews and seasonal specials are all perfectly executed by a talented team.
It was 1854 when John Dodson first arrived in NZ and began brewing. For the next 115 years, the family owned and operated not only the brewery but also maltings and hop farms. It’s great to see such a dedicated family provide so much to NZ brewing history.
We were joined by son Matt and went through the beers. John recommended we try the Long Black first. Usually we had gone from light beers through to dark when tasting, but John didn’t want the hop characters from his lighter brews to mask the malty notes from the others. Long Black was a German style Schwarzbier filled with subtle roasted characters with some mild coffee in the back of the mouth. It hinted at milk chocolate in the nose and was clean and faultless.
We tried the Generation Ale next. This was the first brew that John and the boys had done together and was a nice, malty brown ale with subtle hints of hop. The Red Head, named after how the beer looks, was a great example of a Vienna lager. Amber in colour this had a lovely light biscuit malt character which filled out the mouth with subtle sweetness and was followed by a wonderful hoppy bitterness. Tall Blonde was a malt-rich golden lager with wonderful NZ hop notes and great drinkability. My favourite brew was the Fair Maiden which Matt described as a New Zealand Pale Ale. This was his take on an American Pale Ale and the hop nose showed wafts of pine resin and tangerine, reminiscent of the Cascade hop variety. A big malt sweetness fills the mouth as well as a bunch of hop fruit notes and then the frisky bitterness follows through and balances the beer out. Wonderfully crafted, this is drinkability and flavour at its best.
Founders is definitely worth a visit. The history of the brewery and the surrounding buildings is great, from pieces of old brewing equipment outside, through to having their own Cooper (wooden-barrel maker) on site, this is both a step back in time and a step into the future of NZ brewing.
We headed over the hill to Blenheim to meet up with one of New Zealand’s leading beer writers, Geoff Griggs. A British ex-pat, Geoff has been involved in NZ beer writing for close to two decades and is a bastion of knowledge of everything beer. We chatted away in the beautiful gardens of Ye Olde Malthouse on Dodson Street enjoying a couple of pizzas and discussing the past, present and future of New Zealand craft brewing. Geoff told us of the history of the pub. It was originally a malthouse owned by Founders Brewery’s ancestors and had been through many incarnations until finally being revived as a place of great beer. It serves as the brewery tap for the adjoining Renaissance Brewery and 8 Wired Brewing, so is the ideal location to enjoy fresh beer from these guys! Our interview with Geoff over, we met up with Soren Eriksen.
Soren, originally from Denmark, joined Renaissance as an assistant brewer back in 2008 after a successful career in Biochemistry and a love of homebrewing. As well as brewing the Renaissance beers, he also wanted to do his own thing. Using their spare capacity he developed 8 Wired Brewing and went about creating immense flavoured and incredibly drinkable beers. His flagship IPA, Hopwired is an incredible drop, it screams big, bold New Zealand hop characters with gigantic tropical fruit character and an awesome slightly dry, bitter finish. One of his latest brews, Tall Poppy is Soren’s interpretation of an India Red Ale, again a big, fruity hoppiness jumps out of the glass, well balanced by rich, caramel-like malt characters and a nice, lasting bitterness.
Maybe it’s the fact that Soren has been New Zealand Poker Champion for a couple of years in a row, but Soren isn’t afraid to take a calculated risk when it comes to his brewing prowess. Soren believes that poker is a game of skill and I can see that this approach flows through to his brewing. He is a master of flavour and has a great understanding of both brewing technology and the characters that different approaches bring to his beer.
We went through a couple of his special brews, including a big, hoppy Saison, which had a phenomenal yeast nose and blended in with the hops perfectly and also a barrel-aged imperial stout which is slowly undergoing aging in a series of American oak barrels that Soren got from Luke after he had barrel aged his stout and IPA. Soren also pulled out a 2% alcohol brew that he has been working on for a while. This was fantastic and proof that you can get great flavour, alcohol and body in a small beer.
Soren is definitely one of the definitive big-flavour brewers in New Zealand. He brings not just power in aroma and character to his brews, but also balance and drinkability. It is evident that he thinks long and hard about every move that he makes. I definitely wouldn’t want to be sitting over a poker table facing him!
We quickly popped into a fantastic little bar in Blenheim called The Secret Garden. Aptly named, we walked through the small entrance, Fuller’s London Pride signage standing proud above us, and were amazed at the large, private garden bar that stretched out before us. Geoff Griggs has been working with manager, Frank Walker on developing the fantastic beer menu, including a bunch of great NZ craft beers and even Fuller’s London Porter, my favourite porter in the world! They’re even working with a Nelson sausage maker who specialises in German-style sausages and looking at getting a beer and wurst matching menu going. This bar is a must visit if you’re in Blenheim and want to visit a great freehouse.
With the Moa and Renaissance Brewery guys away for the weekend it was time to finish the circumnavigation of the South and get back to Christchurch.
Around 11.30 we rocked up to Pomeroy’s, I had an Epic Pale Ale to celebrate and a few hours later we were tucked up in bed. We’d made it.

NZ Craft Beer TV: Nelson – Beer Heaven!

