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

 

 

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