New Zealand Brewing Dream Team – The Thirst XV – The Centres

Sometimes thinkers, sometimes raw power, the inside and outside centre work as one of the great partnerships on the rugby field. Always communicating, deft at moving the ball with the skill of David Bowie from the Labyrinth (you must remember all the cool things he used to do with those little glass spheres) and having the ability to destroy the opposition with superb textbook tackling, it is this combination that can be key to the backline in both attack and defence.

Think of those great combinations throughout the years – Walter Little and Frank Bunce, Tim Horan and Jason Little, Phillipe Sela and Thierry Lacroix, Gordon D’Arcy and Brian O’Driscoll, there has been some brilliant rugby played by these lads, but they’d have nothing on the ultimate brewer combination…

Number 12 – Inside Centre/Second Five Eighth

Someone with smarts, a sidestep larger than the ones you’d need to climb the Pyramids and the tendency to sneak through the opponents defensive wall, there can be only one Kiwi brewer that would make the grade. Stephen “The Plough” Plowman of Hallertau Brewbar and Restaurant is so named for two reasons: 1) The obvious one – his ability to plough through the opposition’s defence. 2) His unerring skill of devouring an entire Ploughman’s lunch by himself. When the lunch was intended for the whole team.

Although slight in stature, The Plough has a physiological condition that means his bones and muscles are twice as dense as the average human. He may look 70 kg, but due to his anomaly, he actually weighs in at 140 kg, making him one of the most powerful men on the team (second only to the mighty Dave Kurth of West Coast Brewery). Due to this, his need for cheese and ham and other protein-rich foods is incredible. In fact, the NZ Brewing Dream Team has two catering companies assigned to it. One for The Plough and one for the rest of the squad. His other nickname… Stuntman, refers to his immunity to fear, he smashes his opponents left, right and centre and his ability to offload the ball to players around him borders on the divine.

Where's my lunch?!

Number 13 – Outside Centre

With such a communicative and powerful inside centre, the outside centre has to be about size and skill. We need someone built like a lighthouse, able to take a thrashing from the opposition yet be sturdy and safe as houses under the high ball. They would need the smarts to spot a gap and set up their team mates for the perfect pass as well as having arms like tree-trunks and the ability to phagocytose members of the other team. Who better than the mighty Dick “The Gentleman” Tout of Lighthouse Brewery in Nelson to take on the mantle of the mighty centre!

This man is all about the team. He keeps the squad together with his brilliant anecdotes and yarns, his jokes ensuring the NZ Brewing Dream Team works its abdominal muscles to their full potential. He is sound, he is solid and he is 100% dependable. One of the more experienced members of the backline, Tout is the Tana Umaga to pair perfectly with The Plough’s Smokin’ Joe Stanley toughness. I’d pay top dollar to watch the pair smash any other centre pairing in world rugby.

Dick "The Gentleman" Tout showing off his awesome skills by balancing a rugby ball on his foot whilst tackling two innocent bystanders

Coming soon… the Outside Backs!

Advertisements

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.

The Totally Awesome New Zealand Craft Brewing Scene Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doppelbockalicious

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blog at WordPress.com.