May 2018

Well another great month with lots of exciting things. First, Anita started. Then we brewed a heap of core beers including the Imperial Maple Oat Stout, 802 #10, did some process improvements and tore apart the heat exchange, all that and some more juicy bits…

 

Billycan 2018

McLeods Billy Can Milk Stout 2017 png

Billycan 2017 Last years description.

This seasonal stout has finally been released. The first cases hit the shelves at the beginning of the month, and the first few kegs have been sent out.

A rich and smooth milk stout with chocolate and Tahitian vanilla. It is a fun little beer when you want something less hoppy and more malty.

We will be brewing a second batch in the coming weeks, we bottled most of the first one. The next keg only batch should give our favorite publicans some for the taps over the winter months.

5.5% abv Kegs and 500ml Bottles

 

Imperial Maple Oat Stout

Yep I have been talking about this beer for over a year. Well I finally made it. A huge malt bill including a special base of English malts, roasted barley and Thomas Fawcett Oat Malt. We also added some muscavado sugar, this accentuates the rich booziness with sweet licourice and rum notes. After primary and conditioning we filtered it and then racked it into our precious Four Roses Bourbon casks.

The final ‘clean beer’ is now resting in these fantastic barrels. After that it will be dosed with Vermont Maple Syrup for partial bottle conditioning.

A friend of mine from VT has his own sugar bush. We were chatting and he made mention he had quite a bit for sale this year. I grabbed a couple gallons of grade B. The most flavourful of the grades.

It will be released at the Winter Ales fest in Wellington early July, as well as the NZ Stout Challenge at Moon under Water and Punky Brewsters in Christchurch.

11+% abv Limited Bottles likely 120cs and a couple of rare kegs.

 

Anita!!!

The second week of this month Anita Mitchell started her training as our new assistant brewer. It has been a steep learning curve for her as I have quite a few ‘different’ ways of doing things, as most brewers do.

She cleans like a champ and her positive energy has been inspirational.

She is a quick study, likely cringing at some of the methods around the awkward and small brew house. Needless to say her involvement and experience has helped us identify some ways to work safer, smarter and cleaner.

The addition of music in the workplace has been awesome too, a stipulation in her contract. Now the sound of whirling pumps is drowned out with an eclectic mix of great music.

A fun road ahead for sure, we are lucky to have her on our A Team #waipuwhynot

During her first week, we cleaned, transferred beer, filtered, brewed, bottled, kegged, dry hopped, harvested yeast, and I cleaned the heat exchange…

 

Cleaning a Plate Heat Exchange

Paul Finney of Emporium Brewing in Kaikoura posted a question on the brewers guild website a few weeks back. He had asked about the disassembly of a plate heat exchange and any pointers on how to do it and what to look out for. A few experienced brewers chimed in with some advice, and a few old dogs just said to never do it. That would be a mistake… in my opinion.

First, cleaning your heat exchange at least once a year should be mandatory in any brewery. No amount of pressure, backflushing, hot water, caustic or acids can thoroughly clean a plate heat exchange. If you use lots of hops late in your process, even with a pre filter you will get a large amount of hop material and protein that will go through. They build up over time. Ours was chock full of hop material. Embarrassingly it had been a year and half since I had broken ours down. I bought a proper wrench and a 36mm socket so I could do the job. Here’s what we do.

1.) CIP Unit, both directions. Cold water flush, hot water flush, caustic wash, hot water flush, acid wash, hot water flush….

2.) Drain completely, disconnect all the fittings. Disconnect the water inlet and outlet. If you have a two stage unit connected to glycol, place a bucket or tray under that side to collect the glycol, add it back to the resevoir. Glycol is expensive, don’t waste it.

3.) Measure the distance from the left end to the right end (like books on a shelf), at each point where there is a long bolt. We write the numbers (Centimetres) on each side with a marker or vivid. These are the points that you will need to tighten it back to so that it doesn’t leak.

IMG_1033

4.) Loosen the Bolts. Loosen them evenly, other wise you risk bending the plates. Loosen one nut at a time about 2-3 turns, then do the opposite corner, moving in a clockwise direction. It takes a while and is a pain in the ass, but it is necessary.

IMG_1034

5.) Remove the bolts and pull the unit apart, like an accordion.

6.) Remove one plate at a time. We write on the side facing outward, each plate 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc… Then we clean the entire surface both sides with caustic, rinse, then dip in acid soloution. Be very careful of the seals. They are a pain to replace and if you got it from China, likely there are no replacements. There are tabs on the sides, make sure they are sitting properly and they are all the same. Look for tears and holes. We stack ours the same way we take them off, so that we just reassemble backwards.

