Thursday, September 15, 2011

CT Column 13/07/2011 : Past Master

I like to think that beer runs in my blood. When the Treaty of Waitangi was being signed my ancestors on my mother’s side were running a pub on the south coast of England. Over half a century later my paternal great grandfather was working as a drayman delivering beer to the pubs of London. I’m not sure whether or not there is any real connection between my family history and my passion for beer but my discovery of my family history has most definitely given me a passion for brewing history. The brewing team at London’s Fullers brewery share my passion for history and it has inspired them to embark on a series of brews that aim to recreate beers from their brewing records which document every brew the company has undertaken since the 1880’s.
The Past Masters series is a collaboration between Fullers head brewer John Keeling , brewing manager Derek Prentice and English brewing historian Ron Pattinson. Various recipes from the archive will be recreated and released as one off specials. The first beer to be released has been called XX Strong Ale and dates from 1891. XX would have been considered to be of the ‘Burton Ale’ style at the time it was released. Burton Ale is no longer a recognised style but is in essence a strong moderately dark (mid copper to dark brown) highly hopped type of beer that is at the same time rich and warming yet highly drinkable.
Fullers went to significant lengths to recreate XX. Barley and hop varieties are agricultural products which evolve through time. Fullers searched out the heirloom barley variety Plumage Archer and had it malted in an antique drum malting. Parts of the now semi automated Fullers brew house had to be ‘jury rigged’ in order to brew as they would have in 1892. The beer was vatted or aged for three months before being bottled and released. XX Strong Ale was heavily hopped imparting a complex spicy fruity resinous character to the beer. However the traditional aging of the beer means that unlike modern hoppy brews the beer is rounded and complex rather than obviously bitter. XX Strong Ale has a pronounced malt loaf and candied citrus peel aroma, loads of spicy pithy hop flavour, and a lingering fruity finish.
It’s a fascinating snapshot of Victorian beer and one of the best beers I have had this year. It’s currently available around town so search it out!

CT Column 6/07/2011: Winter Warmer

AT the end of June each year the New Zealand Society Of Beer Advocates holds a Matariki winter ales festival to celebrate the broad range of hearty wintry brews that are available to New Zealand beer drinkers.
Last year’s inaugural festival for the consumer group set the blue print for the event by creating a sociable environment in which conversation reigned and the safe enjoyment and appreciation of good beer with good food was the primary goal. This year the event very much continued in the same vein with a fantastic range of beers, some hearty tasty food provided by Gavin Grant the head chef from The Hop Garden and a fantastic laid back sociable vibe.
My picks of the beers included the new vintage of Yeastie Boys Her Majesty, a sneak preview of the yet to be released 8 Wired The Sultan and the Baird Dark Sky Imperial Stout. This year Her Majesty comes in the form of a pale Belgian ale that has been fermented with a Saison yeast but has a richer malt profile than would be normal for the style, spicy, fruity and incredibly drinkable!
The Sultan from 8 Wired is a yet to be released Belgian Quadruple again fermented with a Saison yeast and aged over sultanas. The Sultan was warming and strong with a definite dried fruit vinous quality that was reminiscent of a Pedro Ximenez sherry. Baird Dark Sky Imperial Stout is probably the opposite of what most people would expect from a Japanese beer, rich, dark and formidably strong. Dark Sky delivered plenty of dark cocoa and rich espresso flavours with a great full bodied malt character and a firm bitter finish.
Next year the festival will have to shed its ‘Matariki’ moniker as (astoundingly) Matariki Wines have been granted a trademark on the term. This is the equivalent of being allowed to trademark “New Years Eve”. The Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand has some explaining to do!
In other beer festival news, Beervana is looking to be bigger than ever. Earlier this year the Brewers Guild of NZ sold the festival to David Cryer, the former Brewers Guild chairman. The festival has moved from the town hall to the Westpac stadium. While the town hall offered fantastic aesthetics, a major downside to holding the event there was that all food had to be supplied by the contracted caterer. The stadium offers the opportunity to serve food from some of Wellington’s best chefs alongside the nation’s best beers. Tickets are on sale at

CT Column 29/06/2011: Comings and goings

A few weeks ago I wrote about some of the new brewing operations that are opening in Wellington. It’s great to see these new people coming into the industry. A week later I received a phone call from Matt Duncan, the sixth generation brewer from Founders in Nelson. Matt had rung to give me a heads up that the brewery was now on the market. Founders have been operating in the historic Founders Park for over 11 years brewing a range of organic beers and continuing a family brewing tradition that started in 1843.
The sale has come after fifth generation brewer John Duncan and wife Carol made the decision to retire. Matt is keen to continue the family tradition and stay on as brewer if a new owner is open to the idea. If a new owner doesn’t require Matt’s services it will be the end of New Zealand’s oldest brewing dynasty. It’s not easy brewing characterful and varied beers from the limited and expensive range of organic ingredients vailable to organic brewers. It’s the equivalent of an artist using three shades of paint to create the same masterpieces that can be achieved with a full artist’s palette.
Founders have done a good job through the years and I hope a new owner is found.
As one chapter closes another opens. Taranaki based homebrew supplier Liberty Brewing has just moved into the brewing game. Liberty owner Joseph Wood has assembled a small brew plant and is now producing small runs of strong beers packaged in 750ml re-sealable wine bottles. My pick of the bunch would be the eccentrically named High Carb Ale which is a New Zealand strong ale that combines the newly planted NZ Chinock hop variety with floor malted English Golden Promise pale malt, and Belgian Special crystal malt. The beer is richly malty with an earthy hop character and a firm bitter finish. The name is a tongue and cheek dig at the current trend for ‘low carb-no flavour’ lagers that seems to be in vogue. For the record High Carb Ale contains 45g of carbohydrate per 750ml bottle and is all the better for it!
Also out on the taps at present is a collaboration brew between Liberty Brewing and established Taranaki brewer, mikes. Taranaki Pale Ale is a 7%abv hoppy IPA described recently on Hashigo Zake’s facebook page as being ‘catnip for hopheads’. Taranaki Pale Ale is sure to go down well with those who value flavour and don’t care about the carbs! Cheers.

