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.
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.
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…
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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!
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!
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