7.) When all the plates are clean, Reassemble backwards the same way you took them off. Watch the tabs that the plates hang from, make sure they are all the same direction and not bent. Use a pair of pliers to carefully straighten them if needed. Assuming you have got all the plates back in place properly. If you didn’t number them correctly, bummer. Look at the tops of the plates, there is usually a symbol that marks the direction, each plate sits together as its opposite. Only one plate has a seal that faces the back of the next one and so on. The black tabs on the side should all be just off center of each other like dominoes. If they are the same and look like two books, they are up side down. Simply flip it over.

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8.) Squeeze it back together. Reinstall the bolts. Tighten slowly, and tighten like a valve cover on a car. An X pattern. You will likely have 6 or 8 bolts. Top left first, then bottom right. Then bottom left, then top right. Then the middle ones on the same manner. Do this a few turns at a time, and do it evenly. I measure each time and tighten about a half centimetre at a time. Tighten until you get them back to the same distance as you measured above.

9.) Pressure test.

*Check the operators manual for the pressure capacities on yours before proceeding.

Hook up a valve on one end, either the exit or entrance of the wort side or the water side. Then hook up a water hose to the other. With the valve closed turn on the water, it will build pressure very quickly. *Caution do not open the water pressure wide open if you have very high pressure, you could damage your unit. If you have pressures beyond 3 bar in water, add a pressure gauge to the exit between the outlet and the valve. Stop the water when the pressure builds to 3 bar max. There should be no drips or water coming out. If it is spraying out the sides, double check the gap distance and the tabs to make sure it is all linear. Then tighten each bolt a quarter turn until the water stops coming out. Look underneath as the smallest drips will collect there. Once it is dry and sealed, release the pressure and reinstall the connections. Do the pressure test before you reconnect the water, glycol and wort fittings, pulling it apart again sucks.

10.) All done. We do another CIP then put in back into service. See that wasn’t so bad, a half a days work and now your run offs will be faster.

 

802#9

McLeods 73mm No9 802 series

The ninth beer of this series of fresh Unfiltered IPAs, to this one we added US Cascade, Citra and Sorachi Ace. We dry hopped it with US Cascade, Mandarina Bavaria and Citra.

This one isn’t as tropical fruit bowl as the last one, but more mellow, solid grapefruit and peachy citrus on the nose, then a smooth mouthfeel and a nice balanced bitterness with flavours of creamy grapefruit, grass and white peaches. The finish is smooth with a lingering oily resinous-ness. That is from the 4 samples of hop oils my friend Dave Nicholls left me. Amazing the effect four little vials have on 2000L of beer.

Keg only about 6.6% abv. It’s all gone into the world, so you may find it on tap around the country in the best bars.

 

802 #10

McLeods 802 No 10

 

This one is a combo of rather new hops from the US. – Calypso and El Dorado – two hops I found to be stand outs in these types of beers when in the states last year.

It will be released at the end of the month. Early tank samples say it will be fucking mean. My first impressions are slightly overripe rock melon and spice.

Just for a tease, 802 #11 will be Denali and Mosaic…likely a bit closer to double IPA strength to help us all get through these colder days.

 

Smiths IPA Challenge

We brewed a single batch special IPA for this event. Look for its release after the competition. We named it 1700km Double IPA, the distance from the Peoples Republic of Waipu to Smiths in Queenstown.

The trick with these beers is fresh as fuck and all NZ hops. We are brewing one of our fresh unfiltered IPAs, double strength with all NZ hops, a first for us, stay tuned.

This was Anitas first solo brew, as I was in Wellington when she made it. I am sure it will be great!

8% Keg only

 

Brewery of the Month

This month we were brewery of the month at Regional Wines in Wellington and Hamilton Wines. This opportunity for us to be the featured brewery was a true privilege. These are two stewards of all things delightfully fermented, aged and distilled. Both very well-respected and busy. They have both supported McLeod’s since the early days.

Geoff got a chance to spend some time in Hamilton, and he and I got a chance to stand at the door in Wellies.

It was a solid turn out of friends and customers, likely a few new ones in the mix as well. If Geoff is there you won’t escape his grasp…

Thank you everyone that came down for a yarn and taste of our beers.

Wellington

Always a fun time with so much to see, eat and drink. Our b&b was on Leeds street, one of my favourite streets in Wellington. Between the Leeds St. bakery and Goldings, I could pretty much just live on that street. If only Serial Grillers were there permanently.

Our little trip down was to catch up with our beloved customers and make sure everyone is happy.

We also were meeting with a company about supplying our kegs around the city. Our chilled transport company has lost the sub-contractor who had been servicing accounts. Likely due to the fact that on a few occasions it took a week or two, yep two weeks to get our kegs delivered. Granted they were chilled the whole time but it makes us look like a poorly run business. They since ditched the company as a sub, but that has left us unable to service accounts in the city unless they have a forklift.

