March 2018

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…

Irish Stout

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.

802 #8 (Batch 2)

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.

Wellington

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…

Marchfest

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.

NZHC

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.

Next Month

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

McBrewer

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February 2018

…This month, wow. Started out with some fresh bourbon barrels, then a slew of new beers, keg only stuff, the session beer challenge, double batch of 802#8, moved house, got published for the first time, won some awards from SOBA and…

 

Irish Stout

The next seasonal to come out is our Shoemaker Rd Irish Stout, named after a road in Waipu, not to be confused with kitchen lingo; for a shit cook. It is a rich roasty, chocolaty and a little nutty (from the roasted wheat) smooth as…well with carbonation coming via nitro it is silky smooth, I think I compared it to Adam Sandler’s character Scrappy Coco aka the Zohan, yep that smooth.  Available early March, I recommend a nitro tap for this, or a high pressure regulator. 4.3% abv

 

Bourbon Barrels

Yeah baby six freshly emptied Four Roses Bourbon Barrels arrived. Our friends Fritz and Maria were bringing over a container from the states, so they said what the hell let’s put some barrels for folks in it! After some slow progress through customs they arrived in good shape.

I quickly filled three with Traders Scotch Ale, and brewed a double batch of Pioneer Porter for the other three. They will then hold some Maple Oat Stout and Blackwatch before retiring to the sour program…

A few leaks in one, easily stopped with a candle and water on the outside. Clean the area first, rub hard over the leak, if that doesn’t work, heat it a little first to melt it, then quickly dab it on. If your attempts fail, wash down the barrel daily of files. They carry acetobacter and other souring organisms. Keep them away until the barrel settles in. Repeated water should help.

Their will be a few 30 liter kegs of each, the rest will be bottled. Available through events in March and April. The bottles will be released in late March early April.

 

802 #8

Hate to admit it, but we fucking nailed this one. Been trying really hard to get the malt balance and the hopping ratio, and a few other little details to make it rounder and more resinous. This one with the trio of hops worked great. So good, I have brewed a second double batch. Early reviews, stunning…6.6% year round potential…high…Get it while you can they disappear fast.

 

Filtering Update

I have previously mentioned our filtering. Well low and behold I fucked up. Well not fucked up but just understood wrong. Our 20-10-5 set up was actually a 20-3-5. The 5 kind of being redundant, except to collect the dissolving lenticular. So I thought about our process and tried an alternative. It fucks with the schedule but has increased the speed of clarity and time of filter runs. Honestly has cleaned up the flavors as well.

Currently we have been uni-tank. Meaning we do everything in one tank until filtering. We trialled moving from primary onto dry hop but still had poor results with clarity. Our latest is primary and dry hop in one tank, then harvest yeast, dry hop and crash. Then rack to a purged tank and add finings. This has sped up clarification from 7-10 days or more to 3-4 sometimes better. We prefer to condition longer as it is better for long term stability, but we have near bright beer within days of fining and cooling. Some might laugh at that, but considering our hopping rates, methods, and the lower flocculation rate of our yeast, I am very happy with the results. Using the same method with US05 or 001 would produce bright beers within a day or two.

Filter times and DO levels have dropped too. All good news. That doesn’t change the filters though. The 20 micron needs a huge amount of pressure to push through, and our tanks can’t handle that. So we have used it as a polish then the lentic takes the load. the five now is just in the way. The 3 micron, filters bright beer easily, but any haze they block up really fast and will fail completely within a few thousand liters after. Bright beer we have seen as much as 10-12 thousand liters before having to change the filters. That is about 4c per liter, not great but easy and with low DO rates and stable beer. The cartridge filters last for about 100 thousand liters or more. We bought some Pall “back flushable,” filters we are trailing them again. Maybe with less loading they will last longer. Time will tell…

 

Marchfest

The list came out already, so I can spoil it, I think I already did last month any way. We brewed a Vienna Lager, with disturbing amounts of Hallertau Blanc. A true German brewer would reel in disgust at the volumes of green matter we threw at this lovely classic lager.

Our friend and hospo stalewart Lindsy, formerly of Uptown Freehouse and freelancing at Wood street, all part of the Evan Empire. She is fondly known in social media circles as @lindsydoesstuff. Anyway she wanted to snoop around and see how we do things. So I did my best to muck it up proper Bathgate like, and it proceeded as follows.

We have no “guest” gumboots, as we haven’t really had any ‘guest’ brewers yet, my mate Jim holly exception as he brought his, and Andrew and Hannah didn’t do that much to need them. So she, with shoes on, stepped into Geoff’s (6ft 5+ something) gum boots…classic clown shoe thing. A pretty girl in clown shoes at a brewery. Off to a bad start. She had a great sense of humor about it. I was a bit embarassed. She rocked them though. Then the stuck mash…haven’t had one in a while but with all the chit-chat I wasn’t focused, and the silicon seal around the screens has needed replacement for the last few mashes, I have procrastinated that. Shit. So a 7 hour brew turned out to be 10 ish. She had to bail just after the boil. It got better. I had to dilute the wort as it was just over gravity. I had over filled the hot liquor and cooled it down too much so when I added the water it dropped my whirlpool temp, fuck! So sitting at 90c, and no bittering addition yet! 5kg wouldn’t cut it even with a long run off. So I dumped in 10g per liter. Let it stand for 20 minutes and ran off. Ferment was sweet, but I got crazy again at dry hop and should have just done the 5kg, but no, had to go for it, chucked in the other 5kg. Another 10 grams per liter dry. This is not a fruity hop, pretty grassy, turns out. A few days on dry then I crashed it and racked it to condition with finings for a month or so. I filtered it too so the grassy character faded a bit. The base beer is super clean, fermented at 10c for 10 days. Proper lager like, malty and rich. Should be a stand out from a field of pale ales, good or bad. We will also we launching a keg of the Bourbon Barrel Aged Traders at CBD the week lead up to the festival. I always look forward to Marchfest.

 

Session Beer Challenge

Sadly we really wanted to go to this event. We had a tentative reservation through Air bnb for place just out side of the city, it would’ve been just a quick uber ride to cbd we figured. We would be in for a fun night! Country mouse in the big city stuff. Reservation never confirmed…shit, so the last places in the city were all booked and asking rates in the $300+ range for shit holes. Fuck!

Well they managed to carry on with out us, and Sawmill took the cup! Brilliant. Mother fuckers keep making great beers! Hallertau coming in a solid second, the beer sounded great. Boric Plum sour on Nitro fuck yeah!

I smell some new passion in that place…just sayin’

I heard later from one of the judges that we made it to the final round, only to be just nipped by Sawmill.

I can’t wait for next year, we will all try to come in for it!

 

Solo

The faithful assistant has stepped away for some much deserved time off. The best time for me to review process and tighten up a bit. I have an obsession to organize and focus on efficiency. Having to do others tasks is a good reminder to the steps and looking at it with a fresh set of eyes is great. I saved three sheets of paper and three extra steps in dispatch with one simple piece of paper that tracks all out going orders along with tracking numbers per parcel. Easy to go back when something goes missing, as they do.. a lot. NZ courier companies are deplorable at delivering cases of beer. I am tired of broken cases and missing items. Tired of filling out insurance claim forms. Get your shit together, get chiller/temperature controlled vans and handle boxes properly! It is the future!

Same in brew house, process smooth, and fuck, I clean like an old feline cleans its tail. I love a clean brew house and fermenters. I am one of those people that clean the out side when I clean the inside of the tank. The floor, walls, legs etc. Feels good after, really good.

Brewed a heap of beers and have staged a tank for blending barrels for bottling…

 

SOBA

I had gotten an email mid month from SOBA Auckland, they asked if we were coming to the awards night, and mentioned that two awards would be for us. Shocked, but excited we booked a room.

The 28th of the month came round and we made the slog into the city. We all met at Galbraiths, and started off with some small talk and a few beers. Gailbraiths beers were tasting better then ever. Turns out the manager Teddy is now the brewer, bringing back the old recipes. Well done, more on that later.

So a few nibbles and we got into it. A quick round of thank yous and into the awards. The first one we got was actually for the Pizza Barn. I was able to accept it on behalf of Clayton and Geoff. I don’t have anything to do with the Pizza Barn aside from eating lunch and drinking our beer there. They ended up taking best Beer Restaurant in Auckland. I know you may be asking yourself, aren’t they in Waipu…Northland? Thats not Auckland? Thats what I said too. In order for that to happen everyone had to actually write us in on the ballot. Holy fucking crappers right! The first time ever a restaurant from outside of Auckland took the award, we de-throned Hallertau after two years with the title. The boys were over the moon, as were the rest of the staff.

Next was the national awards…”The beer of the year is…Paradise Pale ale from McLeod’s!” I sat for a moment in my chair stunned and not sure what to do. I got up, and the lovely SOBA president Maree handed me the award. I simply couldn’t find any words, I felt some tears of joy and slight embarrassment coming, so I said a quick thank you and headed back to my seat. It took a while for it to really sink in, as we had just unseated Panhead from the top spot, they too had held it for two years running.

SOBA is a national organisation of volunteers, people whom just love beer, homebrewers drinkers, the lot. Every region around the country votes; Nelson, Christchurch, Wellington, Auckland, Dunedin etc…so for us to win means we had the most votes from each region around the country, well at least combined! I didn’t even know that many people knew about us! Then to beat out Liberty and Panhead in the Pale ale category, wow. I am dumbfounded. I am proud of our beer for sure, and we get better at what we do, our yeast is healthier and happier, and it has been making our beers better and better. All the sleepless nights I have had and the stress around wondering if people really like our beers…well this one feels good, really good. Being a consumer driven award it has a really good feeling compared to the brewers guild. That is pretty special too, but this one for some reason feels even better.

A huge congratulations to everyone else who took home an award and a huge thanks to SOBA and its members for voting for us.

You just made it that much harder for us, as we now have to work just a little bit more to keep making better beer.

