Life: On mortality , mobility and riding a bike.

My father died last year after a decade of creeping dementia. In his end he followed his mother right down to dyeing at the same 70 years of age. This weekend in particular I find myself missing him. Both my father and my grandfather were competitive road cyclists, my grandfather went on to be involved in drug testing , walked with the NZ Commonwealth Team at the opening on the Chch games and has an NZ Cycling Trophy in his honour , although the last mention I can find of that is the suggestion it be dispensed with. With all this family history it is a surprise then that I never learnt to ride a bike. I almost learnt. Growing up on the hilly city streets of Wellington we used to drive out to see friends in the Wairarapa, and I would try to ride my father running along behind. But without regular practice on the streets of Berhampore it was not to be. 11 years after me my brother came along and he also remained bikeless. A way in which I did follow my father was to never learn to drive. So I have spent my life using my legs to get around. Now 30 years later I find myself living in a flat village in countryside perfect for cycling. Living with a family history of dementia informs a lot of my decisions. Having spent my childhood watching my grandmother decline and then my 30’s watching my father take his turn it’s hard not to wonder when my turn will come. Sometimes this ‘carpe diem’ way of living tips too far to hedonism with my love of good food and good alcohol leaving me far heavier than I should be. So I have splashed out and bought myself an eTrike . It’s been the best decision and I have already been far more active over the Christmas break than I normally would be. But I find myself missing my dad. I wish he was still here to pass on his knowledge of cycles , of gears, I wish he was here to tell me again about cycling the Akatarawas or Paekakariki Hill, I wish he was here to see me cruising down the street with the dog on the back. I wish he was here to marvel at the expensive bits and pieces I already find myself buying for it. Live for the day, safely and say the things that need saying because no one knows about tomorrow.

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Hell Awaits!

divineintervention_ImagewebSo Divine Intervention is out! I’m extremely pleased with it! I reckon it’s a classy combo of Duvel yeast and my beloved Super Alpha hops. It sits somewhere between a Strong Belgian Pale Ale and a Belgo IPA. I was influenced by Popering Hommel Bier. Martin has done a totally amazing job brewing it, he is currently runner up Champion New Zealand Brewer for a reason! Divine Intervention is currently on tap at Regional Wines, it should also start popping up on taps around the country as its being distributed by BeerNZ.

The Guts

Style: Strong NZ Hopped Belgian Pale Ale (Belgian Specialty Ale )
Grist: German Pilsner, Abbey and Wheat Malts, Cane Sugar.
Hops: Pacific Jade, Super Alpha, NZ Cascade
Yeast: Belgian Strong Ale

Cheers to Martin for brewing it, Ryan for the tap badge and most importantly to Jeff for creating some awesome music that has inspired me through the years RIP!

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E.S.B.- The Adjunct Test

2013-05-05 14.21.28I’m known for brewing English style beers. In recent years I have had some success with them and have a few gongs on the wall and have had a hand in a couple of trophies. The last time I brewed an ESB for competition it earned a silver, I was stoked, but obviously I could do better. So recently I undertook a relatively scientific trial brew experiment. In my opinion there are a few reasons why ‘new world’  bitters often don’t compare to English ones. First yeast choice, so often new world brewers use clean neutral American ale yeasts coupled with cool fermentations leaving their beers uncomplicated and frankly a little boring. Then there is the use of unusual hops. New world hops are perfectly acceptable in a bitter but they should be hops that give characters that are complimentary to the lightly toffee and caramel malt backbone that these beers demand. Finally there is the fear of adjuncts born of The German Bread Purity Law and homebrewer experiences with excessive cane sugar additions.

2013-04-25 13.35.44It was this last point I wanted to explore. So I put together a base ESB recipe using NZ Mild Malt , English medium crystal and a touch of cane sugar, Pacifica hops and Wyeast 1968 yeast. I then added flaked maize to one batch and torrified wheat to the other. I brewed both in the same day and then set about exploring the differences.

On the Brewday

On the day I found the flaked maize batch much harder to clarify coming out of the mash tun. Small particles of maize seemed to escape through the grain bed. The wheat batch on the other hand ran clear with ease. Both cleared well in the kettle.
The maize mash smelt crazy, very reminiscent of Mexican food. Torrified Wheat smelt normal.
Both brews hit an OG of 1.060.

Finished Product
2013-04-25 13.35.50

The wheat batch attenuated a little further clocking in at 6%abv as opposed to the maize at 5.8%abv. The wheat batch displayed slightly better head retention and lacing. Flavour wise the maize batch seemed somewhat rougher and less refined than the wheat which had a lovely combo of esters, marmaladey hops and rich malt. However this could easily be due to fermentation differences rather than the adjuncts used.