With the demand for our beer increasing in Wellington we want our delicious beers in people’s hands, and to do that while keeping it cold through the supply chain is no easy task. Trust me no one else in the brewing business in NZ is currently doing it, or even attempting it – lots of talk but no action (I’d love to be proven wrong …). The fact that no one else is doing it makes it even more challenging. We still get blank stares from people when we demand our product be kept cold. Beertique has been doing a great job, but they ambient ship overnight from Auckland, as does Punky Brewster around the the South Island. We have to make exceptions to meet demands. Anyway we are still working to find solutions. One more thing to keep me up at night.

Thanks to that meeting we will now have direct delivery to all accounts in the Wellington area. A minimum order of two kegs for with no additional shipping charges. We can also top those orders up with a couple of cases as needed. They come form a local cold store and delivered within a couple hours. We just shortened the cold chain by over 800k’s

Keeping it fresh for you Wellington.

Darkest Days

https://www.facebook.com/events/1343571855787232/

I leaked about it last month but we filled two bourbon casks with our Billycan Milk Stout. Ciaran from Malthouse was keen to grab something fun and not an imperial stout. So we gave him an under carbonated keg. It will feature on handpull. I am fucking gutted that we won’t be able to try it.

I also realised that I desperately shipped a pallet hoping it was going over night to make the event the following week. Silly me, the event isn’t until the end of the month. Ciaran must think I am fucking nuts. Ah well they grabbed a few kegs of some of our other beers too.

Go down and enjoy the event its always a fun night and try our stout on handpull!

 

Manly Grape vs Grain

Ivan of Manly liquor called me a while back inquiring about a dinner he had been wanting to do, he asked if we wanted to take part.

Any way we can build our brand grassroots is a good thing, so I said yes.

Now, Ivan is a good guy – a bit over zealous about being organised – but a good guy with the best intentions. Pulling it together was a huge task and the dozens of emails and phone calls finally turned into a great evening.

It was us, Sawmill and Marisco/Leefield Station Wines. Mike Sutherland and Brent Maris were there on the night to represent. Now this kind of thing is not my forte, Geoff would have killed it. I do not sell myself very well, and I don’t like being told what to do. There is a reason I work in a shed with a small team in the middle of nowhere. Anyway, I did the meet-and-greet and did a couple of speeches. Mike is a natural, tells a great story and keeps the crowd laughing. Brent is a master and could easily be a motivational speaker (think Tony Robbins) if he wanted too. Me, well, I fumbled through and made it home without spilling anything down the front of my shirt.

A turnout of 170 people and a nice meal. We hope that the effort comes through with increased sales at Manly Liquor. Thank for the support Ivan.

Brewers Illuminati

A bit of discussion is out there and even a Facebook page started to discuss an alternative to the brewers guild. I am not sure if it is intended as that or maybe to be a supplement, not sure yet but I like the idea.

The brewers guild just hired another salaried six figure position, so more outgoings. I am still not really sure what it’s doing, aside from the awards. I don’t think I am alone on this, which is why all the interest in a new entity.

I am not sure what will come of all of this, but I am optimistic if a direct action type formula vs. a committee scenario takes form. Unfortunately, non-profits are essentially forced into being a committee by nature of their financial structure. I fear this will be it’s ultimate demise, it usually is of most well-intentioned groups.

The most important and only issue I think we should be discussing is excise and/or tax relief.

I just noticed the significant increase in excise. I am ok with a two-year correction for inflation, pretty standard, but this one was a big jump.

Excise is the largest expense of our brewery, more then cost of goods on many beers. For a brewery our size, it is equivalent to more then four well-paid employee salaries per year. The amount of burden on breweries is inexcusable. We need relief, so how do we get it?

Lobbying: Convince our MPs that we need and deserve a break. Then we need to show them the money. Where is it going to come from? It has to come from somewhere. You don’t get tax breaks by just being good companies and throwing good parties. They have to be able to use it as a political win, or a way to build future revenue, create jobs and help increase the GDP. MPs are pretty simple really.

And Lobbying; in theory, intelligently showing our MPs through studies, polls and statistics that we have a case for a law that will allow us a break. There isn’t much out there at the moment. So we need some hard facts that prove: we do creates jobs, we do increase the GDP, and we aren’t a burden on the government i.e.. alcoholism and the effects. That will be hard as no one wants to talk about the alcohol issue. It is political suicide.

That puts us in the need to shed a very big positive light on our side and figure out where the money of off-sets can come through, This paradox is not a good place to be.