Far too soon, dawn was upon us again and we crawled out of our cramped camper cabin and readied ourselves for the crawl over the Takaka hill back towards Nelson. We were heading towards Golden Bear Brewing in picturesque Mapua, just out of Nelson. This stunning brewpub was set up by Jim and Anne Matranga, originally from California and also offers Mexican food which Jim told us he really missed from his homeland.
Being from California, Jim is a massive fan of big flavoured IPAs and his beers certainly reflect his love of these. His standout brew was Anniversary Ale at 6.26%, a lovely hoppy pale ale, formerly known as Patriot’s Pale. The Graf Vienna was also a great example of this type of lager and Jim’s use of hops was perfectly executed.
Jim’s brewhouse blew our minds! This has to be one of the coolest looking breweries in the country! Engineered by Chris Little, this is stainless steel porn. At 1200 litres, the brewhouse is compact and has great little features such as a window in the mash/lauter tun, an underback and a great rake. Hehe.
Jim is also doing something pretty cool with wort that he brews on his kit. He hot-fills plastic bladders with the wort and boxes them up to be made available to homebrewers. This saves homebrewers from having to boil up extract or do full-grain mashes. All they have to do is add their own strain of yeast, ferment out, condition then keg or bottle. An awesome, innovative idea that will hopefully help with the popularity of homebrew. Even cooler is people can buy these wort kits online through companies like Liberty Brewing.
I was pretty excited about the next brewery we were about to visit. I’d heard a lot about Tracy Banner over the recent years and was lucky enough to have tried some of the Sprig and Fern Brewery range on a previous visit to Nelson. Back then, the beers had really impressed me and with Tracy’s brewing pedigree and the joy she seemingly had when we chatted to her about making beer, it was easy to see why. Originally from Liverpool, Tracy has spent close to three decades brewing beer, so definitely knows her stuff!
The Sprig and Fern range is diverse, running from berry and apple ciders through to porters, IPAs, and ginger lagers. Tracy proudly told us that they have a range of 18 products and have never run out of any. That’s a mean feat for any brewery, especially a craft brewery the size of this. A testament to her brewery management skills.
We were short of time, as we always seem to be on this trip, so quickly went through a couple of her recent award winning brews. Tasman Lager was first up and Luke and I were blown away by this superbly crafted 6.5% lager. Hops dominated the nose, hints of Nelson Sauvin and Riwaka in all of their passionfruity, tropical goodness. The balance in the mouth was exquisite, the hop bitterness and alcohol/malt sweetness accompaniment was definitely one that would help you tap into your inner air guitar. This was beyond drinkable and easily one of the better lagers of the trip.
We went dark and tried the Scotch Ale next. This rich mahogany brew had big caramel characters and a lovely, clean malt sweetness. Again, at 6.5% it was tough to find any big alcohol notes, making this a pleasure to drink and better than any Scotch Ales I have tasted whilst living in the UK. It was the next beer though that I had been dreaming about for almost a year. The Sprig and Fern Doppelbock was one of the standout beers of my trip back to NZ in February 2010 and I was stoked to find out that it wasn’t just a seasonal release, but a regular brew. At 8%, the promise of flavour is instantly apparent. A rich, cereal malty aroma comes from the nose and once the dark liquid hits the tastebuds, the mixture of caramelised malts comes alive with hints of dark fruity malt and alcohol sweetness combining to create a smooth, silky taste sensation. I love this beer. It’s great to see the sparkle of excitement in Tracy’s eyes as I tell her how awesome it is. She’s proud of what her team has achieved and it’s great of her to bring that to our attention. She doesn’t ever talk of her beers, she talks of her team’s beers. I think this is something we forgot about at times when it comes to brewing. It’s not just one person that makes a beer, but a bunch of them. It’s awesome that Tracy reminds us of this.
Dick Tout is a real character. A smile from ear to ear and a big, manly handshake greet us as we arrive at Lighthouse Brewery in Nelson. The first thing Dick asks us is if we want a beer or a hot drink or a refreshment of some kind. There must be something in the water because Dick also has a real gleam in his eyes. His passion is instantly recognisable and straight away it’s apparent how much Dick loves his job. This is one of the smallest commercial breweries in the country and with a brew kit size of only 200 litres, I’d love to know how many times Dick has brewed on it since beginning in 1996.
He chatted away about brewing, his beers, car racing and his classic cars and boats. A former mechanic, Dick was as passionate about cars and his restoration of a couple of old boats as he was about brewing. We tucked in to the first beer, Summer Breeze, a well-hopped NZ style pilsner with a lovely Saaz hop edge and the finest hint of diacetyl. Dick told us of his worry with the diacetyl that his kit seemed to give the beer but Luke and I disagreed. This was just on flavour threshold and actually added something to the beer. I’m really sensitive to diacetyl, so it was interesting that I really liked this beer. Something about the balance of freshness and bitterness and the tiniest hint of toffee/butter added complexity to this great drop.
Dick’s Cheeky Little Lager was up next, a great, easy drinking example of the style and we sipped our way through his 5.5% Victory Ale with its English character prominent and Dick’s Dark, a rich, malty 4.5% beer with hints of chocolate and equal parts of floral hop and slight roastiness. The great thing about Dick is that he also loves cooking. As he described each beer he told us of his experience of drinking it at home with a meal and discovering how well it worked with the food. From salmon steaks, to Nelson Scallops in garlic butter, through to peppered steak and beef mince dishes, Dick was a wealth of knowledge, interspersing his chatter with jokes and cheeky quips.
My favourite beer of Dick’s was the Classic Stout. This 5% rich, dark, creamy stout had lovely hop notes and had massive flavour for a beer of this strength. Wafts of chocolate were abound and it was an amazing beer to finish the tasting on. Reluctantly we left Dick and continued our journey.
We arrived at Bays Brewery and were met by Peter McGrath. Peter was another energetic Nelsonian who told us of the history of the Nelson Bays Brewery and how it began back in 1993 to provide an alternative to the mainstream beers that were available then. Bays has a roaring flagon and rigger trade and the entire time we were there, a constant flow of people arrived to get their Friday and weekend beers. They also produce a range of pre-mix drinks, an alcoholic lemonade and a cider, which are all popular products.
We met up with brewer Jeff, another of the many brewers that had learnt their trade under the original Mac’s Brewery setup and talked through the beers. Their most popular brews were the Bays Gold Lager and Bays Draught Ale and it was also interesting to note that their Bengal Bitter, an IPA, was one of the first new world IPAs to be pushed out into the craft market back when it was released. The also brew the rich, sweet, malty Exclamator Doppelbock which drunk smooth and with little alcohol character coming through.
Jeff talked passionately about the beers and brewing processes and was quick to point out that they are trying to achieve drinkability and balance in their brews. They’re not huge hop bombs or diverse styles, they’re beers to drink.
Time flying by, we parked up the camper at Tahunanui and headed to one of Nelson’s newer craft beer bars, the Freehouse. In a converted church, this is filled with beer lovers young and old. The large grassy yard outside was covered with relaxing, chatting people. Sitting on the grass and at barbecue tables with a myriad of different craft beers, it’s great as a brewer to see people enjoying the beer in such a setting. When we make beer, this is what we imagine.
The range of beers was brilliant and I tried the Dead Good IPA, one of the house beers developed by the Freehouse landlord, Mic Dover, a British ex-pat with a love for great beer. With three handpulled cask ales as well as the great tap range, it’s easy to see why this bar does so well. We caught up with beer writers, beer lovers and New Zealand Hops Chief Executive Doug Donelan, a legend in the industry and a brewer with an impressive pedigree, having headed up Malt Shovel Brewery in Australia for some years. We shared beers and chatted hops and caught up with friends. It was a great finish to the day.

