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…
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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