The other scenario, and Dominic Kelly I believe had the easiest solution, would split the revenue and put the burden of tax on the retailer, or more specifically at the point of sale. IRD does it and with modern electronics and technology it is easier then ever to allocate tax at the point of sale. I believe his rough calculations actually saw an increase in GST and tax overall. Now convincing the government to move hundreds of millions of dollars from Customs to IRD is the other big hurdle. No arm of the government likes seeing there funding cut. No one wants to lose jobs. A sticky situation indeed.

Fuck, we have to find a way…

As manufacturers we are liable for paying our excise monthly or bi-annually. Unless you have a brewpub (which are usually treated as customers) or a contract brewery, you have to wait for your money from your customers and distributors. They usually pay the twentieth of the following month… hopefully. Some do, most don’t. Most of our distributors are on consignment, which puts us out even further…and

Guess what, do you think our vendors like not getting paid? Grain, hops, glass, boxes, chemicals, electricity, they all like keeping it pretty tight. So we end up essentially being banks at no interest to our customers. Pretty fucked up. That is a huge drain on our cash flow. We all need to make upgrades, go on paid holidays, provide cool employee benefits, get raises, fix shit, buy hops, make payroll. Money makes it all happen.

The US just passed a sweeping reduction in their excise based on the growth of the industry. As a way to show them they support their growth. Most breweries larger then Pan Head (In the US) only pay about $10,000 a year. You might argue that that is lost money for our government. However, what do you think breweries would do with that kind of savings? Lower prices? Maybe a little. Hire more staff, fix equipment, market themselves better, do more charitable work. Yep, all of those things. All of those things provide money and jobs in direct ways.

If we are going to get action it has to be well-organised. Grassroots or professional, we need lobbying and we needs studies.

Ideas around policing ourselves over quality isn’t the job of a group like this. That is peer and consumer-driven. Don’t get me wrong I hate bad beer as much as any one else. If another brewery doesn’t care about the supply chain or how their beers taste and hold up in the market place, bummer for them.

We are making careful and calculated steps to making the best beer possible and making sure it stays that way all the way to the consumer.

If you are more worried about the next fad or trendy beer than your pitch rates and sanitation, good luck with that.

Fix excise first: it will have the biggest impact on all of us.

Plas-Back

http://plasback.co.nz

Last month I got sick and tired of having to throw out our grain bags and pallet wrap. I rang around and thanks to Gabi at Gladfield we were able to get in touch with Plasback, a program and associated businesses with the Government to recycle a stream of plastics. We get chemicals and other materials in large containers, all made of #2, #1 and #4 plastics. Easy to recycle but the regional household branches won’t touch them. Anyway, this company takes all the big drums and 20-30L pails along with the grain bag liners (clear plastic), pallet wrap, plastic bags etc. We can collect heavier plastic like the outer layers of grain bags and HDPE. These are all of our biggest waste issues. They take them back to Auckland where they are recycled and reused in other plastics to be recycled again and again.

The bins they provide are big and expensive, but they have sturdy water resistant lids and the liner bags they give you fit them nicely. You have to buy the bags which are about $10 and made from the same materials so they recycle the whole bag. Then its $40 for the pick up. A small fee considering all of that material will be saved from the landfill.

This has made a huge impact on our waste stream. One more step towards a greener future.

Galbraiths

My friend Teddy, the manager at Galbraith’s, also the new brewer, more on that…

Anyway, a while back we were texting away about motorcycle racing, and he asked about a keg of one of our beers. Next thing you know we had a Friday night tap takeover planned. We pulled out some of our newest releases on draft. An impressive line up of our range for sure. Unfiltered Paradise Pale ale, Bourbon Barrel Aged Porter, Bourbon Barrel Aged Scotch Ale, Barrel Aged Red Sour, and 802 #9.

A really fun night and a great turn out of friends – thanks everyone!

Back in January we had stopped into Galbraith’s with my aunt and uncle. We grabbed a couple pints before taking them to their hotel. I have always liked the beers there, always had a strained yeast character but good nonetheless. These, however, were exceptional. In coming back a few more times, I can confirm that the beer now is the best I have had there.

Come to find out, our good friend Teddy has slid into the assistant brewer role. He is doing great work. He has good techniques and a passion for making cask beers.

Keep it up bro!

Feedback

This is a tough one – sometimes you want it, and most of the time you don’t.

As a rule, I do not provide feedback about another brewer’s beer directly, unless they ask.

If a friend asks me what I think of their beer, and are asking for an honest assessment, I will tell them. Otherwise, I keep my mouth shut. Yeah, I’ll likely discuss it with friends, but who doesn’t.

Out of respect, you never tell a brewer what you think of their beer unless they ask. Period.

Sure you can say it is fucking great, everyone likes to hear that, but if you don’t like it, don’t tell them.

