This month, wow, what a month. We launched our Irish Stout, filtered, brewed, filtered and brewed some more. Blended batch number two of our barrel program, bottled and launched Bourbon Traders, attended Marchfest, Craft Beer Depot barrel beer event, and the National Home Brew Conference, then got back to do back to back events with Fine Wine Delivery company, sent out the pre-sold out batch of 802 #8 (batch #2)…and a few other bits…
Apparently just in time for St. Patricks day, I seriously had no idea, it just kinda happened in the schedule, I made an Irish Stout. I hope you all enjoyed it. I have drank many pints of it after work. The lack of a long commute has been a treat. Actually being able to sit down and chat with some locals and enjoy the fruits of my/our work has been great. Anyway kegs are all out around the country. Get it while you can, it is divine on Nitro. Next time I make it, I will up the bitterness a bit. Enjoyed a Guinness the other day and forgot how hoppy and just a good solid bitterness that it has. Keg only
Sour Red Ale
Essentially our Flanders Red. However, it is not a true Flanders Red. The reason why: a Flanders Red is a spontaneous ferment, this was not. Flanders also have a slight acetic character, this one does not. Also Flanders are fruit forward on the nose, ours is more spice, from the interaction of brettanomyces and the esters and phenols from the sacchromyces we used.
I made a red saison last year and filled some retired Pinot Noir barriques from Marlborough. I added a cocktail of lactobacillus and pediococcus along with some bretts. Each barrel had a different brett. Brett C, Brett D, Brett B, and Brett L. The five barrels aged quietly over the year, and after a recent taste session they were determined to be ready. So I pushed them into a purged tank for bottling.
After our little incident with the Oyster Gose, I have chosen to approach our bottling of these beers differently. We now partially carbonate prior to bottling and the allow it to finish in the bottle based on the residual sugars left in the beer. We have no way to add the priming sugar and get it to mix properly in tank and we don’t own any pumps that I would trust to hook up to the tank. Thankfully the farmhouse strain that we have been using to primary ferment with is a diastaticus strain. This new buzz word will be talked about in the months to come as the dissemination of information makes it way around.
Diastaticus is a type of sacchromyces that excretes an enzyme that breaks sugar molecules on the 1 and 4 links. This means in layman terms that it makes the wort extremely fermentable. The scary thing is that this lets yeast ferment until it is essentially zero on the hydrometer. If you have great sanitation control it isn’t a big deal, you might think. However Left Hand brewery in the states is currently litigating with White Labs over it, as they had no idea until they found it in their brewery. Allegedly linking it back to White Labs. For a big brewery cranking out massive amounts of beer that is scary, as the enzyme doesn’t denature at pasteurization temperatures. So they had cans of beers exploding on the shelves. Not a good look, scary for sustainability. Any way you will start to see this listed next to yeast names, when you see it, know that it in the wrong hands can be devastating in clean beers.
Anyway, I blended the five barrels. It was really sour, good spice and great barrel character, with a rich malty back ground. However it was really sour, 3.32 ph sour. Some customers complained a bit about the Farmhouse not being sour enough so I said fuck it. Then my good friend Dave Nicholls from Moa, stopped in for a visit and I gave him a glass, his face said it all. Then he confirmed it. ‘Thats pretty sour.’ We then headed in for a great night with his friend Russell from Hopsteiner, drank the night away. The next morning I had an epiphany. I had this funky barrel of Heathen, that had been set aside to make a Stock ale, not too sour but good and funky. I blended that in. It brought the PH up to 3.43, still sour but much more palatable. So there it is, in bottles and to be released in April. Sneak peak at Fine Wine Delivery, as described below. 7% abv. 2000 bottles.
Bourbon Barrel Aged Traders Scotch Ale
As I mentioned last month we put down three barrels of our Traders into these retired Four Roses Bourbon casks. After a month it was ready. I racked it into a bright tank and bumped up the carbonation. It smells of rich Bourbon on the nose, then transitions into a rich malty sweetness. Finish is all dark malts and a bourbon hit. The same night my friend Dave was here, we had our first tastes. We drank it at ambient, we hit it pretty hard, and felt it the next day. A closer for sure. Only 80 cases available, I set a couple kegs aside and will be brewing another batch to fill the casks one more time. It was too good not too. I also put some of our Porter into the casks as well. I can’t wait. It launched at the Fine Wine Event listed below. 7.4%abv limited availability. Will age well.