 

Published

Yeah I know I have been writing this dribble each month but, this month saw my very first article or ‘rant piece,’ published on printed paper. I had a piece published in the Pursuit of Hoppiness, the official magazine of SOBA. I have had plenty written about me or the businesses I have been with, but my own words, never. It felt weird and un easy reading it. I hope people enjoyed it. I really detest Untappd, it is like a panel of judges on X-factor or some other stupid fucking show I never watch. That people can just sit down with their phone and publicly degrade or compliment, your product openly is a rather odd thing. It is like a three legged dog though, you cant help but look at it. Anyway I made my point in the piece. Michael has asked me to write some more for it (POH) Unfortunately for you all, I have some more shit to throw down, so sit back and watch me dig a hole!

 

Moved

The entire month of February we moved house, or shifted as they say here. Whenever I hear shifted I think of the scene in the Usual Suspects when they said they shifted someone, killing not moving. Anyway we ‘shifted,’ from the sea side bach in Pakiri, to the infamous Waipu. I now live 4km from the brewery, good or bad. My commute normally one hour ten minutes (41 minutes on the MTC) now is 4 minutes by car, 18 minutes by pedal bike (not sure why they call them push bikes?) or 45 minutes walking. The house is old and still a rental, as we have been pushed far outside of the “buyers” market by the JAFA’s. Not sure we will ever be able to afford one around here. Pretty fucked up really. Anyway the new place has a paddock for sheep, a small orchard (that needs serious help), but full of apples, pears, figs, organges, clementines, lemons, kaffir limes, cherries, feijoa a small garden area with a heap of different herbs, and some old vines that I think are Pinot Gris, we’ll find out. Most over grown, but we are excited to have some plants to mess with. A lot of little sheds for shit and my motorcycle now has a happy warm garage to sleep in. The valley is not as breezy and cool as the hill, and it doesn’t have the great kitchen or the hot tub. However the short commute and the quiet sounds, aside from the cicadas is brilliant. A good guest room for the lucky or unlucky few, depending on how you look at it, can have a great place to sleep when the visit. It has been a treat to finally have a few beers after work at the Barn, then just a skip home.

My one last rant for this post.

Fly screens…

Why do no houses in NZ have screens on the windows? Every home I have ever lived in the states has screens on the windows. Essentially they had three windows in every window. A screen that moves up and down, then a storm window that comes down on the outside. So in winter you don’t freeze to death. Simple design and cheap as chips. Aside from Lake Rotoroa on the south Island I have never seen screens on any windows here in NZ. You had to there as they would eat you alive during the night, every sand fly is  armed with a knife and fork. Yet every other house I go into has a huge fly and moth problem. Apparently spraying a chemical mist in the air is better though.

The slam of the screen door was a familiar and now nostalgic feeling. This house is like every other house, screen free, so every night is a scramble to close all the windows so every bug in the neighborhood doesn’t come in and join us for tea and a movie. Then sit through a stuffy house all night and the fans don’t make it better, the humidity is legit, and stays for the summer. Anyway NZ get some fucking screens for the windows, once they are in you don’t notice and you don’t have to breathe in chemicals, crazy I know, who woulda thunk it!?

 

Next Month

Judge New World awards, attend Marchfest, launch some Bourbony goodness, blend some sours, submit our GABS beer, do a couple of events with Fine Wine Delivery, set up a few more for April and May, and I am sure a whole bunch more…

 

Thanks for reading

McBrewer

 

January 2018

Happy New Year! Well another busy month with lots of brewing and general brewery madness. This month we released 802 #7, re-released Hot Curl Hibiscus Berlinerweisse, Green Harvest Lager. Brewed a beer for Brothers Session Beer Challenge, an Irish Stout on Nitro, 802 #8, checked out Moon under Water in Christchurch, attended Great Kiwi Beer Fest 2018!

 

802 #7

The seventh in the 802 series. These beers have been a showcase of some cool hop varieties in a myriad of combinations. Served fresh and unfiltered these hop bombs have been going down a treat. This one we did our usual base malt bill, and topped it up with Lemon drop and Centennial. A really special combination. I have made a few beers with Lemondrop so far, and am getting little in the way of aromas, but the flavors have been bang on lemon and lifted tea. The Centennial is a true gem of a hop, it has everything you ever wanted and a bit more. They play really well together. So this one is not huge on the nose, but tastes fantastic, a hint of piney bitterness and smooth drinking hop juice. 6.2% Keg only out now.

McLeods 802 7

 

Hot Curl

I know I talked it up last month, but it is just hitting taps this month. Get some and try it. I like it a lot more then last years. A smooth acidity and the hibiscus is so much cleaner, the quality of the flowers we received this year were so much better. I left it unfiltered and it has a huge amount of body for a 3% sour ale. I even filled a barrel with some, brett should have some fun with the flavor compounds. A traditional mixed ferment (lacto and sacchro, not a kettle sour) Berliner Weisse steeped with Hibiscus flowers, a hint of Chamomile and lemon verbena. 3% abv, delicious and crazy refreshing. Keg only.

McLeods Hot Curl-min

 

Green Harvest Lager

Described more below. We made this beer for Moon Under Waters opening. An absurdly hopped lager, a base malt of Pilsner and Vienna, all hop additions were in the whirlpool. Then we hopped it in a classic west coast style of hops at 10g per liter. Then after a long slow ferment at 11c, we dry hopped with another 10g per liter. It has been conditioning for over a month, and it is starting to clear. We kegged it unfiltered, so it is technically a Pilsner Kellerbier, we have gone with a nick name of dank lager, as it has a distinct hydroponic smell to it. Just 16 kegs total. Available now…maybe, if its not already gone. 5.2% abv, keg only.

McLeods Green Harvest MUW-min

 

…Brothers Session Beer

Due to some politics before I came on the scene at McLeod’s, we have been overlooked by the directors of the annual Brothers Beer Session Beer Challenge. However the scum bag who was behind it has moved on. This year we got the invite to brew for it. I brewed a Fresh Unfiltered Pale ale. 4.7%abv Hopped with US Chinook and Mandarina Bavaria. It has big green dank mandarin and strawberry on the nose. Drinks smooth with a subtle bitterness. Really looking forward to smashing a few of these back. The event is in February, go check it out!

 

…Irish Stout

Next on the new beer list is an Irish Stout. I love them too, and after having some dreadful ones at the home brew awards, I figured I should give it a go. I love Guinness, I have for years. My standard go too if there is nothing else of interest on offer. My hero John Kimmich of the Alchemist, served it on draft at his place, it was the only guest beer, ever. Something about that nitro. Well we are doing one too, with a bit of roasted wheat from Gladfield, a blend of dark malts, flaked barley and East Kent Goldings. Smooth, black and delicious, slightly tart finish. Drink it by the liter. Available early March.

 

Great Kiwi Beer Fest

Once again they have proven that they know how to run a proper festival. Great Kiwi Beer Fest 2018 went off without a hitch.

We attended this festival last year and put a few bucks in our pocket and had a blast. This year we did the same. Not a huge burn through of kegs but a proper steady pace all day long selling a solid amount. We kicked two kegs early in the day. The Chili Pilsner went down a treat. I threw that one in as a special keg, one of the last, as I figured this would be the crowd. Then we followed it with the Green Harvest Lager. People were getting anxious for that one. Almost 20 people had been hanging around the stand waiting for it to come on. Thankfully it didn’t disappoint.

GKBF 2018

The event went smooth and the weather was great. A decent selection of food trucks and a plethora of NZ breweries and brands. A fun day.

The Friday before we were set to hit the town. We met our friend Chris from Kereru brewery at Pomeroys, only to go inside and see that it was a Garage Project tap take over. We exited as quick as possible. Not that I don’t like Garage Project. I enjoy their beers when super fresh. I just can’t handle the crowds, or the hype. Makes me nauseous. So we popped down to Little Poms for a Behemoth tap take over. I always love to catch up with my bro Andrew. A huge line out the door, Stray Cat burgers were the host food and they were killing it, their burgers looked amazing. The cue out to the street… sadly made us go for the original and inevitable plan…Punky Brewsters.

The cool kids at Punky had a low key sour beer tasting. Simply a few new beers from Wilderness brewing and Craftwork! Likely two of the best up and coming sour producers in the country.

A few words about Oliver. This fella is a quiet humble and amazingly talented home-brewer. He has recently set up a ‘brewery’ at home in his garage. With true Kiwi ingenuity in the best of DIY tradition. He is making delicious forward thinking sours. With a serious passion for all things sour, he is one to look out for. Extremely limited and brilliantly crafted.

Craftwork. There beers have been getting better and better as each day passes. They have an insane passion for the lifestyle and unique approach of Belgian inspired beers in Oamaru. Love them. Amazing.

They alternated from brewery to brewery. All of the beers and chat were outstanding. I could have used a bit more food, but it was so much fun. Only about 30 people were there, it was perfectly intimate. Plenty of beer to go around and lots of good beer talk. SO much more fun then standing in line to have a beer that you have likely had before, and yelling at your friends because to is so loud. I am getting too old for that shit.

 

Moon Under Water

As mentioned last month and above. Matt Kamstra, legendary publican of Christchurch and well known around the NZ beer world as the former manager of Twisted Hop in Woolston, as well as free lancing in some other cool venues around the city. An absolutely stand up guy, honest, charming and truly loves being a pub owner, and a stalwart of cask ales. Any way he has finally pulled off his dream of owning his own place. Moon Under Water is the newest addition to the Christchurch scene.

The name has thrown me quite a bit, it has taken every combination of Moon, water, under, over and around. It is stuck in now. So our mate Matt has finally been dumb enough, sorry, crazy enough to open his own place. With a bit of help from some friends he had a soft opening early in the week and then officially, the Thursday we arrived in Chch.

Located on the corner of a busy residential area outside of the central city. He is sure to become a locals hang out. He has four handpulls and a nice selection of kegs to choose from. He is already stocking his fridge with an array of sours too. Once he sorts out the menu and a chef, he will simply kill it.

Good luck Matt. We can’t wait to come down again soon.

 

Next Month…

We brew our Marchfest Beer (North Moutere Vienna Lager), make another double batch of 802 #8 you’ll see why. Brewed our first Hefeweisen, more lager, more Paradise, more Tropical Cyclone, entered the New World awards and attend the Brother Session Beer Challenge, a few words about GABS 100 grocery store list, and more.