My conclusion partly scientifically and partly brewers gut feeling was that the maize hadn’t added anything to the beer while the torrified wheat had given the beer better head retention.

Another observation from the brews was that Pacifica hops work really well in an ESB, although they perhaps need some other varieties to add complexity.

I will be brewing a modified version of my ESB for Waikanae and Beervana/BrewNZ Week at the Fork and Brewer in Wellington on Thursday the 13th of June. Pop in and have a look during the day if your interested. Cheers

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Divine Intervention

slayerI have a dirty secret to reveal. A massive percentage of New Zealand craft beer is conceived to heavy metal.  While the consumers of craft beer might be tapping their toes to the Feelers, Lady Gaga or whatever the hell else is  flavour of the month out there, much of the good beer brewed in this country is created to a soundtrack of heavy guitars surging bass lines, thumping  drums and screaming vocals. I could name names but at the end of the day I think you should just take my word for it. I will reveal that one major NZ craft brewer has tubs marked Satanizer rather than the more normal sanitizer.  Scandalous!

I myself come from a Metal / Hardcore background. Before taking up the mash paddle my weapon of choice was the bass guitar. I used to spend my time doing things like this , and this. My youth was spent in sweaty band rehearsal rooms , fragrant community halls and dingy bars playing and listening to extremely heavy music. It’s how I think all teenage boys should spend their time. My parents were at Ngaruawahia Festival when Black Sabbath played , it’s my whakapapa .

On the 2nd of May Jeff Hanneman passed away. Jeff was a founding member of best thing to come out of the 1980’s, Slayer.  If you haven’t been at a gig where someone has shouted “play some fuckin SLAYER!” frankly you haven’t lived.  I used to make sure my mates would chant “play some SLAYER!” at my gigs, it was only right. I could always feed them a little Angel of Death bass line.
I was lucky enough to see Slayer on the Diabolus in Musica Tour in Auckland. It was one of the top 5 gigs of my life, I will take the memory to my grave.
The news of Jeff’s death solidified a loose plan that Martin Townshend and myself had hatched. Martin like me is a big Slayer fan. We had been debating doing a heavy metal themed collaboration brew for awhile but hadn’t come to any agreement on what to do. Jeff’s death made it clear, we were both fans, we were both metal loving brewers, the natural way for us to show our respects was to brew a beer. Divine Intervention was born.  Divine Intervention is one of my favourite Slayer Albums , Martin prefers South of Heaven or Reign in Blood. We picked it as the beer name as it worked for a beer, yeast being the work of god and all that. The beer itself will be brewed in the next week or two. It will be a hoppy Belgian style brew combining a Belgian yeast and a big NZ hop character. It will be strong and hopefully dangerously drinkable. Look out for a very unique launch party when this gets released. R.I.P. Jeff Hanneman , PLAY SOME FUCKIN SLAYER!

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Gone for a Burton Launch Party

Where: Little Beer Quarter, Edward St Precinct   goneforaburton8

When: 6pm on Thursday 9th of May

What: Gone for a Burton will be available in both cask conditioned and keg formats, limited complimentary cheese matches will also be available.

On Thursday the 9th of May we will be holding the first Southstar Launch Party. The Twisted Hop / Southstar Gone for a Burton will be pouring from a pin lovingly tended and ripened by Yorkshireman,  cask lover and all round top bloke Dan Hargraves. We will also have it pouring cold and fizzy from the keg. I will be providing a complimentary cheese  match. See you there!

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Gone for a Burton Brew Trip

My collaboration brew with The Twisted Hop began after a conversation between Twisted Hop partner and brewer Martin Bennett and myself about the new brewhouse they have had built by Christchurch firm Falcon and Hammersley. Martin invited me down to stay with himself and his wife Lisa (1)  at their lovely Tai Tapu farmhouse in the country on the way to Banks Peninsular and to put down a collaboration brew to try out the hardware.Image I also used it as an opportunity to run a beer and cheese tasting at the new woolston Twisted Hop pub , the first time their upstairs room has been used for a tasting.

After a quick flight down to Christchurch, and Imagea quick visit to 4 Aves brewery to taste a batch of contract brewed beer I have in the tank for Waikanae and pick up some excess hops it was on to the Woolston Hop to prepare for the evenings tasting. The Woolston Hop is the creation of Martin’s business partner Stephen Hardman and his wife Clare. The Woolston hop is in a post quake built building and doesn’t have quite the same old world charm of the old Poplar Lanes pub, at the time I tweeted that it was newer and fresher than the old Twsited Hop just like the emerging face of the new Christchuch. Before the tasting I tried a few of The Twisted Hop beers. Challenger was tasting the best it ever has with some lovely caramel and toffee accented malt character backed up with earthy spicy hop flavours, and the newly introduced PacificKolsch tasting crisp and refreshing and far more traditional than I was expecting considering the sole use of NZ Pacifica hops . They also had the newly brewed Nokabollokov Imperial stout on cask which was drier than i remembered the last lot being with some wonderful roasty dark chocolate flavours and a long dry finish.
The tasting was a big success and everyone present seemed to enjoy themselves. We had a range of great cheeses supplied by the awesome Canterbury Cheesemongers and matched to Twisted Hop beers with a sprinkling of others thrown in for good measure.  Then it was out into the country to the Bennett’s lifestyle block and a few late night water chemistry calculations over a whisky or two, probably a whisky or two to many!

