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!

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