 

Thanks for reading,

 

Cheers and beers,

 

McBrewer

 

 

 

December 2017

Welcome to another fun filled story from Waipu. This month I attended/hosted the first annual Geuze-fest, brewed Hot Curl 2017, a Dank Lager, 802#7, launched our Gose at the Vintry, and a few odds and ends.

 

Geuze-fest 2017

Sadly at the end of February 2018, Monica and I will be moving out of our rental coastal retreat and heading north to Waipu. This little house we have been grateful to be living in for the last three years has been nothing shy of spectacular. Any one who has been to our house knows, this is one of the true gems of the New Zealand coast and it may have one of the best views in the country, no shit. This is the front porch view.

IMG_0704 2

The house itself is not super flash but it does have a great kitchen, huge deck and a spa pool to watch the stars as the ISS passed over on the odd night.

To send us off and not to miss an opportunity to drink Geuze, the notorious Mike Cheer and Adam ‘the posh kiwi’ Laird came to drink some libations. Now these two gentlemen are well toothed in the world of beery things. They came well prepared, with a range of Geuze from a variety of producers, a jerry can of sterile wort and some stinky as fuck cheese. Let the party begin…

Soon after arrival we slipped up to the Pizza Barn for a quick tour and a taste of our range. Then back for the main event.

I will leave this picture with you, but my favourite is the Boon with Drie a close second, all the Krieks were good.

After quite a few of these we set a small jar out side to grab some yeast. Mine failed, I think Adams did too, but Mikes was fermenting last we spoke, you never know. Anyway we saved all of the dregs from all of the bottles and pitched them into the jerry can at the end of the night. We will use this ‘starter’ to collab on a beer together and do some separate stuff. It will hopefully become an annual event.

Two amazing and talented guys whom I was honoured to have come and the spend an evening with us. All the best, and here’s to Geuzefest 2018!

 

HOT CURL

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Named after a 1920’s fin-less surf board, this purple-sour is a gem of a beer and should go down a treat in this stinky hot weather.

It has a Pilsner malt and unmalted wheat base that we sour with lacto. Then ferment with a neutral yeast. Then in the whirlpool we steep 9-12kg of hibiscus flowers. This year’s has a little lemon verbena and chamomile flowers along with some honey in the conditioning tank. It is very sour, the hibiscus has a great deal of acidity, and along with the sourness from the lacto it is sure to be refreshing. Coming in at 3% abv it is highly sessionable. Bright hibiscus aromas on the nose with a sharp lactic tang. Drinks fresh and tart.

It was made as a tribute to Jamaica, pronounced ‘Hum-I-ka.’ A traditional Mexican street drink. Normally steeped in warm water and sweetened with honey. A summer quencher indeed.

 

Gose Launch

IMG_0726

Unexpectedly we launched our beloved Gose at the Vintry in Matakana. An event almost missed. Some confusion around who set it up.

Lucky for me, my aunt and uncle from the states were about to start a bus tour around the country, and stopped in to see us for a couple of days. On the Friday after an afternoon of local wine tastings, we met at the courtyard of the Matakana Market Kitchen for a little get-to-gether. Hosted by no-other then Tom the Oysterer himself, a true gem of a person, dressed in full pirate garb! He put on a big display of his freshest, and we had a few of our beers along with the Gose. It was good fun, and the weather couldn’t have been better.

Oyster Gose at MMK

After the party we slipped into the MMK for a great dinner with our friends from Heron’s Flight winery. A delightful evening. Thanks to everyone who showed, and to MMK for a great evening.

 

Rough Wooing

McLeods Rough wooing

I mentioned this beer a while back. I had made it on a bet with Martin Townshend. We were going to submit them to the awards together and see who’s placed better. He opened a new brewery site and we have been busy as fuck, so it got pushed back in the cue. I did finally get around to brewing it. It features two new varietals from the UK. Fusion and Olicana. Both were described as tropical and citrus driven. Well I wouldn’t go so far as to say that, but it would be the Uk’s first dip into the new hop market. It has a malty Golden Promise base with some Munich and crystal. Then late and dry hopped. It fermented pretty dry. it is actually 7% not 5.6% as the tap badge says, something got missed in the communication train. It is quite unique and very different from the majority of beer we make. I get big citrus and tea character from the nose, earthy and hints of earl grey. A good piney bitterness supports. A fun beer and a diversion from our normal beers. Keg only, out now. Go woo a friend with one!

 

Christmas

With the tanks full of fermenting beer and a heap conditioning, there wasn’t much to do for a couple of days, so I dug into the barrels. It had been a while since I had sorted them. I pulled a couple for top ups. A couple of slightly low filled barrels that were meant to mature a bit faster then the others. A red flanders style, black flanders style, and a super pedio sour one. Using these I was able to free up two more barrels that I will be able to use for some lager. The last ones soured and funked beautifully.

I also ‘Vinnie Nailed,’ our barrels for easier sampling.

Many of these barrels are mature, so it is just a matter of schedule to get these out and refill the barrels. Expect at least five new beers rolling into Autumn. A Red Flanders Style, Black Toffee Rye Sour, 750ml Bottle conditioned Brett Pale Ale, Stock Ale, Oud Bruin…

I found a vinegar barrel, sadly it had to be quarantined from the others. However it will be useful, it will need an additional mother, and to be diluted before use, but the resulting vinegar will be great for the kitchen and for back blending into the odd sour beer.

To add to our Christmas, we have some new oak arriving. I am not sure where we will keep them but the Scottish whisky and sorted American whiskey barrels will be leading to few rounds of big barrel aged fun! Look forward to small batch runs of distinct beers.

 

Equipment

A reminder to people with glycol. Every year when the humidity changes and the temperature rises, for some unknown reason every fridge in the world goes on the the fritz. Luckily this year I went through and checked them all before the weather changed, and the cheap as shit Chinese little back up unit is somehow still running happily along side our other one, and keeping everything cold. Considering we have 10 tanks on cooling at the moment, it is good to know it’s ticking along.

Daily checks of temps are in order this time of year to be safe. Always check the back of the condensers, if they get any ice build up, it will exacerbate quickly and the cold air will stop recirculating and you will have to break out the blow dryer. Adding the temps to your daily check list might save you from a few days of down time and ruined beer.

Strangely everything seems to be in order, aside from a problematic solenoid…

There are a few choices when buying solenoids. They are factory set. Either default open or default closed. What happens when they fail is either the beer gets too hot during ferment, or it crashes a fermenting beer. It is easier to warm up a beer then cool one down with no cooling. Make sure you know which you have.

I need to mess with stuff, so I made a list of a few fixes for next year, nothing major just some detail items. Flow meter for mash tun, o2 meter in the ppm range for checking o2 levels pre ferment, strainer for the heat exchange to keep the hops out, some hoses in in the right places, a few small investments to help improve quality. Maybe a hop back…we’ll see. Keep buying our beer so I can afford these improvements!

 

Guild

I have been thinking a lot about our little industry here in NZ and how we all fit on the global scale.

I have also been contemplating what the brewers Guild of NZ is, and what it is supposed to do for us as members. At present, and correct me if I am wrong, but it is essentially a really complicated set of rules and committees that organize an awards ceremony every year. Aside from that, I haven’t seen much tangible. This is in no reflection of those who serve on the board or those that are paid by the guild. It is simply a question as to what is its purpose. I realize that they just did a little pony tour around NZ and asked members for feedback and presented a few ideas. I am not sure what has happened with it. I am sure these things move slowly when under funded.

Looking beyond the awards I wanted to dig deeper, and what I realized, as a brewery owner what I want from the guild. Or rather what I expect from the Guild. I have prioritized my thoughts.

1.) Government Lobbying, and regulation. The biggest thing that we as brewers face is the ridiculous amount of duty/tax we pay on producing alcohol compared to other countries. I want to pay less, and I feel we have earned it, and as long as we keep promoting alcohol responsibly we should be rewarded, and given incentives to be better employers and to put a bit more into our pockets and our staffs.

2.) Education. Really the laws and unfair taxation is my biggest issue, but being able to access some good brewing content would be good. IBD seems to be stepping up on this one.

3.) Awards ceremony. We need one, it is bloody expensive and makes us the only money we have, could an outside source do it for us? I don’t know, but we should entertain any option.

Outside of that, number 2 and 3, I could easily pass up on. This is where it gets interesting and likely polarizing.

Last year at the AGM(2016), the Brewers Association, the one in Australia not to be confused with the proper one in the states. The Brewers Association is all the big breweries from our region, Lion Nathan, Carlton, Coopers, etc…you get the picture. Now they have a huge budget and pay for a lobbyist. Last year they rolled out the stink carpet for a fella who is now gone, thankfully. This guys walks up on stage and address’ the crowd of small brewers and lists off his last few jobs…big oil, big tobacco, big pharmaceuticals…and now… beer. In his words, I worked for all of them I figured I would give this a go. Fuck him, most were in disbelief. This asshole hired by big beer to represent them? They at the time wanted to align themselves with the Guild. To this end they offered us next to nothing, some leverage on revising the excise rules about storage, that was going to change anyway, but hey they threw that at us like a prize. I looked around the room and many were looking on in disgust or maybe they were all just hungover, anyway thankfully Ralph Bungard jumped in and spoke words of resounding brilliance and got us back on track. Reluctantly it got him a seat on the board again.

This brings me full circle. I posted something on the brewers Guild Facebook page addressing this very point. It was obviously argued against by the chairman, as he works for DB. I state this as my position. I do not think that any ‘big’ brewery should be part of the guild. It was set up as a way for us (small breweries) to have a collective voice in a landscape run by big business.

When I mentioned this, the sentiment was, can’t we all work together. Well please show me how and what we have in common with big beer? Aside from the basic; we make beer they make beer, we sell beer they sell beer.

The finer details are incredibly different. They don’t care about excise reduction, they pay on actual strength and save millions a year by brewing under strength beer. They also collectively own 94% of the market.

They also are buying up brands left and right to increase the ‘real estate’ in retail. They aren’t simply looking at the next best thing, they are looking at shelf space, and what brands demand or hold the most. Those will be the next ones bought. With the likes of Coca-Cola getting into the game, it will be a bizarre landscape of consolidation into the future. So how do you sort through the chaff and support the small independents?