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…

NZ Craft Beer TV Hits Otago!

Our fantastic Christchurch run almost over, we popped in to see David Gaughan from Golden Eagle at his house in Rolleston. He showed us his incredibly impressive homebrew setup and the beginnings of his commercial brewery, which included a couple of fermenters and some lovely looking wood-clad vessels. For some strange reason I recognised the two vessels at the front of his garage and it dawned on me that they used to be mine! They were originally from the Victoria brewpub which ran in 1986-87 in Hamilton and myself and a friend had bought the setup a few years back when I was on the UK. They’d been in storage for a couple of years and we had decided to sell them. David was the proud new owner and I’m really looking forward to seeing what flavours he can tease from them.

We tasted a couple of his beers and were blown away! Old England, weighing in at 8.8% was a complex and smooth Old Ale and was tasting brilliant after a year or so in the bottle. The beer had been brewed in honour of his friend’s father, who had been a keen homebrewer back in the UK and loved the Feast and Firkin Dogbolter. He has definitely done the man proud!

We then tried a twist on the Old England recipe, this time with the addition of Peated Malt. This was perfect, the hint of ocean and iodine that peat gives, blending perfectly with the rich body and soft, warming alcohol. Definitely a brew for lovers of the peated character in Islay whiskeys.

We headed southwards and stopped off at Cuisine Magazine Restaurant of the Year 2010. Riverstone Kitchen is worth a visit just to check out the gorounds alone. The gardens are a greenfinger’s wet dream and perfectly cared for by Riverstone owners Bevan and Monique Smith’s mother Dot. Most of the vegetables and herbs are seasonally picked from their gardens and carefully crafted into world class food by the hard-working team. Even the chickens play their role and the Scrambled Eggs and Havoc Bacon I had are easily the best I’ve tried. The liberal dosing of fragrant Truffle Oil, it’s meaty, garlic-like ‘impossible-to-describe’ perfume lifting the rich creaminess of the eggs to the heavens, was out of this world good.

I quick drive-by of Oamaru, the Steampunk Capital of NZ, was awesome and we ogled the mad industrial inventions and the Jules Verne meets William Gibson and Bruce Sterling creations. Chopped up metal and macabre motorbikes and steam trains and insane imaginations abound.

My old university town, Dunedin was next and it was amazing to come back to the place that was my home for 5 years. We stopped off at the awesome craft beer bar, Eureka and were met by Tom “The Pom” Jone and his partner Vicki Purple. Tom did his time at Emerson’s and was a founder of Green Man Brewery in Dunedin back in the day before starting his company, Crafty Beers. Tom spends his life surrounded by everything beer with representation, sales and distribution for a bunch of NZ craft breweries as well as a load of beer education and beer and food matching.

Vicki is also heavily involved in this and as well as finishing her PhD in Nursing and being heavily involved in the development of unit training standards in beer for the NZ hospitality industry, she also has her own beer brand which is brewed for by Harrington’s in Christchurch. Her first beer, Beltane Maiden is a great Belgian Wit style and scooped a Silver Medal last year at BrewNZ. Vicki is also heavily involved in the Beer in the City initiative which is aiming to involve more women in craft beer. I don’t know where she finds the time, but powered by her passion alone, she is making an incredible contribution to our craft.

The bar where we chatted, Eureka is a craft beer lovers paradise and something I wished was there as a student. Dave Smith, owner, chef, beer connoisseur and craft-brewer-to-be is a wealth of beer knowledge and a great guy to have a chat to about beer and brewing. In fact, we spent a long time chin-wagging about both beer, rugby and mutual friends. A top man and a place definitely worth a visit.

The day was over, it was time to sleep.

Epic Times

It’s pretty awesome to be living back in New Zealand. I’ve been here for a month now. Hanging out with my family and enjoying my first New Zealand summer since I left in 2003. This has mainly involved loads of great food and drink, swimming in rivers and at beaches and basking in the glorious NZ sun.

