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

 

 

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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

 

 

 

May 2018

Well another great month with lots of exciting things. First, Anita started. Then we brewed a heap of core beers including the Imperial Maple Oat Stout, 802 #10, did some process improvements and tore apart the heat exchange, all that and some more juicy bits…

 

Billycan 2018

McLeods Billy Can Milk Stout 2017 png

Billycan 2017 Last years description.

This seasonal stout has finally been released. The first cases hit the shelves at the beginning of the month, and the first few kegs have been sent out.

A rich and smooth milk stout with chocolate and Tahitian vanilla. It is a fun little beer when you want something less hoppy and more malty.

We will be brewing a second batch in the coming weeks, we bottled most of the first one. The next keg only batch should give our favorite publicans some for the taps over the winter months.

5.5% abv Kegs and 500ml Bottles

 

Imperial Maple Oat Stout

Yep I have been talking about this beer for over a year. Well I finally made it. A huge malt bill including a special base of English malts, roasted barley and Thomas Fawcett Oat Malt. We also added some muscavado sugar, this accentuates the rich booziness with sweet licourice and rum notes. After primary and conditioning we filtered it and then racked it into our precious Four Roses Bourbon casks.

The final ‘clean beer’ is now resting in these fantastic barrels. After that it will be dosed with Vermont Maple Syrup for partial bottle conditioning.

A friend of mine from VT has his own sugar bush. We were chatting and he made mention he had quite a bit for sale this year. I grabbed a couple gallons of grade B. The most flavourful of the grades.

It will be released at the Winter Ales fest in Wellington early July, as well as the NZ Stout Challenge at Moon under Water and Punky Brewsters in Christchurch.

11+% abv Limited Bottles likely 120cs and a couple of rare kegs.

 

Anita!!!

The second week of this month Anita Mitchell started her training as our new assistant brewer. It has been a steep learning curve for her as I have quite a few ‘different’ ways of doing things, as most brewers do.

She cleans like a champ and her positive energy has been inspirational.

She is a quick study, likely cringing at some of the methods around the awkward and small brew house. Needless to say her involvement and experience has helped us identify some ways to work safer, smarter and cleaner.

The addition of music in the workplace has been awesome too, a stipulation in her contract. Now the sound of whirling pumps is drowned out with an eclectic mix of great music.

A fun road ahead for sure, we are lucky to have her on our A Team #waipuwhynot

During her first week, we cleaned, transferred beer, filtered, brewed, bottled, kegged, dry hopped, harvested yeast, and I cleaned the heat exchange…

 

Cleaning a Plate Heat Exchange

Paul Finney of Emporium Brewing in Kaikoura posted a question on the brewers guild website a few weeks back. He had asked about the disassembly of a plate heat exchange and any pointers on how to do it and what to look out for. A few experienced brewers chimed in with some advice, and a few old dogs just said to never do it. That would be a mistake… in my opinion.

First, cleaning your heat exchange at least once a year should be mandatory in any brewery. No amount of pressure, backflushing, hot water, caustic or acids can thoroughly clean a plate heat exchange. If you use lots of hops late in your process, even with a pre filter you will get a large amount of hop material and protein that will go through. They build up over time. Ours was chock full of hop material. Embarrassingly it had been a year and half since I had broken ours down. I bought a proper wrench and a 36mm socket so I could do the job. Here’s what we do.

1.) CIP Unit, both directions. Cold water flush, hot water flush, caustic wash, hot water flush, acid wash, hot water flush….

2.) Drain completely, disconnect all the fittings. Disconnect the water inlet and outlet. If you have a two stage unit connected to glycol, place a bucket or tray under that side to collect the glycol, add it back to the resevoir. Glycol is expensive, don’t waste it.

3.) Measure the distance from the left end to the right end (like books on a shelf), at each point where there is a long bolt. We write the numbers (Centimetres) on each side with a marker or vivid. These are the points that you will need to tighten it back to so that it doesn’t leak.

IMG_1033

4.) Loosen the Bolts. Loosen them evenly, other wise you risk bending the plates. Loosen one nut at a time about 2-3 turns, then do the opposite corner, moving in a clockwise direction. It takes a while and is a pain in the ass, but it is necessary.

IMG_1034

5.) Remove the bolts and pull the unit apart, like an accordion.

6.) Remove one plate at a time. We write on the side facing outward, each plate 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc… Then we clean the entire surface both sides with caustic, rinse, then dip in acid soloution. Be very careful of the seals. They are a pain to replace and if you got it from China, likely there are no replacements. There are tabs on the sides, make sure they are sitting properly and they are all the same. Look for tears and holes. We stack ours the same way we take them off, so that we just reassemble backwards.