Knowledge and education. This is what the guild represents to me, how we stand apart from corporates and stand strong as individuals, painting/brewing the landscape of the industry with color and fresh inventive flavorful beers.

To conclude, I suggest we change the rules around the size and ownership structure that allows breweries to be part of the guild. Corporations owned by x# of share holders, and a cap on production volumes to signify the big from the small. Basically kick DB, Lion and Independent out. If we want to work with them on something as two organizations, sure, but it is a case of the fox in the hen house having them on our board. Nothing meaningful will ever happen if we don’t change.

Excise reduction has to happen. The annual increases in excise is pissing me the fuck off. Gareth Morgan obviously didn’t get that memo. If we don’t ask and we don’t push the subject it will never be changed. This is not time to be sheeple. We need to show government that the money is there, just not in the form of a duty and not from us before we get paid from our customers.

User pays, the NZ way?

Correct me if I am wrong, please. Excise Duty on alcohol is to offset the negative impact that drinking has on society. This duty we pay upfront, and only half actually goes to reduce the ‘impact.’ The rest goes into the general fund. Does this seem, I don’t know…fucked up?

The worst offenders should pay the most? Spirits, RTDs, cheap beer, cheap wine. Small boutique-independent breweries should pay little to no tax, and the burden should be also related to volumes. The more you make the more you pay.

Somehow and or incorporate Dominic Kellys idea of having the duty paid as a tax at the time of sale, not at the time of production. We pay GST on top of our excise, a tax on tax!

Help us as small businesses be successful. Help us all keep more cash flow in our accounts. We work as fucking banks for retailers and wholesalers, interest free mind you, where the heck is our kickback for that!?

 

New Year Resolutions

We resolve to work even harder at making better beer! We will endeavor to find more ways to keep it cold through the supply chain. Examine methods to reduce our carbon foot print! Have a bit if fun in the process.

 

Next Month, Next Year

Next month, we head down to the Great Kiwi Beer Fest, pour the first sips of Green Harvest Lager at Moon Under Water, brew a heap of new beers, Imperial Maple Oat Stout, 802 #8 and #9, ship our first kegs to Australia! And more nonsense…

Thanks for reading,

Happy New Year Everyone,

Cheers and beers,

McBrewer

 

November 2017

This month we launched our Oyster Gose in bottles, bottled a new Saison, judged the Nation Home Brew Competition, attended Dunedin Beerfest by Proxy, got caught up on some brewing, had audit day, brewed an English IPA on a bet, and some more nonsense…

 

…Oyster Gose

McLeods 73mm Oyster Gose

The long awaited, and still pretty young, Oyster Gose has been released.

It is drinking sparkling with Anjou pear and citrus spiced coriander on the nose, a slight hint of brine, tastes similar to Prosecco. Drinks with lemon highlights and tart quenching finish. Expect soft funk to develop over time. 4.6% abv enjoy now or tuck a bottle or two away.

It doesn’t taste like oysters. If you expect it to taste like an oyster out of the shell, well that is just silly. We used several liters of oyster juice and a whole heap of oysters. However they were fresh from the ocean that day and simply there to lend to the complexity. Open a fresh one with it and you will notice the similarities.

Sadly within a few days of the release, reports of gushing bottles have been mentioned. It appears that some of the bottles with bottle numbers below 100, about 8 cases, have gotten too much priming sugar and extra sediment, are gushing. We have recalled all of those bottles. We have tested others from across the bottling run and have no other issues, so if you have any numbered bottles under 0100, please contact us or your distributor for a replacement bottle(s). Sorry for any inconvenience. We have made some process changes to eliminate that from occurring in the future.

 

Turadh

McLeods Turadh Saison 1

(pr: Too-Rod) The name is from old Scottish Gaelic, means a short spell of dry weather. This winter and spring have been something else, it has rained nearly everyday for seven months. The occasional teaser streak of sunny warm days, only to be hit again with a full torrential.

This part of the world is a bit thinner geographically and like many other places around New Zealand, weather changes quickly. You have to be prepared for it to rain at all times.

Any who, this little number has been conditioning for a while and the brett is just beginning to show. Hoppy and ester driven fruit nose with a subtle tart finish and emerging funk. 1500 bottles.

A rather simple Saison with L. Delbrueckii B. Bruxellensis, House Farmhouse ale, NZ Wai-iti, 5.9% abv.

 

Dunedin Beer Fest

Last year we had wanted to attend too but much the same, one day and a dollar short.

This year we were determined. Sadly by the time we got in touch with the organizers, it had been sold out for vendors. We missed the deadline.

Then our good friends at Punky Brewsters said they were going to have a stall there, and they wanted to feature us, so of course we said yes. Then a couple weeks later I got an email from the festival organizer and they had a spot for us, not to back out on a friend we passed for the spot.

After just getting back from my states visit we looked to grab some cheap flights…none to be had. So by proxy we were there. Next year we will be in full tartan and have our own stand, we are looking forward to it! We heard it was a huge success.

 

National Home Brew Competition

Boom once again, with the precision of a Sabatier knife, SOBA pulled off the 2017 National Home Brew Competition.

Like last year, a group of like minded beer loving fanatics gather together, this time in the gracious hospitality of Pacific Flavors and Ingredients, more on that.

Home brewers from around the country have submitted their finest creations to a scrupulous group of judges. The tables make up teams of four, a table captain, judge, trainee judge, and steward. The steward writes the notes that have been decided on by the judges after discussion, as well as serves and clears the round of beers.

This year, and after learning a bit more on how to write a better score sheet, I took the reigns a bit this year on our table. What I mean by that was to make sure that we addressed each noted sub category of Aroma, Appearance, Flavor, Mouthfeel and Over all Conclusion. Within each of these categories these are the areas of focus:

Aroma,

Identify malt aroma, noting it’s intensity, describing the hop aroma and intensity, the fermentation character and if it is appropriate for style, is there an aroma indentifying a flaw.

For a Pale ale example,

Medium low biscuit driven malt, with notes of honey. Medium new world hop aroma, with layers of pine, orange citrus and ripe melon. An unpleasant phenolic vodka like fermentation character, not appropriate for style. No diacetyl.

Appearance.

Describe, clarity, head retention, texture of the head, Other notable factors.

A Lager Example.

Brilliant clear, straw gold, with a fluffy meringue like white head. Long lasting with excellent lacing. Tight bubbles. Attractive to look at.

Flavour.

Describe the malt flavor and intensity, describe the hop flavor and intensity, balance, describe the bitterness, and any other issues or flavors.

Example Imperial Stout:

Rich medium high mocha and Turkish delight malt flavors with accents of vanilla and bourbon. Medium hop flavor is resinous with smooth notes of pine. Intense bitterness balances harmoniously with the sweetness of the malt.

Mouthfeel. 

Imperial Stout…

Silky, luscious, full bodied. Medium dry, warm alcohol noted, appropriate for style. Smooth finish, not cloying. 

Overall Impression

…for a faulted Irish Stout.

Showing some age, which dulled the fresh malt aromas. Review process to look at ways to reduce oxygen pick up after fermentation. Flavor was lacking sweet malt cushion to hold up the roasted character. Dry astringent finish. Higher mash temperature can help provide more malt sweetness and better mouthfeel. Controlling PH of the mash and final sparge to prevent the wort ph from getting to low. Calcium Carbonate can help buffer PH. Pitch sufficient healthy yeast.

Nice beer, needs a few adjustments to be medal worthy.

All of that, per beer, it makes for a long day. We did about thirty beers per day over two days. This year our table saw significant oxidation and balance issues. It seemed to us that it was a lot of old beer. Most seemed a bit thin, lacking sweetness for better balance. Star examples were scarce. We medaled many bronze a couple of silvers and one gold.

IPAs, the hops were old and lacking, some good hop flavors, but it seemed like everyone put a bottle from each batch they made over the year and sent them all in. IPAs are meant to be fresh and vibrant. I did get to taste some best in class that were stunning.

I would recommend brewing IPAs right before the competition. Stouts and porters, a couple months out, a proper lager, they can sit for a bit and will likely soften and balance out better, maybe 3-4 months out. Imperial or strong ales, even longer, say six months, then for about a year for your funky and barrel aged beers.

Unless you have co2 and a keg with proper fittings it is unlikely you will win any golds for your IPA, pale ale or Double IPA. NEIPAs don’t just mean cloudy, do some home work on that one, and if you haven’t had a proper fresh unfiltered IPA, it is not a good style to attempt.

Don’t put Stouts in Porter categories just because it was the recipe. Read the style guidelines assess it yourself first. Our Scotch ale didn’t win Gold for a Scotch ale, it won gold for British Strong ale. Knowing the category and understanding your beer will help you to achieve the best possible score .

We had a brilliant brett beer at our table, the base beer was a Belgian Triple, as per the brewers notes. In the glass it was mahogany, deep garnet, with a toasty medium low malty nose. Cherry spice and brett on the nose. Amazing aromas. Sadly this gold medal beer only won a silver, because it should have been a Belgian Double as the base style. A Belgian Triple is light in color and spicy with a bread like malt character, not dark and malty.

Aside from that, the overall impression I had of the beers was that the quality was much better then last year. Lacking were the vinegar and barf bombs, I think I heard of one mentioned when filling the water jug, but not that many.

Again amazing weekend with a group of outstanding passionate people. Congratulations to all of the award winning home brewers.

 

RTDs

I think I may have called the owner of Pacific Flavors and Ingredients, Satan.

Yep, I am pretty sure I did. Sorry about that, I can’t recall your name as the bar was quite loud. I meant to say you are more like Wormtail. The provider of things to help evil flourish.

Holy shit you might say, what the fuck BathgateMcBrewer? Let me explain. Sitting across from my friend Kieran from Northend, just shooting the shit, this fella walks up and we get to talking. Next thing you know he says he makes extracts and RTD’s for big beer, you know those shitty things that our youth culture gets ‘pre-loaded’ on before hitting the town, as they continue drinking the cheapest shit available. You know the ones that are super sweet and have clever marketing campaigns, slogans and bull shit. The same ones that help keep alcohol a serious problem for NZ, and a good portion of why breweries pay so much in excise duties.

