Inundation and Appreciation

Life post-brewing has been kind. I’ll be honest, I don’t have any source of income at the moment (which has a few downsides) but there is the hope that one day the house that I’m working on will be up to standard to sell and we get a bit of money for all the hard graft! On the upside, I’m learning a lot about renovating houses, I’m now close to being a master sander/scraper of windowsills and doors and my ability to remove wallpaper and rip up lino is improving every day.

Then there are the other upsides! I’ve managed to procure my brother’s homebrew setup and have promptly entered the world of the home brewer. Sure, I’ve played around on small kits before, mostly when I was with Epic and we cranked up ePicoBrewery to trial new beers, with both Epicurean Coffee and Fig Imperial Oatmeal Stout (codename: ePicobrewery Collision) and Zythos (codename: ePicobrewery Zythogeddon) beginning their lives on this 50 litre scale. 

Being away from brewing for a few months has been both refreshing and a bit disappointing. The last 20 months had been pretty frantic with the new brewery startup at Good George, the birth of our son and the passing of Dad as well as a move into uncharted territory of life PB (post-brewing) and moving ourselves to New Plymouth without any employment.

Laying down a mash in the garage and smelling that beautiful sweet, biscuity malt has been therapeutic. It’s times like this that you completely understand why your lifepath has worked the way it has and had me brewing professionally for close to a third of my existence. It’s been fun to get a little experimental again, something that I’ve always loved to do and I’ve been stoked with the Chamomile and Sage Saison (Sageson) in particular.

There are other things about being freelance that have also been wonderful. Dave Kurth has been extremely generous and sent me a few samples of his delicious canned Hot Water Brewing beers, with the Kauri Falls Pale Ale (my brother, Shannon’s 2013 Beer of the Year) and Walker’s Porter both showing the excellent drinkability that is Dave’s trademark. 

Our family was also very lucky to be supplied by Good George, Epic and mike’s with beer for Dad’s wake, again, it’s so amazing to have support like this from the brewing industry and there were certainly some palates opened up to tasty beer and cider, that’s for sure!

I’ve also just received a box from Mel and Phil of Beertique, a relatively new company based in Auckland who are importing international beers and ciders from around the world for our enjoyment here in NZ. Even though I’ve never met them, they’ve sent me a selection including Thornbridge Jaipur and Kill Your Darlings, Camden Town Gentleman’s Wit, Wild Beer Co (best beer website i’ve seen in a long time, especially the beer descriptions) Madness IPA and the Wild Beer Co/Burning Sky/Good George Shnoodlepip that I collaborated on in the UK last year. Thanks so much Mel and Phil!

Speaking of Shnoodlepip, this was the first actual time I have tasted the beer and I’m super pleased with how it has turned out. The last time I tasted it, it was still wort being pumped into an open fermenter and being dosed with Brettanomyces and Saison yeast strains. We had chucked a (possibly) ridiculous amount of crushed pink peppercorns into the end of the boil. Not a true peppercorn, these fuchsia-pink fruit have a lovely pepper-like note and always impress me with their sweetness and juniper-berry like character. If I recall, Andrew from Wild Beer Co cranked up the barbecue and we had the most amazing pink peppercorn-coated steak sandwiches for lunch on the brewday. A great flavourmemory.

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Myself, Mark Tranter and Brett Ellis hanging out in the open fermenter…

Post ferment, we were constantly in touch to chart the beer’s progress. Not only was this brew to be barrel aged, it was also to include passion fruit and hibiscus flowers. We wanted a little tartness and dryness form the yeast strains, depth of spice from the pink peppercorns (though not too much) that would blend in well with the vanilla and spicey notes from the oak barrels and then a little more tart fruitiness from the Hibiscus flowers. These were to be infused and added for both flavour and the fantastic hue that they give. Finally the passionfruit was there for that heady, rich impact. It’s unique combination of sweet and sharp and an uplifting tropical aspect would hopefully bring this unusual beer to completion.

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Shnoodlepip wort

Do you know what? It worked! A touch of pink in the colour, almost like a pale ale has been blended with a Rosé wine, a fantastic effervescence in the mouth with bubbles that almost seem larger than they are, but in a good way. That underlying tastness from front to back, balanced with body and sweetness from the fruit and vanilla-like oak. The passion-fruit finish, brining it into the realms of NZ Sauvignon Blanc but with in a tasteful one-dimensional way. It is just passionfruit, no gooseberry or lychee or anything else getting in the way.