7.) When all the plates are clean, Reassemble backwards the same way you took them off. Watch the tabs that the plates hang from, make sure they are all the same direction and not bent. Use a pair of pliers to carefully straighten them if needed. Assuming you have got all the plates back in place properly. If you didn’t number them correctly, bummer. Look at the tops of the plates, there is usually a symbol that marks the direction, each plate sits together as its opposite. Only one plate has a seal that faces the back of the next one and so on. The black tabs on the side should all be just off center of each other like dominoes. If they are the same and look like two books, they are up side down. Simply flip it over.

IMG_1032

8.) Squeeze it back together. Reinstall the bolts. Tighten slowly, and tighten like a valve cover on a car. An X pattern. You will likely have 6 or 8 bolts. Top left first, then bottom right. Then bottom left, then top right. Then the middle ones on the same manner. Do this a few turns at a time, and do it evenly. I measure each time and tighten about a half centimetre at a time. Tighten until you get them back to the same distance as you measured above.

9.) Pressure test.

*Check the operators manual for the pressure capacities on yours before proceeding.

Hook up a valve on one end, either the exit or entrance of the wort side or the water side. Then hook up a water hose to the other. With the valve closed turn on the water, it will build pressure very quickly. *Caution do not open the water pressure wide open if you have very high pressure, you could damage your unit. If you have pressures beyond 3 bar in water, add a pressure gauge to the exit between the outlet and the valve. Stop the water when the pressure builds to 3 bar max. There should be no drips or water coming out. If it is spraying out the sides, double check the gap distance and the tabs to make sure it is all linear. Then tighten each bolt a quarter turn until the water stops coming out. Look underneath as the smallest drips will collect there. Once it is dry and sealed, release the pressure and reinstall the connections. Do the pressure test before you reconnect the water, glycol and wort fittings, pulling it apart again sucks.

10.) All done. We do another CIP then put in back into service. See that wasn’t so bad, a half a days work and now your run offs will be faster.

 

802#9

McLeods 73mm No9 802 series

The ninth beer of this series of fresh Unfiltered IPAs, to this one we added US Cascade, Citra and Sorachi Ace. We dry hopped it with US Cascade, Mandarina Bavaria and Citra.

This one isn’t as tropical fruit bowl as the last one, but more mellow, solid grapefruit and peachy citrus on the nose, then a smooth mouthfeel and a nice balanced bitterness with flavours of creamy grapefruit, grass and white peaches. The finish is smooth with a lingering oily resinous-ness. That is from the 4 samples of hop oils my friend Dave Nicholls left me. Amazing the effect four little vials have on 2000L of beer.

Keg only about 6.6% abv. It’s all gone into the world, so you may find it on tap around the country in the best bars.

 

802 #10

McLeods 802 No 10

 

This one is a combo of rather new hops from the US. – Calypso and El Dorado – two hops I found to be stand outs in these types of beers when in the states last year.

It will be released at the end of the month. Early tank samples say it will be fucking mean. My first impressions are slightly overripe rock melon and spice.

Just for a tease, 802 #11 will be Denali and Mosaic…likely a bit closer to double IPA strength to help us all get through these colder days.

 

Smiths IPA Challenge

We brewed a single batch special IPA for this event. Look for its release after the competition. We named it 1700km Double IPA, the distance from the Peoples Republic of Waipu to Smiths in Queenstown.

The trick with these beers is fresh as fuck and all NZ hops. We are brewing one of our fresh unfiltered IPAs, double strength with all NZ hops, a first for us, stay tuned.

This was Anitas first solo brew, as I was in Wellington when she made it. I am sure it will be great!

8% Keg only

 

Brewery of the Month

This month we were brewery of the month at Regional Wines in Wellington and Hamilton Wines. This opportunity for us to be the featured brewery was a true privilege. These are two stewards of all things delightfully fermented, aged and distilled. Both very well-respected and busy. They have both supported McLeod’s since the early days.

Geoff got a chance to spend some time in Hamilton, and he and I got a chance to stand at the door in Wellies.

It was a solid turn out of friends and customers, likely a few new ones in the mix as well. If Geoff is there you won’t escape his grasp…

Thank you everyone that came down for a yarn and taste of our beers.

Wellington

Always a fun time with so much to see, eat and drink. Our b&b was on Leeds street, one of my favourite streets in Wellington. Between the Leeds St. bakery and Goldings, I could pretty much just live on that street. If only Serial Grillers were there permanently.

Our little trip down was to catch up with our beloved customers and make sure everyone is happy.

We also were meeting with a company about supplying our kegs around the city. Our chilled transport company has lost the sub-contractor who had been servicing accounts. Likely due to the fact that on a few occasions it took a week or two, yep two weeks to get our kegs delivered. Granted they were chilled the whole time but it makes us look like a poorly run business. They since ditched the company as a sub, but that has left us unable to service accounts in the city unless they have a forklift.

