Beervana nirvana: the outtakes

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So you may have seen I got shouted a trip to Wellington to write a preview article about Beervana. Yes, it was all paid for. Yes, it was fun. Yes, I had to write an article for work in exchange for all the free stuff. Call it ‘sponsored content’ or ‘a famil’ or ‘a junket’ or ‘a perk of the job’ – it is what it is.

But I had so much more I wanted to write about than I could fit in 2000 words. Heck, I’m surprised they ran the full 2000 words in the newspaper. I figured some of the stuff was too interesting to keep to myself, so I’ve decided to put it all here. Think of this like the outtakes from a Jackie Chan movie, but with far less swearing, fewer broken bones, not as many laughs, and no one getting paid.

*Go to Salt and Wood Collective. Eat the brisket. But be different –  match it with something Belgian. I’m sure North End head brewer Kieran Haslett-Moore will love you for it.

*A conversation with Kelly Ryan of Fork Brewing is always a good time, especially when he starts geeking out about beer. Our chat started (over a pint of his D.R.A.F.T ) with the sour beer explosion. He reckons we’ve only scratched the surface of what brewers will do with sour styles. “It took people a long time to make a good IPA in a lot of countries. The same thing is happening with sour beers. We’ve probably all had the experience when they’ve not been what we thought they would be when we brewed them. It’s a road of discovery.”

It was also a great chance to try his Tainted Love and Yogurt & Bruseli side-by-side, and have him talk about about how different kinds of acids (citric in the former, lactic in the latter) and alcoholic strength impacts how sour beer is perceived on the palate. I couldn’t get over how much more face-puckering Tainted Love was, even though Yogurt & Bruseli has a lower pH.

We had a good yarn about how science can seem a bit dull to high school students, until they know what you can actually do with it (e.g. make crazy beer). Science was always a bore me in high school, hence why I dropped it as soon as I could to gain more time in the music department – although I did sit maths all the way to Year 13/Form 7. But having someone like Kelly, who studied food technology, come along and speak about applied science could have seen me take a completely different career path. It is something he appeared passionate about and keen to do, but he doubts schools would ever let him go in to talk about his job due to the societal stigma around anything involving both alcohol and young people.

*Want an awesome black IPA? Go to Black Dog and get a pint of the latest batch of Pango Kuri. They call it an American stout, but the glass I had while paying them a visit was hoppy as fuck.

*Have you seen ParrotDog’s branding recently? Their products now pop off the shelf like zits on the end of a nose. I thought their RareBird series looked great, but they went next level with the Flora range. However, it is the tweak of the core beers which left me the most impressed. A few simple touches (swapping the position of the style & beer names around, the plain white background, making things simpler) made the bottles easier to read, easier to see and more attractive to the eye. 

Oh, and the beer is tasting awesome. I still can’t get over how big their mini-APA ClippedWing feels. I wasn’t surprised when Wattie Watson said it had been sent away for testing by the judges at the AIBAs after taking out best in class. The results came back at exactly 3.5 per cent ABV.

*Go to Tuatara Brewing. Do the beer and cheese matching. Ask for the match they do with Sauvinova.

*I knew almost nothing about Duncan’s before I paid company overlord George Duncan a visit at his house in Raumati Beach. Sure, I had seen his beers on the shelf at my local bottle shop, but I had never even picked them up before. But I’ll be drinking those beers much more often now, if only because George is one of the coolest people I met on the trip. He just had this infectious laid-back excitement about everything. It’s hard to explain, and probably experienced best in person.

His story from student to contract brewer is a bit of a random ride. “I was studying music at Vic and needed and extra paper to complete my degree. So I took on a first-year chemistry paper. A bio-chemistry friend tutored me, and he was also a beer brewer.”

A year living in Canada, and some quick stops over the border into the USA, showed him just what beer could be. “I was into beer before going to North America, but drinking craft beer there really got me into it.”

The Raumati Social Club soon heard he was making beer at home, and invited him to put a keg on. So, two years ago, he put down his first brew at Massey University’s brewery in Palmerston North. From there, he has contracted at various locations, with his latest batches of pilsner and pale ale brewed at mike’s in Taranaki (although how long that will last is anyone’s guess at the moment).

Brewing fits in perfectly with George’s ethos of making things and sharing them with people, and his love of keeping busy. He works in construction, runs Duncan’s, home brews, writes music, renovates his house, cooks meals for all his mates and makes his own charcuterie. Others would call that really bloody busy, but he just laughs it off with his trademarkable massive grin.

“I’m the sort of person who just likes doing lots of stuff.”