Friday, March 19, 2010

Harvest Ale 2010

Homebrewers are a charitable lot. Today I got a call from Brendon asking if I wanted 100gs of green hops. What could I say but yes?
Without anytime to brew up a beer and no yeast in stock to ferment one anyway I decided to add them as dry hops in a batch of O.S.B. I had conditioning. So that makes it dry wet hops just to show how oxymoronical our brewers lexicon can be!
So this years Harvest Ale unlike the slightly aborted 5 and a ½ % abv strong ale attempt last year is a 3.8%abv wet hopped Ordinary Bitter.
After 3 hours in contact with the hops there is already a pronounced NZ hop character showing through, I suspect it won’t be to long before I rack it off into a keg.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Changing Expectations.

A few things have made me muse on how things have changed recently. First Pete Brown wrote his piece ‘I remember when it were all fields round here’ , then Dr Mulchin, now a resident of Liverpool, sent me a package of MerseyAle the Liverpool and Districts CAMRA magazine, then I started thinking about the area of my job that involves helping restaurateurs, café and bar owners put together beer lists and how what we expect from a good beer list has changed.
The two issues of MerseyAle the Dr sent both had features looking back to the past. One of them contained a piece on the first Good Beer Guide (1974), detailing the Liverpool pubs it listed and what has become of them now. The other piece looked at 30 years of the CAMRA Liverpool Beer Festival and 30 years of JDW. In both pieces it was driven home how what was at stake was the survival of traditional amber bitter and mild in a cask conditioned form, many of the beers have disappeared but also many of them are still around, and are today dismissed as ‘boring brown’ and viewed much today as Red Barrel and Double Diamond were then. Yes these beers might have declined in quality but I suspect there is something more going on. The ‘Activists’ are expecting something different now from what the ‘furious four’ originally were striving for. Today there seems to be a desire to see a range of styles , not just another traditional bitter on the handpump. While sometimes I think like Zak Avery that this move to demand different styles is at the cost of acknowledging how good some of these “boring brown’ beers are its probably a positive sign of a maturing beer culture.
Here in NZ we are facing our own developments. A decade ago, no actually make that 5 years ago, we would have been pleasantly surprised to open a menu in a restaurant, bar or café and see a beer from an independent brewer. The fact is that the beer would probably be an interpretation of a style the big brewer’s trade in, a standard golden lager, a New Zealand Draught or perhaps a dark lager. Today however I am being approached by more and more restaurateurs wanting to improve their beer lists, wanting a range of beer styles (even if the Golden Lager sections of their lists are still by far the largest) from a range of brewers. The really positive aspect is in large part these are restaurateurs who don’t have an interest or knowledge of beer, they are improving their lists because the punters are demanding it and their competition are doing it.
I guess I remember when it were all fields round here, its no high rise yet but the building site is raging!

The picture is from the dreadful days of New Zealand 6 o’clock swill where the country came very close to prohibition and pubs had to close at 6pm each night meaning punters binge-drinked their watery tasteless beer down as fast as possible before heading home. Its a period in our history that still has implications on our drinking culture.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The last brew

Well it all did go to plan. It was a wonderful thing to witness. The heady aromas of green fruity Motueka hops being pummelled in the hopback by hard working brewers all for the sake of creating a special harvest ale. . It was also sad. The loss of Macs from Wellington is bad for Wellington undoubtedly, but also I fear it may spell the end of a craft ethos for the brand. Witnessing the brewing of Brewjolias drew it all into perspective, watching the brewers sweating away working the wort from the kettle through the hop bed was like some scene from a Victorian brewery, it was pure daft labour intensive work all in order to create something special. In short it was the sort of thing that a craft brewery would do, but not the sort of thing a large brewery would do. I hope I am proved wrong and Christchurch carries on the craft ethos that undoubtedly existed at Wellington. I will cross my fingers but I wont hold my breath.

The Hop Back

The Macs Hop Back in operation. And yes its the wrong way round and I don't know how to turn it.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Green Hopped

I have been invited along to the last brew at Macs Wellington today. Fittingly they have chosen a rather special brew to finish brewing operations in Wellington before they rip the brewery apart and send it down to Christchurch. Today they are brewing Brewjolais the annual green hopped beer. Early this morning a van will have set off for the Nelson hop fields via the interislander ferry. The van will be loaded with freshly picked green hops and will then speed its way towards the brewery again via the Interisalnder. Meanwhile the brewers will have been busy brewing the beer getting it towards the crucial point where the fresh resinious green hops will come into play. At 5pm I will head down to the brewery at which point the van should be arriving and the brew will be nearing the end of its boil, the hops will go into the hopback the wort will run through it and some marvelous aromas will be enjoyed. That’s if everything goes to plan. Fingers crossed.