With the demand for our beer increasing in Wellington we want our delicious beers in people’s hands, and to do that while keeping it cold through the supply chain is no easy task. Trust me no one else in the brewing business in NZ is currently doing it, or even attempting it – lots of talk but no action (I’d love to be proven wrong …). The fact that no one else is doing it makes it even more challenging. We still get blank stares from people when we demand our product be kept cold. Beertique has been doing a great job, but they ambient ship overnight from Auckland, as does Punky Brewster around the the South Island. We have to make exceptions to meet demands. Anyway we are still working to find solutions. One more thing to keep me up at night.

Thanks to that meeting we will now have direct delivery to all accounts in the Wellington area. A minimum order of two kegs for with no additional shipping charges. We can also top those orders up with a couple of cases as needed. They come form a local cold store and delivered within a couple hours. We just shortened the cold chain by over 800k’s

Keeping it fresh for you Wellington.

Darkest Days

https://www.facebook.com/events/1343571855787232/

I leaked about it last month but we filled two bourbon casks with our Billycan Milk Stout. Ciaran from Malthouse was keen to grab something fun and not an imperial stout. So we gave him an under carbonated keg. It will feature on handpull. I am fucking gutted that we won’t be able to try it.

I also realised that I desperately shipped a pallet hoping it was going over night to make the event the following week. Silly me, the event isn’t until the end of the month. Ciaran must think I am fucking nuts. Ah well they grabbed a few kegs of some of our other beers too.

Go down and enjoy the event its always a fun night and try our stout on handpull!

 

Manly Grape vs Grain

Ivan of Manly liquor called me a while back inquiring about a dinner he had been wanting to do, he asked if we wanted to take part.

Any way we can build our brand grassroots is a good thing, so I said yes.

Now, Ivan is a good guy – a bit over zealous about being organised – but a good guy with the best intentions. Pulling it together was a huge task and the dozens of emails and phone calls finally turned into a great evening.

It was us, Sawmill and Marisco/Leefield Station Wines. Mike Sutherland and Brent Maris were there on the night to represent. Now this kind of thing is not my forte, Geoff would have killed it. I do not sell myself very well, and I don’t like being told what to do. There is a reason I work in a shed with a small team in the middle of nowhere. Anyway, I did the meet-and-greet and did a couple of speeches. Mike is a natural, tells a great story and keeps the crowd laughing. Brent is a master and could easily be a motivational speaker (think Tony Robbins) if he wanted too. Me, well, I fumbled through and made it home without spilling anything down the front of my shirt.

A turnout of 170 people and a nice meal. We hope that the effort comes through with increased sales at Manly Liquor. Thank for the support Ivan.

Brewers Illuminati

A bit of discussion is out there and even a Facebook page started to discuss an alternative to the brewers guild. I am not sure if it is intended as that or maybe to be a supplement, not sure yet but I like the idea.

The brewers guild just hired another salaried six figure position, so more outgoings. I am still not really sure what it’s doing, aside from the awards. I don’t think I am alone on this, which is why all the interest in a new entity.

I am not sure what will come of all of this, but I am optimistic if a direct action type formula vs. a committee scenario takes form. Unfortunately, non-profits are essentially forced into being a committee by nature of their financial structure. I fear this will be it’s ultimate demise, it usually is of most well-intentioned groups.

The most important and only issue I think we should be discussing is excise and/or tax relief.

I just noticed the significant increase in excise. I am ok with a two-year correction for inflation, pretty standard, but this one was a big jump.

Excise is the largest expense of our brewery, more then cost of goods on many beers. For a brewery our size, it is equivalent to more then four well-paid employee salaries per year. The amount of burden on breweries is inexcusable. We need relief, so how do we get it?

Lobbying: Convince our MPs that we need and deserve a break. Then we need to show them the money. Where is it going to come from? It has to come from somewhere. You don’t get tax breaks by just being good companies and throwing good parties. They have to be able to use it as a political win, or a way to build future revenue, create jobs and help increase the GDP. MPs are pretty simple really.

And Lobbying; in theory, intelligently showing our MPs through studies, polls and statistics that we have a case for a law that will allow us a break. There isn’t much out there at the moment. So we need some hard facts that prove: we do creates jobs, we do increase the GDP, and we aren’t a burden on the government i.e.. alcoholism and the effects. That will be hard as no one wants to talk about the alcohol issue. It is political suicide.

That puts us in the need to shed a very big positive light on our side and figure out where the money of off-sets can come through, This paradox is not a good place to be.

