December 2018

Hi beer world. Yeah so its been awhile. Pretty sure I haven’t written one of these in six months. Seriously, it has been that busy. Just to maintain consistency I will do my best to rapid fire these months to get us back up to speed.

 

December

Made lots of wort,

Fed Yeast,

Monitored ferments,

Cleaned lots of shit,

Filtered lots of beer,

Packaged lots of beer,

 

…then it was Christmas.

Next Year

Highland games, Moon Under Water – Burns night (not those kind of Burns), Behemoth and McLeods take over Little Poms, Great Kiwi Beer Fest, and…

November 2018

Ah another fun filled month making beer in Northland! This month started with a Tripel Fest in Wellyworld, then I picked up my dad for a whirlwind tour of Queenstown for the first Bar Wars, then drove to Dunedin for the Beer fest and back to Waipu for some more brewery related shenanigans.

Tripel Your Fun

We had launched our Tripel a couple months back. It turns out our friend and outstanding brewer, Kieran of North End brewed one too. His amazing and energetic sales wiz Jane, had an idea for an event, kind of a Tripel off. I am not one for competitions so much but it turned into a fun night at Grill Meats Beer. Dustin the bar manager there worked with their talented chefs to put together a little tasting menu paired up against our Tripel, North Ends and Fork and Brewer. Kelly had brewed up something exciting too. Tripel Treat!

A fantastic night, I am sure you can imagine a tasting menu paired with some big boozy Belgian Style Tripels, well it was a night to remember. However it got kind of blurry after that…must have been awesome.

The next two days in Wellington I stayed pretty much in the ‘bnb’ getting my hop allocations ready for next year and trying to figure out how to brew all of the beer we need by Christmas. Thankfully my hop numbers were just a few kilos shy, so I was able to top up stock and should see us through till next years crops are in.

Then we flew back to Waipu to get right back into it. The long days on the road, mean working everyday until we fly out to the next event. Finding personal down time and ‘me’ time is pretty much non-existent…

Dad

My dad is a pretty awesome guy, one of the most gentle and funny people I know. About seven years ago he and his wife came for a visit. We toured around in a camper van for a few weeks, and I drip fed him my home brew collection. He was strictly a flavourless Pilsner drinker, till then.

Well upon returning back to the states he quickly became hooked on IPA’s and pale ales and barley wines and, well you get the picture. Corrupted. Now a seeker of brew pubs and new beers. Every time they travel it has to include a brew pub or two along the way.

Anyway we get to Skype a handful of times a year and if were lucky he flies down for a couple weeks every few years. Well I was lucky that this was one of those years.

It was a whirlwind for sure. He spent the next two weeks with us. He flew down to Queenstown for the Bar Wars event, and then worked the Dunedin Beer Fest at our stand. Then we flew back to spend a day in Waipu. Then drove down to Hampton Downs for some Go Cart racing, then back for a few days at the house to wind up the trip. I love that guy, miss him already.

Bar Wars

If your lucky enough to ever be able to go to Queenstown, you have to go to Smiths Bar. They are up stairs on the end of the main strip in Queenstown village. For those that don’t know, Queenstown is New Zealand’s quintessential ski town. Like a ski village from Europe or Colorado, it is idyllic in all respects. Stunning scenery, massive lake side, awe inspiring. Sadly the town is mostly full of wealthy out-of-towners, and a thick layer of high end retail stores. It stinks of snobbery. Well Smith’s Bar and Atlas are the saviours of the village. Serving independent beers from around NZ. Turns out a few more are popping up.

Anyway Chris one of the owners, and working manager of Smith’s rang me up and threw an idea of a collaborative event with a Star Wars type theme. Having a bunch of breweries collaborate on a beer and have them at different events around the country. Sounds fun, so we joined forces.

The inargural one was in Queenstown, so we flew there before heading to the Dunedin beer fest, just the event to kick things off. As I mentioned last month we had done a collab beer with three other brewers…

A New Hope is the beer we made. A brut IPA with Kaffir Lime. This was the first time any of us had made a Brut IPA. For some reason the massive amounts of hops we had added all seemed to have faded away. The kaffir was but a grassy note in the finish. It smelled fantastic in tank. Then one day it was all gone, so I second dry hopped it and added more kaffir. That helped a bit. When I tried it on the night at Smiths the keg we had was full of diacytel. My fellow bar wars brewers all said it was the enzyme, I am sure they said that just to make me feel better. Anyway the other kegs were much better. We had friends go and taste all of the other kegs and none had the dreaded D. Thankfully.

Well turns out the issue with the enzyme is it has a tendency to strip hop aroma if added to the fermenter, post ferment. We chose to add it then and not to put it in the mash or kettle. The rationale was that the enzyme amyloglucosidase converts dextrins by cleaving certain molecules on specific branches of carbohydrates, these then turn the dextrins to simple sugars, ie glucose. Glucose is highly fermentable, it is the prefect food for yeast, kind of too good. They will always eat it first because they don’t have to metabolise it, it is simply absorbed through the cell wall. Like mainlining liquid sugar. This has it’s draw backs. They will consume the glucose rapidly and will cause a very vigorous ferment. The lack of extra steps they will often produce off flavours, ones that happen early in ferment do not clean up through conditioning. Any way so we figured adding in once the ferment was done would prevent this. Sadly it had other effects.

More on our experience with this enzyme and Brut IPA’s in a later post…

The other collab beer we were up against was good, a big dank green hop aroma on the nose sitting with some impressive squeezed juice. Then it was medium bodied and had a touch of bitterness. Nice beer. They won in my opinion.

Look for new Bar Wars episodes coming up, Chris has some pretty awesome events lined up.

Dunedin Beer Fest

After a couple of rainy days in Queenstown we drove to Dunedin. A glorious scenic drive through the south. Beautiful is not even a good word to describe it.

Arriving in Dunedin we headed to the stadium to check in. Kelly had a solid start in setting up, so we just sorted out the rest and sorted a few details. We had a good site with a great view of the stage. The event took place at the Forsyth Stadium in Dunedin. A covered partial open air rugby pitch. It would be a fantastic place to watch a game. If you’re into that sort of thing.

Anyway this is the perfect place for a beer festival. If it rains, its covered, there are shit loads of bathrooms, a good breeze rolling through. A stunner in Dunners. Aside from some brewer, who likely didn’t remember to bring any and said fuck it I’ll steal one from McLeod’s, that took one of our clearly labelled co2 bottles. Thankfully the organisers eventually found us a spare to use. We all know who took it, and karma will get him, dick move. Yes, karma does get him eventually…

The festival was great, well organised and a super fun crowd. Pretty well behaved, the music was good. We even made up with New New New over that, thing. Ah see how cool beer festivals can be. We really enjoyed Dunedin and look forward to next year! Can someone recommend some good food options? We had mostly shitty food experiences there, aside from Emersons, which was fantastic. So any good leads would be helpful.

The Monday after the fest we flew back to Aucks, then the SH1 slog up to the Pu. A busy time of year trying to stay ahead of it all. I used up couple of days of leave to spend with my dad. We went to Hampton downs and did some go carts. Highly recommend it. Super fun. Then some great days at home, even made it to the beach. We hid under the trees at Langs Beach and listened to the surf for an afternoon. Priceless.

Sadly my dad headed back that Sunday. Hope to see him next year.

Beertique

Mel asked me not to say anything here about this, but I wanted to be honest and inform our customers of the change.

As of November 1st Beertique will no longer carry McLeod’s products.

This was a mutual decision.

We are a small brewery struggling with production demands. We have don’t have a pile of cash and are not looking to crowd fund, so we have to work with the size and production constraints that we have.

Thanks to Beertique, Punky Brewsters and our satellite sales team we are selling out faster then we can produce. This has reprecusions. Getting new customers and not being able to supply them is not a good look. Making excuses and explaining our production demands doesn’t help. Sadly this made for frustrated customers that want the beer that has been selling well, back on the shelf, other wise they will give it to someone else.

Well that scenario is not something we take lightly. Beertique was growing us too fast too quickly for us to manage, that is the truth.

We have taken everything back in house so we can manage stock and deal with customers one on one. So we can nearly guarantee the supply. The Punky Brewster family still covers all of the South Island for us and now that Geoff is full time sales we will start to manage a steady supply chain throughout the rest of the country.

Thank you Mel, Phil and team!

Brewers Guild

I am not wanting this to be a forum for the brewers guild but I know a shit load of brewers read this and many will be asking questions.

Since I have been on the board we have had three meetings online, like a Skype call with no picture. A bit awkward but it gets the job done for the time being. Sabrina has been doing a great job and has been, along with Cathrine, handling all the heavy lifting so far.

We have instituted a monthly newsletter that will go out every month so that members understand the tasks that are on the table at the moment. I strongly suggest getting to know your local MP from where ever you work, live. They are our direct connection. Arrange to meet with them so that they know who you are and the issues you have around being a brewery.

Next Month

It’s Christmas, the official silly season. Lots of brewing and stuff.

 

Thanks for reading..

 

October 2018

This month, we made lot’s of Paradise, and then made some more Paradise, and I am pretty sure we will be making more next month. Then we bottled Bonnie 2018, released 802#12, took the BJCP exam, again, did a tap takeover at Malthouse, attended a wicked charity event at Rouge and Vagabond, made some more chili pils, judged at the NBC, closed out the month with our friends at Brew Union, Halloween styles, but first…

 

Our Brand

I get a bit of feedback every so often about the look of our brand. Many people expect and want breweries to all look like Garage Project in their marketing. We don’t have a massive marketing team around us but what we do have, is our own integrity.

To be completely honest, when I first started at McLeods, I disliked the branding, a lot. I thought it was old and unoriginal, lacking modern creativity and color. I didn’t understand the surfing concepts and the odd name that didn’t fit anyone who owned or worked for the brewery. The brothers aren’t McLeod’s and neither am I. So why McLeod’s? I asked myself that question, frustrated at times, and discouraged.

So I had to step back and think about why… Waipu is a unique place in the world. You can’t escape its past and present. The name comes from a family that were part of the first settlers of Waipu. The “Pizza Barn'” is the former homestead of one of the original NZ McLeods. A large number of the early settlers were part of a larger community, all from Scotland, whom travelled around the world together to settle here. Go to the museum website for the whole story.

Fast forward to modern day Waipu. Now it is a beach community, with deep roots in surfing and farm life. Go through town and the busiest restaurant is McLeod’s Pizza Barn. They (brothers Gwynne) bought an existing business over fourteen years ago and put their blood sweat and cash into. Then in 2014 they decided a brewery would be a good compliment to the busy restaurant. Then after a series of unfortunate events… I came along.

I took this project on to make good beer. Thats it, just good beer.

I want people to see our label and be confident that you will get a good beer. It may not be the craziest sounding name or the most flash graphics. That is not us. We are not flash, we are not crazy city business’ or the next contract brewer trying to come up with the next best thing. Our beer is well crafted and free of faults. It may not have the worlds most rare ingredients to make it uber special, but it will be unique in flavor and made with attention to detail. Our beers are not meant to be the hoppiest, or the most bitter. We do not aim to be the most sour or have the wackiest combination of ingredients better suited to a curry, we simply aim to make a well balanced flavorful beer.