It was the memory of my Nana and Grandpa’s passionfruit vine on a hot summer day in Oakura as a child. Cracking open the super-ripe crinkly-skinned passionfruit that littered the soil under the vine, usually with your teeth (sometimes to the point where the sides of your mouth hurt from eating so many of those addictive, acidic delights). I shared some with my Mum and Catherine, their eyes opening wide, both of them impressed with this beer from the other side of the world.

I love collaboration and I love doing something slightly different. And I am so appreciative of being inundated with these fantastic brews.

Inspiration begets Inspiration.

I’m off to write a beer recipe…

(By the way, another little side-project I’m involved with involves brewing, a nano-brewery and New Plymouth… Brew Mountain is getting closer!)

 

Codex Fermentarius

Tomorrow we begin to move our tanks into our new brewhouse in Somerset Street, Frankton in Hamilton. The building itself is a deconsecrated church. It got me thinking about what the Brewer’s Ten Commandments could be. Add some more and I’ll pick a few great ones for the ultimate list. Also, I’ll tell you the name of the brewpub in a few days with a bit of luck. Excited? Yep!!!

Codex Fermentarius

Thou shalt not covet another brewers’ kegs or casks.

Honour thy other brewer’s recipe choice.

Rejoice to thy daughter yeast and thy mother yeast.

Thy glass shalt always be full. Never half full. Never half empty.

Remember thy first brew day. And keep it holy.

Thou shalt not steal another brewer’s hop combination. This is hopdultery.

Thou shalt not covet another brewery’s name. Or beer name. Especially if it is that of a German cyclist.

Seven days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work. Thou art a brewer. Drinking is work.

Taste thy water, taste thy malted grains, taste thy yeast. Don’t taste thy hop flowers.

Thou shalt not drink false beverages. We know what thee are.

Give me some more great Brewer’s Commandments!

The Road to Building a Brewery…

Three months now since I left Epic and it’s been a bit of a whirlwind…

I moved here…

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This is a view from the balcony of my place on the mighty West Coast of NZ called Raglan. It has black sand, which is the proper colour of sand as every honourable Taranaki denizen will tell you. It has amazing surf and I seriously need to get a board and see if I can remember how to stand up and more importantly, it has a nice sheltered harbour which is perfect for me to go kayak fishing in!

I can be in Hamilton in around 35 minutes which is handy as this is where I’m going to be working in a new brewpub on Somerset Street in the suburb of Frankton. But more about that a wee bit later…

The last few months have seen me clock up a few air miles and head across the globe to help out a few breweries. Our brewery is coming from a company called DME who are based in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island which was quite fortuitous as my first offshore job landed me in Charlottetown!

I spent 2 1/2 weeks at Prince Edward Island Brewing Company/Gahan House Brewery helping the team out. As with the majority of craft breweries across the globe, the team were a brilliant bunch and we had some fun (and long) hours spent commissioning new fermenting vessels, double and triple brewing, counting yeast cells by the million and commissioning a new canning line!

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This picture shows PEI brewer, Bryan Carver, checking out their awesome DME brewkit. Interestingly, one of the laws on the Island involving brewing is that no commercial beer can be brewed over 6.5% alcohol by volume. You can probably imagine how restrictive that is for a bunch of passionate and creative brewers and I really hope that this law is overturned and the guys can push out some big Imperial Stouts or Barley Wines!

PEI was also pretty cold. After a couple of weeks there I was definitely keen to head back to warmth. It’s not often that a Kiwi sees ice on a beach. Walking along the shore and seeing a load of razor clam, clam and oyster shells made me pretty keen to get a feed but the fact that it was only about 2-3 degrees celsius made that pretty damn unlikely! Lucky the local restaurants did incredible food and I was lucky enough to head along to Sims Corner Steakhouse and Oyster Bar and have an incredible local lobster and some aged PEI beef which is up there with some of the best I’ve ever tasted.

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Contrast is a pretty cool thing and my next port of call was Nadi in Fiji. I spent a couple of weeks at Island Brewing Company, the home of Vonu Lager and had a great time with their brewing team. Aisea, Soneel, Ashweeta and the rest of the team run a fantastic setup and it was cool to come in and work on some of their processes and make some improvements. It’s not often a brewery has a full laboratory setup and designated staff for the roles and this definitely makes a big difference with regards production. Another thing of interest is the fact that most of the brewing staff have scientific degrees and have all completed qualifications with the Institute of Brewing and Distilling in the UK. It’s just the little things, but these all add up to make a real difference in a brewery.