After the first one sold out in a few hours, I made another double batch. A hint softer on the palette but crazy fruity hoppy. The batch had sold out before it was done fermenting. I think we may be on to something with this one. With this years hop allocations just starting to arrive, I am very excited about the range we have coming in for this series. If you see it on tap near you, go get it, it is all that is out there. We had to spread the kegs around to try to make sure there was enough for as many customers as we could. We are truly sorry if you missed out. Many people have asked us if we are going to package this and any of the others from this series. The answer is no… for now. However, this next summer, we will be doing some monthly tent sales. We will can a limited number and sell them directly from the brewery only. These beers are ephemeral and I don’t trust that they would be handled correctly by selling them to outlets, so in order to keep them fresh and delicious we will sell them direct to the public to avoid any mishandling. We will announce when this happens, we are still working out the logistics and the permits. Watch this space.
New World Awards
This year I was invited to be one of he judges at the annual New World Beer and Cider awards. I try not to pass up an opportunity to taste and judge beers. These events help me learn and give me a gauge on how the rest of the countries beers are tasting.
New World has a big budget, so on top of paying my flights and accommodation, they left all of us judges goodie bags in our rooms and picked up our food and drinks for the couple of days in town. A real treat considering most of the judging that I take part in usually only cover your accommodation and meals during the day, with a small bar tab.
In looking at our unpaid invoices (many from last years awards) from way too many North Island Foodstuffs, I took full advantage of their hospitality. Honestly should have taken more advantage of it, but I am not that kind of person.
The judging was a familiar room of peers, brewers, beer writers and a few brand ambassodors. Always a wonderful reunion, I sincerely enjoy the company of the vast majority of people in our industry here. A true privilege to be amongst them.
The judging is based on packaged beers and ciders from producers around the country. The format is very similar to the NZ Brewers Guild, except that this is meant to be consumer driven, not necessarily a style competition. This means that if it is a good beer and can still move up in medal status even though it may not be what the beer actually is. What I mean is a Pilsner for example that is too hoppy for style, but an otherwise excellent beer, would normally be pinged for a character taking it out of style, here it could still Gold Medal. Should make it easier right?
Well the first day was about 70 entires per table, Thursday was only about 60 beers per table. That is a huge couple of days of beers. I immediately jumped in with my BJCP hat on, and our table captain on day one, Shane Morley, kinda looked at me and said, ‘yeah we are going to need to go a bit faster.’ The other thing is our notes don’t get sent back to the brewers, unless requested. So the words on the paper have little meaning. Kinda seems weird, but that is the format. With that taken on board the day went much faster.
Both days were similar, with the tables made up of an experienced table captain, and two judges, then New World assigns two of their associates to sit in and take part as to expand on their knowledge of beer. A great lesson for many of them.
After all is over and done, and all of us had a chance to rehash the two days, we all felt that the quality of the beers put into this competition were sub par. I think 20 Golds were awarded, from some 600 entries. Many of those ciders. It was a huge surprise to all of the brewers, and a bit disconcerting, as most of the judges that were brewers had submitted beers. With that in mind, the lack of medals comes as a bit of a wake up call to all of us in the industry for packaged beer.
The major issues that hit the tables I was on were oxidation and balance, with an alarming number of seriously faulted samples. Many that we saw made me seriously question the brewers and breweries in how they allowed them to ever leave their brewery. Many were worse then home brews that have I have judged.
During all of this we all discussed the packaging of beer and the handling of beer through supply chain. To our credit, we are still the only brewery who moves beer cold around NZ. Funny only a few people acknowledge that we are the leaders in that movement. However everyone after this will certainly be talking about it and looking for a solution. Apparently New World is working with Garage Project, Tuatara and Panhead to do a cold chain launch. Its a start. Many people don’t believe it is possible to change the system. I disagree. Progressives stores never will, but Food Stuffs have stood up and listened. Now what they do with that information is up to them. We will continue to fight our little battles one store at a time.
All up it was a challenging couple of days, judging 60 beers on a table and only getting one gold and a few other medals is a hard day. We tasted 27 lagers in a row on day two, and not one of them was worthy of a medal, judging beer sounds fun, until it is you on that table, and you get more and more disappointed with every new beer brought to the table.
As I like to say, making beer is easy, making really good beer is fucking hard. We will continue to push ourselves to make better beer, I hope everyone else does too.
Once again, a trip to Wellington was a great experience. I love the publicans and the excitement over beer there. I got to go into quite a few bars that had our beer or had had our beers recently. All of them without exception, said that they enjoyed our beers, and so did their customers. Thank you, we really appreciate that. Considering last year we struggled to find a bar that would give us the time of day just to meet, now they are eager for more. That is a great feeling.
My over all impression was good, however surprisingly a few local brewers I spoke with were pretty dismissive of the local brew pubs. Saying the quality from them at the moment wasn’t very good. The few beers that I had were fine, but what was shocking was the sheer number of them that have started up in the last year, with more coming. When I asked a few locals about how they thought that was going to pan out. They all seemed to think many would fail in the next few years, and there would be some cheap stainless on the market. Yikes, that harsh truth will come as a slam to many. I hope that they can find a way to make it all work, and I hope that through camaraderie they can help each other improve their beers. It was a treat to go to so many little breweries in just a few blocks. I love stainless and I love to talking to brewers and staff about what they do. I look forward to my next trip down.