The labels are conservative and old school, we like that. Look at any label from a beer in the 1800-1900’s, a circle with a name through the middle. A classic look, timeless almost. Marketing 101: timeless is good for longevity as a brand. Our seasonal labels are special, they are hand drawn, made especially for us. That same artist, Sarah Larnarch makes the album covers for Lady Hawk, a legendary NZ artist. We just happen to be lucky enough to have Sarah in our family, literally, and that she can find time to make these for us.

So for the nah-sayers out there, piss off. We have a sense of purpose and a defiant sense of place. We know who we are and where we are from, and our mission is to make great beer. Don’t buy us for the label, buy us because it tastes good and you can trust that when you buy our beer it isn’t fucked.

 

Bonnie 2018

This beer is a fun one. A long time ago in a place far far away I had a bottle of Rayon Vert. It changed my life. It was hoppy and malty but had the little extra specialness to it. I couldn’t place it until I did some research. It was brett, good ole Brettanomyces. Anyone who reads these ramblings knows my love affair with the ‘Brett’ family. They can be funky and irritable at times, and are known to be members of the clean plate club. Occasionally they can remind you of baby diapers on a goat farm, but all in all pretty good little buggers.

So Rayon Vert is a 100% brett IPA, made by Green Flash, under the careful watch of Chuck Silva, who now has broken off and has his own brand and brewery, Silva brewing in Paso Robles. Anyway he knows the bretts and invited them to a brewday, it was a game changer. The beer aged amazingly well, as it would with brett, it did become increasingly carbonated in bottle as the brett ‘cleaned their plates,’ but it never tasted bad, if anything it became more complex and delicious.

Bonnie is our Rayon Vert. Last year we made it with a blend of our Farmhouse culture, house ale strain and Var. Drie Bretts. This year we primary fermented 1/2 way with our house ale yeast then pitched in a fruity blend of bretts and lacto to finish the party. It is immensely hoppy and has a touch of acidity and bitterness. It is bone dry.

It featured at a couple of events this month, described below. 6.6% abv, 2000 bottles and a few kegs. It will age well, cellar and or drink now.

 

Malthouse

This place is a NZ institution, about to celebrate 25 years. One of the longest running craft beer bars in Wellington and NZ. Many of the bar managers over the years have gone on to open their own bars and breweries/brands and have remained integral parts of the NZ beer industry.

Needless to say if you can get a tap takeover and become a solid customer, and make it into Neil Millers blog, well, you can officially say, you have made it!

We have sold the odd keg or two over the past few years to them but have never been able to do a proper event. So when our amazing events coordinator Kelly rang up Colin and asked if he wanted to do an event, and he said yes! Well, shit we were psyched. So we pulled out our best for the night.

It was on the Friday before labour day weekend. Knowing that I thought it might be a ghost town, but as Colin said it was a good night and he was happy that we were there. The turn out was good with quite a few of our friends popping down for a few pints.

A huge thank you to Colin, Kieran, Calum and the rest of the staff. We were made to feel welcome and so proud to be able to have our beers poured there.

Happy anniversary!

 

Piquant and Rouge and Vagabond

A while back I got this letter from a brewer in Wellington. He asked if we would like to be part of a small event to raise money for a charity to help suicide prevention. Knowing how hard that is on many, and having lost many good friends through life to it, we were honoured to be among the select few to be invited. Adam Laird of Maiden brewing organised this with the hip happening Rouge and Vagabond bar.

The line up of beers was pretty awesome. Their is this group of mates that call them selves the Dominators. I am not sure why, I seem to have forgotten to ask where that came from. Anyway these fellas all knew each other as home brewers in Wellington many years ago. They are all really good friends and they have all chosen very unique paths in the industry. So on the day we were able to try several of their beers. A broad range of beers, each very distinct. They also invited a few of the risings stars of the beer geek world to share some too.

Choice Bros, Maiden, Cell Division, North End, Nine Barnyard Owls, Hey Day, Wilderness, 8 Wired, Peckhams and us. A brilliant line up with Pie Hard serving up some delicious pies. An absolutely wonderful event with a great group of people.

 

Back to Waipu to hammer out some more beers then we headed back to Auckland for…

 

NBC

Every year home brewers pull out their best and send them to the SOBA run home brew competition in Auckland. This is the Oscars of home brewing in NZ.

This year it took place again at Pacific Flavours in Auckland.

Upon arriving I looked around the room and realised that the home brewers out there should be pretty thrilled at the caliber of judges that all turn up to taste their beers. A better line up of judges then most of the NZ Brewers Guilds.

It was a two day event we all judges some 700 entries this year. The numbers are getting quite close to the number of entries for the Brewers Guild.

With twelve tables this year it was actually pretty smooth, and compared to other competitions relatively easy, only judging 30 odd beers per day. The thing that slows it down and makes it challenging is the feedback. Providing good solid feedback on each beer is time consuming and getting an agreement at the tables is not always easy. The term ‘wrangling cats’ is thrown out a lot. Luckily everyone is pretty much accessing the beers the same.

As a table captain, you have to ask each judge, trainee and steward what they think of the beers and listen to their analysis. Then summarise those and communicate with the steward to get all of that information onto the form in an intelligent and legible manner. This can be challenging if everyone doesn’t agree, and if others at the table try and speak over each other. Proper etiquette is respect to the table captain and allow them to convey this.

Overall a great weekend and once again the caliber and quality of the beers seems to get better each year. Acetaldehyde and balance once again were the major issues on our table.

Acetaldehyde is formed during fermentation, when the yeast consume/metabolise the sugars they create co2 and acetaldehyde, then the acetaldehyde is further broken down into esters and other flavour compounds. Some may not realise it but in the presence of excess oxygen after fermentation acetaldehyde can reform and show its ugly head. Oxygen in home brewing is likely the biggest enemy a brewer encounters. The smaller amount of beer you have the more oxygen will effect the flavour. It is much easier to make 100,000 litres of beer and keep the dissolved oxygen levels down then it is in 20 litres. A huge challenge for sure. So when a clean crisp fresh beer comes across the table it is something for a brewer to be proud of.

Once again to any home brewers that read this, some words of advice. Please do not send in you old IPA’s and pale ales to the competition. Save your money and invest in better equipment. If you want to get a medal for your hoppy beer, buy fresh hops and brew them within a few weeks of the competition.

Also here is a tip to check for diacetyl. Take a small sample of your beer, say 40 to 60ml. Aerate it well, by stirring or pouring back and forth into a glass. Then cover the sample with aluminium foil and place in a hot water bath. Heat the sample to 60c and hold there for 20 minutes.  Remove from the water bath and cool it back to room temperature. If your beer has diacetyl, you will be able to smell it easily. If your in doubt, grab another small sample from the same beer and compare them. If they smell the same you can cool and package your beer. This little method works for any beer, and is outlined in the Chris White book on Yeast. If you do have some present, just leave the beer for another day, keep it warm and keep checking each day until it is gone. If after 4 days it is still present pitch some fresh active yeast and it should sort it.

 

Brew Union

We had an event at Grill Meats Beer in Wellington on November first, I will chat about that next month. So on the way down Geoff our tartan avenger/ sales dude set up an event with our friends at Brew Union.

These guys have created an oasis in little ole Palmy.

I have huge respect for them and they have been making good waves around the country. Jason and Murray have been dialling in their beers and Palmy has been very grateful for it.

We had just received some new experimental hops from NZ Hops and I wanted to have a play with them. So Murray, Jason and I discussed making a beer while we were in town. Some of the best learning can happen when brewers sit down and talk about process.

We made a NZ Pilsner together, proper like with lager yeast and cool ferment,  with this new hop, it smelled amazing and I am looking forward to trying some.

Later that night we had a bit of launch for Bonnie and 802 #12. They also had most of our sours and barrel aged beers in their fridge. They did small platters that had a mix of them, along with a paired dish from the kitchen. It was really cool and made me realise how busy we have been. I was super proud of the line up for sure.

As part of our mission at McLeods is to have a positive effect on the brewing industry. The keg that we get from the brew day will be used to raise money for the charity of their choice. Likely it will be for raising money to help bring awareness to depression. Watch this space.

I can’t say enough about how genuine the staff is at Brew Union, seriously some of the coolest people. All of the staff get along really well and support each other when they need it. Great stuff.

Thanks again Jason, Murray and team for your hospitality and conversation, we loved it. We are looking forward to our next visit.

 

Next Month…

Tripel fest at Grill Meats Beer, Bar Wars at Smiths in Queenstown, then we descend upon Dunedin, with an event at Ombrellos and our first Dunedin Beer Fest. My Dad comes for a visit and we try to keep up with production for the silly season.

 

Thanks for reading

McBrewer

 

 

September 2018

This month was a huge month! We got our mojo back, flew down to Nelson for the Annual Brewers Guild awards, took a few home. Bottled our new Dubbel, launched 802 #11, and put down a solid collab ‘brew-t.’

Lets get into it…

…but first I must apologise, I missed posting this at the beginning of the month. I kinda forgot…ah well…

Paradise

This beloved beer of ours is a tricky one to make. To get the aromatics, flavour and the bitterness just right is a huge challenge. This years hops are a bit different then last seasons. We have noticed a slight shift from ripe tropical fruits, to more intense citrus, clementine and papaya. The hops are a hint more grassy too. All around still an outstanding beer as far as we are concerned, but you might notice a slight change.

Some breweries have extensive tasting panels and do multiple trials with different hop combinations, they do this to pick a flavour profile that suits their beers. We don’t have that. Then irregardless of the hops they use, they just find the flavour and aroma combinations that they want and make the ratios that work. Likely you can find some cost effective ones as substitutes. A worthy exercise if you have the ability to do that much trial work.

So we had a bit of a window last month of no stock till we were able to get the profile corrected. I alluded to that in last months blog. We are pretty happy with it now. Then we just did double batch after double batch after double batch trying to get some stock. Your thirst for this beer is making that rather tricky as our new supplies run out as fast as we can make them. All our beers are back in stock and we have a heap of new stuff coming out. Lots of exciting beers.

 

AGM

The Annual General Meeting of the NZ Brewers Guild was held the day before the NZ Brewers Guild Awards.

I believe this years was the shortest meeting on record. Surprisingly no one had anything to say. It was just a run through last years minutes, then accept the nominations to the board. Not a peep from anyone. I kinda figured someone would jump up and want to have a go…but nothing…

With a room of silence I was accepted to be a member of the brewers guild board. A huge honour to be able to be part of it. I hope I can contribute in positive meaningful ways.

This year they wanted to have an even split between representation of small, medium and large. Coincidentally that is exactly how it’s transpired. Three men, from each size brewery, small-medium-large, nine total, with an Executive Director and an Administrator.

The idea of balance was an attempt at being democratic. The odd thing is that doesn’t really make it balanced in brewery representation. If we take a look, the largest segment of NZ breweries as members, is in the Medium size, followed by small and then just a dozen breweries make up the large. So if were to be totally PC, it would be 2 members from small breweries, 6 from medium and 1 from large.

As I understand, quite a few brewers read these ramblings. Please know that you can contact me any time about issues or concerns. After all its about all of us brewers and our breweries, and everyone should have a voice that’s heard. I am excited to get involved and see where we can take this.

 

Brewers Guild Awards

Well once again a year has gone by and it was time again to go to the awards ceremony. Last year the event was held at Wigram air field in Christchurch, this year it was held in sunny Nelson.