So any way, I think once he said that, I called him satan and it got all weird. Ah well I stand by it, it cracked me up any way.

 

Brewing Updates

A busy month getting caught up on production, we are getting behind for our lead up to Christmas. We are out of Tropical Cyclone and Great Migration as of writing this section. Soon to be back next week.

I made two changes to some brews, and I wonder if anyone will notice.

Heathen

I have changed the yeast, we have switched from our house ale strain to another unique English yeast. From a now defunct brewery in Essex. It works really well in our malty beers, Porter and Scotch ale. To keep it in the rotation and healthy it needs to be in a few beers. I unleashed it on Heathen. I really like it. It adds a bit more of that Classic English Bitter aroma and flavor. It hasn’t changed the hops at all, if anything it seems more English then the previous batches. Anyway it may have found its final recipe.

Great Migration

This beer has never been my go to. I have written about this previously and have really been struggling with it. It is a fairly well rated beer online, and it sells. Not as fast as our Tropical Cyclone or Pale ale, but it ticks along.

I had most recently used WL001 in it for a faster turn around and to make it more West Coast IPA like. I have settled on the hops, Amarillo, Riwaka and Kaiheke. The malt bill is pretty close but this time I dropped the Caramalt from 3% to 1.5% and it made a huge difference. I also switched back to our house ale yeast. Boom, the hops are shining and it smells and tastes of a proper IPA. Gone is the sweet malt monster. I have been drinking it constantly from tank. I will be drinking a lot of this. I will likely pull the Caramalt all together next time, as it warms the Riwaka and caramalt clash and it could be mistaken as diacytel.

New World English IPA

We have also brewed an English IPA. Martin Townshends and I have been going back and forth on a recipe for a new world English IPA. Using the same grist as our Great Migration and his JCIPA, we subbed in Golden Promise and used Fusion, Olicana and Fuggles. All UK hops, Olicana and Fusion being some of their newest offerings. UK tropical. I hope it smells like someone dropped some weed in a fruit salad. Martin already made his, sadly I never got to try it. This one releases early next month keg only.

Hot Curl Returns

The boys have been poking me about making our Hot Curl again. This was a kettle soured Berlinerweisse with Hibiscus and lime. It was a play on Jamaica (Ha-MI-Ka) a Mexican street drink. I am making a couple adjustments to the recipe and adding in some Lemon Verbena or Chamomile, I let you know how we go. This will be a keg only offering.

802 #6 and #7

We will be continuing to make these fresh unfiltered IPAs into perpetuity. They are all keg only, and only if begged and prodded would we ever can some, we’ll see. Unlikely.

#6 is almost ready, Mosaic, Huell Melon and Zythos

#7 will be Centennial, Columbus and Lemon Drop it’s in the brew cue.

 

New HLT

HLT stands for hot liquor tank. After sending our old mash tun away to be tweaked into a HLT, it came back, well, not in very good shape. My now not so good friend and engineer did a pretty good job at fucking up that tank. It had a bunch of spider cracks and started to rust. Along with the shotty welds and cuts, it started to leak into the oil on the bottom, which forced us to have to punt and relocate the heating elements into the door of the water tank, instead of underneath submerged in oil. These elements are not meant to run dry or to be in water and they have been burning out every couple weeks, I went through the 3 spares we had, just in time for the new tank to arrive.

It is 3000L and has four solid stainless electric coils 9KW a piece. Hot water anytime. Only a couple minor wiring issues that we sorted quickly, we are now off and running again, this time I hope we have fixed all the problems…

 

Pumps

If anyone has ever taken apart a turbine pump, its pretty simple, take pictures as you go if you get scared to put it back together.

IMG_0749

Well the crappy Chinese pumps we have at the brewery are now starting to see some pretty serious use, between hot wort, hot water and a range of chemicals they are starting to fail one by one. The little carbon discs that move the turbine, well they break sometimes. We had some new ones custom made as the others are not available in NZ. Anyway the new ones were quite a bit thinner, and broke within a couple weeks.

IMG_0752

Not cheap either. Since they were custom, I wasn’t having any luck getting my money back. We did create a good new solution which was to make the housing out of stainless and set the carbon ring in it. The carbon rarely breaks, it is usually the case made of carbon, if the pump ever runs dry they shatter almost instantly if hot. Of course these cost money, several hundred a piece but they work really well. If you are running into this problem let me know and I can connect you with the supplier. Happy pumps make your day so much better.

 

Farmhouse Release

A blend of sour ales, primary fermented and aged in former Sauvignon Blanc barriques.

The first bottled sour from our barrels. Available early December. As described previously it was a selection of five barrels. Three Farmhouse ale barrels and two soured lager barrels. I am drinking heaps of it at the moment. Funky and tart on the nose with noticeable Sauvignon Blanc character, smooth well integrated sourness, and a earthy funk. Brilliant beer, one of my proudest accomplishments yet.

2000 bottles, B. Lambicus, P. Damonsus, L. Brevis 6.6% abv

 

Audit

Ah the annual audit. Last year I had to pull together a HACCP plan and NSP program so that we could sell beer to certain supermarkets and to possibly export, should the day come.

Last year was the first one, it went pretty smooth, a few niggly bits. Why do you do that, why is this there, you should cover that, basic frivolous non-sense really.

Let me explain, the audit is self induced. Like a lot of industries out there, the government is too busy spending tax dollars on pet projects for their constituents, i.e. mates. Big business’ don’t like the government telling them what to do either, so they lobbied for MPI. This branch of government sets the regulations for all industries in NZ. Part of self regulation is establishing to the government that we know what we are doing and it is safe for the public. To prove this we ave to hire an outside company to audit us so they can send a report back to MPI to keep on file.

We happen to fall under the Food and Beverage industry. We make alcohol. Yep that nasty dirty word. When you make something that can harm the public if its made wrong, that puts you under a law that means you have to have process in place.

By process I mean you need to know where your ingredients come from, and have intimate knowledge of how you make your stuff. Beer is inherently safe, so is a low risk process. How can that be you say?

It is because beer was historically made and consumed not just for its amazing taste and effects, but it actually made the water safe to drink, or rather you wouldn’t die a horrible disease ridden death if you drank the fermented barley water vs. the water from that stream over there. That was old school.

To paraphrase, brewing is mashing the grain with hot water (typically above 60c), then it releases enzymes that make it sugar. Then we rinse it with more hot water, water hot enough to pasteurize any bacteria. Then we boil this syrup for 60-90 minutes, the we quickly cool it and pitch yeast, after fermenting, the ph is down to around 4.4 and the liquid is full of co2 and alcohol. All things bacteria hate. The worst offenders the ones that get people sick, don’t live in low ph or in the presence of alcohol. So moral of the story…low risk.

We still need to prove that we know what were doing. I have twelve different folders, containing our plan, all neatly labeled with its contents, my mom would be so proud.

We went the comprehensive way, as that was my background. Having done plans with previous breweries along with many years in commercial kitchens, I get process. The detail is pretty unnecessary but that is what needs to be done. Once the hard expensive part is over, you hire an outside firm to review it. Then they tell you to go get someone to audit you, which is an other company. Then once you pass they send it to MPI, to notify them you are doing what your supposed to be doing. However the local health official can still come in and nosey around if they see fit.

This year we passed, I got dinged on the lack of a bait station map, as it is shared with the restaurant and had been brought home by the kitchen manager for some reason. I sorted that and have a copy for us. Then I hadn’t outlined our cleaning process. I had, but not to the detail that the audit person felt it needed. This was me trying to not make it too complicated, that was the audit person trying to find fault where no fault lies. There are two employees, me and my assistant brewer Milton. We spend most of our time cleaning. I don’t feel it is necessary to outline every detail of that process, that is the training I provided in the training section. There is only one way to clean in our brewery.

They have to find something. It is best to let them, otherwise the list of recommendations can get pretty long.

That list is a bunch of silly things that the auditor happened to spot on the day. Example, we have lights hanging from the high ceilings in the brewery that are not covered. Sure one could spontaneously explode during a catastrophic event. Of course all of our fermenters are sealed and everything is filtered…but hey it could happen. So they recommend we remove those bulbs. A just measured bag of grain was left partially opened…better keep that closed, rodents could get in there…and stuff like that. Along with a few yellow tags in the plan folder of references and things to look out for.

Ultimately it is a plan to assure that you know your process and busy work to keep auditors employed and to keep it off the back of the government. It also proves that if something were to happen you could recall the product and trace all of the ingredients back to the supplier. A must do for any brewery.

Suggestions, write a good one, keep it vague and always keep it up to date. Expect to be niggled. Smile.

 

BJCP Exam

The last weekend of November I got to sit for my BJCP exam. I have chatted about this too.

An early Sunday morning after a hella long week brewing, I got up early and drove to Fine Wine Delivery in Mt Wellington.

It was a closed book test, six beers, fifteen minutes a piece. All we had to do was judge the beers to style and give them a score. Easy right?

Closed book, that means we essentially need to have memorized the style guidelines book. The steward tells us the category that the beer was submitted too, but nothing else. We have to go on our knowledge.

I gave it my best shot, described them the best I could.

The first was a German Pilsner bottle conditioned, it was terrible, cloudy full of floaties and a laundry list of faults.

Second was a Foreign Extra Stout, not bad, a few minor flaws but drinkable, I think I scored it pretty hard.

Third was an Ordinary Bitter, turned out to be Bookbinder by Emersons. The NZ hops threw most, including the proctor judges. A good beer but way too hoppy for style, I thought it lacked bitterness.

Fourth was an English Porter, again old and showing some age, but stylistically close. I didn’t rate it highly, layers of simple fixes would have made it better.

Fifth was an American Amber, again way too hoppy for style and quite estery. It all worked well in the glass but the hops pulled it out of style and it got dinged on a few other issues.

Then the last one was an Old Ale. This is a tough and very broad category. The one we had was rightfully old. Sherried and musty, yet ticked most boxes. Surprisingly at the end it was the beer all of the test takers scored the best, then the proctors, Gordon Strong being one of them, said it was too old and pretty terrible overall. The worst score from them of all the beers. Weird.