Image Crack of dawn next day and we were shaking our groggy heads and driving through the country towards  The Twisted Hop Brewery located in Wigram on the outskirts of Christchuch. The new Twisted Hop Brewery is an impressively shiny 1200L set up. Rather than a auger the mill is located on a platform above a hopper above the mash tun. We climbed into the heavens and milled the grist.

ImageWe used New Zealand mild malt from malteurope , a base malt I have been getting great results with recently, alongside dark crystal, amber , a touch of wheat and a touch of dehusked carafa. The brew was meant to use patent but we were still waiting on the courier to deliver it! Predictably the patent arrived just to late to be used meaning the carafa got the call!

ImageThe Twisted Hop brewery uses a Steeles Masher something I had never used before. Rather than automated rakes, or humanly powered paddles the masher blends grist and liquor in a chamber and squirts the mash into the mash tun.  The result was extremely effective and required very little (make that no) effort and almost no stress. I was impressed. After mashing in Martin’s American assistant brewer Edward Valenta (2) arrived.Image

A quick breakfast of coffee and it was time to sparge and run off. At this point we were still waiting for the hops to arrive.  Unlike the patent malt this time the hops came in the nick of time. Gone for a Burton started its life as a recipe designed to cater to the tastes of my beautiful partner Sarah. As such it combined big malt,big English and New Zealand hop aromas and flavours and the orangey Fuller’s yeast character.  The final recipe included NZ Goldings, UK Northdown and NZ Cascade in the boil while the hopback was charged with whole flower NZ Pacifica and US Cascade.


ImageOne interesting feature of the Twisted Hop Brewhouse is the window on the kettle that allows the brewers to actually see what is going on in the vessel, a quirky and fascinating feature.
Breweries often have precarious set ups for adding hops to the boil, at Emerson’s the 1200L kettle is charged with hops by the brewer ‘throwing’ the hops down from the gantry above. At the Twisted Hop, hops are added  to the kettle by hanging from the ladder to the malt store and tipping the hops through the hatch to the kettle. Gloves must be worn as hot steam escaping the kettle scalds the brewers arm.

After a little extra boiling to get the gravity to where it needed to be we charged the Imagehopback and ran the hot wort through a bed of hops infusing the wort with fruity hop flavours and aromas.  Finally the wort ran through the heat exchanger and into the traditional open topped ale fermentor. Then it was time to do what real brewing is all about clean! Martin has managed to never actually have to climb into the kettle and clean it himself, there has always been either Ed or other brewers like myself to handle the hot and sweaty job. One of the great features of the plant is that the entire lid to the kettle lifts off meaning that the unlucky brewer doesn’t have crawl through a tight hatch (sometimes a challenge for my ‘solid’ frame)  and can stand upright while cleaning. The mash needed to be shoveled out into buckets ready for a local farmer to collect. Here the absence of rake arms does mean that removing the spent grain is all down to the might of the brewer!




Finally we pitched the yeast into the brew before relaxing in the bright and sunny brewhouse over a few beers.  Then it was back to Martin’s for dinner via Lincoln to have a look at the site that will soon host the second Twisted Hop pub. The Lincoln hop will feature the old Poplar lanes brew plant and produce small runs of beers at the brewery as well as sourcing beer from the production brewery in Wigram. The battle to achieve the permissions necessary to build the pub has been significant although it seems they are winning the war. After dinner more beers were consumed and more whisky, I luckily was sleeping alone so my drunken snoring affected no one!
It was a whirlwind trip to Christchurch but an undeniably successful one. A huge thanks needs to go to the crew at both the brewery and at the Woolston Hop and to my hosts Martin and Lisa. Look out for Gone for a Burton on cask in Christchurch and on keg in Wellington in the next couple of months. Cheers!




1- Lisa is not only the organisational power that keeps the business on track but she is also not afraid to don overalls and work on the brewfloor !

2- Ed is a former engineer who grew tired of working for a potato chip producer and ended up doing a whole range of jobs for Boston’s Harpoon Brewery before travelling to NZ and sharing his talents between The Twisted Hop and the customers at Pomeroys. Unfortunately for Martin, Ed will be returning to the States when his visa expires.