The other scenario, and Dominic Kelly I believe had the easiest solution, would split the revenue and put the burden of tax on the retailer, or more specifically at the point of sale. IRD does it and with modern electronics and technology it is easier then ever to allocate tax at the point of sale. I believe his rough calculations actually saw an increase in GST and tax overall. Now convincing the government to move hundreds of millions of dollars from Customs to IRD is the other big hurdle. No arm of the government likes seeing there funding cut. No one wants to lose jobs. A sticky situation indeed.

Fuck, we have to find a way…

As manufacturers we are liable for paying our excise monthly or bi-annually. Unless you have a brewpub (which are usually treated as customers) or a contract brewery, you have to wait for your money from your customers and distributors. They usually pay the twentieth of the following month… hopefully. Some do, most don’t. Most of our distributors are on consignment, which puts us out even further…and

Guess what, do you think our vendors like not getting paid? Grain, hops, glass, boxes, chemicals, electricity, they all like keeping it pretty tight. So we end up essentially being banks at no interest to our customers. Pretty fucked up. That is a huge drain on our cash flow. We all need to make upgrades, go on paid holidays, provide cool employee benefits, get raises, fix shit, buy hops, make payroll. Money makes it all happen.

The US just passed a sweeping reduction in their excise based on the growth of the industry. As a way to show them they support their growth. Most breweries larger then Pan Head (In the US) only pay about $10,000 a year. You might argue that that is lost money for our government. However, what do you think breweries would do with that kind of savings? Lower prices? Maybe a little. Hire more staff, fix equipment, market themselves better, do more charitable work. Yep, all of those things. All of those things provide money and jobs in direct ways.

If we are going to get action it has to be well-organised. Grassroots or professional, we need lobbying and we needs studies.

Ideas around policing ourselves over quality isn’t the job of a group like this. That is peer and consumer-driven. Don’t get me wrong I hate bad beer as much as any one else. If another brewery doesn’t care about the supply chain or how their beers taste and hold up in the market place, bummer for them.

We are making careful and calculated steps to making the best beer possible and making sure it stays that way all the way to the consumer.

If you are more worried about the next fad or trendy beer than your pitch rates and sanitation, good luck with that.

Fix excise first: it will have the biggest impact on all of us.

Plas-Back

http://plasback.co.nz

Last month I got sick and tired of having to throw out our grain bags and pallet wrap. I rang around and thanks to Gabi at Gladfield we were able to get in touch with Plasback, a program and associated businesses with the Government to recycle a stream of plastics. We get chemicals and other materials in large containers, all made of #2, #1 and #4 plastics. Easy to recycle but the regional household branches won’t touch them. Anyway, this company takes all the big drums and 20-30L pails along with the grain bag liners (clear plastic), pallet wrap, plastic bags etc. We can collect heavier plastic like the outer layers of grain bags and HDPE. These are all of our biggest waste issues. They take them back to Auckland where they are recycled and reused in other plastics to be recycled again and again.

The bins they provide are big and expensive, but they have sturdy water resistant lids and the liner bags they give you fit them nicely. You have to buy the bags which are about $10 and made from the same materials so they recycle the whole bag. Then its $40 for the pick up. A small fee considering all of that material will be saved from the landfill.

This has made a huge impact on our waste stream. One more step towards a greener future.

Galbraiths

My friend Teddy, the manager at Galbraith’s, also the new brewer, more on that…

Anyway, a while back we were texting away about motorcycle racing, and he asked about a keg of one of our beers. Next thing you know we had a Friday night tap takeover planned. We pulled out some of our newest releases on draft. An impressive line up of our range for sure. Unfiltered Paradise Pale ale, Bourbon Barrel Aged Porter, Bourbon Barrel Aged Scotch Ale, Barrel Aged Red Sour, and 802 #9.

A really fun night and a great turn out of friends – thanks everyone!

Back in January we had stopped into Galbraith’s with my aunt and uncle. We grabbed a couple pints before taking them to their hotel. I have always liked the beers there, always had a strained yeast character but good nonetheless. These, however, were exceptional. In coming back a few more times, I can confirm that the beer now is the best I have had there.

Come to find out, our good friend Teddy has slid into the assistant brewer role. He is doing great work. He has good techniques and a passion for making cask beers.

Keep it up bro!

Feedback

This is a tough one – sometimes you want it, and most of the time you don’t.

As a rule, I do not provide feedback about another brewer’s beer directly, unless they ask.

If a friend asks me what I think of their beer, and are asking for an honest assessment, I will tell them. Otherwise, I keep my mouth shut. Yeah, I’ll likely discuss it with friends, but who doesn’t.

Out of respect, you never tell a brewer what you think of their beer unless they ask. Period.