Whatever the circumstances are this is where true democracy comes into play. If we as testers all rated it better then proctors, our notes will all be weighed in allowing us all to score better.

The proctors came out and discussed their scores at the end. I think I am with most that sat the exam, they were really generous. They scored most of the beers in the 30’s, which is bronze and silver territory. Most I had were in the twenties with one a 16. I will lose points for not scoring as close to the proctors. As they read their results I saw a lot of jaws drop as they read the scores, so I am not alone at least. What it shows me is I and a few others are very critical, and maybe we should be a bit more generous and positive, after all it is just beer right?

A quick ceremony in the end thanking everyone, and I bolted to get home and enjoy the rest of my day off.

A great experience and I will know my test results in four months. I will let you know how I did.

 

Filters

An update on our filtration. We have been working on this too. Our filter runs have been painfully slow, DO is good, but slow. This, in a busy little brewery is unacceptable.

The latest set up we have is this, we have a 5 cartridge Pall housing with 20 micron filters, then that leads to a 10 micron triple disc lenticular, which then goes to a single 5 micron housing to our bright beer tanks. Along with fining with gelatin and silica.

IMG_0748

Since adding the silica, the flocculation rates have improved, we are seeing near bright beer in just about a week after cooling is applied. Then once fairly clear we can filter 2000L in 4-5 hours. Very happy with that! Some might say that is a long time. However our DO levels are still well under 25ppb and the beer is clear. We don’t use pumps so we rely on head pressure in the fermenter alone. We did a 4000L batch of lager in 6 hours the other day so the set-up we have will be the one for the foreseeable future.

 

Judging Notes from Brewers Guild

So our notes from the NZ Brewers guild awards were finally sent to us. I got a chance to go through them and read what the judges said about our beers.

Now keep in mind what I said above about the detail in which we have been going through to access beers and describe as best we can using the BJCP standards.

I can’t bitch too much as I had to pull out at the last minute of judging due to brewing scheduling. However the score sheets overall were a disappointment. Many of the sheets we got back had no words on them, just boxes ticked. Terrible descriptions and lacking substantial information. Honestly I am not sure if some of them actually tasted the beer. I get that the day is long and there are a shit load of beers to get through. I also acknowledge that I have not been the best at writing judging notes in the past, but I am getting better.

In reviewing the BJCP process, the brewers guild comes across pretty poor and lacking detail. Some of the comments were just terrible and mean. It seemed to be just a way for people to point out flaws and not address the beer and why it is or not to style. Some notes were excellent but most disappointing.

We have to do something about this. I hear it a lot from other brewers too, in comparison to the AIBA and other international competitions, it is pretty poor. You might say, what a dick, since we did well this year. Well in reviewing the score sheets I am not sure how we got any medals. Not that the beers weren’t good or too style, there was just no information.

We need to be better if it is to be recognised as a world class event. I have said it before, I think that if the coordinator of this event isn’t keen on doing it any more that SOBA be contracted to do the judging component. I also recommend we go to using the BJCP guidelines and methods for judging.

I can’t wait to hear the blow back from that one…

 

Last Months Blog

So every month I write this dribble. Some read it, most don’t. Again, it’s not really for you per say its really for me, as I have mentioned before I write these as a journal of my experiences sprinkled with a bit of snarky opinion to keep it interesting.

The last bit, the snarky bit. I know some of what I say here is not the same opinion you are anyone else may have. I don’t care, really. As I said it isn’t about you, it’s about us and me. See the title, McBrewer, yep thats me.

I don’t get why people need to instantly run to twitter to comment on what I have written here. I also don’t like people taking sound bites from my articles and using them salaciously for their own benefit without permission, yes it happens. Pointing out how you disagree with someone else makes you look…smarter? not sure but it gives people something to talk about I guess. Hey if that is what it takes to get us humans chatting it up, well good stuff then.

Anyway as I have said before, you have issue with me or something I have said take it up with me, or read the entire paragraph, before running to Twitter. I am just a humble brewer trying to make good beer and enjoy life. You should too. Well the enjoy life part at least, leave the brewing for the rest of us…more on that some other day.

 

Next Month

We make a dank lager and a few more beers for summer.

As they say, it is silly season for sure.

More beer and Christmas is upon us.

Thanks for reading

 

PS. We are experiencing a Paradise Pale ale drought, can’t seem to make that one fast enough.

 

 

 

 

October 2017

This month we brag about our medal haul, recap my little California get-away, and talk about what is coming up…

 

Brewers Guild Awards

Holy shit, I had know idea we would come so close to taking the whole thing! I was sitting around a fire in Modesto California, the night before a family wedding, and was getting a stream of messages, gold, gold, bronze, gold, Trophy!, gold, bronze, bronze, bronze. FUCK YEAH!

Gold and Trophy for our Longboarder Lager,

Gold for Traders Scotch Ale

Gold for Paradise Pale Ale

Gold for Northland Chili Pilsner

Bronze for Great Migration

Bronze for Heathen

Bronze for Pioneer Porter

Bronze for Blackwatch

So proud of Milton and I, the brew team, and really happy of what we have accomplished for our little brewery, and my partners Geoff and Clayton Gwynne.

The trophy for the Longboarder was the one that gave me a tear in the eye. It was the only Gold medal beer in the International Lager category. We were up against the big boys who sell lager by the stadium. Our little brewery dedicated to making the old school way showed them we could make a quality lager too. I am more proud of that then if we had won for an IPA. So a huge two finger solute to the big breweries out there! Check out our shiny new Trophy bitches!

Next, I want to mention the bullshit that has followed on social media about the release of the beers that didn’t medal. Who the fuck said that was ok? So what, some didn’t get medals, it’s no ones business which ones, but the brewers.

All the excel spread sheets and analysis is a bunch of shit as far as I am concerned.

Everyone going over the numbers and trying to find a better way of tallying the totals is pretty fucked up. This isn’t fantasy baseball or whatever dumb imaginary games there are out there. I don’t blame the people who did the spread sheets as they were just having a play with the numbers, some breweries didn’t get any medals, why does the rest of the world need to know?

The whole process is a bit of a lottery. I have taken part of the judging process for several years. The process is legitimate and the judges are brutal. However it is very possible that the sequence of the tasting and the glass will effect how the beer is presented. This is a competition that judges beers to a style guideline, the beers that closest match the guideline will score the best. It also doesn’t take into account if a brewer/brewery/brand might have put a beer in the wrong category. I have had gold medal standard beers in pint glasses that don’t do as well in competitions. Also with bottling lines sometimes you get different TPO levels in individual bottles, maybe a hint of metallic from a cap or whatever. It is very rare that a poorly judged beer results in the judges asking for another bottle. I stand by the three beers we didn’t medal for, one I am certain I put in the wrong category and the other two I am keen to see the judges notes.

Anyway it’s not about me bitching as to why we didn’t do better, thats not my point.

My point is, have a bit of respect, and lets focus on the winners and not the losers or who had the best ratio.

Let us celebrate the year of beers and the ones who did well. A huge congrats to all the winners and to GP for taking Champion Brewery.

I will strongly voice against listing all of the non winning beers next year.

 

California

As I just mentioned prior I was stateside during the month of October. A long overdue visit had been planned and booked. I hadn’t seen my family in six years.

My brother, mom, step-mother and dad all flew out to CA, and we booked an Air B&B in Santa Rosa. We had an extensive plan of activities, including wineries and breweries, one of which, was Russian River.

However when you over plan, shit is bound to go amuck. A few days before we were to leave Modesto and head to San Fransisco to liaise with my mom and brother, several wild fires had started in the hills surrounding Santa Rosa. They quickly spread eventually burning over 200,000 acres and thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed. A horrific event, that will effect peoples lives forever. Our hearts are with so many of our friends and their families that lost their homes and businesses. A tragedy. Likely the result of accidental spark and intensified by global warming, it is all speculation at the moment, but they have someone in custody and are questions PG&E, the energy company, as some sparks from their lines may have started one. As we watched the television, their were several other fires all around the state. At one point it looked as if the entire state was on fire. The amazing work and dedication of the fire fighters and their support crews over the week were able to contain most of the fires.

Needless to say we had to abandon our plans for Santa Rosa and head south. When arriving in San Fransisco the sky line and air were full of smoke, cars covered with ash. Even inland in Modesto the air quality deteriorated and smoke filled the valleys as far south as Monterey and Santa Cruz.

We spent two days in San Fransisco, with a quick visit to the Toronado. A legendary dive bar with shit service and great beer. The bar seats were for the locals and the tall stools and tables against the wall were for the ‘guests.’ Cash only. We watched the bartender do no less then five shots of something with a corner full of locals, in just over an hour. The TV had the Blues Brothers playing, we were in heaven. We enjoyed a Pliny and discovered…

Fieldworks Brewing

A relatively new brewery in Berkley that is making a huge range of unfiltered IPAs. A few other styles including a hoppy-as-fuck lager, and some delicious Belgian styles. Super fresh and share they same ethos as we do about transport and customers who look after their products. Only one I had at a pop-up container bar in Monterey was showing a bit of diacytel. The rest were all on point. If you come state side I highly recommend you seek them out.

We ended up in Santa Cruz for our plan B trip. This was because of…

Sante Adarius Rustic Ales (SARA)

They are tiny little brewery in Capitola, just south of Santa Cruz. They make a wide range of beers, with a heavy focus on Belgian sours and fresh IPAs. Noticing a pattern?

They were phenomenal. They are gaining rapid success, and with good reason. All of there beers were exceptional. Their sours are world class. Beautifully crafted.

I popped my head in the back on our way out and ended up chatting with the farmer who collects their grain. He was surprisingly educated onto their methods and operation. I caught him alone in the brewery finishing off one of their sours out of a bottle. He gave me a quick tour around. They had only a handful of stainless tanks, and a newly installed GAI bottler. They didn’t have a brewhouse as we would know it. They have a rectangular mash tun, that I mistakened as a Koelship. They obviously batch sparge with the help of a forklift, then boil off in their kettle, which is a modified steam kettle jacket, fired by a massive steam boiler. A truly bizzare arrangement, but they make remarkable beers with it. A few foeders and barrels garnished the brewery. They have 3 bays in an industrial rectangular complex with rear roller doors. Very discreet, you won’t find it unless you seek it out.

