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. 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 a 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!
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.
We 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!
The 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.
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.
One 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 hopback 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.