I’m the worst critic of our beer. Honestly, I’m surprised I even drink it I am so critical of it. Every batch, I obsess about the ferment, the hop flavour, the aroma, the water profile, the o2 pickup. It’s never good enough…should we adjust the malt bill, it’s fucking endless. Monica has to listen to that shit all the time.

If you have a beer and it has a serious problem with it, I would definitely tell the brewer. That has happened to me, and I am grateful, we had a fucked up keg, it wasn’t cleaned properly and we were able to sort it. Johnny fucks up sometimes and correcting issues quickly is good form. Denial is never a solution. We learned from it and have instituted new protocols and tracking to help mitigate and limit it from happening again. Learning is good.

However, if you just want to nit-pick the balance, a particular hop or stylistic differences, keep it to yourself: no one wants to hear it. You may just come across as an arrogant dick.

Gatherings

https://www.gatherings.co.nz

I am really excited for this event June 16th and 17th. We are doing a small intimate luncheon with Chef Alex Davies’ restaurant in Christchurch.

Alex is a phenomenal chef, and he’s creating a seven-course vegetable tasting menu paired with some of our rarest beers.

The greatest challenge of a true chef is cooking amazing food with just vegetables. There is no meat or centre of the plate to rest on, it’s just you, some legumes and veggies. Fresh vibrant flavours and textures. Meat is definitely a chef’s crutch.

A couple of my favourite chef heroes, Thomas Keller (French Laundry, Per Se) and Charlie Trotter (RIP) both had/have massive vegetable tasting menus. They shared the same passion for cuisine and proved that a truly skilled chef can and needs to be able to make masterpieces out of vegetables.

Monica, my partner, has been sliding towards being a vegetarian and is now nearly vegan, breaking the rules as she sees fit. Because of that, we now seek out the newest and best-reviewed vegetarian restaurants and cafes around the country when on trips for the brewery. On one of our last visits to Christchurch, we ate at Gatherings, a small jewellery shop-sized dining room with excellent lighting and simple ambiance. The menu, all vegetables. The wine list also heavily featured natural wines. We ate our way through a spectacular prix fixe meal and tried some amazing wines.

So, of course I thought this would be brilliant with some earthy sours. We threw the idea at Alex, and he was keen. He has sampled his way through the beers and has come up with a fun menu.

I will be on hand to talk about our beers and Alex will talk about the food.

There are still a few seats left.

I wouldn’t want to miss this.

Not everything needs pork belly to be good.

I can’t wait.

Burger

*My little rant piece.

When we first came to NZ we did the tiki tour around the country in a camper van, like many do every year. The first few cafes I didn’t notice, as the rose tint on my glasses kept everything glowing, and I couldn’t read the menus.

Then after being here a while, I started to notice a trend. First, it was the beet root, then the tomato relish, then the sweet chilli and the raw onions, then it sank in, everything on a bun….is a burger…fuck.

Sadly, I have to be the one to tell you, it’s a lie.

They have been lying to you for years.

Sit down, take some deep breaths, its going to be ok…but…

A burger is minced.

History will show you that going back to the late 1800’s during the origin of burgers, specifically hamburgers, was minced meat on a bun. An interesting history in itself, and arguably White Castle in New York is the originator, but the undeniable truth is that burgers are made of minced meat. Typically of the bovine origin, but can also be made from poultry, game, pork, fish and even vegetables. No matter what is, it has to be minced.

Then, in comes the sandwich. A crazy and all encompassing thing, the sandwich can be almost anything, the god particle of hand food. A single piece or slices of meat, chicken, fish, vegetables anything on a bun or bread, anything other then mince…is a sandwich.

The shape of the bread does not dictate the delineation.

The patty does.

I don’t make the rules, but I live by them.

I love sandwiches and I am proud to love sandwiches. Sandwiches of all kinds, shapes, colours, sizes and fillings. I love so many of them.

I know this is shocking and simply unacceptable and the ears sting from the pain of hearing it, but it is true.

Burgers must be minced, everything else is…well…just a sandwich.

Fin.

Next Month

Release of 802 #10, Burgers (yes, BURGERS) at Punky, Gatherings luncheon, Belgian Tripel, release of the Black Rye Sour, Smith’s IPA challenge, Satya restaurant beer and food dinner, yeast counting 101, don’t drop your DMA, doubling our brewhouse size and much much more…

 

Thanks for reading,

 

McBrewer

 

 

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April 2018

Well I never thought we could have had a bigger month then last month, but here goes.