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This is a picture of Soneel working hard on the DME kit in Fiji. Needless to say, the brewhouse got pretty warm…

Most readers will know of the legendary hospitality of the Pacific Islands and it was no different when we were there. Heading out to the brewery manager’s house for dinner, learning how to cook various curries, make roti bread and some seriously delicious dahl, or getting a delicious meal of mud crab, cassava and ota fern (similar to the New Zealand Pikopiko) dropped off by the brewery staff (thanks Etuate!). I can’t forget the big banquet that the staff put on for me on my last day either. No one knows hospitality like the Fijians!

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It was back to NZ for a couple of days or so to continue the process of getting everything sorted for the brewpub that is going in and then it was off again! This time it was to San Diego to judge in the World Beer Cup, the premier international beer competition that I was lucky enough to be invited to again. The WBC occurs every two years and with almost 4000 beers entered for judging, this was the biggest one yet. It coincides with the Craft Brewers Conference which we also attended. This is jam-packed with loads of seminars ranging from sustainability right through to brewing Berliner Weisse or using social media in beer marketing and has something for everyone within the industry. As well as that you get to rub shoulders with some of the world’s greatest brewers which is good if you have a few questions for them!

I was stoked to see a few mates from Australia pick up medals in the competition, super pleased with Lovibonds (from the UK) taking out a Gold Medal in the Barrel Aged Sour category and stoked to see the old crew from Thornbridge pick up a Bronze Medal for their Black IPA, Raven.

Five points if you can tell me who this bona fide HOPHEAD is in the picture at Lost Abbey brewery in San Marcos, California

So now I’m back in New Zealand and we’re all working hard at getting everything organised for the arrival of our brewery. As some of you out there know, it’s no easy task to get everything organised and I’m learning something new every day. It’s fantastic! The site is coming along slowly, we have a brewhouse wall (see picture below) and the floors are going to begin to be poured this week, meetings with suppliers and everyone in between are becoming commonplace. I am becoming a spreadsheet master at organising incoming quotations for all matters of equipment and the day where that first brew goes down is drawing ever closer.

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I’ll keep on posting here when I have the time and if you’re lucky I may even post a few pics of my super awesome engineering drawings. Let’s just say I should stick to brewing…

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??

New Zealand Brewing Dream Team – The Thirst XV – The Outside Backs

Well, the Thirst XV is near an end, the All Blacks are World Champions for only the second ever time, making for a most happy of nations and without further hesitation, it’s time to name my selections for those speedy, jinky, try-scoring machines that hang out at the back of the field and on the sidelines, chatting up the crowd and sipping at pints hidden behind those weird little barrier things that players always have to jump over.

Number 11 – Left Wing

As someone who played in the outside backs for 21 years, there’s a huge amount of players that I tried to emulate and as a youngster, it was the Terry ‘Greyhound” Wrights and John Kirwans that took pride of place i my minds eye for their remarkable turns of pace and their ability to make their way over the try line when the odds were against them. Wright showed that you didn’t need to be of Lomu-esque stature to score tries and the Kiwi brewer who would be certain to emulate his try-scoring prowess is none other than Steam Brewing Company‘s Shane Morley. One of the few Institute of Brewing and Distilling Brewmasters in NZ’s craft brewing arena, Morley has pace to burn, a goose-step that would outgander David Campese and an unerring ability to dot the ball down over the line. It’s Morley’s slinkiness that makes him the ultimate left wing. Coming in from the blind-side, it would seem entirely unlikely that he would be able to make it through a defensive line up of a scrum-half, fly-half and openside flanker, but it is exactly this point where Morley’s nickname, “Weasel” becomes apparent. Duck, slipping, turning his body. It’s another try to the Thirst XV. Morley. Outstanding.

The Slinky Dinkster himself. Thought of by rugby journos and international beer judges alike as one of the best...

Number 14 – Right Wing

You can never have too much pace out wide and having a good noggin on a player is always a bonus. With a Brewmaster on one wing, it seems a good idea to put a former Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Science university lecturer on the other. Balance is important, both on a rugby field and in a good brew. Dr. Paul Croucher of Croucher Brewing fits the bill perfectly. A savvy brewer, a brain for bubbles (similar shape to a rugby ball) and a turn of pace akin to winger Morley, Croucher would be the ideal man to have out wide. Whilst The Weasel has the ability to find gaps that don’t even exist, The Doc is more about turning his low centre of gravity into a huge advantage. Not the largest of wingers, he has one of the highest power to weight ratios on the pitch, hours of lifting kegs has paid off and if you ever see him, ask to see his guns. He’ll show them to you. In fact, it’s impossible not to notice them. It’s The Doc’s guns that transform him into the tackling powerhouse that he is. He once tackled a player so hard, that both of his legs were instantly amputated. Luckily The Doc put those hours of lecturing medical students to good use, the man’s legs were saved.