CT Column 22/06/2011: Milestones

IT takes a lot of work to make good beer. The day to day running of a busy brewery can sometimes obscure a brewer’s view of the bigger picture and so miss marking the achievements and milestones that other businesses would celebrate.
Back in 2005 I visited Emerson’s Brewery for the first time. At that point they were looking forward to brewing their millionth litre, a significant achievement. Several years later they realised after the fact that they had already passed the two millionth litre mark and had been so busy they hadn’t even noticed at the time! In April this year Emerson’s brewed their three millionth litre and while this time they certainly noticed they were too busy to mark the occasion. A party is planned for later this year.
At the other end of the spectrum Marlborough craft brewer Søren Eriksen originally intended to brew something celebratory to mark the 8th batch of beer to be released under his 8 Wired label. However when it came to the 8th batch the demand for his existing beers was so great that it ended up passing without fanfare. At the end of last year the 18th Batch loomed and Søren decided he could afford to do something special. The result was Batch 18, a strong specialty Imperial Stout. Batch 18 started its life as an imperial stout crafted from seven types of malt, a special Brazilian raw sugar called Jaggery, three varieties of hop and two different yeast strains. The resulting beer fermented out to a chest thumping 12.5% ABV! The beer was then infused with fair trade organic coffee and aged in oak barrels. The resulting beer pours a viscous pitch black with a tan creamy head just as an Imperial Stout should. The aroma is huge and complex combining rich dark chocolate, warm espresso, oaky vanilla, dark berry fruit and toasty malt. In the mouth the beer is incredibly decadent and rich with some warming alcohol, dark fruit, espresso and rich malt before a slightly tannic oaky finish. Batch 18 is a rich and intense beer designed to be shared with friends, preferably at the end of a hearty meal on a cold night, a near perfect nightcap! I for one can’t wait to taste what Søren brews for his 28th Batch!

CT Column 15/06/2011: Beer in Focus

THE beer world is a multifaceted community. Brewers, drinkers, educators, activists, retailers, writers and suppliers all have a part to play. I tend to play all the roles at times. Recently another role has appeared in the form of documenters. While I have already written about Luke Nicholas and Kelly Ryan’s internet TV show NZ Craft Beer TV there is another person who is going to great lengths to capture the people who make the beers we love.
The Beer Project is the creation of photographer Jed Soane. Back in 2009 Jed accompanied a friend to the Great New Zealand Beer Festival at Waitangi Park. The festival that year was a wash out with Wellington’s weather gods making themselves unmistakably known. The wet conditions and mud however made for some great photographs. Jed decided the photos were some of the best he had ever taken and after talking with Yeastie Boy Stu McKinlay, Jed decided he would embark on a project to photograph the nation’s craft brewers. His predominantly black and white photos are not only incredibly good but will one day be of historic importance when we look back to burgeoning adolescence of our craft beer industry. Jed has travelled the country trying to photograph as many brewers as he can.You can see some of his work at
And on the topic of the Yeastie Boys the post modern brewers currently have two tap only releases out, Fools Gold which is a hoppy sessionable English style ale supercharged with NZ hop varieties and Rescue Red a hoppy Amber Saison brewed as a collaboration between the Yeastie Boys, 8 Wired and Renaissance to raise money for the Brewers Guild Christchurch Earthquake Fund and the Brisbane Flood Relief Fund.

CT Column 8/06/2011: New ventures brewing

WELLINGTON is already the craft beer capital of New Zealand. We have in this city a fantastic array of bars all offering a broad range of beers and a craft beer drinking population that demands that mainstream bars and restaurants are increasingly including at least one craft offering. What Wellington has up until now lacked however is a range of breweries. With the exception of Tuatara and contract brewers Yeastie Boys it has been brewers from other parts of the country that have supplied the capital. All that is about to change with a raft of new brewing operations starting to unfold around the city.
One brewer is in the process of commissioning a small brew plant in central Wellington. The Garage Project is the brain child of brewer Peter Gillespie and former video game programmer Jos Ruffell. Kiwi born Peter Gillespie has an impressive brewing resume that includes stints at the legendary Thames Valley Brakspear brewery, Hepworth’s in Sussex and finally the Lion Nathan owned James Squire brewery in Sydney. Peter’s time at James Squire taught him a lot about brewing for a big company an experience he likens to working in a dark box and one which he will not be returning to! Keep an eye on for developments. Finally in Upper Hutt ex-pat American Chris Mills has converted a room on his house into a tiny commercial brewery. The company is called Keruru Brewing Co and will produce very limited amounts of traditional and gluten free craft beer. Check out to see what is definitely one of the smallest commercial breweries in the world!
Colin Mallon and Sean Murrie, the men behind the Malthouse, have announced that they are to open a brew pub in the Bond Street premise that was originally home to the CBD’s last brew pub The Loaded Hog, and more recently Syn Bar and The Ruby Lounge. The premise is yet to be named and a brewer is yet to be employed however redevelopment of the site is underway. It’s planned that the brewery will host brewers from around the country and the world with a lot of collaboration and one off brews on the cards.