It’ll always be the tucker and a couple of refreshing beverages that really get me excited though. I’ve been absolutely inundated with great food. From the oceans and rivers there has been Sea urchin (Kina) pâté, fresh Taranaki mussels shucked raw and battered with Nana’s special batter recipe, beautifully tender NZ abalone (Paua) rolled in flour and cooked quickly, NZ rock lobster/crayfish barbecued with herb and garlic butter, smoked kingfish on crackers, Northland scallops with large plump roe intact, even NZ whitebait, guarded like crown jewels in the back of the freezer and made into delightful fritters.

Delicious Paua on the BBQ

Joseph Wood from Liberty Brewing, an awesome homebrewer based in New Plymouth even gave me a couple of massive Albacore Tuna fillets when I went round to visit. They made their way to the smoker and into my belly.

Joseph's awesome 200 litre brewing kit almost completed!

Even people I don’t know provide food. Recently while staying in a campsite in Hawke’s Bay, a young family proudly presented me with a large river eel. It was the first one the young boy had caught and the adrenalin from the catch was apparent on his face as he showed us his catch. It’s great to see how the thrill of hunting and gathering your own food is still enough to excite kids.

My good mate, Callum, only eats meat that has been caught wild… he’s not a massive fan of domestic farming practices and as a trained marine biologist and marine ranger he’s definitely a good guy to know! He pulls out wild goat and wild cattle sausages and chops… even the odd bit of wild pork or venison. I always know I’m in for a treat when I go around to visit!

So all of this food means that it’s pretty important to have a beer or two to quench the thirst after standing over a hot barbecue (or in most cases, watch someone else do the cooking). Lashings of Epic Pale Ale, Armageddon IPA and Epic Thornbridge Stout have been a must and the odd flagon of Mike’s Organic Ale, Tuatara APA and PIlsener and offerings like the Pilsener and Black Duck Porter from Hawkes Bay Independent Brewery have helped replenish important lost liquids when the mercury is rising. That and they all taste pretty awesome!

Transition! From Tui Team 2001 to Epic Team 2011

Even a couple of brews from the Big Boys of NZ Brewing have gone down well. Mac’s have surprised me with their Hop Rocker, Black Mac and Sassy Red. The Red in particular seems a lot more hop-forward that I remember, so kudos to the brewers for making some improvements to mainstream beers.

I can’t forget my brother and his mate’s homebrew either! Keen as to do something tasty for Christmas, Shannon and Liam asked me for a recipe, so I gave them a bit of a Thornbridge Kipling clone to have a go at. Jam-packed with Nelson Sauvin hops, the boys did me proud and brewed two batches. One with SO4 yeast and the other US Pale Ale yeast. Each brew showed distinctly different characteristics, with the SO4 yeast being a hint more bready than its fruity American counterpart. Even my DB and Tui drinking uncles and cousins from down the Taranaki coast gave it a unanimous thumbs up, so that was a bonus!

I can’t forget, however, what I’ve actually come back to New Zealand for. It’s to work!

Usually, induction into a new job involves screeds of paperwork, a course or two, going through loads of health and safety information and waiting for IT folk to set up email accounts. For me, it’s a little different… My new boss, Luke Nicholas from Epic Brewing has insisted we do something for New Zealand Craft Brewing and has organised a film company and a camper van for us to travel the length and breadth of the South Island visiting every craft brewery we can along the way.

Steam brewmaster Shane Morley, Luke and myself brewing Epic Thornbridge Stout in Feb 2010

There’s a reason for this. The craft beer scene over here is going forward in leaps and bounds and it’s full of passionate people that are working ridiculously hard to promote great beer. If we can somehow get their stories out there and let NZ and the rest of the world know what goes into the humble pint, then it has to be a great thing for beer.

So four guys in a van with a camera are planning to hit Christchurch, Oamaru, Dunedin, Invercargill, Queenstown, Arrowtown, Wanaka, Franz Josef, Westport, Nelson and Blenheim and chart the progress of craft beer down south. It’s going to be a pretty awesome reintroduction to the NZ brewing scene for me and even better, we have the North Island to follow!

Check out www.NZCraftBeer.tv for details, follow us on Facebook and Twitter (@NZCraftBeerTV) and support us however you can. We’ll be posting loads of photos and videos and using as much technology as we can to get the word out there… It’s going to be hectic, but it’s going to be amazing!

Epic Thornbridge Stout

After a wee hiatus I’m back again to finish regaling (or boring, the terms are interchangeable) the world about the fantastic New Zealand craft brewing scene. My beer tour of New Zealand near an end, it was time to hit Auckland and jump back into a brewery to take part in New Zealand’s first ever international collaboration brew!

Some of you may recall this time last year, Luke Nicholas from Epic Brewing was over brewing his brilliant Epic Pale Ale at Everards as part of the JD Wetherspoons International Real Ale Festival. I’d never met Luke, though heard and read a load online about his positive impact on the NZ craft beer scene, his unwavering devotion to education about beer and his sheer, unrivalled enthusiasm. Coupled with the fact that when I tried his beers I was blown away by how good they were, there was no choice but to ask him if he was keen to do a collaboration, which I wrote about here.

So now it was my turn! After regular email, twitter and phone contact over half a year, we’d managed to come up with a recipe we were both pleased with. Luke had never brewed an Epic Stout before, us Thornbridgers were relatively deft at dark beers (I can say that, it’s my blog…) and Luke was also really keen to have a play with some UK hops.

The decision was made to go with the brilliantly aromatic Target hops that we’d showcased in our Halcyon Green Hop Harvest beers in 2009 and 201o, as well as Bramling Cross, the key hop in our Hopton. Considering Bramling Cross had been tough to get a couple of years back, it’s great to see it back on the market and as brewers, it’s a case of use it or lose it. The world doesn’t need any more of these great hop varieties to disappear into nonexistence. So with the orange marmalade, yellow stone fruit and pineapple characters of Target coupled with the slightly earthy, citrus-dusted and berry-smacked delights of Bramling Cross, we had the makings of a beer!