Watch out for the Guns...

Number 15 – Fullback

A position very close to the Thirst XV selector’s heart, the Fullback is a key position in both powerful counter attack (John Gallagher springs to mind) and huge, field-covering defense. The ability to field the high ball, to shrug of defenders with intense determination, to tackle low and hard and to run through contenders at will puts only one NZ brewer in the mix for this sought after position. Now, I know you all think that Kelly Ryan would be the ideal candidate, but it is Stu “Scottish” McKinlay that gets the nod. With a playing style akin to Scottish rugby legend, Gavin Hastings, a penchant for peat and a love of kilts, it’s difficult to see where his nickname comes from. I’m sure one day, someone will figure it out though.

McKinlay’s main attacking attribute is his powerful, tree-trunk legs. He also has his very own trademark, in that he is the only player to not wear shorts on the field. Known for his beer and trouser colour matching prowess, Scottish McKinlay always plays in brightly coloured trousers, often dyed yellow or orange with the flowers of Heather (in true Scottish tradition). Some rugby journos worry that the bright colours act like flames to moths, attracting opposing players and increasing the likelihood of Scottish being tackled, but the intense musculature of his legs make it ridiculously difficult for this to happen. The Scottish Bomb is known worldwide for it’s ability to put fear into the hearts of the opposition. This midfield kick gains such altitude and comes down with such speed, that opposing players grimace when trying to catch it.

How many dudes that you know can hold a rugby ball with the power of their beard? I told you he was good...(Photo courtesy of the awesome http://www.thebeerproject.com by Jed Soane)

Coming soon… The Thirst XV reserves…

New Zealand Brewing Dream Team – The 1st XV – The Front Row

Whilst at Beervana in Wellington a month or two back, I got chatting to Brendan McKenzie from the newly formed Revolution Brewing. We sat at The Malthouse watching a rugby match between New Zealand and Australia, got chatting about our time in Dunedin, rugby and (of course) brewing. Brendan began chatting about a New Zealand brewing 1st XV, so I thought I’d scrap one together…

Number 1 – Loosehead Prop

Carl Vasta – A veritable hulk of a man, this West Coast powerhouse would be ideal in the front row. The head honcho of Tuatara Brewing could be a bit of a challenge to topple over and I imagine his turn of pace would be similar to another legendary rugby Carl… Carl Hayman, All Black extraordinaire (albeit a tighthead specialist). His welding skills already legendary up and down this Land of the Long White Cloud, who else to act as the man who could potentially hold this team together.

Vasta - Foregoes soft feather pillows and sleeps with the rugby ball

Number 2 – Hooker

This would have to be none other than the nuggety Chris O’Leary of Emersons. The man behind the now extinct Limburg and (along with Richard Emerson) brewing some amazing beers down in the Deep South, Chris would be the ideal man in the front row. Precision in both brewing and throwing the ball into lineouts. Smashing! The role model for the younger members of the team, Father O’Leary would be as cunning as Sean Fitzpatrick with the skills to boot. Can’t you see him sneaking out there on the wing ready for the match-winning try?

Warming the ball up over the kettle... a technique extremely helpful on those frosty Dunedin days (photo courtesy of Jed Soane of the awesome http://www.thebeerproject.com

 

Number 3 – Tighthead Prop

With the height and power of Vasta on one side of the front row, there can be only one choice for the other lad that is to prop up the mighty O’Leary. Joseph Wood of Liberty Brewing is definitely the man for the job. Unprecedented prowess with sideburns that could trip up Jonah Lomu, Wood would have both the aggression and the smarts to turn even the toughest scrum. Ball in hand would be a formidable sight as the gentleman of the NZ brewing scene would definitely take it “up the guts”. I imagine Jo “King” Wood would be akin to All Black legend, Richard Loe. The gentlemanly version…

Imagine this powerful chap chasing you down the sideline wearing that t-shirt. Brewing legend!

 

Stay tuned for tomorrow when I will unleash the New Zealand Brewing Dream Team Tight Five!!

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...

The many ways to open a beer bottle…

A bunch of Kiwi lads get inventive. What are your favourites?

Has to be the welder for me 🙂

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

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