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Coastal Brewing

It’s now a very poorly kept secret that I am involved in a project to install a brewery at sunset-waikanaeWaikanae on the Kapiti Coast.  I have been visiting Waikanae my whole life, visiting my grandparents. My grandfather still lives on the hill looking out to Kapiti Island. Like many in Wellington as I have grown a little older I have dreamt of moving up the coast and living the good life. A couple of years ago my partner Sarah purchased a ¼ acre of land and a small bach by the river and shortly after the guys that own Longbeach, a very successful pub/cafe/restaurant at the beach approached me about hatching a plan to open a brewery in Waikanae.  The planets aligning. Fast forward to today and we are searching for a site, brewing beer under contract and preparing our finance. We are in the questionable situation of currently having beer but not as yet having a name!
The first of our beers is already pouring on the coast , from Longbeach and Raumati Social Club. Hoppy Wheat was brewed for us at Townshend’s in the Moutere Valley.  The beer is a bit of a mash up taking the wheat heavy grist and clean fermentation of an American Wheat Ale, the bright aromatic New Zealand hop character of a New Zealand Pilsner and a pinch of Witbier spicing. The result is quenching, complex and hoppy. The first batch is a little more alcoholic and bitter than was intended but we will get the attenuation right on the second one.
Next week we will brew a second beer Amber at 4 Aves in Christchurch. Amber is again a bit of a fusion combining the drinkability and malt backbone of a strong English tawny mild , with the clean fermentation , and bright new world hop aromas of an American Amber Ale.
Finally the core range will be rounded off with a new world kolsch combining bright NZ hop aromas  and crisp drinkability (think Kolsch meets NZ Pilsner). Beyond the bread and butter beers there will be a range of Belgian and Anglo influenced seasonals. Southstar will not end as a brand either, there will still be Southstar beers coming out of the Waikanae brewery and hopefully popping up on bars from time to time.
I’m certainly not packing in the day job anytime soon but hopefully we are heading in an interesting and for me very exciting direction. Cheers!

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Gone for a Burton

As I type this the Southstar pilot plant is slowly climbing towards a boil trialing a beer thatboil will be brewed as a collaboration with The Twisted Hop Brewery in Christchurch early next month. The beer in question is going to be in the Burton Ale Style, a type of beer that has largely passed from the earth and has whose name has most definitely passed from the lexicon of most modern drinkers.  Burton Ale was one of the standard draught beers you would find in an English pub up until the Second World War. The style disappeared very quickly and now most people would associated the world Burton with IPA and pale ale beers alone. Burton Ales were rich and malty , through the first ½ of the 20th century dark, and had big hop characters. There are a few examples left today, usually lumped into the catch all styles of Old Ale or Strong Ale. Historians Martyn Cornell and Ron Pattinson have done much to raise the style’s profile. Burton was always popular in London and Fullers not only produce a year round version 1845 but also have produced two Burtons in the Past Master Series.

The Southstar/Twisted Hop interpretation of the style will be a fitting blend of the new and old world, a mixture of New Zealand and English hops will take place alongside NZ Mild Malt, English Amber, Crystal and a touch of wheat and black malts, all tied together with the yeast that originated at the Fuller’s Brewery . The beer will be available as an autumnal release  both in cask conditioned form at the Woolston Hop, and in keg form in Wellington.

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Temple of the Morning Star


These days my home brewery is mainly used for trial brewing beers that at one time or another will be brewed commercially.  Recently I have been trialling a best bitter recipe in the form of NOVA, it’s had some very positive feedback from those who have tasted it, its a style I am very experienced with and have had some success with in the past. I am also working on my Belgian brewing skills, an area I have very little experience in and have a Strong Belgian Golden Ale that I am preparing to brew as I type. Named Temple of the Morning Star I am brewing it very much to style by using two different yeast strains, splitting the batch and fermenting each portion with a different strain and then blending them back together. The classic of the style Duvel does it this way , I’m not sure I will be able to do this commercially when the time comes but perhaps I will, or perhaps I will just have to pitch both strains. The beer will unconventionally be hopped exclusively with my favourite New Zealand hop variety Super Alpha.

There is a convention that Belgian Strong Golden Ales have dark, evil or roguish names after the pioneer Duvel which means Devil in Flemish. Those with a knowledge of 90’s Noisecore, the direct English definition of the Latin word Lucifer and perhaps most niche of all my tattoos will get the name and how it fits the convention.   Fingers crossed for a trouble free brewday. 

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Southstar on Desert Island Beers

Southstar on Desert Island Beers

I took part in the Desert Island Beer blog recently , follow the link to see what I would choose. 

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