This month we hired two new staff, bought a refrigerated truck for local deliveries, launched our Red Sour and Bourbon Barrel Scotch Ale, brewed like it was October-November, and put down a few new brews, but first…

 

Untappd in POH

The last edition of Pursuit of Hoppiness, I was asked by Michael Donaldson, the editor, to write something for the magazine. He has read these blogs and apparently enjoys my writing. I thought it would be fun to have add a bit of humor in a rant style column.

I submitted essentially a Peter Griffin (Family Guy), ‘What Grinds My Gears’ article. It was nearly a copy from the cartoon, with the topic changed. The whole thing was full of topical references from movies and TV shows. I felt pretty proud of it, and still do, it was edgy, informative and funny. The article was a humor piece…really.

However not everyone thought so…

Let me first point out that 99.95% of our interactions with customers is positive on social media, including Untappd.

When it came time for the next edition, Michael asked for another short piece, as he liked the first one so much. He also gave me the heads up that a Craig Cooper had a rebuttal to my first, which, after it was edited, was published in the most recent edition.

Here is what I have to say to Craig Cooper, and not the one from Bach Brewing. There was, sadly, a mistake around which Craig Cooper it was.

Anyway, he started by likening my writing to complaining little five year olds which was essentially what I said about people trashing beers anonymously on a website. Not very original there. Kind of like saying ‘you’re a jerk, no you are, no you are, no you are…’

Funny enough there are several articles by a Craig Cooper, who is (was) editor of the Northern Advocate, by the way, bitching about shit. In one of these, he even had the hypocrisy to say he hated ‘bullies’ on the internet! Crazy!

In his rebuttal, he then proceeds to tell a story about how he hates Pilsners yet goes on Untappd and trashes a Pilsner with a pretty disturbing description. He goes on to say he’s justified in saying whatever he wants to his Untappd mates, but like the bully on the playground he doesn’t understand the impact of those hateful words. But, hey, it was funny to them, right? He does say he realizes maybe he shouldn’t be so mean, as there is a person or persons behind that beer and actually apologizes to the brewery, kind of. Admitting is the first step, Craig.

I get social media, I do. However, as anyone with eyes can see, being anonymous gives a person more latitude to be hateful and insulting. As a brand, we choose to be positive and supportive, something we’ve learned from Stu McKinley of the Yeasty Boys, a true gentleman by the way. We interact positively with our customers and our peers. We do not insult or berate other breweries or customers on public social media platforms.

I have gone on Untappd and thrown out the odd question to folks asking if they could elaborate on a thoughtless, half-assed review. What does that do for the better good of the beer industry? Likely nothing. However being positive makes everyone feel better. That was my point in the piece – to be nice, to be educated. I said that we like to be ‘nice’ to an Untappd user the other day, his reply was, “stay off the internet.” That says it all to me.

Mystery Craig Cooper also stated that I wasn’t very smart, yet he couldn’t tell the difference between me, the person who wrote the article and the brewery I work for. He then referenced hoiking into a spittoon presumably to highlight that he isn’t a beer snob and just drinks his beer. Well, unlike wine snobs (and judges) and being a professional beer judge in New Zealand, I can’t spit beer unless it’s completely faulted and undrinkable. We have to swallow to be able to accurately access beer and its bitterness, but then I must not be very smart.

He then actually agreed with me about Untappd’s dumb badges and complimented our continuing streak with our customers and the awards before telling me to (allow me to paraphrase) shut the fuck up and keep making beer.

Thanks Craig, I will keep making beer. But I won’t shut the fuck up.

I do ignore most negativity on Untappd and have a bit of fun poking the obnoxious ones. But like a true bully, sounds like Craig can dish it out anonymously but can’t take it. So, thanks, Craig, for coming out and letting us ALL know you’re one Untappd’s bright sparks, I mean, dickheads.

Enough about that shit, now for the best stuff…

New Staff

We are proud to announce that we have two new team members here at little ol’ McLeods.

First, we hired a new assistant brewer. Anita Mitchell.

Anita has worked for some well known breweries including Three Boys in Christchurch, Two Birds in Australia and most recently, I am sure she will cringe, Temple Brewing in AU. Anita has a fantastic attitude and is insanely passionate about brewing. With our steady growth and my pursuit to make better beer, we needed a person I can trust to stop at nothing to make it. I’m excited about her energy at the brewery!

Second we hired Kelly Ockwell. Kelly is a knowledgable and incredibly organized woman. She has an outstanding palate, loves beer and, is, well…simply lovely. She will be our new administrator and events coordinator.

I am so excited, as these two bring a lot to the table and will help us grow and move to the next level. Being long-term sustainable is my goal for us, while making great beer and having a bit of fun.

Milton who has been my right hand for two years now and has been with the brewery since day one. He has taken on a new role as our logistics coordinator. He is a great organizer, he will be our Swiss army knife able to fill any role on the property.