Sure you can say it is fucking great, everyone likes to hear that, but if you don’t like it, don’t tell them.

I’m the worst critic of our beer. Honestly, I’m surprised I even drink it I am so critical of it. Every batch, I obsess about the ferment, the hop flavour, the aroma, the water profile, the o2 pickup. It’s never good enough…should we adjust the malt bill, it’s fucking endless. Monica has to listen to that shit all the time.

If you have a beer and it has a serious problem with it, I would definitely tell the brewer. That has happened to me, and I am grateful, we had a fucked up keg, it wasn’t cleaned properly and we were able to sort it. Johnny fucks up sometimes and correcting issues quickly is good form. Denial is never a solution. We learned from it and have instituted new protocols and tracking to help mitigate and limit it from happening again. Learning is good.

However, if you just want to nit-pick the balance, a particular hop or stylistic differences, keep it to yourself: no one wants to hear it. You may just come across as an arrogant dick.

Gatherings

https://www.gatherings.co.nz

I am really excited for this event June 16th and 17th. We are doing a small intimate luncheon with Chef Alex Davies’ restaurant in Christchurch.

Alex is a phenomenal chef, and he’s creating a seven-course vegetable tasting menu paired with some of our rarest beers.

The greatest challenge of a true chef is cooking amazing food with just vegetables. There is no meat or centre of the plate to rest on, it’s just you, some legumes and veggies. Fresh vibrant flavours and textures. Meat is definitely a chef’s crutch.

A couple of my favourite chef heroes, Thomas Keller (French Laundry, Per Se) and Charlie Trotter (RIP) both had/have massive vegetable tasting menus. They shared the same passion for cuisine and proved that a truly skilled chef can and needs to be able to make masterpieces out of vegetables.

Monica, my partner, has been sliding towards being a vegetarian and is now nearly vegan, breaking the rules as she sees fit. Because of that, we now seek out the newest and best-reviewed vegetarian restaurants and cafes around the country when on trips for the brewery. On one of our last visits to Christchurch, we ate at Gatherings, a small jewellery shop-sized dining room with excellent lighting and simple ambiance. The menu, all vegetables. The wine list also heavily featured natural wines. We ate our way through a spectacular prix fixe meal and tried some amazing wines.

So, of course I thought this would be brilliant with some earthy sours. We threw the idea at Alex, and he was keen. He has sampled his way through the beers and has come up with a fun menu.

I will be on hand to talk about our beers and Alex will talk about the food.

There are still a few seats left.

I wouldn’t want to miss this.

Not everything needs pork belly to be good.

I can’t wait.

Burger

*My little rant piece.

When we first came to NZ we did the tiki tour around the country in a camper van, like many do every year. The first few cafes I didn’t notice, as the rose tint on my glasses kept everything glowing, and I couldn’t read the menus.

Then after being here a while, I started to notice a trend. First, it was the beet root, then the tomato relish, then the sweet chilli and the raw onions, then it sank in, everything on a bun….is a burger…fuck.

Sadly, I have to be the one to tell you, it’s a lie.

They have been lying to you for years.

Sit down, take some deep breaths, its going to be ok…but…

A burger is minced.

History will show you that going back to the late 1800’s during the origin of burgers, specifically hamburgers, was minced meat on a bun. An interesting history in itself, and arguably White Castle in New York is the originator, but the undeniable truth is that burgers are made of minced meat. Typically of the bovine origin, but can also be made from poultry, game, pork, fish and even vegetables. No matter what is, it has to be minced.

Then, in comes the sandwich. A crazy and all encompassing thing, the sandwich can be almost anything, the god particle of hand food. A single piece or slices of meat, chicken, fish, vegetables anything on a bun or bread, anything other then mince…is a sandwich.

The shape of the bread does not dictate the delineation.

The patty does.

I don’t make the rules, but I live by them.

I love sandwiches and I am proud to love sandwiches. Sandwiches of all kinds, shapes, colours, sizes and fillings. I love so many of them.

I know this is shocking and simply unacceptable and the ears sting from the pain of hearing it, but it is true.

Burgers must be minced, everything else is…well…just a sandwich.

Fin.

Next Month

Release of 802 #10, Burgers (yes, BURGERS) at Punky, Gatherings luncheon, Belgian Tripel, release of the Black Rye Sour, Smith’s IPA challenge, Satya restaurant beer and food dinner, yeast counting 101, don’t drop your DMA, doubling our brewhouse size and much much more…

 

Thanks for reading,

 

McBrewer

 

 

April 2018

Well I never thought we could have had a bigger month then last month, but here goes.