Last year I was in California sitting around a camp fire watching the Twitter feed. This year we had a table of the whole team. We flew down Thursday afternoon, grabbed dinner and some beers at the Freehouse, then called it an early night. The next day was spent the day at the Brewers Trade conference and seminars in Stoke. Silly me missed the memo about the bus, and had to take a cab back and forth a couple times. I didn’t find out till the end of the show there was a bus. Anyway a good showing of speakers.

Pete Slosberg of Pete’s wicked ales came as the guest of honour. An interesting pick. No offence to Pete, but he had a successful contract brand in the US in the 90’s, but he’s not necessarily that relevant now. He had a cool chart and told his story. He sold out for shit tons of cash. Good on him, he came across more of a business men then a signifnanct contributor to the over all industry. He had some decent beers, but it was his clever advertising campaign that helped him sell shit tons of beer. Nice guy, I believe he was one of the judges too. The more I think about it, he was the perfect guest. A contract brewer that sold out, as that would be a very popular dream for most, don’t you think?

The big night. Well, we fucking tied in points with Parrot Dog to win the champion medium sized brewery. They had one more gold then us, but one more bronze. Crazy eh? Exact same number of beers entered and medalled, just a different split in colours. Pretty much the same result last year. Happy, but bummed. Three golds. Turadh Saison, Black Rye Sour and Paradise. Six silvers and four bronze. We entered seventeen beers and got thirteen medals. Pretty proud of that. Oddly the beers that did very well last year didn’t do that well this year. Longboarder, Traders, Unknown Pleasures and Billycan got no medals. The beers were/are to our standard, but judging is hard and as I have said, it can be a bit of a crap shoot.

I have had a few people contact me about the Longboarder, how can a beer that trophied last year not even get a medal. Well after getting our notes back I found out why. That beer is a German Pilsner at heart, but it is late hopped with NZ hops. A true German Pilsner has noble hop character. So the brewers notes allow us to mention the different hops used so that it can be judged properly. For some reason the notes we included with our entry never made it the the judges run sheet so it was not medalled because of the lack of Noble hops. Having had a specific conversation about it when submitting our entries I was fucking gutted to find that out. Not sure what happened. Unfortunately there is no use crying over spilled milk. Hopefully next year the brewers notes will make their way to the judges sheets. I am sure we weren’t the only ones scratching our heads.

One other thing I am going to push for next year, is better balance of the numbers, with shifting the brewery size to better reflect the breweries. My suggestion for better balance below:

1-249,000 litres/year Small. (Currently 1-100,000L)

250,000-1 Million litres/year Medium. (Currently 100,001-2 Million/L)

1Million litres/yr  Large(currently 2mil+).

The way it sits, 70+% of breweries are in the Medium range. Its all semantics I guess, but if we want to show an accurate reflection of our industry that would be a good place to start.

 

Brut

Ok so some might say I like to ‘take the piss,’ a bit here, well I do. Sorry but I have a bit of fun with it. It makes for entertaining banter and is fuel for conversations, whether you agree or not.

So the latest craze that is sweeping the floors of breweries is the ‘Brut’ IPA. Originating just a handful of months ago from the Bay Area of San Fransisco, this new ‘style’ of IPA is becoming the beer of the moment. Created as a reaction to the sweet and cloudy beers on the rise, this brewery decided to make a bright and dry beer, nearly the antithesis of the haze craze. The beer is essentially a standard unfiltered IPA, without all the haze forming proteinous matter, but instead has an enzyme of amyloglucosidase added. If you feel like chopping up complex sugars like a little childs’ steak, that is the stuff. The enzyme breaks down the dextrins into small chains so the yeast tear through every last fermentable sugar leaving a beer that could be nearly carb-free. Yep, we’ll save that for another day. So when you add this to an IPA, you would get a bitter as fuck beer on its own. However if you use it with insanely late additions and a hearty dry hop, and pretty much no bitterness, then carb the fuck out of it, you have “brut.” IPA.

The beer sounds great…but the name…what the fuck!? That is a piss take. An actual piss take. Here is the story of Brut from the wine world, as that’s where is was taken from. The word brut being on the label of some pretty average sparkling wine.

Brut was the word that the French put on the labels of the cheap shit wine they were hocking to the brits back in the day, well I guess they still do, to all of us.

Well they thought it was shitty at the time. The French wine makers were getting refermentation in their bottles and they became fizzy. The French hated that, at the time. So they pawned it off on their channel sharing mates. Funny enough the French realised it was actually pretty cool, eventually. We know those two have a long standing tradition of love and affection for one another as countries. The French have this amazing skill of being able to insult people with the flick of the tongue and sometimes it takes you a few minutes to realise what just happened. Anyway the piss is that Brut means gross. Yep like gross, disgusting. But if you call it brut, like large and burly. It sounds cool right? Yet the real meaning is, its shit.

The real meaning of dry in French is Sec, or Au sec. Dry and almost Dry. Honestly a Sec IPA sounds cool, like a half baked friend after a surf just complemented your IPA. Sec bro. Au sec bro, well, even better.

 

A New Hope

So now that I had a fun poke at Brut IPA’s we ended up making one. Smiths Bar in Queenstown is hosting an event called Bar Wars. A battle of two bars and eight breweries/brands. Then the host bar gets to do the event. Four brewers team up to create a beer (IPA) for the challenge, may the best beer win. Chris from Smiths is our bar, so we teamed up with Behemoth, Altitude and Wilderness. Andrew and I will be brothers for life, Altitude is one of Queenstown’s own and Wilderness is one of the most exciting new brewers in the country.

I set it up so we could all have a good piece of the beer. We drew names out of a hat for,

Water/Style/Abv/Adjunct (Altitude)

Hops (Wilderness)

Yeast (McLeod’s)

Malt Bill (Behemoth)

Everyone submitted their choices and we brewed it this week. It is a hoppy Brut IPA with Kaffir Lime.

 

Dubbel

We added another bottle conditioned Belgian style ale to our Smugglers Bay series. After doing a Belgian Tripel, I wanted to do a Belgian Dubbel with the same yeast. It came out great, 1600 bottles. Rich bready maltiness on the nose and palette, with a smooth and drinkable body, hint of tartness on the finish. The 7.6% abv is well hidden in flavours of dried fruits and spice. Kegs are available now and cases will be out by the end of October.

 

West Coast IPA redux

I didn’t go into much detail on this but we pulled our West Coast IPA from the competition. The kegs we had here all tasted fine, and the beer had passed our in house post ferment tests.  I was fucking gutted to say the least, but we do our very best to only serve delicious beer. You deserve it.

Well when I get knocked down, I like to get right back up again. So we brewed it again. Lochaber, which is the name of a huge axe that is used to chop peoples heads off in old time Scotland. This beer has so many hops it could very well happen to you.

Just a 10Hl batch but it is super friggin’ hoppy and delicious. We would have been a contender for sure. (Rocky reference)

Grab it if you see it on tap as the kegs won’t last long. A classic West Coast IPA, hoppy bright and bitter, with a nice sweet malt cushion, I am sure Geoff Griggs would approve.

 

802 #11

The latest in the first NZ series of Fresh Unfiltered IPAs. This one is a match of Mosaic and Denali. Denali is the hop that currently holds the record for total oil content. It is resinous with huge pineapple on the nose, then we added Mosaic, which is one of the most friendly hops out there, it loves to play with others. Big round and soft pallet with bright white peach and tropical aromas, balanced bitterness. 6.4% abv Keg only, pre-sold. Get it while you can…#12 is already in the cue…

 

Love Bucket

We did a three day event at Lovebucket the last week of September. They paired up the beers with some crazy Asian inspired street food. We pulled out some gems to have on tap. Barrel Aged Red Sour, Oyster Gose, Turadh Saison, and Black Rye Sour. A very cool line up. They were all tasting great. Sadly we found out that the bar manger who has been there from day one is moving on. If you have ever seen Brandon in action, its pretty impressive. He is a true artist of the cocktail. He built an apothecary of tinctures, essences’ syrups, and crazy garnishes. Watching him work is impressive. An artist for sure. I am sure he will be missed. Good luck Brandon and thank for your support!

To be clear Love Bucket is still there and has a few little changes up their sleeve, watch that space 🙂

802 #11 Launch

Then we launched our 802 #11 at the Lumsden. You wouldn’t have known, as there wasn’t anything posted about it on the night. I don’t think the staff was even alert to it, but it was the first keg to be tapped in NZ. A busy Friday crowd as usual. That place heaves on a Friday afternoon. We are very happy to be able to work with the Freehouse group and all of their establishments.

In my opinion, I could have let it condition a few more days, I prefer to let the yeast flock out more and let it settle, but it tastes great. Look for it on taps now.

Please do not hold onto these kegs. We have seen a few of these beers show up on tap months later. These beers are meant to be consumed within a month from launch. They may taste good for six months, but they are super fresh. The hop flavour compounds do not stay in suspension for ever, that classic hazy appearance is an emulsion of hop flavours. Drink it now, don’t wait, we’ll make more…

 

Next Month

We launch 802 #12,  Bonnie 2018, Lochaber hits the taps, shit we might even start selling from our back bar off licence at the Pizza Barn (McLeods Restaurant), finally. We are back down in Wellies for a tap takeover at the Malthouse (finally!!!) then we are attending a charity event at Rouge and Vagabond with the Dominators, quite a few other juicy bits and then we close out the month with the launch of 802#12 at Galbriaths then some judging at the NHBC, and we brew lots more beers, even a Belgian Wit and more!

 

August 2018

Welcome to another blog from Northland. Well this month were gonna keep it really nice and stuff. We have been in a free fall of stock, a series of unfortunate circumstances have all created a perfect storm, so a hell of a stress filled month. We learned a shit load and are now back in full swing. The month started with a long lunch at LBQ, then back for some brewing, then back down to Wellington for Beervana as punters. Then back to the pu for more brewing. Some cool stuff coming up too.

But first…

Last Month

I am not going to apologise for last months blog or the content of it.

The title of this blog is ‘The In’s and Out’s of Running a Small brewery in Northland NZ.’ That is what this is, like it or not. The month to month good and bad of what I/we do. I express some frustration, constructive critisms but mostly provide really good information. Yet every month I get a message from someone not liking how I word that, or do I have a problem with them or the whatever. Even some friends now give me the cold shoulder when I see them, not sure what thats about. I also get lots of appreciation, honestly more good then bad.

If you don’t like what I have written, move on. People write shit everyday that people don’t agree with. If we all thought and felt exactly the same way about everything, life would be pretty fucking boring. What would we talk about, how would we continue to question and learn? Well this blog is a learning tool for me as well. I hope you see it as that too, or at least can take something away from it.

Anyway to stay on track with the PMA (positive mental attitude) Let me clear up the two most sensitive things I mentioned last month.

SOBA Dunedin Winter festival:

Well turns out they (SOBA National Commitee) had no idea that we had been uninvited. That was the reason for the online apology they posted to their Facebook page, and to last months blog.

That means a lot to us, and it just highlighted the unfortunate circumstance. We, even after my comments, were and still are, over it.

I am not sure how a little bit of disappointment on our end for them not sticking up for us, turned into quite a bit of negative feedback from the region towards the organisers. Let me be very clear. We have absolutely no issues with SOBA or any one who is part of the organisation. Please let them move on, lets focus on how great the festival was and look forward to the next.

We asked SOBA if we could attend next year and put this all behind us. Stay tuned.