Epic Thornbridge Stout - the pre-label (Photo: Jed Soane)

Luke weaved his malty magic and a backbone of British Maris Otter was accompanied by copious amounts of Munich malt to add a layer of caramel (and sometimes even strawberry-like) intensity and this was also joined by a good whack of brown malt. Brown malt is something we’ve played around a bit with at Thornbridge, noticeably in Bracia but also in our raspberry infused porter, Katipo. It gives the beer quite a bit of astringency, a tarry, almost charred treacle note and a hint of dryness. It is the maturation of beer with brown malt that is interesting to me. As the beer develops over a period of months, the brown malt character softens. There is less of that burnt acridity but no loss in the fantastic flavours that it provides. It softens and improves and is a great addition to any dark beer that is to undergo extended tank or bottle maturation (the longer the better, I reckon!). The brown malt was joined by the full, rounded flavours that CaraMunich give, the soft, colour-rich CaraFa, Pale Chocolate for a hint of chocolatey goodness, Dark Crystal for that toasted nut and dried fruit character and some Roast Barley for a touch more dryness and burnt coffee edge.

Our final recipe tweaks done a couple of days before, we were ready to rock! I arrived in Auckland the night before, checked in to the hotel and had a sleepless night. I was transported back to childhood, that Christmas Eve feeling when you can’t get to sleep, eyes wide open, ear canals stretched for the jingle of the reindeer’s bell. My alarm was set for before 6 as it was an early start. Why were the digits on the alarm clock changing so slowly? I went through the recipe in my head. The usual doubt and worries that accompany a new brew rang loudly. Was the malt bill okay? Would that much dark malt overwhelm the hop character we were trying to acheive? How much dry hopping did we want to do? Should we have got some other British varieties to include? How many times before had I lay in the dark and thought about these types of things…

Don’t be afraid of the dark…

The day dawned, fresh and sunny, I went outside and waited for Luke to pick me up. “Sorry, dude, running a bit late,” was the text. So I waited. Luke arrived, fully amped. “Dude! Had an EPIC night, hardly any sleep,” he said as I jumped into the car. He didn’t look like he’s only had a couple of hours sleep, Luke always emanates an almost impish exuberance (they don’t call him the Impish Brewer for nothing, I guess) and I was about to find out why! Luke had been at a Faith No More concert the night before, the same band that came to fruition with an amazing song called, funnily enough, Epic. Luke had sussed some Epic brews out for the band, got backstage and been drinking with Faith No More all night! Lucky bugger! I forgave him for being late.

We arrived at Steam Brewery, and I met brewmaster, Shane Morley, a brilliant brewer who manages a vast array of beers and beverages, no mean feat for such a small brewteam. We finalised the recipe, altered the salt profile slightly and began mashing in!  The brewery itself has been cobbled together from a mish mash of old dairy vessels and brewing equipment and like most breweries, is a marvel of engineering. Steel, pipes and steam, pumps and cyberpunk imaginings coupled with that rich, biscuity, malty aroma… William Gibson discovers brewing… now there’s a novel…

Luke and I checking out the mash (Photo: Jed Soane)

Mash in, we turned our minds to the avenue of brand new medium toast American Oak barrels. They had just arrived from Napa Valley in the US and were ripe for filling with Luke’s ridiculously hoppy Epic Armageddon IPA. First up, the Steam Brewing lads drained the fermenter cone of dry hops. Now, I like to think we use quite a liberal amount of hops at Thornbridge, albeit more on the hot side than in dry-hopping, but the hop slurry that erupted from the base of the vessel seemed to go on forever! Luke just grinned… of course he did…

If you could smell the aroma coming from these barrels... was soooo good (Photo: Jed Soane)

Oak casks filled, I showed Luke the correct way to put a bung in (didn’t want him whacking it with a mallet, getting full rebound and smashing himself in the face did I… well, not unless a video camera was ready…) and the beginnings of another beer, Oak aged Armageddon IPA, were complete. The great thing about being there for the inaugural filling was the fact that half of our Epic Thornbridge Stout was also destined for these casks. Can’t wait to try that one!

Discussing the intricacies of crappy wort run-off with Shane (Photo: Jed Soane)

Lautering began, but with a few difficulties as the mash stuck slightly, restricting runoff. Shane did a few tweaks but was worried that the extra calcium carbonate we had added to the mash hadn’t dissolved properly (further research indicates it’s pretty much insoluble in water). Gypsum and baking soda all the way I reckon! The reason we’re keen for some carbonate or bicarbonate ions is that some of the compounds that result from the kilning of darker malts can be quite acidic. Carbonate ions are alkaline and help to mellow this character.

I managed to stay right up until the end of the boil, with the wort tasting fantastically rich. Nutty, sweet and chocolatey with just the right balance of acidity and hop character. I’d had a brilliant day with the Epic and Steam crew, the Epic Thornbridge Stout was bang on target. Already I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a bottle of New Zealand’s first ever international collaboration brew, I was stoked to be part of it!

Shane working hard, Luke and I sampling harder! (Photo: Jed Soane)

A few months later I found myself in Chicago, having been invited to judge in the incredible World Beer Cup. Luke was also there with his judging hat on and he’d even managed to bring a pre-release bottle of our Epic Thornbridge Stout. It finished bang on at 6.8% AbV and a well rounded 54 IBU. I tasted it and was instantly impressed by the smoothness. The hand bottle conditioning was slightly overcarbonated, but the potential was there. Wafts of chocolate malt goodness, great body and drinkability and that charred dry brown malt character. It needed longer though, another month or so maturation, even a couple of months in the bottle and it would be spot on. I’m hoping like hell that Luke has saved me a couple of bottles! Stan Heironymus wrote a post about the tasting here.