This month we hired two new staff, bought a refrigerated truck for local deliveries, launched our Red Sour and Bourbon Barrel Scotch Ale, brewed like it was October-November, and put down a few new brews, but first…

 

Untappd in POH

The last edition of Pursuit of Hoppiness, I was asked by Michael Donaldson, the editor, to write something for the magazine. He has read these blogs and apparently enjoys my writing. I thought it would be fun to have add a bit of humor in a rant style column.

I submitted essentially a Peter Griffin (Family Guy), ‘What Grinds My Gears’ article. It was nearly a copy from the cartoon, with the topic changed. The whole thing was full of topical references from movies and TV shows. I felt pretty proud of it, and still do, it was edgy, informative and funny. The article was a humor piece…really.

However not everyone thought so…

Let me first point out that 99.95% of our interactions with customers is positive on social media, including Untappd.

When it came time for the next edition, Michael asked for another short piece, as he liked the first one so much. He also gave me the heads up that a Craig Cooper had a rebuttal to my first, which, after it was edited, was published in the most recent edition.

Here is what I have to say to Craig Cooper, and not the one from Bach Brewing. There was, sadly, a mistake around which Craig Cooper it was.

Anyway, he started by likening my writing to complaining little five year olds which was essentially what I said about people trashing beers anonymously on a website. Not very original there. Kind of like saying ‘you’re a jerk, no you are, no you are, no you are…’

Funny enough there are several articles by a Craig Cooper, who is (was) editor of the Northern Advocate, by the way, bitching about shit. In one of these, he even had the hypocrisy to say he hated ‘bullies’ on the internet! Crazy!

In his rebuttal, he then proceeds to tell a story about how he hates Pilsners yet goes on Untappd and trashes a Pilsner with a pretty disturbing description. He goes on to say he’s justified in saying whatever he wants to his Untappd mates, but like the bully on the playground he doesn’t understand the impact of those hateful words. But, hey, it was funny to them, right? He does say he realizes maybe he shouldn’t be so mean, as there is a person or persons behind that beer and actually apologizes to the brewery, kind of. Admitting is the first step, Craig.

I get social media, I do. However, as anyone with eyes can see, being anonymous gives a person more latitude to be hateful and insulting. As a brand, we choose to be positive and supportive, something we’ve learned from Stu McKinley of the Yeasty Boys, a true gentleman by the way. We interact positively with our customers and our peers. We do not insult or berate other breweries or customers on public social media platforms.

I have gone on Untappd and thrown out the odd question to folks asking if they could elaborate on a thoughtless, half-assed review. What does that do for the better good of the beer industry? Likely nothing. However being positive makes everyone feel better. That was my point in the piece – to be nice, to be educated. I said that we like to be ‘nice’ to an Untappd user the other day, his reply was, “stay off the internet.” That says it all to me.

Mystery Craig Cooper also stated that I wasn’t very smart, yet he couldn’t tell the difference between me, the person who wrote the article and the brewery I work for. He then referenced hoiking into a spittoon presumably to highlight that he isn’t a beer snob and just drinks his beer. Well, unlike wine snobs (and judges) and being a professional beer judge in New Zealand, I can’t spit beer unless it’s completely faulted and undrinkable. We have to swallow to be able to accurately access beer and its bitterness, but then I must not be very smart.

He then actually agreed with me about Untappd’s dumb badges and complimented our continuing streak with our customers and the awards before telling me to (allow me to paraphrase) shut the fuck up and keep making beer.

Thanks Craig, I will keep making beer. But I won’t shut the fuck up.

I do ignore most negativity on Untappd and have a bit of fun poking the obnoxious ones. But like a true bully, sounds like Craig can dish it out anonymously but can’t take it. So, thanks, Craig, for coming out and letting us ALL know you’re one Untappd’s bright sparks, I mean, dickheads.

Enough about that shit, now for the best stuff…

New Staff

We are proud to announce that we have two new team members here at little ol’ McLeods.

First, we hired a new assistant brewer. Anita Mitchell.

Anita has worked for some well known breweries including Three Boys in Christchurch, Two Birds in Australia and most recently, I am sure she will cringe, Temple Brewing in AU. Anita has a fantastic attitude and is insanely passionate about brewing. With our steady growth and my pursuit to make better beer, we needed a person I can trust to stop at nothing to make it. I’m excited about her energy at the brewery!

Second we hired Kelly Ockwell. Kelly is a knowledgable and incredibly organized woman. She has an outstanding palate, loves beer and, is, well…simply lovely. She will be our new administrator and events coordinator.

I am so excited, as these two bring a lot to the table and will help us grow and move to the next level. Being long-term sustainable is my goal for us, while making great beer and having a bit of fun.

Milton who has been my right hand for two years now and has been with the brewery since day one. He has taken on a new role as our logistics coordinator. He is a great organizer, he will be our Swiss army knife able to fill any role on the property.

