Saturday, March 19, 2011

CT Column 9/02/2011 :Flaming beer from the other capital

HERE in Wellington we like to think of ourselves as the beer capital of NZ. We have some pretty good evidence to back this up.
Not only does our city boast an excellent range of dedicated craft beer bars and quality retailers but increasingly our ‘middle of the road’ restaurants, cafes and bars are stocking a craft beer option and often a wide selection. We also, of course, have one large regional craft brewery Tuatara, and one contract brewer Yeastie Boys. The Wellington craft beer market is lucrative and many breweries from around the country do a large amount of their business in this town.
There are however pretenders to the throne. Nelson has a claim. The town is poised on the edge of the hop growing fields with a large number of breweries and a handful of lovely bars and pubs in which to drink. Nelson is a lovely place but the word capital really doesn’t spring to mind when you visit. I would describe it more as the ‘workshop’ of New Zealand Craft beer.
Further south Christchurch also has a claim. The town is home to a number of important New Zealand craft breweries, in large part due to the untreated artesian water that runs free through its municipal water system and the abundance of affordable industrial real estate. In addition to some of the big names of NZ Craft brewing like Three Boys, Twisted Hop and Harrington’s counting Christchurch as home there are a whole raft of new start up breweries.
One of these breweries is Cassels and Sons. Located in Woolston, a stone’s throw from the Three Boys Brewery, Cassels and Sons is a brewery with a very unique piece of kit. Modern breweries use electricity or gas to heat the kettle that boils the extracted malt sugars with the hops. At Cassels and Sons they have decided to heat their kettle with a log fire much as breweries would have before the industrial revolution. While many in the brewing world have met this news with raised eye brows, brewing is hard enough with out adding an un-necessary variable into the mix being the common sentiment, everyone I have talked to has been dying to see it in action!
The brewery is currently brewing a pale lager, a New Zealand Pilsner, a dark Dunkel Lager, a fruit beer and my favourite an Extra Special Bitter. The beers are currently only available in Christchurch and the brewery is attempting to work out how they can increase distribution without over extending themselves. There will however be a chance to try one of the Cassels and Sons beers along side a whole host of other beers from Christchurch brewers both new and established at a tasting I am arranging at Regional Wines on the 24th and 25th of this month.
As for where exactly the beer capital of NZ lies, for me it’s pretty clearly our own fair city, but then I’m biased. Cheers!

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