So our team now has a heck of a lot of work to do, I can’t wait to get started.

 

Refrigerated Truck

On my ever growing CAPX list, I have had a chilled vehicle on it since day one. It has been a huge priority to me but very difficult to justify financially two years ago. However today, it is the only thing to do. We have been using my partners trucks. Putting cold beer in the back and covering it with a tarp and delivering it around the region a few days a week. Not perfect but manageable. The unfortunate thing is that that kind of driving is hard on vehicles not designed for it. It was killing their vehicles and beginning to become costly. That and we have been growing, so the few cases are now full truck loads. Pallets into Auckland and the surrounds, we needed a bigger truck.

We financed a good size Toyota cube van with a chiller unit, that also has a plug in for standby. It will hold four+ pallets in the back. It should be enough for us for the next year or more. Just another step in keeping our product as cold as possible and as fresh as we can to the customer. Honk if you see us on the road!

 

Fresh Hop

You may have noticed, or maybe not, that we didn’t make a fresh hop beer this year. Unfortunately, harvest dates coincided with the judging of the New World Awards which I had previously committed to. I had been working with Sawmill Brewery and 8 Wired to source our own transport, yet with no one to brew it I had to pull the plug.

The more I have been thinking about it and the more I learn about hops reassures me of the decision not to brew one. The lupulin oils in hops begin to oxidise within six hours of them being cut from the bines. That is why they dry them immediately after picking. NZ Hops does a great job of organizing distribution of an insane amount of fresh hops to breweries around the country with everyone working hard to keep them looking fresh without digging further into the hop itself.

I’ve made the difficult decision to not do a fresh hop beer again, unless we can get the hops from the farm to a kettle within the six-hour window. That’s pretty much impossible unless we flew them up or brewed in Nelson. I enquired about that, and we would have to charge an astronomical amount for the kegs to make it viable if we flew them.

My other observation is they are a bit of a fad, and of the ones I’ve tried in the past few years, only a few breweries are actually getting a good beer from them. Most are one-dimensional and a waste of time and hops in my opinion. I love the style and will always seek one out, but the hype around it and the lack of quality beers makes it a bit of marketing wank.

 

Brett IPA/Highland Hammer

One of the first new beers I made this month was a Brett IPA.

Highland Hammer, a fun Scottish reference and a bit like a local Thor.

I love these style beers and wanted to mix it up in the line up seasonally. I got some Yeast Bay brett blends so I figured I would give them a try. This one is a standard IPA base with a huge late hop addition in the whirlpool. I used Denali and Citra, along with a dash of Zythos. It smelled amazing and the pitch has taken off quickly. Stay tuned. Keg only. It will be at the Winter Ales festival in Wellington in a couple months.

 

802 #9

The next in the series of our fresh unfiltered IPA’s. This one is our base beer recipe with Citra, Sorachi Ace and US Cascade. Grapefruit, orange, lemon and pine. Look for it, early March. Get on the list if you want a keg.

 

Billycan 2018

When the weather changes and we have to add an extra blanket at night, it means its time to make Billycan again. Only a day later then when I brewed it last year. This year I tweaked it ever so slightly and adjusted the water profile a bit. It will be filtered and bottled next week.  The beer is a traditional milk stout, so Marris Otter, a blend of dark malts, some caramunich and then I add Tahitian vanilla beans, cocoa and cacao nibs into the whirlpool. It also gets a lashing of treacle. All together it makes what I describe as a chocolate rum ball stout.

The name hails from what New Zealanders refer to as the old metal milk cans of days gone. A mix of kegs and bottles. Pre-orders now.

 

Event Season

It is about to begin, we have a winters long run of cool events with some of our favorite bars and eateries on the north and south islands. We will be releasing a big social media blast in the lead up for each one, watch this space!

A quick tease…

long lunch weekend with Gatherings in Christchurch, a vegan degustation. June 16-17th.

Satya in Auckland, dinner match 27th June,

Grain vs. Grapes at Manly liquor May 26th, Marisco wines, us and Sawmill go head to head

We are brewery of the month at Regional Wines in Wellington and Hamilton wines for the month of May.

Also on the calendar, Smiths IPA challenge, Malt house IPA challenge, Winter Ales fest in Wellington, Love Bucket, Punky Brewsters, Pomeroys, LBQ and a whole lot more yet to be announced…

 

Smugglers Bay

The labels finally arrived so we have released our Bourbon Barrel Aged Scotch Ale now, the batch is nearly sold out already so get your orders in soon.

Then our Red Sour Ale, it is settling into the bottle nicely will big ripe fruit and spice up front and a great lemony sour. The carbonation will build as it ages.