So our team now has a heck of a lot of work to do, I can’t wait to get started.

 

Refrigerated Truck

On my ever growing CAPX list, I have had a chilled vehicle on it since day one. It has been a huge priority to me but very difficult to justify financially two years ago. However today, it is the only thing to do. We have been using my partners trucks. Putting cold beer in the back and covering it with a tarp and delivering it around the region a few days a week. Not perfect but manageable. The unfortunate thing is that that kind of driving is hard on vehicles not designed for it. It was killing their vehicles and beginning to become costly. That and we have been growing, so the few cases are now full truck loads. Pallets into Auckland and the surrounds, we needed a bigger truck.

We financed a good size Toyota cube van with a chiller unit, that also has a plug in for standby. It will hold four+ pallets in the back. It should be enough for us for the next year or more. Just another step in keeping our product as cold as possible and as fresh as we can to the customer. Honk if you see us on the road!

 

Fresh Hop

You may have noticed, or maybe not, that we didn’t make a fresh hop beer this year. Unfortunately, harvest dates coincided with the judging of the New World Awards which I had previously committed to. I had been working with Sawmill Brewery and 8 Wired to source our own transport, yet with no one to brew it I had to pull the plug.

The more I have been thinking about it and the more I learn about hops reassures me of the decision not to brew one. The lupulin oils in hops begin to oxidise within six hours of them being cut from the bines. That is why they dry them immediately after picking. NZ Hops does a great job of organizing distribution of an insane amount of fresh hops to breweries around the country with everyone working hard to keep them looking fresh without digging further into the hop itself.

I’ve made the difficult decision to not do a fresh hop beer again, unless we can get the hops from the farm to a kettle within the six-hour window. That’s pretty much impossible unless we flew them up or brewed in Nelson. I enquired about that, and we would have to charge an astronomical amount for the kegs to make it viable if we flew them.

My other observation is they are a bit of a fad, and of the ones I’ve tried in the past few years, only a few breweries are actually getting a good beer from them. Most are one-dimensional and a waste of time and hops in my opinion. I love the style and will always seek one out, but the hype around it and the lack of quality beers makes it a bit of marketing wank.

 

Brett IPA/Highland Hammer

One of the first new beers I made this month was a Brett IPA.

Highland Hammer, a fun Scottish reference and a bit like a local Thor.

I love these style beers and wanted to mix it up in the line up seasonally. I got some Yeast Bay brett blends so I figured I would give them a try. This one is a standard IPA base with a huge late hop addition in the whirlpool. I used Denali and Citra, along with a dash of Zythos. It smelled amazing and the pitch has taken off quickly. Stay tuned. Keg only. It will be at the Winter Ales festival in Wellington in a couple months.

 

802 #9

The next in the series of our fresh unfiltered IPA’s. This one is our base beer recipe with Citra, Sorachi Ace and US Cascade. Grapefruit, orange, lemon and pine. Look for it, early March. Get on the list if you want a keg.

 

Billycan 2018

When the weather changes and we have to add an extra blanket at night, it means its time to make Billycan again. Only a day later then when I brewed it last year. This year I tweaked it ever so slightly and adjusted the water profile a bit. It will be filtered and bottled next week.  The beer is a traditional milk stout, so Marris Otter, a blend of dark malts, some caramunich and then I add Tahitian vanilla beans, cocoa and cacao nibs into the whirlpool. It also gets a lashing of treacle. All together it makes what I describe as a chocolate rum ball stout.

The name hails from what New Zealanders refer to as the old metal milk cans of days gone. A mix of kegs and bottles. Pre-orders now.

 

Event Season

It is about to begin, we have a winters long run of cool events with some of our favorite bars and eateries on the north and south islands. We will be releasing a big social media blast in the lead up for each one, watch this space!

A quick tease…

long lunch weekend with Gatherings in Christchurch, a vegan degustation. June 16-17th.

Satya in Auckland, dinner match 27th June,

Grain vs. Grapes at Manly liquor May 26th, Marisco wines, us and Sawmill go head to head

We are brewery of the month at Regional Wines in Wellington and Hamilton wines for the month of May.

Also on the calendar, Smiths IPA challenge, Malt house IPA challenge, Winter Ales fest in Wellington, Love Bucket, Punky Brewsters, Pomeroys, LBQ and a whole lot more yet to be announced…

 

Smugglers Bay

The labels finally arrived so we have released our Bourbon Barrel Aged Scotch Ale now, the batch is nearly sold out already so get your orders in soon.

Then our Red Sour Ale, it is settling into the bottle nicely will big ripe fruit and spice up front and a great lemony sour. The carbonation will build as it ages.

