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