Copying

Ok so maybe I got a bit paranoid. I do that sometimes. You know when you put your head down and are just trying to fucking get through it. Trying to be creative and original. It’s hard to stand out from the crowd. So when you finally get a cool idea and it starts to work for you, then someone else does the same thing. Or worse, gets theirs into the market before you.

If anyone actually read the article, they would have noted the conflict of discussion I had. The voices in my head, we all have them. Any way two of the brewers who are more paranoid then I am apparently, had to send me a message to make sure that I knew they hadn’t copied me. Which their guilty consciences’ forced them to reach out 🙂

Well as I said the beer world is just like the Simpsons. Its all been done. The last original ideas were from Socrates and Plato. We are just continually regurgitating the same ideas over and over. That became even more glaringly obvious when Every brewery decided to do a new Hazy IPA every month. Great. Awesome. Haze craze is on! Fuck it let’s just enjoy the beer no matter what.

‘The best ideas are always someone else’s’

So there you have it. Now can we get back to the important stuff…

Free Fall

So on top of all the bullshit, we have been in a stall. It took a huge amount of effort and about six weeks of sleepless nights and anxiety to finally sort out some issues. No infections or any of that shit. Hop delays, bottling machine capper malfunctioning and our yeast was not happy, simply put the beers were not tasting to our standard.

It has helped us to really dig deep into our process and trouble shoot. Anyway I will say that for the last 6-8 weeks I have felt like I was in a bad dream, and seriously fucking out of it. The brewery and getting our beers up to standard was/is my obsession. To anyone I have interacted with over the last couple months I am sorry for being so distracted, more so then usual. The long lunch below was at the near mid point of this window of time. Needless to say I was not in prime form to hold much of an audience.

A huge thank you to David Nicholls for being my sound board. His knowledge of brewing and the ways to trouble shoot, were instrumental in our solving our issues. Your the best,

Cheers.

Little Beer Quarter

You may likely be getting queasy in the tummy from my gushing about this place and the crew. Ah well I fucking love that place, so here’s a bit more gushing.

For the lead up to Beervana we decided to do an intimate long lunch at LBQ. They planned out a lovely menu paired up with some of our old and new beers.

The crew closed the shutters and at 12pm we got into some libations.

A flute of Oyster Gose and a platter of fresh-out-of-the-Mahurangi-harbour-oysters. The standing room only crowd of 24 wicked cool folks, dug in.

The closed shutters and the lights that they put up made it feel like Christmas at 2 am. Such a cozy feeling. Before we got into the main dishes they arranged for a local bag piper to come in and lead off the festivities. It was great.

They did such a cool job of decorating and making it so comfortable. The horseshoe table set up made it easy to chat with everyone.

Now I am not much of a charismatic host. Sadly I don’t have a roster of good jokes and I can’t get people dancing on the tables. So it was like sitting around the table with a bunch of friends for a quiet gastronomic feast of great proportions.

We got stuffed to the eyeballs and drank some delicious beers from a broad range of styles. A huge thank you to LBQ, Dan, Stacey and team. I was so honoured to be your guest. I wish the whole staff could have joined in too, maybe next time.

Trappist

IMG_1156

A good friend of mine, and likely the best brewer in the country, based on an encyclopaedia of knowledge and decades of experience. Well he ‘tsk tsk’d,’ me.

Fair enough I deserve it, I gotta take a bit, if I dish it out right?

Well he said he believed it was illegal to use Trappist on the label of a beer, which until we needed a label for our new Tripel, so did I.

This is how it works and there is a heap of confusion around it. It kinda ties in with the Trademark issue from last months blog.

By order of the Cistercian monestary of Europe, they designate Trappist breweries that are part of a church or monastery. There is strict criteria around it and long history. Anyway a long time ago people started really liking the styles of beers these monks were making, so they started making them too, but what do you call them? They took on the designation Trappist. As the BJCP categories them.

Sub styles of Trappist ales are: Single, Dubbel, Tripel and Quadrupel. I described the subtle differences before. Anyway the church was kinda fucked off that others were copying their products (sound familiar), albeit some were likely shit too, that just made it worse.  They all came together and created a label, ‘Authentic Trappist Product.’ This label adorns every true ‘Trappist,’ beer made at a specific Abbey. They own the trademark to that, in every country where there beers are sold.

IPONZ Trade Mark

BJCP Guidlines

I looked it up and the Trademark refers to the symbol and its contents. It does not refer to the word ‘Trappist.’ we did not make an authentic Trappist ale, obviously. We did do our best to make one worthy of that reference to style. Authentic Trappist Beers are there own thing and rightfully so.

Hops

In my pursuit to make the best beer we can, I had noticed the late season Nelson Sauvin we had was lower in alpha acids then previous batches. It was changing the aromatics and flavour enough that we were noticing. It was lowering the bitterness and lacking the bright hop character.

I called up NZ Hops to ask some questions and see how we could better manage this moving forward so that we have a more consistent product.

The conversation quickly changed from quality to quantity. We are not a huge brewery but we use shit loads of hops. Nelson is in two of our core range beers. We can’t run out. I was told they had about two months of stock left for the season. That was in July! Holy shit, fuck what do we do? Buy everything you need now was the reply. Shit burgers, well there goes the new brew-house.

The poor growing conditions and the weather during harvest caused them to be down over 100 ton since last season. Considering the rise in the demand and the typical increase in growers and acreage, this number shouldn’t go backwards. Welcome to farming. We quickly secured what we needed to get us to next June, and will now have forward contracts in place to avoid these lags in the future. A huge fucking drain on cash flow, but detrimental if we didn’t do it.

Apparently a few other breweries got the same message and within a few days after securing ours, I was getting emails from other brewers looking for some. It was also pulled from Craftweb. NZ is now out of Nelson Sauvin and Riwaka, likely a few others too, Pacific Jade is gone too I believe. Wow.

There may be light at the end of the tunnel and likely come February and March next year breweries that over bought, many do, will have excess stock and it will trickle its way back into the market. At a premium I am sure.

Beervana

I am sure no one noticed but we didn’t have a stand at Beervana this year. However we did come down for it as a team. As previously mentioned in these blogs, I have explained why it was not economically feasible for us to have a stand. However as oddly as this might sound, it was cheaper for us to send our whole crew down for four days of eating and drinking then it was to have a stall and work our asses off. Crazy eh? We can buy a new fermenter for less then the cost of Beervana, and guess what, we can make really good money off of filling a fermenter eighteen times a year.

I have had some really good chats with Kate the new director and even Beth who has run it previously. They have some really good ideas on how to swing it round so that everyone can walk away feeling good about being part of the event, and have a some spare cash to boot. I look forward to that, because if that formula can be achieved we will surely be back.

The amount of breweries this year was down from previous, if I have my information correct, and the number of attendees was up. The food options were really good this year too. That formula helped a few breweries make more money back. Most would be from Wellington region I am sure and anyone paired with a food option I bet did really well. I didn’t attend every session, but I did notice some dead zones. For whatever reason some really good breweries stuck in an area of the concourse that was quiet and no one was at the stands. I am sure they will be reconsidering their application next year.

I was still in the free fall stage and again was walking around like I just got bitten in the Walking Dead. However I did get to try a few beers and chat with a few folks. I had visions of wanting to stop around to talk with everyone, but my self confidence was at an all time low and I essentially wanted to crawl under a rock and die.

On a positive note…

Unknown Pleasures

We had a beer called Unknown Pleasures on the LBQ Cask ale stand. I believe a first for Beervana, an entire stand, decorated to look like LBQ, with a line-up of hand pulls. This was orchestrated by Bruce Turner of Urbanaut and LBQ. Thanks for having us, it was real treat. The first beer we had ever put into a cask!

Unknown Pleasures Tap Badge DRAFT 1

The beer we made was a collaborative/contract brew with Dan from LBQ. He has made a few different beers with some brewers in the last year. Always taking a unique approach to a style and the results have been great.

When Dan and I had spoken about wanting to do a beer together we tossed around a few ideas. When he sent through an obituary for the Dark Mild, I knew this had to be the beer. Never liking to be told what to do, or that a style of such importance in history should die. So we went to it.

To make the beer a bit out of style but true to its roots, we made it an imperial. A 5.1% abv version, normally it tops out at 3.8%. We also added a bit of malted oats for a full mouth feel. Fermented with 1318 a true English Strain with soft fruity esters that compliment the earl grey tea like character from the East Kent Goldings hops. The beer turned out exactly as we had hoped. Rich in cocoa, and caramel and just a hint of fruitiness. Easy smooth and uncomplicated, a beer meant to be part of an afternoon with friends talking shit and enjoying each others company. Not distracted by the beer, it just fits like and old comfortable chair.

A big thanks to Dan for coming up and spending the day with us at the brewery. We really enjoyed having him up. We are also really happy the beer, it turned out great. Look for it around Wellington. Three kegs made it to the South Island, inquire with Punky if you want to know where to find it.

Long live the Dark Mild!

Next Month

See short and easy, all PMA stuff too.

Next month we bottle our Dubbel, Release our 802 #11, get all of our stocks back up. Paradise is now and hopefully forever in stock. We dig into getting ready for summer. We also are putting the finishing touches onto the back bar at the Pizza Barn, where we have our off licence and a new casual seating area. A new menu of snacks and beer matched foods, as well as a vintage list of beers. Exciting stuff.

Thanks for reading

McBrewer

July 2018

This month we did a collab with Peckhams cider, had a tap takeover in the heim, attended winter ales festival in Wellington, bottled our Belgian Tripel, Black Rye Sour and Chili Pilsner 2018. Flew back down to Christchurch for an event with our friends at Pomeroys, and tried to catch up on production. Some mid winter blues, had a slight hick-up with the glycol and well lets see…sorry in advance for all the swearing. Its been a rough month.

 

Far North Chili Pilsner

McLeods Far North Chili Pils-min (1)

July marks the return of our annual release of our chili beer. I am not sure why every year the name changes a little. I think it started as Chili Pils, then Northland Chili Pilsner and now Far North. I hope this one sticks.

You might think it is an odd time of year to release this. For me it is exactly what we need right now to spice things up leading into spring. It will be released August 3rd simultaneously at 16Tun and for the first time, at the Pizza Barn as well.

A superbly balanced, chili infused NZ Pilsner. 5.2% abv. Keg and 500ml Bottles

 

Black Rye Sour

McLeods Black Rye Sour Ale

This is the third beer from our sour barrel program.  This one was a blend of several different barrels and beers. The resulting beer is insanely complex. A kaleidascope of rye, caramel, coffee, lemon, bourbon, dried fruits, spices. Layers upon layers. It’s soft and round on the palette, with a smooth lactic citrus sourness and long finish.

I obsessed over this blend for awhile. I surprised even my self during the blending of what the final beer was made from. Yet it all works. It should age really well, with developing brett characters and a bit more carbonation. 7% abv 1800 bottles and a few kegs

 

Peckhams and McLeod’s

Awhile back my brewery partner Geoff had ran into Alex from Peckhams ciders in Nelson.

Let me back up a bit.

When I first teamed up with the boys from the Pizza Barn and McLeod’s, they had asked me about a good cider for the taps out front. Without hesitation, I said Peckhams, the best cider in the southern hemisphere by a country mile. They believed me and put it on tap. The Pizza Barn currently holds the title for the most kegs of Peckhams cider sold in NZ annually, they are pretty proud of that and they are proud to serve their amazing ciders. Pretty much a win win. So when Geoff mentioned that Alex had inquired about wanting to work together on a project, needless to say we jumped at the chance. Monica and I have know Caroline and Alex for a few years, the small community in NZ of breweries and cider makers makes it easy to connect at events and the like.