At the front of the brewery is the tasting room, dog friendly and packed when we arrived. We could have sat there drinking our way down the list, but the blank stares from some of my family were wearing on me, so we had to bail.

Monica and I schemed to come back the following week, this time to their Santa Cruz Portal. A concept that would do well in NZ, a small food offering along with an impressive line up of beers. We spent a lovely evening at the bar going through the ones we hadn’t had the prior week. The only thing that fucked me off was that they had about nine or ten of their sours in 750ml bottles for sale, but you could only buy three specific ones to take away. Even after me trying to plead with the bar tender known as Chief, he was the size of a massive Indian warrior. I explained that we were from NZ and were there specifically for the beers and wanted to get one of the bottles off their list to take away. He casually glared down at me and said, ‘you don’t sound like your from NZ.’ Not looking for an argument with this goliath, we took the three we could get and headed out. This policy was in place so that the locals could come and drink them on site. I respect that, but had hoped they would have made an exception.

Again I highly recommend a visit to them, you won’t be disappointed.

Next on the list was…

 

Firestone Walker

I had been in touch with Jim the barrel master from FW Barrel works. He had offered to give us a behind the scenes tour when we arrived.

We stayed in Paso Robles, locals call it simply, Paso. We visited the FW mother ship, had several of their beers on draft and lunch at the restaurant. The food and service was exceptional. All of their staff are true stewards of their business, all happy and gracious hosts.

The Barrel Works were in Beullton, an hour and a half south of Paso. We took the drive early in the am to make sure we caught up with Jim. Unfortunatly he had to step out early and was too busy to come say hello. However we were given the royal treatment from Beau and Micah, the true stewards for the barrel works, and the guys who get all the work done.

It was a brilliant couple of hours of me asking a million questions about their process and methods. They graciously answered all of my questions and gave me their card in case I thought of some thing after I left. They have a collection of barrels including foeders and puncheons totaling over 1700. A massive amount. They have a very straight forward process which results in extremely consistent and beauftully crafted beers.

I left them two bottles of our first sours to come from our collection. They then sent us down the road to an amazing cafe called Industrial Eats. The food and menu were fucking amazing. I wish we had one near us! We had a fig, almond and chèvre pizza that was to die for. Wood fired with the perfect crust. Go there!

Back in Paso we hit up a local joint called the Pour House. A simple little bar with a few tables and TV. Nothing impressive at first glance. After grabbing our first pint I noticed some lights on from our table on the patio and wandered around for a look, it led us to a huge garage like space, pool table, juke box and two dart boards. The place was empty. Monica and I quickly grabbed our beers and settled in. Rounds of darts and pool ensued for hours into the night. The owner Sean popped in later and we got the scoop on the brewery scene in the area. He also filled us in on the little brewery out back…

Silva Brewing

Is a start up, headed by the legendary Chuck Silva. Name doesn’t ring a bell?

How about Green Flash?

Yep Chuck has been the head brewer at Green Flash for eleven years. Their Rayon Vert was the first hoppy Brett beer I had ever had, it changed my life.

After our trip to FW Barrelworks we slipped back for a visit. Walking through the Pour House like we were going to a back room to meet the ‘Don,’ similar to an old speak easy, we stepped into their brewery and tasting room.

A brand new shiny Premier Stainless brew house with 4 fermenters greets you, it lives in the greater part of a simple single bay shed. A few barrels of different types are stashed in the corners. A young bearded fella with a snorkel mask was working, he didn’t seem to mind me poking my nose around and analyzing their set up. Chucks corporate back ground is evident with a small DE and plate and frame filter. He says he runs the DE for heavy loads and polishes with the plate and frame. A bit cumbersome but it produces brilliantly clear beers.

They had a broad range of styles at the tasting room corner. They had typical merch hanging from the walls and a Crowler sealer, which is quite trendy at the moment. We worked our way through a couple of tasting trays, soon to be greeted by Chuck himself. A man close to my age with an impressive beard, and clean well groomed and thinning hair. I began asking questions as I often do, and within a few moments he realized he wasn’t talking to a home brewer and slid over and began walking us through his beers.

His passion is evident, as he was concise about his methods and approach. He had a lovely sour beer that was a blend of several types of saisons that were aged in freshly emptied barrels, but most important were the previous contents of the barrels. They were all different wines, he blended them looking for unique character from each of the barrels, as they brought through in the beer the subtleties of the wines, he layered them beautifully. You could taste each of the Zinfindel, Pinot and Cabernet Sauvignon. A lovely beer. He was discussing how he was going to improve it next time he makes it. His IPA’s were pretty standard West Coast style, a bit of caramel malts hidden in a toasty Munich back bone with some grassy piney hops, nothing special to be honest, but clean and well crafted. His filtering is likely stripping a huge amount of the hops. He had a ginger Saison made with fresh ginger juice that was sublime. It finished with a bit of spice noticed in the throat, not over powering but there to let you know. Upon me noticing he told me it was some fresh local chilies he had juiced as well. He used a Belgian Saison strain that was clean and had balanced esters. Brilliant beer. The next stand out was a Imperial Stout he called Ouroborus. A hearty Imperial stout, silky smooth on the pallet, he hid the clean 10.4% well with just a hint of whiskey on the nose. The thing that got me was the layers of caramel and confectionary character. He revealed he used a blend of sugars in the kettle, it also helped to dry the beer out from being cloying and sweet. It was rather dry but luscious. It was so easy to drink.

Soon his wife MJ arrived and she stole his attention away. I eves dropped, he was telling her some improvements that needed to be made to the layout and a few bits of kit that they needed. She was obviously the one running the books as she had the look of concern and quickly asked when the assistant brewer was going home. A startup for sure, as I looked around likely a good portion of their retirement savings in stainless and hoses. Sales have been brisk and he eluded that they will exceed capacity within a few months. He will be fine as I encouraged them when we left, like he fucking needed it from me. Keep making these beers Chuck. Just winning a Silver at GABF with a collab beer with Firestone Walker doesn’t hurt either.

The word is out, Chuck is back in the game.

 

We stopped at a few other breweries in all of the towns we passed through, however none were exceptional, and it goes to show that you have to look fairly hard to find good beer. Yeah there were some ok beer but many oxidized and some just lacking details. We soon found ourselves drinking many of the same breweries beers. I kept getting small amounts of local beers from unknown breweries but was disappointed nearly every time.

On our second trip through Santa Cruz we stopped into this place called the Pour Taproom.

An interesting concept. It was a large room with 40 odd taps lining the walls. You give them a credit card to hold and they give you a rubber bracelet with a chip in it. You approach the taps and notice that above each tap handle is a touch screen. It shows the beer, a description, and three buttons, a taster, a 1/2 pour and a full pour. You push the button for the size and hold your bracelet up, it logs you in and you simply pull the handle and it pours the amount into your glass. It automatically stops when the preselected size is poured. Clever. The Beerspot guys would love this.

We sat and played Scrabble, one of the many board games they had to use. We happily tasted and drank through a range of beers. Notably they lacked some popular styles and brands, but the ones on offer were a wide selection that you might not normally order, likely the lower end of the price point. That being said it was reasonably priced, tasters were about $1.18(US) and 1/2’s were $3. The future of beer bars for sure.

A brilliant trip back for sure, a huge range of beers we drank, ate shit loads of good and bad food. I found Allagash White at most of the shit holes with no other good beers. I got my In and Out Burger fix and ate several small-child-sized burritos. It will likely be many years before I get back to the West Coast. Next year back to VT.

 

Kowhai Festival

The last weekend of October in Warkworth, the small community hosts a cool little event. They close off the down town streets and set up tents. The feel is a bit of a flea market, but with a wide variety of stalls. Some rides and bouncy castle for the kids, and market stalls selling just about everything you want or don’t want.

Tahi Bar, one of our favorite spots, hosted a Halloween themed event, greeted at the gate was the man himself, Ian. Dressed in a sinister looking outfit with a white face and bloodstained teeth, a snappy looking vampire indeed.

The Cider Shed, had a food stall selling Southern Chicken sandwiches and burgers. The chips were outstanding. Fresh cut double dipped potatoes with rosemary salt were legit.

Through the gates was the Steampunk themed Tahi Bar with a heavy dose of Halloween decor. 8 Wired, Chaotic Hop (another new contract brewer) and Mcleods were all on offer. We were pouring Longboarder, Chili Pils, Paradise and a sneaky keg of Oyster Gose.

A great atmosphere, it was great to catch up with some brewer friends and have a few beers.

A wonderful little event for families, put it on the calendar.

 

 

Next Month…

We bottle our newest beer, Saison with B. Bruxellesis, dry hopped with Wai-iti. It is a sexy fruit bomb at the moment with a soft acidity and some funk on the way. Geoff will be allocating a few kegs off, the rest will be released once the labels arrive. We release 802 #6 which based on last batch, sold out in 45 minutes, will be gone quickly. Look for it on tap as they are quite ephermal. A once in a lifetime beer, as you will never see that one again. This one is Mosaic and Huell Melon with a bit of Zythos in the dry hop.

Activity wise, judging the NZ homebrew comp, getting our FSP audit again, Dunedin beer fest, sitting the BJCP exam…wish me luck.

 

Thanks for reading,

 

McBrewer

 

 

 

September 2017

This month, we bottled our Oyster Gose, entered the brewers guild awards, partied down at the Peppertree in Coromandel, took over the taps at Volstead Trading, blended some barrels, missed judging the NZ Brewers Guild awards, made a birthday beer for Vultures Lane, released our latest 802 beer and did a bit more studying for BJCP…

Oyster Gose

As I spoke previously about this beer, we bottled it this month. A delectable Gose, brewed traditionally with a mixed ferment of lactobacillus and a Kolsch style yeast. We finished it with brettanomyces bruxellensis and champagne yeast. It was seasoned with fresh oysters from Matakana Oysters, coriander seeds, then dry hopped with Sorachi Ace. We did a few kegs, the bottles will condition for a couple of months to carbonate. Release November-ish. A sneak peak in October at the Matakana Oyster festival.