Quality and What to do
When at one of my favorite bars in town, I was talking with the management, and they asked for a second opinion on another breweries beer. I try to shy away from being put on the spot like that, but they were truly concerned. One of the other brewers from the judging and I were offered a small sample from a beer on draft. This brewery which will remain anonymous, is known for making very good beers, consistently.
However the sample that we were offered was terrible, lifeless and had serious oxidation and likely an infection. Likely a process issue for sure. The managers explained that the brewery dismissed it and said there was nothing wrong. I asked them what their customers that drink it regularly said, and they explained that the three kegs they had all tasted the same and customers were complaining.
Denial is not a good place to be in. I quickly took the opportunity to tell them as I do to all of our customers. Our policy is: Never argue with the customer, pull the keg or product and send it back to us, we will replace the product asap. No questions asked, well we will ask questions but just to ascertain the causes so that we can look to prevent these issues from occuring again. Pull it, it isn’t helping you or your reputation, nor the breweries.
We are human and mistakes and accidents happen in breweries. Every SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) in the world won’t prevent Johnny from fucking up once in a while. We just have to sort it out quickly.
I was pretty shocked at the breweries response, I hope they come to their senses and sort it. The discussion led to describe a series of these types of instances over the last few months with quite a few breweries. I understand that taking a keg back or bottles is costly, but trust me a few hundred dollars is nothing compared to a tarnished reputation. That will cost thousands over the long term, maybe even a business.
Every complaint we hear is taken very seriously, whether it is legitimate or not.
Back to Nelson
Well the weather was cold and rainy, not the warm sunny reputation that Nelson is known for, but still, as I stepped out of the plane, it still felt like home to me. The lovely salty air and the familiar land scape made me realize how much I miss that town.
Anyway met up with some good friends from Blenheim and headed for dinner and a pint at the Freehouse. The warm vibrant vibe in the Freehouse is always a really special feeling. That is the first pub my wife and I frequented when we first moved to New Zealand, and the pint prices were a huge drive for me to make my own beer. Reese the bar manager, gave me a warm welcome, it always chokes me up a bit when I get a warm reception from friends and customers. My friends with me asked cheekily if I was a celebrity. That makes me really embarrassed. I tried to explain that it is a small and friendly industry and we all have a great deal of respect for one another. This is the same way I like to greet friends and colleagues that come north to visit us too. After that we went too…
CBD Barrel Fest
In the lead up to Marchfest the fellas down at Craft Beer Depot put on a great line up of big and off centered beers. We sneak launched our Traders Bourbon Barrel there and I got to try one of the last beers I made with 8 Wired. The iStout Unchained. All the beers were tasting good. Sadly the staff was a bit overrun and were pouring another beer on the list as our beer. That one was a big something with huge autolysis, it happened several times while I was there. I assure you if you had our beer and it didn’t smell and taste of Bourbon, you didn’t have our beer. Any way even though the rain came it was still a great event, a great range of special brews from around the country! Keep it up!
Make sure you pop down to the CBD when in Nelson, it is a perfect hangout spot, they even have a dart board now!
Then the main event…
This year they changed the format again. This year they reached out to the breweries and brands of the north part of NZ. I presume this was to expand on the offerings and force some of the other breweries who have submitted sub par beers in the past to step up their game.
Well from my point of view, it worked. Aside from one beer, which I won’t point a finger at as I didn’t try it, it was reported to have a large diacytel issue. The rest were great, yeah you could nitpick a few things here and there, but on the whole it was one of the best showings of quality beers I have seen at Marchfest in the nine years I have attended.
The rain that was due to arrive, only just left us prepared for rain, but blew off early in the day. It was then just a solid muggy hot afternoon. A good crowd, well behaved, well at least until the end, there are always a few people who just don’t know how to handle themselves. There isn’t an event in the world where alcohol is served that goes without incident.
We missed attending the luncheon, but I got to slide in and taste the cheese course our beer was paired too. The Harnett from Kaikoura Cheese. Dan and his team make amazing cheeses, this was no exception. They also had a food truck towards the front gate where they were making toasties with that cheese, bacon and rocket with caramelized onions. It was seriously legit. I told everyone I knew to go get one. Sadly they weren’t as busy as they should have been, being located towards the front of the park, you are easily forgotten.
Our beer wasn’t an IPA or a pale ale so it wasn’t a festival favorite. I enjoyed it though, it layered well and the malt is prominent for style, maybe a bit bitter, and the amount of hops was way out, but it had a great grassy and white grape character that made it easy drinking. A few kegs will show around the country, it is on at Fine Wine Delivery stores in Auckland at the moment.