The inaugural ETS pouring (Alex Barlow from All Beer is very excited!) (Photo: The lovely Melissa Cole)

Luke wasn’t afraid of the dark… neither should you be! 

The Totally Awesome New Zealand Craft Brewing Scene Part 1

Sleep deprivation + cool beer + hot weather = Happiness

For the last three weeks I’ve been back home in New Zealand doing the Best Man thing for my little brother’s wedding, having a bit of a holiday, drinking loads of awesome craft beer, meeting heaps of cool brewers and beer folk, checking out some great breweries and even brewing New Zealand’s first ever international collaboration beer with Luke Nicholas of Epic Brewing.

The trip began at the end of January in the Coach and Horses in Dronfield. From there it went something like Chesterfield train station, London St. Pancras, Heathrow Terminal 4, Kuala Lumpur, Auckland and finally New Plymouth on the west coast of NZ’s North Island. As we got off the plane at the international terminal in Auckland I joked to Catherine that we hadn’t seen anyone we knew yet. A 10 minute walk to the domestic terminal and I saw my best friend’s brother, a guy I used to play rugby with and the mother of a guy who went to my primary school. Big place is New Zealand…

After 2 days of solid travelling, the first thing to do was have a beer. I’d put in a bit of a pre-order with my Dad and he had a cold Epic Lager waiting for me (see the ghoul-like dude in the picture above). This was my first taste of Epic Lager and it was lush! A crisp, perfumed hop nose with an almost Saaz-like Noble hop character. A touch grassy, citrus, lemon and the tiniest hint of fruity bubblegum. It finished clean and had a well attenuated dryness. If this was what the beer was going to be like the whole trip, I was going to be a happy lad! After a delicious meal of New Zealand fish and chips with not a mushy pea or a piece of Atlantic Cod or Haddock in sight it was lights out though.

The next few days, or beers as I liked to refer to them (as that is how I have recorded this holiday on my iPhone… through beer tasting notes and photos of bottles… geek!) were great. Temperatures in the 20s, some awesome homec00ked food, fresh eggs from the chickens outside, fresh mutton from the sheep in the fields around our house and a beer or three in the name of research.

White Cliffs Organic Brewery just out of New Plymouth have always been well known due to their flagship Mike’s Mild Ale. This dark mild was toasty and nutty with a good roast malt bitterness and some nice roast barley astringency in the finish. It oozed cleanness and still managed to have a nice body, even straight out of the fridge. Mike’s Lager was a little more reserved and had the tiniest hint of dimethyl sulphide (a little cooked vegetable) with a few ale-like ester notes, but other than that was a decent organic lager. The breweries new packaging and logo also looked pretty cool.

Mike hiding in the garden...

Just to prove it wasn’t all beer, I indulged in some awesome NZ delicacies when home. Fresh tender abalone steaks (or Paua as we call them), rich, decadent, sweet whitebait fritters (different to British whitebait which are young herring, in that NZ whitebait are the fry of small native trout and caught in rivers and river mouths at specified times of the year, selling for around £50-60 per kilogram), Greenlip Mussel fritters, my Dad’s speciality, Rock Lobster (or what we call crayfish) and lots of raw (and cooked) freshly caught fish.

Whitebait before...

Whitebait after... egg whites, salt, fry pan, butter, lemon juice, yum!

Crayfish are one of my favourite things to eat (after raw New Zealand Bluff Oysters). The best way to eat them is to steam the whole crayfish, wait for it to cool, then crack open the tail, carapace and legs, get all of the meat out and have it on freshly buttered bread. The key ingredient however, is what is referred to as mustard by crayfish lovers. This is a yellow-brown mustard coloured “sauce” that you find in the carapace. Spread on the bread it is as close to the taste of heaven as a Kiwi seafood lover can get.

Crayfish before...

Crayfish after... well after a couple of bites anyway 🙂

Having already had an Epic Lager or three, it was definitely time to crack into the Epic Pale Ale, Luke’s flagship beer. I had first tried this when Luke was here in 2009 collaborating with us on our 7.7% hopped to hell Epic Halcyon Imperial IPA. The Pale Ale was ridiculously drinkable and screamed hops, balance and a nice subtle bitterness. This time around it was as great as I’d remembered. It poured a hazy copper with a nice white head. Pineapple, gooseberry and hints of hoppy resin floated around the glass and it was nice and dry with just a hint of grape skin dryness and hop astringency. The bitterness continues into the aftertaste and the 4 pack soon disappeared (drunk responsibly of course) . Epic was already living up to it’s name!

It's just good beer!

From Epic it was on to another NZ craft brewery, Green Man. I brought both their IPA and Celt from the local bottle store and was impressed by their packaging and the blurb on the labels. One thing about craft beer in New Zealand is that it’s not cheap, neither should it be. There is no Progressive Beer Duty in NZ as there is for craft brewers in the UK, which means they still have to pay loads of taxes and there is still seemingly an idiotic neo-prohibitionist bent against beer, even when you’re paying between $4 and $12 NZD per bottle. I do wonder if the wine industry in New Zealand comes up against similar hurdles.

The IPA wasn’t as hoppy as I was hoping it to be. It weighed in at 5.5%, had lots of initial caramel character and an interesting top palate bitterness. The hop aroma wasn’t at the forefront (maybe it was an old bottle) and after about half of the bottle, I did wonder if I got some butterscotch as well as the caramel maltiness. The body however, was great for a sub 6% brew but again the hop finished quite grassy and unbalanced. More late hop addition or dry-hopping and this could be a good beer though.