Then we have the Bourbon Barrel Aged Brown Porter which is like chocolate and bourbon. Release is next month, likely just after the Scotch Ale is out. That way we can stagger them.

Also a couple of kegs of Billycan will rest in the bourbon casks, keg only

Followed by the release of our Black Rye Sour.

Lots of fun stuff coming out with more in cue. That Imperial Maple Oat Stout as well, I have been talking about that beer for over a year!

I have even sourced some more barrels, so our collection of 45 should soon be beyond 60 with a few puncheons in the mix!

 

Good Press

I try to steer away from bragging, I fucking hate loud mouth boasting shit.

However we have been getting some lovely press lately and I wanted to share a bit.

Obviously we got Beer of the Year from SOBA…wow

A poorly written and mis quoted article in the Mangawhai Focus, not sure if the writer had been drinking before he wrote it?

Denizen magazine had a feature about us and our Smugglers Bay program. Super cool! They made me look bad-ass, which is a feat in itself.

The last couple Air New Zealand magazines had beers of ours mentioned. Alice is great, she seems to really enjoy our beers. Thank you Alice!

We won some medals at the New World awards, sadly no golds. Porter got put in the wrong category, my bad, and our lager didn’t medal. The rest of our core range did, considering last months analysis we did very well.

Then Dish did an IPA competition, we got two awards out of fourteen given, those will be announced later in the month.

A couple of other things I am forgetting, but all up some great media for sure.

Ah the video, I almost forgot, we finally did our own video, well we had someone do it for us, a local lad named Mickay Crawley. He did a stint at the Pizza Barn a while back, most young locals have, are or will. It was his first one for pay. Then he ran off to join the  Royal Navy! Good luck Mickay!

It turned out great, a link here. Just a snap shot of our little corner of the world.

Thank you everyone for supporting us!

 

New Breweries

I had to mention this as it hit me funny when I read it the other day.

A new ‘brewery’ is about to open, said the announcement on the Brewers Guild website. They were about to tackle their first commercial brew, and asked if anyone knew of a good source of yeast and hops…

Seriously?

Really, you are about to venture into the world of a production business, and you didn’t do your homework before now? To me that is insane. Before I would open a brewery or start a contract brand, (I never would start a contract brand by the way), I would write a business plan, and trust me, I have.

Part of that is a market analysis, which if you did one will show a very small piece of a big segment being shared by a shit ton of breweries, many of which just opened, and many more in planning, well hopefully planning.

Then you would have had to research your suppliers, who are you going to get your hops, grain, chemicals, co2, oxygen, labels, kegs, electricity, bottles, crowns, water, boxes, tape, equipment…You would also find out who is going to take your trash, spent grain, recycling? And most importantly how much does it cost, including shipping…

If you don’t know that, please DO NOT OPEN A BREWERY.

Go back and find out how expensive everything is, how crowded the market is, and what the fucking huge suck hole of Customs and Excise does to your cash flow, oh yeah and

Who are you going to sell your beer too? Guess what we are or are trying to sell to the same people.

What are you making that is going to be better then what is already out there? There is a lot of very good beer out there already. A flash label and shitty oxidized unbalanced old beer will only get you so far.

Then maybe you will second guess and not do it.

Anyone who wants to open a brewery should work in one first, learn how to brew is my advice. The best breweries out there, making the best beers are all run by people who have worked in breweries before. Yes there is the odd one or two, but the vast majority of excellent brewers have experience and spent serious time in a functional brewery before, having a go at it.

Then mortgage your fucking house, max your credit cards and spend your kids college fund like everyone else.

If we are to grow and be a prosperous industry we need businesses that are in it for the greater good, not for an investment opportunity, quick buck or because it sounds like a great idea, or even worse we have a great name for a brand and a scratch paper full of awesome beer names.

Buy crypto currencies if you want to invest in something.

For fuck sake…

 

My Birthday

Since this is my blog, I get to talk about whatever I want.

The end of this month marks my birthday. I turned forty five. A day I usually work or simply try and get through. I am trying to be a bit better about being grateful and more positive in life, from that last literary gem you might think I have a long way to go yet. I agree.

My beautiful partner planned a wonderful weekend get-away to the bay of islands.

After brewing 20,000 liters of beer this month, and still not really keeping up.

In a massive push, I was able to fill everything up and let the yeast to their stuff for a few days, so we could enjoy a much needed breather. It was amazing. I am a very lucky man.

Thanks everyone for supporting us and drinking our beer!

Happy birthday to me!

 

Next Month…

We brew more beer, Anita starts, Milton gets organized, we look at expanding our brewery, we’ll update you on the events and what is coming out next. I also look at a new yeast counting tool, always looking to be better at what we do.

Thanks for reading,

McBrewer