Then we have the Bourbon Barrel Aged Brown Porter which is like chocolate and bourbon. Release is next month, likely just after the Scotch Ale is out. That way we can stagger them.

Also a couple of kegs of Billycan will rest in the bourbon casks, keg only

Followed by the release of our Black Rye Sour.

Lots of fun stuff coming out with more in cue. That Imperial Maple Oat Stout as well, I have been talking about that beer for over a year!

I have even sourced some more barrels, so our collection of 45 should soon be beyond 60 with a few puncheons in the mix!

 

Good Press

I try to steer away from bragging, I fucking hate loud mouth boasting shit.

However we have been getting some lovely press lately and I wanted to share a bit.

Obviously we got Beer of the Year from SOBA…wow

A poorly written and mis quoted article in the Mangawhai Focus, not sure if the writer had been drinking before he wrote it?

Denizen magazine had a feature about us and our Smugglers Bay program. Super cool! They made me look bad-ass, which is a feat in itself.

The last couple Air New Zealand magazines had beers of ours mentioned. Alice is great, she seems to really enjoy our beers. Thank you Alice!

We won some medals at the New World awards, sadly no golds. Porter got put in the wrong category, my bad, and our lager didn’t medal. The rest of our core range did, considering last months analysis we did very well.

Then Dish did an IPA competition, we got two awards out of fourteen given, those will be announced later in the month.

A couple of other things I am forgetting, but all up some great media for sure.

Ah the video, I almost forgot, we finally did our own video, well we had someone do it for us, a local lad named Mickay Crawley. He did a stint at the Pizza Barn a while back, most young locals have, are or will. It was his first one for pay. Then he ran off to join the  Royal Navy! Good luck Mickay!

It turned out great, a link here. Just a snap shot of our little corner of the world.

Thank you everyone for supporting us!

 

New Breweries

I had to mention this as it hit me funny when I read it the other day.

A new ‘brewery’ is about to open, said the announcement on the Brewers Guild website. They were about to tackle their first commercial brew, and asked if anyone knew of a good source of yeast and hops…

Seriously?

Really, you are about to venture into the world of a production business, and you didn’t do your homework before now? To me that is insane. Before I would open a brewery or start a contract brand, (I never would start a contract brand by the way), I would write a business plan, and trust me, I have.

Part of that is a market analysis, which if you did one will show a very small piece of a big segment being shared by a shit ton of breweries, many of which just opened, and many more in planning, well hopefully planning.

Then you would have had to research your suppliers, who are you going to get your hops, grain, chemicals, co2, oxygen, labels, kegs, electricity, bottles, crowns, water, boxes, tape, equipment…You would also find out who is going to take your trash, spent grain, recycling? And most importantly how much does it cost, including shipping…

If you don’t know that, please DO NOT OPEN A BREWERY.

Go back and find out how expensive everything is, how crowded the market is, and what the fucking huge suck hole of Customs and Excise does to your cash flow, oh yeah and

Who are you going to sell your beer too? Guess what we are or are trying to sell to the same people.

What are you making that is going to be better then what is already out there? There is a lot of very good beer out there already. A flash label and shitty oxidized unbalanced old beer will only get you so far.

Then maybe you will second guess and not do it.

Anyone who wants to open a brewery should work in one first, learn how to brew is my advice. The best breweries out there, making the best beers are all run by people who have worked in breweries before. Yes there is the odd one or two, but the vast majority of excellent brewers have experience and spent serious time in a functional brewery before, having a go at it.

Then mortgage your fucking house, max your credit cards and spend your kids college fund like everyone else.

If we are to grow and be a prosperous industry we need businesses that are in it for the greater good, not for an investment opportunity, quick buck or because it sounds like a great idea, or even worse we have a great name for a brand and a scratch paper full of awesome beer names.

Buy crypto currencies if you want to invest in something.

For fuck sake…

 

My Birthday

Since this is my blog, I get to talk about whatever I want.

The end of this month marks my birthday. I turned forty five. A day I usually work or simply try and get through. I am trying to be a bit better about being grateful and more positive in life, from that last literary gem you might think I have a long way to go yet. I agree.

My beautiful partner planned a wonderful weekend get-away to the bay of islands.

After brewing 20,000 liters of beer this month, and still not really keeping up.

In a massive push, I was able to fill everything up and let the yeast to their stuff for a few days, so we could enjoy a much needed breather. It was amazing. I am a very lucky man.

Thanks everyone for supporting us and drinking our beer!

Happy birthday to me!

 

Next Month…

We brew more beer, Anita starts, Milton gets organized, we look at expanding our brewery, we’ll update you on the events and what is coming out next. I also look at a new yeast counting tool, always looking to be better at what we do.

Thanks for reading,

McBrewer

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

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

IMG_0825

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.