On one of our trips down to Nelson we popped round for a cup of tea and chatted. A flurry of ideas finally came to rest on this; A barrel aged fire cider. Alex has had some fire ciders in the states at the famous Shelton Brothers Festival. A fire cider is a cider that is made similar to the way we make maple syrup back in Vermont. Not to be confused with the initial google search for a spicy cider. This is more like the ones made in Quebec.

To make syrup they tap a maple tree in the spring and when the temps rise during the day, the sucrose and water that is stored in the tree thaws and begins to run. A simple tap on the side of the tree allows it to flow out at a steady trickle. Collect this sap which is only 2% sugar the rest being water. This goes in a wide shallow pan which provides lots of surface area for the water to evaporate. Bring to a boil and cook it down to concentrate the sugars and get some caramelisation. The grades are determined by the colour and when in the process they are taken. Fancy is the first runnings, light and golden in colour, the most expensive and usually sold to elitist tourists from New York City areas. The grades then go to Amber, then eventually to B, which is the best, the most maple tasting and the best value for dollar. Garnet in colour and rich in flavour.

Taking that brilliant idea, juice of the apples does the same thing in an open vessel. We, well actually Alex, concentrated the juice by freezing it, then drew off the sweet concentrate. Nearly 40 brix. Then we boiled it down to create some maillard reactions, or caramelisation. Then we filled some local wine barrels with it and diluted it back to 30 plato. We selected three types of apples for this. We did each one separately, then put them into six wine barrels, pitched some hearty yeast and then one from his spontaneous cider. These will ferment and age for well over a year. Then we will blend them back to make this Fire Cider. So sit back and wait for a NZ first. Likely bottled this time next year.

 

Grovetown and Blenheim

After spending a day and a half with Alex, Caroline and a brief night with our friends at Neudorf Mushrooms, we drove over the hill to Blenheim. We had planned an evening at the notorious Grovetown Hotel. A once old kiwi style country pub, transformed into a craft beer institution in Blenheim. Serving delicious Japanese inspired food long with a banging selection of beers.

Thanks to Damian and Peter, we had an impressive line up of our beers, 1700km, Highland Hammer, 802 #10 and a heap of core range. All tasting fresh. The night was full of our favourite people and friends from Blenheim. Such a great night. I even got to watch some wine makers try our Highland Hammer brettanomyces IPA. This beer is made with two strains of brett that produce huge tropical aromas and flavours. We hopped it heavily with Denali and Citra. It was fruity and dry, and only a trained palette would pick up the brett. I mistakenly said it was a brett beer as I handed it to them, so one of them immediately said it was ‘band-aidy,’ which it isn’t. The brain makes you want to smell something that isn’t there. Anyway after that we had an evening full of great people and beers. Thanks to all who came on the night!

 

Winter Ales Festival 2018

Hard to believe it has been a year, it had seemed like just a few months ago that we attended the last one. This year it was held in the same place as last, the Hunters Lounge in Wellington. This small winter festival is a celebration of beers from some of the coolest brewers and breweries around NZ. We were excited to have two beers on for this years event. We brewed the Highland Hammer Brett IPA and had hoped to have the Imperial Maple Oat stout in Bourbon barrels, but it just wasn’t ready, so we opted for the Bourbon Barrel aged Billycan Stout instead. The Billycan sold out pretty quick and I believe the IPA was not far behind.

This festival is one of our favourites, not just because it is a room full of some of the coolest people in our little industry, but also because its small enough to get to try most of the beers on offer. The other thing is, with your ticket you get a punch card for beers and a food voucher for some food, its all part of the admission price. Very cool, I hope some other events take this on board.

My only beef about this event was the space. It’s way too small. It was pretty much like being in a sardine can. A bunch of people get in early and grab the only available tables, and camp there the whole day, so it’s standing room only, and it’s pretty tight, you can’t really ‘hang out,’ you get bumped into constantly with people trying to weave their way through the crowd. I wouldn’t change the number of beers or the number of tickets, but I want at least twice the space. Eating a sandwich propped up on a window ledge is not ideal. Which by the way, was waayyyy better then last years student kitchen option. Salt and Wood killed it, that was a good addition.

A great little festival!

I can’t wait till next year!

 

Christchurch

In keeping up with our event season, we jetted back down to Christchurch for an event with our friends at Pomeroy’s! ‘Where the wild things are’ was a chance for us to feature some of our newest mixed ferment and seasonal beers we have made. A cool line up with our Cape Brett Red Saison, Highland Hammer Brett IPA, the Black Rye Sour and for a first time our Belgian Tripel, along with 1700km NZ Double IPA, 802 #10 and a smattering of our regular range. A wicked fun night.

We absolutely love new Christchurch. I get some funny looks sometimes when I say that but it is a great little city rebuilding itself with lots to offer without the Auckland crowds and traffic.

We had an awesome meal with friends at Sundog Diner! A bit out of the city and no parking, but such good food. We really like the owners Jess and Brian, they are making great food and drinks in such a fun environment. Please go check it out.

We had a disappointing stop in at Welles street. This place opened about a year ago and had the chance to be a fantastic independent beer bar. It had such potential.

The wall of chillers had 12-15 facings of the most uninspiring beers ever. Some Funk Estate and Three Boys on tap was all they had aside from the same ole shit you see at every other tied bar in the country. They could have one of Christchurchs’ best selections of independent beers in a bar along with some great rotating taps in a big space, it could be brilliant. Sadly the food was ok, and the beers on offer weren’t enough to keep us there its just an example of Faux Craft for sure.

then…

During this week quite a bit happened in the brewers guild discussions….

 

Brewers Guild

You may have read my disdain for the current situation at the NZ brewers guild in previous blogs. I, like many others, have not felt we have been getting anything from the guild in the form of value for our hard earned cash that we give to the guild each year. The transparency has been…well…terrible. Lots of turnover of board members and a bit of mutany from former members. Me/us being on the verge as well. I have been reading what some brewers are saying and trying to see what has been going on.

There is a growing desire for independent brewers to unite in a group, a way to seperate ourselves from the big corporates. Using this group to help share ideas and grow our segment of the industry could be good. United we want to have a bigger share in the beverage landscape of NZ. The big three don’t necessarily agree.

I have been thinking about this a lot, and a piece of me wants to be angry and just kick them (Big 3) out of the Guild. Say  ‘fuck you assholes.’ I think I may have already said that. I don’t like their buisness tactics or their marketing techniques.

So I had to look at the phycology of it all and ask some people that have been part of the guild for a long time some very direct questions. I also got a copy of the constitution of the guild and looked at the procedures for how to get something done. Then I got the history and the truth about what they have been up to. I like to see all the sides before passing too much judgment. Seek first to understand right?

So I ask myself what has the guild been doing. Turns out quite a bit. Well kind of. This is what I learned so far:

1.) The guild helped to stop the ‘Beer the Beautiful Truth’ labelling campaign. Yes arguably you could say it was a disaster from the beginning, but they were determined to carry through with it. It would have been financially devastating to many small breweries in NZ. Unfortunately the NZ government is still moving forward with sugar and energy labelling requirements. We don’t want that on beer…do we?

2.) Blocked the alignment of our guild with Spirits NZ. A group of the big players using the newfound rise in craft to promote spirits. All you have to do is look at the companies listed as members and realise we want nothing to do with them. All multi national conglomerates. If it was all of the little producers in NZ, maybe.

3.) Hired a new executive director to get shit done. Albiet expensive, however the vetting process was legitimate. Lets see what she can do. She is on a fixed contract for one year and reports directly to the board. I had brief conversation with her on the phone, she seems on to it for sure.

4.) We lost Craig Bowen as the brewers guild chief steward. For better or worse Craig has been working his ass off for years running the annual event. The thankless no pay job is difficult to say the least. He has really done a great job for us, for many years. He has eluded he wanted to step down years ago, so it was only a matter of time. So this year its in Nelson and it has a new steward and head judge. Wish them luck

5.) New website, pretty shit so far, but a work in progress. No current list of brewery members or forum information…needs content…it’s a work in progress

So a few new things in the works.

I am sure your asking yourself why were the first two things ever an issue. Yep they were both pushed from the big players. Yet sitting across the table from them allowed our little board members to speak up and say no. They listened.

That has rung loud in my head. Also made me re think the approach a bit. Corporate giants are big slow organisations. Slow to get things done, with layers of bureaucracy to get any decision made. Yet they have fuck loads of money to make shit happen. We have the opposite problem. We can move quick but have no money. So now I sit back and see some areas of common ground. Remember the old saying ‘keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.’ That keeps coming to mind. We are not a threat to the big three. Yet they are to us. Being able to have meaningful conversations with them at a grassroots level is very important. Knowing their position is more important to us then anything they can know about us.

It also turns out all but two independent brewers on our board are pretty keen to leave. So all we have to do is get some passionate people to run for these seats on the board. Yes I know, volunteer boards are time consuming and donating time is hard. Remember that they just hired a new executive director to get tasks done. So essentially the board simply needs to dictate the direction the guild wants to go. Then it will be carried through. Now seems like a pretty good time to get involved eh? If the big boys don’t have a seat on our board I am not sure how that would effect things. If that happens so be it.

I think at some stage we will need to be fully independent from the big players. I am not sure this year is the year to do it. I would like to keep taking their money for the time being and see where we go. Yes that is a 180 degree turn around from me in one month.

Well I asked some questions and listened to the answers. I took that information on board and applied it to the current situation. I learned from it and have changed my position for now. I am also along with Kelly, running for board member seats at the AGM. If we get eight people in total we would have a full board and anyone who wants to step down could. We need some people who are willing to fill in the executive rolls if they become vacant. I would love to see some people take those on. We will also be proposing to bring back the associate memberships. The rationale for getting rid of them was due to cost. The associate members get no voting rights but get invited to all the parties. So when they come, they get to drink and eat free. Unfortunately the membership fees don’t even begin to cover those costs. So a fair fee will have to be implied and they would need a solid benefit from being a member. I believe many of the past associates have important ideas and valuable contributions to the guild, we don’t want to exclude them.

It is sure to be a great AGM this year.

 

Gnu Gnu Gnu

*Some of the names have been changed as not to upset anyones precious little selfs.

Once upon a time a partner in a small brewery in New Zweeland, lets say his name is Claybourn, and he went to a festival called GABS. a month or so ago. He had some beers said hi to some folks’. He happened to walk past a brewery that sounds like Gnu Gnu Gnu. Oddly happened to notice they had a Paradiso Pilsnerameo on their board and taps. For those who haven’t been through the IPONZ website. Theres a place called the Peoples Republic of Waipu, and a place there called McLeods brewery, they owns ‘Paradise’ the word and as it relates to Beer. Category 32 in fact. Easy nuff to go check, even ‘Google’ Paradisiorama and heaps of hits come back relating to em. Not sure that fella noticed but it was beer of the year from SOBA this year. The same onez that does the magazine every couple months, the one they have advertised in. Anyway it was kind of a big deal. Well ok so maybe they are super busy and didn’t check. Or maybe they did and didn’t give a fuck. Well if you thought the latter you might be correct.