 

Pepper Tree Coromandel
When we first moved to NZ (2009) we landed in Nelson. I began my working career here offering up my years of experience in opening and operating hospitality buinesses to some local businesses. The first, was House of Ales on Trafalgar street.
The now defunct bar, deceptively called ‘House of Ales.’ This deception became evident once inside and you looked at the menu, it was all corporate big beer. They had ‘sucked satans cock,’ and signed the doomed contract, tieing up the taps and selection of beverages to one big company. They had taken money from DB, Dominion Breweries. They swoop in and offer chillers, taps and branded paraphenalia from all the worst brands. When I say worst, it’s not that they are necessarily bad beer, they are just selfish-pigs-at-the-trough corporate giants. DB is owned by Heineken (Asian Pacific). One of the worlds largest beverage companies. These big stalwarts come in and buy their way into the businesses, by preying on the new hospo owners who have likely bootstrapped and leveraged together as much cash as they could to open the business of their dreams. So when the suave sales person comes in and offers to supply ‘everything’ they need to get going and make money. Just sign here. That signing effectivley removes your choice. The choice to offer what ever you want to your customer. The choice to do what you want in your buisness. These contracts last for years and often times are part of the lease, so if you sell the business they get carried over to the new owner. Getting out of the contract is difficult and expensive.
That brings me back to the Pepper Tree and my friend Mel. Mel was the chef at House of Ales, a busy place with likely the smallest kitchen I have ever seen, with an enourmous menu. The challenges were over whelming rolling into Christmas. It was soon evident my infulence wasn’t going to be taken on board, so I hunkered down to help them through the busy season, and looked for a quick exit, as I smelled restaurant death in the air.
Mel stuck it out till the bitter end, likely getting hosed on wages and kiwi saver. She moved on to better things, eventually landing in Coromandel.
The Pepper Tree is located in downtown Coromandel, with extensive outside seating. It’s loaction is ideal for tourists with its central location. The new owner also owns the Bar and Garter next door.
Why I led in with the corporate story was these two places are both contract tied. Having Heineken, Heineken light and a few Monteiths offerings. The cooler looked much the same, offering the dreary selection you come to see in all DB tied businesses. The Bar and Garter, 10 taps full of the same old shit. Tragic really. Anyway, Mel had a brilliant idea to get us in for a night to do a beer and food match up. She is a great chef, maybe a bit old school, but she knows her flavours and can rock out the numbers.
They agreed to buy some bottles and put one of our kegs on tap for the night, they had a band and an outdoor fire pit, so it was set to make for a great night. Sadly the weather turned to custard as it often does in NZ. So the band went next door to the Bar and Garter, but the rest of the forty five people came for the ticketed dinner. Many, I noticed, couldn’t care less that it was a beer dinner, they rocked up to the bar and bought bottles of wine and big glasses of flavourless carbonated alcohol water. The evening went smooth and we likely gained a few new fans. I thought the beers tasted great and Mel’s food was well prepared. I tried to do the little speech in between courses, but soon realised this crowd didn’t give fuck that some funny accented fella was trying to educate them on barley derived niceties. Instead they just chatted over my ramblings.
Soon the night ended and we moved next door.
Happily, I sat quietly watching MotoGP qualifying and drank some of our Pale ale.
A wonderful night overall.
The owner later told me he was locked into a four year contract. Bummer, as they would absolutely kill it and sell ridiculous amounts of beer over the summer. Sadly we’ll have to wait a few more years. However DB is likely to come in and offer the moon and the stars to keep them.
Any way on Monday after the event, the owner received an angry call from the DB rep. Throwing their contract in his face, and generally pissed off that they allowed a little brewery from Waipu to pour beer through one of their taps. It was the Heineken Light tap by the way. It gave me complete and utter joy earlier in the weekend putting our tap badge and a piece of tape over their beloved tap of crap.
This is why it is so sad that these companies are allowed to monopolise small buisness owners beverage services. Pretty fucked up. The event was a one off yet they still came in threatening, and demanded that we take down our social media posts of our tap badge!
Once again, fuck you big beer.
Look out because this David and Goliath story has just begun…
Brett and Saisons
I got to brew a beer I have been wanting to brew for a long time. Since the Oyster Gose was finally bottled and to keep it funky… we have done a mixed ferment Saison of our Farmhouse yeast, Lacto and Brettanomyces Bruxellensis. It was heavily late hopped with Wai-ti. It is bubbling away nicely and tasting better every day. Expect the release in a month or so. Sour, fruity, funky…brillIant!
Volstead
Last year I had been into Volstead trading on one of my trips to Christchurch. I met with the poker faced manager, Richie. Not sure how to read him, I walked away thinking we might never be able to do business there. Yet, I saw him again at Marchfest, and he pulled me aside and asked if we would want to come down and do a tap takeover. This was the moment I realised he could be a poker champ. Obviously I said yes. We emailed back and forth a bit. Then settled on a date.  We caught a cheap flight into Chch and settled in across the street at a cheap hotel. A little bit of stress around getting the kegs in on time, but the delivery truck finally showed. Shipping our beer cold has its advantages, as the beer is able to be tapped right away and pours beautifully. Chili Pils, Trop Cyc, the last keg of 802#4, Porter and Longboarder graced the taps. The night was full of some of our favourite people in Christchurch and drinking down some of our fresh beer.
The Accident Anniversary
The event that will haunt and follow me for the rest of my life…
…the two year anniversary of the accident at 8 Wired.
Every year on September 10th, I wake up strangly sad, yet grateful, to be waking up. The explosion of the brew kettle at 8 Wired landed Andrew Childs of Behemoth and I in Middlemore hospital for nearly two months. Andrew and I had numerous surgeries. They took skin grafts from my lower body; knees to waist, and used this to cover, my back, arms, hands and chest. They have healed mostly but with severe scaring. I also have some contraction scars, where the skin has tightened, leaving bands. It feels like a painful shirt that is way too small, but its my skin, not a shirt. No matter how hard you stretch the skin just keeps pulling. My arm and chest now embrace these. My life now is filled with constant stretching and moisturising, the sweat glands on all of the burns are now destroyed, so to keep the skin from drying out I have to apply moisturiser several times a day. Yoga and meditation are a necessity to keep me sane and to prevent the skin from continuing to shrink as it slowly heals. On top of that, the anxiety of looking at the scars, which has and is difficult to say the least.
Anyway every year I have to relive this fucking day.
In addition to all of that, the year plus I spent on morphine and the several weeks in intensive care, have caused serious memory loss. My short term memory has never been great (they don’t call them the Green Mountains for nothing), but since that time it has never been the same. So if we run into each other and I don’t remember your name or our last meet up, please forgive me, it’s not out of arrogance, it is simply I can’t remember shit. This ordeal has left me pretty insecure about my appearance and confidence. I find myself feeling pretty out of sorts and shy to go and talk with people, even friends.
I really appreciate and am incredibly grateful for the support I received in hospital and without the encouragement and love I got from Monica, it would have been even worse, and I likely wouldn’t be here writing this.

That is just a piece of what I live with, so when someone writes about it or wants to make mention of it every year, now you may understand why I want to crawl under a rock.

 

Barrel Aged Farmhouse Ale

Last year you may recall we did a brew called Loun. A rustic style Belgian Farmhouse style ale. Heaps of unmalted grains and our house strain. It was fruity and full of things Belgian-y. After the first batch, we made another. This time we kettle soured it and then racked it into some retired Sauvignon Blanc barrels. We pitched some B. Lambicus in and let it do its thing for a year.

Hoping to get this out in six months, it turned into a year, oh how time flies. With all of the tank movements it gave us this old 20hl fermenter, so I put it outside and plumbed it up.

To christen the new ‘sour tank,’ we blended in three barrels of this Farmhouse ale, and two barrels of a sour barrel aged lager, yep our lager. The Farmhouse believe it or not, was super dry and has a lovely sour funk, the lager has huge amount of body yet is fully fermented. It contained some P. Damnonsus and some B.V. Drie. When blended they added a soft edge which rounded it out and beefed up the volume.

These empty barrels have been cold water rinsed and are being refilled the next day.

We have about 2000 bottles or 160 cases. It is partially bottle conditioned,, 6.6%.

Expect to see it around Christmas time.

 

Brewers Guild Judging

With a broken fuel transport line, wasn’t sure if I would make it down, but since the flight was pre booked, it was all go.

This time of year again, when some of the best palates in NZ gather to access nearly a thousand fermented concoctions from NZ and some other countries that don’t matter, to ‘judge,’ which are the best.

Then the worst happened, what turned out to be clogged sinter stone, under oxygenated a couple batches of near out-of-stock beers, and stalled the ferments. So I had to pull the plug on judging and get more yeast going, find the problem, sort the beers, brew three more batches to keep the tanks full, fix some pumps, organise the schedule and coordinate supplies because…

 

…California

Had this planned for over six months. Monica’s nephew is getting hitched the first weekend in October. The same day as the brewers Guild awards. Yep gonna miss that, Milton and Geoff will be on hand. Make sure you say hi to the boys, Milton is a quiet force and bloody good brewer.

The trip is a weekend in Modesto/Turloch with Monica’s family, then a quick stop in San Fran, then to Santa Rosa for a week with my family. They are all coming from the east to visit. Then Monica and I will take a road trip for a week after that, following our appetites and smell of fresh beer. We return on October 26.

May everything go as planned.

 

Beertique

It was officially launched this week. We are now part of the Beertique portfolio. They will be selling our range of beers around the North Island.  Their first orders went out early in the week, with a small top up a few days later, so off to a good start. We are really excited for this as they fill in some gaps for representation that we don’t have.

We are amongst some excellent producers, so really happy to be with them.

 

Next Month

A recap of our California trip and hopefully us gloating about a few medals. No matter how we do I am super proud of my partners and Milton. It has been only a year and a half but we have come so far and are doing some great things in little Waipu.

Also re-cap of Oyster fest, City of Ales, Pacific Ales, Bebemos tap take-over, and some more of my opinions…