Anyway the weekend turned out fantastic.
I also met up with Peckhams cider, as we will be doing a collab with them this year. Something very special. Watch this space.
Also we were to set a date with Richmond Fresh Choice to do a beer match dinner. These events are always a sold out success and a fun night. Sadly the Oxford cafe where these are held has decided not to renew their lease, so they will not be able to do these any more. Raymond said he was going to look for another venue. If anyone knows of a place in or near Richmond that would be keen, have them get in touch with Raymond.
Anyway thanks Nelson for being Nelson. We love the friends we have down there and love coming to visit.
The Sunday following Marchfest is the annual NZ Home brewers Conference. The organizers grab some pretty flash speakers from the states to come down, and put on an amazing day of beergeekery.
This was no exception. A brilliant line up, Randy Mosher author and brewer, Denny Conn homebrew celebrity, Chris White of White Labs returned, and Annie Johnson of Pico brewing, the first african american women to win the US home brew competition. Along with some of the best personalities in the NZ brewing scene, the day was full of break out sessions, talking all things beer.
I got to listen to Denny’s opening talk, made me want to go sit down, smoke a joint and talk beer with him later. Sadly this didn’t happen, maybe next time.
Then I had to run off and do a talk on sours with Damon Colbert. Damon is an expert beer geek. Biochemist by day, home brewer sour extrordinaire by night. He is also on the SOBA Auckland board. He did all the hard work of putting together a lovely power point.
I understood our talk to be us on a panel fielding questions from a host and the audience, but it ended up being he and I walking through the basics and into some more complex topics around the souring of beers. I had fun and the turn out was good considering it was at the same time as Randy Moshers talk.
After our sour talk, I jetted over to sit with Martin Townshend and Geoff Griggs, they were on a discussion about common sense brewing. We were all a bit confused about what that actually is, but we fumbled our way through together having some fun and giving out as much info as we could to the audience. It was a joy to sit with two of my favorite people in the NZ beer industry.
After that I ran over to sit in on Chris White’s talk about yeast, hosted by Graham Eyres and David Moynagh. I loved it, he drove home the importance of sanitation and delved into debunking some myths. Also he talked about vitality and viability of yeast and how yeast management is the most difficult task for any brewer. We never stop learning, well we hope we don’t. If we do it is likely we should go find a new career.
Even though it is meant for the countries home brewers, I always take away a huge amount of information. Randy Moshers closing lecture blew my mind, literally. As he discussed how our brains process smells and flavors, then he tide it into beer and wine. Brilliant stuff.
Once again they put on an outstanding event, I look forward to attending again next year!
Back to Waipu
Off the plane and straight back to the brewery. My faithful assistant, did a great job of emptying all of the tanks while I was away. We have new pitches enroute from the states and me being away is going to cause a short term lag in our production. Usually this time of year we see a slight dip in sales, a typical seasonal lull. So far this hasn’t occurred yet. Our off site cold storage is about kick us out due to Kiwi fruit season, so I have been running stock tight so we can keep everything at the brewery. We are looking for additional storage for the time being, until our new coldstore across the road is completed in the coming months.
I smashed out a couple brews on my 3/4 day back, the we headed back into Auckland for…
World Premier Launches
We teamed up with Fine Wine Delivery Company, both stores, and Judge Bao catering to do a pop up event. FWD does this every so often with some of their favorite breweries and brands. It is a evening of some matched nibbles and some great beer.
The first night at Constellation drive saw 65 plus, a great turn out and a lot of fun.
We launched our Vienna Lager to the public (after Marchfest), also our new Barrel aged Sour Red Ale, and our Bourbon Barrel aged Traders.
Everything was received well. The Traders can be a bit boozy on the nose, as some don’t expect so much Bourbon character to come through. I love it, it only spent four weeks in the barrel to get so much flavor, I can’t wait for the other two. 79 cases, many pre-sold at the event. The Sour red ale, as described above showed very well on the night. The sourness has softened even more in the bottle.
The second night was at Lunn Ave, slightly higher turn out. Again the food and beers were tasting great and the evening was really a lot of fun.
I am not the most charismatic speaker, so I kept it pretty short in between courses. Everyone seemed to enjoy the night. I loved that we had a really diverse range of beers. All tasting good. A huge thanks to Adrian and Georgia of FWD for helping to organize these events, it was a great success.
They took pre orders for both of the releases, as we are currently waiting for the labels to be printed before we can sell them to the public. They should be out on shelves early April.
After this month wow, just a whirlwind. Next month some good news on the brewing front, more beer on the way, and maybe some new staff, watch this space. My birthday and lots of brewing, and oh yeah, my reply to the POH Untappd letter to the editor…
Thanks for reading!
Cheers and beers