Love the label!

Green Man’s 6.5% Celt proved a more interesting beer and was just one of the many examples of NZ craft beer experimentation that seems to be cranking down under. Having been aged in barrels, this showed initially with a good punch of oak on the mose, followed by some woody acidity in the mouth and the smallest hint of yeasty cloves. Chocolate malt undertones came through with the slightest hint of a thinnish whiskey character and even the smallest hint of salty brine. More body would have been great, but such is the challenge of wood aging… you never quite know what is going to happen!

Before I knew it, my time at home with the Whanau (that’s family to you none-Kiwi readers) was at an end, but not before we went fishing in my Uncle’s awesome 6 metre SeaLegs amphibious boat. This thing was crazy, it has three large quad-bike style wheels and you simply drive it from your garage onto the beach and into the water. The wheels then come up on a hydraulic system, the 140 hp motor kicks in and you’re good to go! A bit different than having to time the waves like we used to with our little 14 foot dinghy, push like crazy between sets of waves, usually get hammered on the way out and have to bail like crazy and then do the same on the way back home! Was a good day out, my feet remained completely dry and our haul of 7 Gurnard, a Kahawai and 3 Snapper wasn’t too bad.

The best Sashimi you can get!!!

There was still (of course) time to visit the White Cliffs (or Mikes) Organic Brewery and I was eagerly shown around by their new brewer, a Massey University Food Technology graduate, Thomas Sowerby. Having visited there 2 years earlier it was amazing to see the progress they had made, evident by the number of times I saw their beers in various bars, cafes and liqour outlets around the province. The brewery had grown, as had their range and Tom gave me a taste of his fantastic Mike’s Pilsener, definitely the pick of the Mike’s stable with it’s delicate floral and grassy hop characters, brilliantly clean finish and simple, yet defiant bitterness. Fermenting at a lower temperature definitely paid off with this beer. Their brewery shop setup was also fantastic, especially their benchtop keg dispense units that both refrigerated and poured the beer in perfect condition.

Forget benchtop Espresso, benchtop keg dispense is for your kitchen of the future!!!

The little brewhouse that Tom had modified to improve runoff

My brief sojourn in the mighty Taranaki over, I flew down to Wellington to do a bit of a Thornbridge tasting at the fantastic Malthouse, THE bar to head to if you want to be blown away by the variety of wicked beer that NZ has to offer. Fridge after fridge jam-packed with bottled beers (both local and from abroad), an absolute myriad of local brews on keg and even a couple of handpulls, which were brilliant to see. Eagerly met by Scotsman and Malthouse head honcho Colin Mallon and a bunch of keen NZ beer lovers including beer writer Neil Miller, Yeastie Boys Brewmaster Stu McKinlay and beer afficionado and super-keen homebrewer Kieran Haslett-Moore the tasting kicked off well with a great selection of Thornbridge bottled beers, some of them the last of their kind! These included Bracia, Halcyon Green Hop Vintage 2008, Alliance PX Reserve, Alliance Madeira Reserve, Saint Petersburg in all three of it’s Whiskey Barrel Matured guises – Speyside, Highland and Islay, Jaipur, Kipling and a hand-bottled Raven (our Black IPA) courtesy of our brewer, JK. The beers went down a treat and it was great to have a chat to some super-enthusiastic Kiwi beer lovers. In fact, Kieran has done a bit of a write up on it here. Another of NZ’s foremost beer writers, Geoff Griggs, was definitely gutted he couldn’t make it… you can read about that here.

In full swing at the Malthouse tasting

Tasting aftermath with empty bottles and Yeastie Boy Stu

Some seriously fantastic beers were supped at the Malthouse with two hop-monsters in particular standing out and making my tastebuds pirouette with ecstasy and joy that NZ is finally up there with that king of hoppy brews, the USA. It was my first beer upon arrival at the Malthouse that blew me away and that was Epic Armageddon IPA. 6.66%, jam packed with resiny, citrus-filled US hops and proof in a bottle that Luke Nicholas knows his hops. Masses of tropical fruit, lots of citrus and pine and mango and sappy goodness. A good uvula-punch of bitterness and fantastic drinkability, this brew was only rivalled by the exquisite HopWired IPA from 8 Wired. Brewed using all NZ hops and malt, this screamed passionfruit, gooseberry, that Sauvignon Blanc cat pee character, limes, sweet oranges and brilliant drinkability with slightly less bitterness than the Armageddon.

A bunch of other beers were also sampled but I think I’ll save those, my trip to the South Island and adventures back up in the North Island for part two!

Catch you then!

Epic Halcyon goes on a journey

As you’ve probably read in my earlier blog, Epic Halcyon at Thornbridge, along with Luke Nicholas, one of New Zealand’s top craft brewers, we brewed a full-on version of our Halcyon Imperial India Pale Ale when Luke was over here brewing his Epic Pale Ale for the JD Wetherspoons International Beer Festival.

Luke unfortunately had to head back to New Zealand before this beer was ready to go, so we are sending him a couple of mini-casks that he is going to use for a tasting. You can attend this event here.

Here we have Thornbridgers Matt Clark and James Kemp getting the goods ready for it’s Epic journey! Hope it arrives safe and sound!!