Ole (Claybourn), kindly mentions to em (Penis McStinkay of Gnu Gnu Gnu) and asked if they could discuss an amicable way to settle it. That fella he says hes Googled it and there were breweries all round the world with Paradisiorama in the name. Well not ole in New Zweeland. Rumor is though Pacific Breweries owns “The Beer of Paradise.” with exclusions for Beer and Paradise. They won that there phrase in the seventies, but not them individual words. Apparently those fellas bought a boat load o cans. Bummeramo. Well a little ole brewery named Flightless Bird did the same thing a few years back. They did Paradiso ‘Dick’ Pale Ale. The Dick was real small under the Paradiso. Could hardly see it. That one was funny. Ol’ Steff Rossteinberg is a smart fella, 10:1 he knew damn well, but said fuck it. Those country bumpkins, i’ll never fight it. Well they did, along with a few grand of some hard earned cash to get an attorney/barister to flick off a memorandiso. A quick conversation with Staff and they let em sell out the cans they had and they changed the name to Sessionista Pale. All good right?

Some people may think trademarks are stupid and think everyone should be able to do whatever they want. Well that is just silly. If you have a name that you identify with and sells really well for you, you should trademark it. Otherwise the next little wanna-be brewery or brand will just ride in your coat-tails. Find your own path is our moto, we have. The boys had already trademarked our core range of beers. Now in order to protect a trademark, you have to fight these stupid things. Otherwise if someone gets one into the market with your name and you don’t fight it, the precedent is set and you will never be able to challenge any in the future. Damned if you do damned if you don’t.

Back to Penis. So a bummer about the cans but since that brandido is riding the wave of Beer of the Year from SOBA and it has been selling shit loads of it, they wouldn’t be able to let them use those cans. Sorry Penis.  Shoulda done your home work before buyin’ cans. The offer of chatting amicably turned into, essentially, well a… fuck you. Penis’ attitude quickly turned sour and he in not so many ways ‘threw his little toys.’ The I don’t like to be told what to do reared its ugly head, and then well he says ‘we shouldn’t be invited to their festival.’

Their festival?

Let me step back again. SOBA in Dunedin is hosting its first annual Winter Ales festival. A festival that features all local breweries and brands from around Dunedin. They have decided to invite one guest brewery each year from any where around the country. Well guess who was the first guest. Us! Holy shit right?, What a huge honour, we were so humbled by it. Wow. I had several really fun barrel beers and assorted fun stuff to have. Four taps. So excited.

Anyway back to the increasingly-douche-bag-like-guy-at-the-beer-stall, anyway some more mumbles, and Claybour exits stage left.

Those fellas waited a good ten days and no reply fro ole Penis. So off went a few grand and a letterista. Sure enough a letterista came back. He/they agreed to stop use of the name. All good, so they thought.

The another dude ran into Jamie from Cell Division at Winter Ales Wellington. He was’ the coordinatorador and Scorganiser of the event in Dunedin. He’s the one who had invited that little brewski. He mentioned that he had heard rumblings through MySpace about some potential issues with us. Penis pulled his weight and refused to let them come to the festival.

Ole Penis said its not personal, they could come as guest.

Havin’ been uninvited to a festival, that had nothing to do with them using their trademark, well shit, I am confused. That seems pretty personal to this fella. What a dick, I mean penis.

Well here is my personal fuck you, Penis, and fuck Gnu Gnu Gnu.

….and we move on.

 

Glycol

Contract brewers can just skip this part.

Glycol, a brewers best friend and unfortunate nemesis at times. The lack of knowing anything about it or even what it does in your brewery would be great. It’s quiet sound of humming in the back ground generally lets you know all is in check temperature wise.

Glycol is the coolant that runs in a scaffolding of pipes around breweries. In these pipes is a mix of propylene glycol and water. The Food Grade ‘glycol’ is sweet and non toxic, a clear odourless liquid. Its in toothpaste, car engines, mouth wash, all kinds of stuff. It is sweet like sugar. When you dissolve sugar in water it allows the water to get colder then freezing with out actually freezing.

Anyway it runs through a condenser that compresses gas into a liquid then pushes it through some pipes, and when that expands it rapidly cools the glycol going by it in the heat exchange. This is sucked out via a rather simple process of conductive cooling. Anyway the glycol circulates around like a garden hose to every tank in the brewery. The tanks have jackets, which is piping or a hollow space inside the tank between the inside and the outside. The glycol runs through this. Each tank has a solenoid and a temperature probe that are connected to a controller (thermostat) on the wall. When the wort gets too hot during ferment, the controller signals the solenoid to open, and a rush of glycol goes through. On and off all day long 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Until it doesn’t. For a variety of reasons these things can fail. Pumps break, pipes break or come loose, solenoids fail. They are all machines, machines break.

Well while I was at the Winter Ales fest in Wellington, ours failed. A fitting outside on the unit blew off and it dumped 2000L of preciously expensive liquid down the drain. A rather significant distraction to say the least.

Anyway thankfully Milton was doing a weekend walk through, and caught it before it ruined the pump. He has been witness to quite a few of these near disasters and has a second sense about looking. He happened to hear the pump starting to cavetate, which is a rather awful grinding sound. He switched it off and looked around. He rang me once he knew the cause. A quick call to a local guy who had a spare half drum, plus about 100L we had, allowed us to get it about half full and able to keep the beers in ferment happy and the ones on cooling cold.  We arranged for two more drums and now have some spare as well. Sorted and back to normal.

Poor Anita, I told her that everything was going to break and get fucked up the first few months she was here. She laughed then, she is nearly crying now. Literally everything that could fuck up has been fucking up. No ones fault, just bum luck. Anyway she now knows the four things to check when coming into the brewery during after hours. 1.) Humming of pump on glycol tank 2.) Is the tank of glycol full? 3.) Is the controller board lit up and are all of the tanks at the right temp 4.) Are the pressures on all the tanks correct. A quick two minute pass through can save the brewery thousands of dollars. We have someone check everyday.

When diluting your glycol a couple of things to do. We keep our concentration of glycol at about 33-40% glycol to water 1:3ish. This allows the glycol to reach -22c before freezing. We set all of our beers at -2c for nearly a week. This helps to reduce polyphenols which causes chill haze. Recommended dilution should be tolerant of 20c lower then your lowest set point.  We have a refractometer that reads the brix of the glycol and we add more water or glycol to get it to spec. Also check your condenser settings. Most have a freeze point setting. That isn’t for the unit but for the liquid you are trying to keep cool. Beer will freeze at -5c, actually the alcohol and sugar in beer will not freeze, just the water and some water soluble flavour and aroma compounds. We set our unit to -4c as the minimum temperature setting. It fluctuates between -2.5 and -3.8c. That works for us, depending on your system you may have different needs. Freezing beer in tanks sucks, unless you are trying to ice distill something to get the alcohol concentration up.

Copying

Is it flattering to make a beer just like another brewery? I don’t know I guess so. The wanna be nice to everybody voice says who cares, then the cynic little voice says, fuck that, make your own beer find your own way.

In the past month I have seen three Maple Stouts, a couple of imperials and even an Oat one too. Anyone who has read this knows we made one and have been talking about it for over a year. I know that they all read this blog too. Not sure if I should be flattered or fucked off. Who does that deliberately?

Then I saw a brewery in Chch start doing an unfiltered IPA series. Hmmm where have I seen that before. Seriously!? What don’t they call it 802?

I know we didn’t invent either of those beers, styles or series’, but it is a small country after all, and making the same beers is weird. I am still trying to figure out which little voice is right.

I know there is this strange brewers hive mind, but the above beers aren’t Hefeweissens, raspberry kettle sours or classic styles.

any way… I guess beer is just like the Simpson’s, ‘someone else has already done it,’ so fuck it right?

I think I have written enough shit for one more month. So much for my good attitude.

PMA…

Next month

We do a long lunch at LBQ, do Beervana punters style, then a shit ton of brewing. Free falling, and maybe blend a new beer too. We’ll see.

Tanks for reading

 

McBrewer

 

June 2018

Welcome to another blog post about McLeod’s brewery as we delve into the in’s and out’s of running a small brewery in Northland New Zealand. This month was the official start of event season. We brewed our first Belgian style Tripel, blended our Black Rye Sour, brewed this years first batch of Chili Pils, partied down in Christchurch, entered and judged the Smiths IPA challenge, had dinner with Satya in Auckland and closed out with a Northern invasion at Vultures Lane! I also talk about how not to handle your DMA….

Thank You

I wanted to make mention to all of the people that have reached out to me and pulled me aside in the last year. Many people have thanked me for my honesty in these blogs and their gratitude for my words about our industry.

Thank you all for that. I didn’t realise how many of my peers and brewers actually read these.

I have written before that these blogs are more for me then you, as I use this as a journal to keep track of our progress and for me to reflect upon these when I get frustrated, depressed and discouraged. Being able to express things that bother me or topics that I feel need to be talked about is so important. There is nothing in this world that shouldn’t be talked about. Talking about things is healthy and empowering. I don’t expect people to read these blogs and agree with everything I say either. It is just my opinions and observations. I am wrong about a lot of things, I am not the best brewer, I make mistakes and I say stupid shit sometimes. That being said, everything written here is meant to be honest, sincere and with a touch of humour.

Your words of kindness and encouragement mean a tremendous amount to me, thank you. It is those little moments and interactions that make me feel so proud to part of this little industry and so thankful for all of you.

Cheers everyone!

…now for the beer…

Belgian Tripel

This beer and a Dubbel have been on my list for quite some time. I was discussing this with Anita the other day and realised that the original list of beers I wanted to make when I came to McLeod’s is now nearly all checked off. So with just a few beers left on the list, it’s time to make a new one. First however, this beer.

The Belgian Tripel is one of my favourite beer styles. A desert island style for sure, it loaded with yeast character a slight amount of hops and hides a wicked punch of alcohol. Scary drinkability is the focus of this beer for sure. The core range of Belgian Trappist style ales starts at a Single (4.8%-6%), then bumps up in strength to a Dubbel (6%-7.6%) which has rich characterful malts, then the Tripel (7.5% – 9.5% abv) is mostly pilsner but up again in alcohol, then the Quadruple or Dark Strong (8%-12% abv) which is like a double Dubbel.

Historically they were designated by the X marking the strength, X was the lowest, XX, XXX and XXXX. Anyway ours is rather traditional. We used Dingemans Pilsner and Aromatic malt and I made our own candi sugar. I wanted to buy some Belgian Candi syrup, which I did for our Dubbel, but couldn’t get the light for our Tripel.

This is what I did after watching and reading about many different ways on the inter webs.

I mixed together sugar and water to wet sand consistency, then brought to a boil, this I brought to soft ball stage (118c), then added a small amount of sodium hydroxide to invert the sugars. We essentially want to break the sucrose and fructose into glucose as glucose is the easiest sugar for yeast to consume. The caustic (sodium hydroxide) is exothermic and quickly accelerates the temperature of the sugar if you let it go too long it will burn. It is also rather explosive so be fucking careful. Once done I allowed it to cool. Then when ready to pitch we warmed it up lightly. This syrup we add well into ferment as to not produce the solvent like character from adding it early. Glucose is the preferred food for yeast, if it finds it in its environment it will consume all of it first, like giving your child a bowl of candy and a bowl of macaroni and cheese, they will always go for the candy first. So we feed our little friends more towards the end of dinner, like a dessert. Then we conditioned it for several weeks, and partial bottle conditioned it.

