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… ūüôā

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 S√łren¬†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¬†Mj√∂lnir 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... ūüôā

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

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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!

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