Epic Halcyon at Thornbridge

Still all go and we’ve just finished an awesome collaboration with Luke Nicholas of Epic Brewing Company over in New Zealand. Luke was over here to launch and promote Epic Pale Ale which he had been invited to brew with Everards Brewery in Leicester as part of the JD Wetherspoons International Real Ale Festival. Luke is a highly awarded New Zealand brewer with a vast amount of experience. He has twice brewed beers that have won the Supreme Champion Beer of New Zealand (including Epic Pale Ale, which won in 2006) as well as scooping Gold and Best in Class awards at the 2008 BrewNZ competition. Coupled with the fact that he has twice judged in the World Beer Cup (Seattle, 2006 and San Diego, 2008) you can see that he’s no stranger to both brewing and judging a beer!

epic-bottle

Although we are both from NZ, this was the first time our paths had crossed. You have to remember that everyone knows everyone else in NZ, so this was no mean feat! How can I describe Luke? He is very confident and oozes self-belief and passion. He has an intuitive understanding of the world of craft beer and has literally worked from the bottom up. He told me of how he used to volunteer his weekends at a local Auckland brewpub chain so he could learn how a commercial brewery worked (Luke was a passionate home brewer prior to this) until he was employed and gradually worked his way up in the brewing world. Commitment seeps from his every pore and the intensity with which he talks about beer and brewing is awesome. He is engaging, intelligent and the type of person that us Thornbridgers love to hang out with.

It was a big step to decide to collaborate with someone that we did not know. We hadn’t tasted his Epic beers or met him; however it was an opportunity not to be missed. In hindsight, I would have been gutted had we not brewed together. We had a great day and even got to try some of Luke’s beers, which were fantastic!

I met up with Luke the night before our brewday at the Chesterfield Arms in Chesterfield, where Everards were launching a Meet the Brewer evening and where Luke had a coveted mini-cask of the Epic Pale Ale that had been brewed with Everards. We sat down and had a few pints of the Everards beers and then got a chance to try the cask Epic. This stood head and shoulders above the Everards brews (which were all good pints nonetheless) with a dominant citrus hop character, a little grapefruit with some underlying caramel maltiness. Luke told me that Everards were shocked when he told them how much hops he wanted to put into the beer. I think he should have put in even more!

 

 

 

Kelly prepares a breakfast of malt porridge for the hungry Thornbridgers. Where's my spoon?

Kelly prepares a breakfast of malt porridge for the hungry Thornbridgers. Where's my spoon?

 

 

 

It was time for the brew and myself, Luke, Dave and Stef were ready for action. The mash in the mash tun and vessels cleaned and ready to go, we began the mammoth task of deciding what hops we were going to use. We worked our way through a load. New Zealand Hallertau, Pioneer, Cluster, Atlas and Liberty didn’t make the cut. Chinook, however with its wonderful resinous and citrus notes and a little pine and the ultra-intense Hallertau Magnum made the grade. We thought these two hops would provide a nice resin-pine-citrus backbone as both early and late additions and allow our other two hop choices to shine through. Centennial with its pungent orange zest and the unique New Zealand Nelson Sauvin (for a touch of home of course) with its mango and pineapple and gooseberry and grapefruit were the obvious pairing to give us a real New World character in what was to be a unique twist on our Halcyon Imperial IPA.

 

 

 

Hops anyone?

Hops anyone?

 

 

 

 

We cracked open a bottle of our Green Hopped Vintage 2008 Halcyon and started discussing bitterness. The bottled version has a touch more dryness and astringency due to a little more attenuation and a humungous amount of wet hops added at maturation, yet we thought the bitterness level (around 85 IBUs) was still well balanced by the residual malt sweetness. With this in mind and knowing that this was to be in the cask form only, we upped the ante. We went for over 100 IBUs (International Bitterness Units) in the hope that the slightly increased perceived sweetness that the less carbonated cask form would have, would then balance out the mouth puckering hops.

Because this had a bit of a New Zealand twist, Luke had the brilliant idea of bringing a little New Zealand water with him. Good Water is from Kauri Springs in Northland, above Auckland and is exactly as its name suggests! Once the brew was finished, Luke added the water to the finished brew. You can see that here!


 

We were also lucky enough to try a bottle of Luke’s NZ brewed Epic Pale Ale, which was absolutely beautiful. Reminiscent of some American Pale Ale’s I have tries. Quite light on the bitterness, yet retaining a lot of citrus and resin pine character. Nice carbonation and fantastic cold. No longer will I be reaching for an ice cold New Zealand lager after mowing the lawns when I’m back in New Zealand. From now on, it’s definitely going to be an Epic! Just when I thought that Luke’s Pale Ale was all that, then he brought out his Epic Mayhem. At 6.2%, this poured a nice dark orange/amber colour. The nose was amazing. Lots of sweet tropical fruits with a hint of pineapple and a floral and citrus background. I’ve always thought that Jaipur was extremely drinkable at 5.9%. Mayhem is of the same ilk. I polished off my taster quickly and instantly thought of the movie, Interview with the Vampire… I was the young child vampire Claudia after my first meal… “I want some more.” This was a ridiculously drinkable and extremely tasty drop. All I can say is well done!

Once the brew day was over, we all met up at the Coach and Horses in Dronfield for a few beers, a few laughs and some good kai (that’s the Maori word for food). We tasted the various Thornbridge beers (Luke described Kipling as being the best use of Nelson Sauvin on the planet) as well as some Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast, Birrificio Italiano Tipopils (one of my favourite beers ever), Port Brewing Hop-15, HaandBrygeriet Norwegian Wood (courtesy of Phil at BeerMerchants) a couple of HopDaemon beers (Green Daemon Helles and Skrimshander IPA) and my very own improvised lambic-style beer. As usual it was awesome fun and great for us all to talk about the different flavours and aromas we were picking up.

 

Spot the normal face...
Spot the normal guy…

We are beer nerds!

I love my job…

 

Epic + Good Water + Halcyon = ...

Epic + Good Water + Halcyon = ...

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