The yeast we used is…nah just kidding I won’t tell. Let’s just say to comes from a well known producer of Belgian Style ales, this strain has distinct esters and a lovely balance of phenols with a slight tart finish. The starter worts were delicious! Bottles and a limited number of kegs, releases late July

Punky Party

The official start of event season kicked off with a bang for us with our extended beer family, the amazing peeps at Punky Brewster in Christchurch. They invited us to be the guest of honour at one of their pop-up events. Once a month or so they invite one of their favourite breweries to team up and have a party. We have done one of these before with them and had an absolute blast, so being invited to do a second one was pretty easy to say yes too.

This time they had Stray Burger a new food truck in Christchurch provide the food. They even had a vegan food option, Monica was pretty psyched. The burgers were great, and they were actual burgers too! Minced meat on buns yahoo! They obviously had a great night, there was a massive line when we arrived and it lasted until shortly before we all left.

We also had, dare I say, a pretty fucking awesome line up of beers. Honestly when I looked at the list I got a bit excited. I am hyper critical of everything we do and never totally satisfied with our quality, but on the night I was pretty proud of all of it. A huge array of styles. 802#10 and #9, Bourbon Barrel Aged Billycan, Barrel Aged Red Sour, Unfiltered Paradise, Highland Hammer brett IPA, bottles of some vintage beers and more…just awesome.

When we arrived the place was fucking packed. The pop up tent was heaving and a huge cue for beers. The punky gang was running around in a calm frantic pace.

A huge success and such a fun night, thanks again to Punky, Stray burger and all of our friends and great customers on the South Island that came on the night.

Gatherings

As I talked about last month we had eaten at this amazing little restaurant in Christchurch when down for Great Kiwi Beer Fest in January. It was an intimate little dining room with a focus on local vegetarian food. Unpretentious and focused on being proudly small.

Alex Davies is an incredibly talented chef and set up this little space to balance his life and cooking in a uniquely small way. We had thrown the idea after eating there to do a dinner together as I felt we had some solid similarities. We sent him some beers and he jumped at the opportunity.

We had intended to do two long lunches but in the end just did the Sunday one. 22 people plus ourselves came and filled the seats. Two big long banquet style tables. Each course was paired with one of our beers. The menu:

We started out with our Farmhouse Barrel Aged Sour as an aperitif, then rolled into the paired courses. Red Sour with ‘Cheese on Toast.’ A mix of our ale with a local raw milk style cheddar on house made ‘white bread.’ A sensational peasant dish that Alex and I agreed we could sit around a winter fire and drink and eat all night.

Next was a Smoked Onion Broth with local honey. This simple dish had a crazy layer of flavours and amazing umami. Warm smokey rich and slightly sweet from the honey. Layers of amazing flavour. The Bourbon Porter was the match, and boozy soft edge worked harmoniously with it.

The we had a purple kumara terrine. Finely sliced purple kumura pressed into a mould, perfectly cooked, topped with an egg yolk that had been cured in soy, so it was slightly salty and firm on the outside yet creamy in the middle when broken. This was topped with these little chili infused turnip slices. The combination of richness, creamy, earthy and spicy. The citrus and clean lager paired perfect.

Next was a classic NZ interpretation. A pie made with coconut oil for the pastry, light and flaky, he stuffed it with braised celeriac, soft tender and flavourful, and some mustard greens tossed with a light vinegar a delightful match. Served with our Bonnie Brett Pale ale. He emulated much of the character of the beer, the bretted characters were matched and the fruit and dryness of the beer worked great.

This dish blew people away, Alex confessed he wanted to take a play on a bucket of KFC. He made these little seitan nuggets and battered them in a ‘Coronels special recipe’ of spices, then put them with a smooth rich mash potato and a meat like gravy. It was so good, who needs KFC!? The rich malty Traders Scotch ale worked really well providing a malty yet hint of spice back ground, again a superb match.

What is better then one dessert, but two desserts. First was a take on an old French dish called baked Alaska. A sponge cake on the bottom infused with lemon and an Italian meringue on top, it is quickly flamed with booze to lightly caramelise the top leaving a mountain range look. He salted the lemon for a twist which flipped us all, it was a mind fuck for sure, but worked brilliantly. Our bretted Saison was the match and the dry citrus of the beer played well with the salted lemon and sweetness in the meringue.

Finally we had this insanely dark and bitter chocolate tart, nearly 80% dark chocolate it was intense and rich. We stood it against our Billycan milk stout which acted as the sugar and the vanilla and cocoa jumped from the glass. Wow

A superb event and an amazing way to spend a cold Sunday afternoon. Alex and his team did a stellar job. We schemed to do one in Waipu likely next fall. Watch this space.

Thanks again to Alex and his team and all of the wonderful people who came and dined with us!

 

Duopoly

On our trip to Christchurch we intended to pop down to see our old friend Nathan Crabbe. He has taken the new role as brewer at the Fermentist the latest in the Lion Nathan empire, leveraging its cash against the small brewers of New Zealand. They are touting this glamorous pile of steaming stainless as the worlds most sustainable brewery. If they did their homework they would realise that is a total pile of bullshit. It is pure marketing wank. Go to Vermont or Belgium, you will see several of the worlds most sustainable breweries, and guess what, they have been at it for a while.

Digging in further they intend to do this same pile of shit in Auckland with the Little Creatures brand. Apparently owning 94% of the market share isn’t good enough. Now they are trying to squash out the little players in a whole new way. These giants really are set on being a duopoly. They do not want us here. Well they do, as they need us to keep showing them the new trends and continue to be innovative in small ways so that they can exploit those ideas as their own for financial gains.

This tactic is exactly why they should have no place on our Brewers Guild. Get them the fuck out of our guild. I am making a vote to remove them. They are happy to keep us all sitting in committees and accomplishing nothing. As that is what they do most of the time, except when they have found a way to take another great grassroots concept and turn it into the McDonalds of brewing. One more step at blurring the lines of small independent brewers and the corporate giants.

I will never support them, I will not buy their products. It’s not about the beer with them its about money and market share. That is why I don’t support them. Many just shrug it off as “its about the beer,” if the beer tastes good then its ok. Fuck that, that is not the dilemma here. I am friends with most of the brewers and the staff of these companies, its not personal its business. My personal feelings and my friendships with the people that work for them won’t change. Its not about them.

Guess what when it comes down to driving us all out of business do you think that they are sitting in the board room and feeling sympathy for us. Fuck no. Do you think they feel its all about the beer and relationships. Fuck no. ‘Yeah but their beer is good.’ Of course they can make good tasting beer they have mountains of money to make whatever they want, they have talented brewers too. Except they take all of their profits off shore. Make all the excuses you want to sell, drink and make more money for the duopoly in New Zealand, as they sit laughing at us in their boardrooms.

Most recently Heineken has bought a heafty share in Beavertown brewery in the UK. My friends at Jester King in Texas have severed ties with them professionally over it, and the owner of Beavertown defended his position. He argued that to grow his business to get it as big as they can was their need and desire, and to do that they needed big beer money. This is where I lose it. It is the ‘we have to grow bigger and bigger’ mentality that puzzles me. What is the end? When is big enough big enough? The greed in growing your business so big that you dominate markets is where the sustainable model gets thrown out the window. I respect the breweries that get to a comfortable size where they sell all of there beer in a timely fashion, and pay there bills and have some left over. What the fuck else do you want? World domination. That is what corporates want, all of it. They stop at nothing to get it. To me there is nothing worse then seeing a brand every where, total market saturation. The beer gets old and the public suffers from lack of choice. Taking that argument back here, you might say wow its great to be able to go into some country pubs and Air NZ around the country finally have some flavourful beer for a change. That to me is not the dilemma, its that they own the fucking taps and have manipulated the owners of these places to sign the restrictive contracts and forcing out competition.

We are a proudly independent, a small brewery, in a small town, supporting New Zealand and New Zealanders. That is what independent is. Standing up and fighting for what is right, supporting your neighbor instead of a faceless corporation.

independent
adjective
  1. Free from outside control; not subject to another’s authority.

Sometimes being independent isn’t popular, sometimes it’s uncomfortable. Doing what is right isn’t always easy.

 

Queenstown

The travel ensues. After a week back in the brewery…

We headed down to Queenstown for a couple of days to attend the Smiths Bar annual NZ IPA challenge. As described last month it is a head to head of some of the best brewers and some contract brewers recipes to see who takes out the best IPA in Queenstown. The event takes place late June so the snow has started to settle on the mountain. I had a chance to hit up Cardronas, the locals favourite mountain.

A little confession, you may have noticed that I come across as a bit of a snob sometimes, beer, food, ya know pretty much everything. Strong opinions and stuff. Anyway on my long list of things that when served beautifully and with attention to detail, is a brilliant snow day. I come from a place where the winter weather goes from ice-cold to snowing to raining to sunshine in one day. Then drops to the negative degrees at night. Winter temps in January and February in the 802 hit -45 f. Then it occasionally snaps and warms up to 15 to 20c for a day, or seven, then drops again, rains a bit, repeat. That annual rollercoaster of weather always made for icy conditions on the mountains. In Vt it’s either ice or really good. When is snows and when I mean snows, it snows, without translation a good ‘dump’ is a foot or two of snow. That makes for waist deep conditions. Those rare and amazing days, were and are the best. The exact reason I began snowboarding was because of those days. It is hard to describe but imagine that everything around you is covered in tiny dense bean bag filling. You float through this stuff and it gently holds you back. With that little bit of resistance you to push down hill and float through it effortlessly. Falling is actually fun, you just simply tumble and pop back up, laugh and carry on. Anyway I did this for well over a couple of decades or so and those experiences were like heroine, I imagine. No friends on powder days was the motto. We set out from the parking lot and sometimes never saw each other till the end of the day. The goal was to find fresh powder, the deepest untracked fields of snow. After spending a few seasons exploring mountain, you get to know it well. In the east, very unlike NZ, it is full of trees and landscape. The snow fields here are open and exposed. The advantage that VT has is that the shade and shadows of these trees help keep the snow insulated and also allows the trees to hold onto more. This causes insane amounts of snow to accumulate much more than in the open. Well that is where wonderland begins. Once you have mastered the edges of your board and can turn it unconsciously, venture to the trees, carve your own path while zig zagging through, grabbing them as you go by to swing yourself around or to check your speed. You never look at them, but you flow through them. The second you focus on one you will hit it. Don’t do that. Then it is just this amazing sense of freedom an eerie quiet, a shadowy paradise. I spent hours even days, weeks every time those conditions arose, going as far out as you could to get the softest freshest snow.

Anyway that was not what Cardrona had to offer. It was some of the most beautiful and spectacular views though, you could see for hundreds of miles. It was like the worlds largest pop tart, the size of the grand canyon. White on top brown on the bottom. The air was so fresh and crisp. The sun was shining and it was a marvellous day! The snow was a pretty thin cover and icy underneath, early season for sure. If they ever got dumps like in VT, or in the West it would be incredible. I will watch the weather. The open landscape and huge snow would be insanely fun. However this time it was ok. I got kinda bored after a while, made some turns, pretty much covered the entire bowl. I had planned to do two days but the hundred bucks for the day made it pretty hard to do it again. The travel there is a bitch too, had to hitch hike up and down the mountain pass…

Oh yeah I was there for an IPA challenge…

Day two we went to Cardrona distillery, very cool, pricey but very well made…

I got to Smiths around 3:30 to try to have a beer before the judging. My friend Geoff Griggs was the head judge, I had wanted to catch up for a yarn but we pretty much got into it. To keep me on my toes he chucked me in as table captain of the second table. I was joined by a solid representation of brewers, Karl Vasta Tuatara, Matt Warner Parrot Dog, two lads from DB and a new fella from Garage Project. Solid table of palettes for sure. It ended up being 10 beers for the two tables. Pick the best three and the have a final round. I had sampled through most of the beers the day before just to see where we sat as far as quality, and to guess who I figured would take the crown/board. The judging day is blind so you don’t know what the beer is. The glasses were not that good, a proper tasting glass would be preferred, shit even little butt plug glasses, you know the IPA ones…Just sayin’ Maybe a sponsor could provide them, hint, hint.

We found our three best and then waited for the other table to finish. I was asked to leave which is a good sign. You can’t taste your own beer, so we made it to the final, to only be nicked by Garage Project 1st, Behemoth 2nd, and Boneface 3rd. I honestly thought Boneface or Emersons would have taken it as I thought they were the hoppiest of the event. Epic got people’s choice, sadly that was no surprise, most pints sold. They have a gazillion IPAs made for them, most pretty damn good. A huge congrats to the winners. Honestly to everyone who entered. I had tried most and aside from three that had some issues, all the rest were clean and well brewed. The hops and freshness was a big piece. Some are better at keeping big hop aromas and flavours, some not so much. Anyway a good showing and a fun event. A huge thanks to Smiths bar, Chris and Pascal. Cheers guys, see ya next year!

DMA 

One of the coolest pieces of kit that we have invested in this year was our Density meter from Anton Paar. It is an instrument that measures the density of the liquid you pull through it, wort or finished beer. It accurately measures this by vibrating a tiny horseshoe-shaped glass tube. This vibration, based on the density of the liquid, changes and this expensive little unit is able to calculate those changes into Specific gravity, plato, Brix etc… name your measurement. It also compensates for temperature. Ah you might say my hydrometer does that too and doesn’t cost $4 grand. Your right, however the hydrometer is not actually that accurate, and they are known to be out of calibration depending on where you bought them. We had some variation in our readings of tested abv and our measurements through ferment and post process. Even with getting all of the samples to 20c, they were inconsistent. After getting this unit out abv’s have been bang on, and our hydrometer turned out to be 4 points out of spec.

Funny enough I had gotten this call from a local lab saying they were able to calibrate hydrometers, and I asked why would you ever need to do that, its glass it would never need calibration. Well guess what I was wrong they absolutely need to be. Just because it is new doesn’t mean its accurate.

So this little unit also only needs a 30-40ml sample of liquid to measure. That means you are saving in the long-term a huge amount of wort and beer. Our graduated cylinder was 100ml and we take daily samples during ferment and at the end. As well as taking samples from barrels. That all adds up too. Say you take 10 samples of 200ml from the tank. That’s 2 L of beer, this little fella only needs a 1/4 of that. 2L is 4/500ml bottles. Now do that for every batch of beer produced and you will save hundreds if not thousands in wasted beer. It will pay for itself in a year or two, and its fast and insanely accurate. It likely sounds like I am selling the fucking things. Well if I was I would likely be driving in a Mercedes like their salesman, so no kickbacks here. Anyway a great instrument I highly recommend it. However don’t drop it. The glass tube shatters and on the series 3 and older they are not replaceable, so you have to buy a new unit. I fucking dropped ours two weeks after we got it. I hit it with my elbow when wiping down the bench and it hit the floor. Luckily that little part on the new ones was only $1500 to replace. Much cheaper than a new unit but a painful and costly lesson. The unit is now physically tied to the testing bench, it will never hit the floor again. Oh yeah it also comes with a little rubber cover that protects the glass, put that on when you take it out of the box 🙂

On top of that we also got our O2 meter serviced as it was giving some unusually high readings. A couple grand and it is back to normal and works faster and better. A word of advice, if your power cord ever corrodes, buy one from a local shop as they will try to sting you at Anton Paar for $200+ for an ordinary power cord that is only $30 tops from Jaycar.

Chili Pils

Ah my love hate beer. I have provided a link if your curious about this beer. We have started to brew the first of several batches of this beer. Admittedly not my favourite style. I am not a fan of overly spicy beers as they are really hard to drink. This one we have found a nice balance of spice and drinkability. We use a local chili from Kaitaia fire that adds just the right amount of heat and we complement it with some Riwaka hops in the whirlpool. The hops carry a slight capsicum (red pepper) aroma. They play together nicely in a rather traditional Pilsner base beer. First release will be in late July. Kegs and bottles.

Satya and McLeods

After returning from Queenstown and spending a couple of days back at the brewery it was back to Auckland.

This time for Auckland beer week the lead up to GABS, one of my least favourite festivals.

We had met Sammy the owner and operator of Satya, he and his family own three restaurants in the Auckland area, all making delicious Indian inspired cuisine. We had our event at the newest of the trio at his K-Road outlet. Upon walking up to the restaurant, Monica said were here, I looked around and saw no signage and Mr. Google was telling me we were 4 k’s away. I was wrong as usual, we ducked into the dark entrance to come into an eclectic dining area, a simple rectangle store front type space that has been creatively decorated with old pieces of pallets, funky lights and some Indian rugs on the walls. Rumor has it he spent about $5k on the fit out of the space. The tables we reclaimed pallets. It was funky cool and had a warm feel.

They stuck us at the head table, it made me feel like we were at a wedding reception or holding court, it made me fell a bit awkward and uneasy. The event was a sold out night though and a crowd of friends and new customers filled up the space.

We had wanted to do some solid food matches but Sammy was really keen to just feature some of our new beers, so it was IPA heavy with a couple of fun beers in the mix. The food was served in beautiful little hand thrown pottery, chop stick family style. They were all flavourful and actually worked really well with the beers.

Thanks again Sammy and team, we had a great night and enjoyed the whole experience! If you’re in Auckland I highly recommend checking out his place.

Vultures Lane

The day before GABS and the end of the Good Beer Week we got to do a tap take over at Vultures lane. This ‘dive’ bar in Auckland is a popular spot. We were stone-walled from the place for a while, not sure why, we worked really hard on trying to become a customer over the last couple of years but they just ignored us every time we came in. Then we gave up trying and the old bar manager moved on, then…well, they started buying beer from us. They have turned into an excellent customer too, we are really excited to have a good working relationship with them now. We rotate through on their taps regularly and we think Chelsey the manager is doing a great job. Thanks Chelsey!

Any way we did this event with us Sawmill and 8 Wired, three of some of the most northern breweries. It was a good line up of beers. I didn’t see anyone from 8 Wired there but Logan from Sawmill was, and our team was there on hand to enjoy the night. It was great to catch up with friends and have some tasty beers.

Thanks Chelsey and Vultures Lane for a great night.

PS. to the not to be named brew pub owner from Wellington who said our Great Migration on tap was oxidised. It wasn’t, I had it, it was cold, but fresh and delicious. Those in glass houses should not throw stones…

GABS

You may or may not have read my review or shit sandwich of last years GABS. Great Australasian Beer Spectacular, well if you did you would have heard that I didn’t think it was all that spectacular. The punters loved it and I sense they equally enjoyed this years’. As a patron it is full of a crazy amount of different beers from a shit ton of breweries, in a fun loud exciting atmosphere with music, games and general fun. The place was surrounded with food trucks and some break out sessions with talks from brewers and industry related folks. That was why I was at this one.

We chose not to attend as a brewery this year, even after being offered huge discounts to attend. My feelings haven’t changed from last year. Anyway Craig Williams one of the organisers caught me at a weak moment and convinced me to attend the Saturday night session for a sour panel discussion. I sat with some of my favourite brewers on stage and fielded a few questions from the crowd. Sadly it isn’t the type of panel discussions I like which are more technically focussed, it was more of a quick-plug-your-brewery-and-mention-the-beer-you-made-for-the-event. After that I made for a quick exit.

The place was insanely smokey from all of the food stalls and the layout was similar to the year before. It is not set up to be a good event for breweries to make money or break even, it is really just container-bar driven, which is where the owners make buckets of cash. The lack of lines at any of the brewery stands confirmed that no one was going to cover the cost of being there. Most do it as part of marketing, I prefer direct marketing through small events. I don’t want to line the pockets of the event owners with our cash so that they can take it all back to Australia.

We made a mixed sour beer, for the three events. A Red Saison with our house culture and a blend of bretts. It was slightly funky, with a light sourness and a bit of spice from the brett and saison yeast interaction. I thought tasted good, pretty stylistically correct and interesting. The shit cups they provided for the events are the cheapest plastic out there and they smelled terrible. The couple of beers I tried all smelled phenolic, but it was actually the cups and not the beers, as the beer underneath was really tasty. Our beer got bagged pretty bad by some twats on Untappd, that is the rating system attached the festival. If you don’t make an IPA or a sweet stout you will always score terribly at these kind of events. Ah well I don’t pay too much attention to that just disappointing I guess.

They haven’t changed the wrist band system and only had one recycling bin that I saw, so they haven’t improved as far as I am concerned. They came, made fuck loads of cash and left their trash here in NZ. Great stuff GABS. I am sure they will be back again next year. We won’t be there. I hope every one enjoyed it though, I had some fantastic beers from the breweries that were there. Always great to catch up with our friends and peers.

Pizza Barn and Kelly

The Pizza Barn, McLeods brewery front of house, closes every year for the month of June to  detox and get some down time. It is a slow time of year and is the best time to let their staff take a much deserved break. This year while it was closed they needed to do some serious renovations. The kitchen floor was replaced and we built a new raised floor section on the patio for a designated tasting and waiting area. The back bar has been redone too and we have finally gotten our off licence, so we now offer take-away beer and rigger fills for sale. We have chosen to make a solid stance and will not offer take aways in plastic containers. Glass and stainless only. We will have merchandise and containers for sale too. In addition we are launching a new website so that people can order online too. This isn’t up yet but will be very soon. One more step towards getting fresh beer to our fans.

We are working on making some menu improvements and I am working with the Pizza Barn and the new chef to slowly modernise the menu and get some more beer friendly matches. We want to promote being able to have people come in and have a few beers and nibbles as well as dine. Lots of exciting stuff.

Most importantly though is us welcoming Kelly Ockwell!

I am so excited that she has joined our team. She had to tidy some things up in Aussie before coming back here to the Peoples Republic of Waipu and join her partner and lovely furry little friends. We have been working diligently at reorganising the office and trying to provide more structure for our business, Kelly will be an important piece of that. She is such a wonderfully calm and meticulous person and brings a great energy and quiet enthusiasm to the Pizza Barn and McLeods. She will be taking over as our events coordinator and overseeing of our administration of both businesses. This has been a much needed position and it takes a special person to be able to do it, we are lucky to have her.

It has been a whirlwind month for sure and so much to come. The journey continues for McLeods. Our team is growing and the excitement around what we are doing is building. Lots more to come, even a bigger brewhouse and more tanks! No global domination but a couple of baby steps towards being sustainable.

Next Month

The travel continues and we head to Wellington a few times, Christchurch, Nelson, Blenheim, Tauranga. A bunch of great events, we brew more beer, work on getting better at what we do. I jabber on about glycol and how it can freeze stuff, counting yeast, bottle conditioning and some other conversation inspiring topics.

Thanks for reading

McBrewer