I never thought I might find a sideline as a T-shirt designer. Well, a few months back, I launched the Craft Queer Project, which was a roaring success, I’m happy to say.
Not long after that, a friend of mine was telling me about an awesome T-shirt she’d seen a guy wearing. She’d tried to order one for herself online, but the shop was sold out. This was the brilliant Alpacalypse T-shirt from Threadless (which is in stock again, by the way).
Now this was at Marchfest, and I’d had a few beers. So maybe I wasn’t thinking straight. Anyway, at the time, I loftily promised to design her very own, custom Alpacalypse T-shirt.
Well, it’s taken a few months (because I basically forgot about the project), but…
The woolly beasts of burden have had enough! They’re out for blood and they’re on the rampage… THROUGH WELLINGTON!
Now, if Hollywood has taught us anything, it’s that a good film needs a sequel. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, the horror, the suspense, the spectacle of…
Due to popular demand, Alpacalypse and Llamageddon T-shirts are available from my Print Mighty store. You’ll notice they’re slightly cheaper than the other shirts. I’ve opted to print them on the lower quality cotton to achieve a faster-wearing ‘vintage’ effect.
As always, custom pieces are available on request.
No further sequels are in production at the moment. Although there are more members of the Camelid family yet to be exploited…
Bactrian to the Future, anyone?
Longevity is not the same thing as quality, especially in the beer industry. After all, Tui has been around for donkey’s years. I set out to learn which ‘craft’ brewery is the oldest because of a realisation that I could think of at least five breweries that were all trying to claim the title in one way or another. Frankly, I didn’t believe any of them. Heritage is perceived as a valuable marketing tool and it’s no surprise that several different outfits are vying for the position oldest ‘craft’ brewery.
But which one really is the oldest? Let’s take a look at the contenders. But first, some terms:
Oldest – I’m defining oldest as: “The brewery that has operated as a commercial brewing entity continuously for the longest period of time”. By ‘commercial brewing entity’ I mean a business that has been making beer under a ‘brand’ name. To put it simply – was the brewery, throughout the history they claim, making beer; and could I reasonably expect to go and buy one?
The reason I’m defining it this way is because all the breweries I’m going to look at in the course of this article have changed hands at least once in their history. What I want to do is differentiate between breweries that have been sold and continued operating as essentially the same business, and breweries that have changed ownership and subsequently become a new brewery altogether.
An illustration of the difference would be the cases of Emerson’s and Monkey Wizard. Both were sold to new owners, but Emerson’s stayed Emerson’s. You can drink the same beers, with the same label. You can go to the Emerson’s Brewery.
Monkey Wizard on the other hand, as soon as it was sold, ceased to be Monkey Wizard. You could no longer reasonably expect to go and buy a Monkey Wizard beer and you can’t go to the Monkey Wizard Brewery. Instead, you can go to the Hop Federation brewery. It’s a whole new entity, making a different range of beers under a different name. Monkey Wizard was founded 2006. Hop Federation uses the same premises and equipment as Monkey Wizard, but it would not be reasonable for Hop Federation to claim to have been founded 2006 (and very sensibly, they don’t).
Apologies for going on at length about this, but the distinction will become important later on.
‘Craft’ – I’ve always put that word in quotation marks because there is no agreed on definition of the term, nor do I ever think there will be one. I’m using it here as a collective term to broadly describe beers that are part of the ‘craft/boutique brewing sector’.
As such, these beers are not separable from the rest of the market in any quantifiable manner. ‘Craft’ beer isn’t definable according to quality, ownership, production method, style, or any other measurable way. Instead I’m using the ‘Obscenity Method’: what is ‘craft’ beer? I can’t describe it, but I know it when I see it.
Some people may take issue with this approach. If that’s the case, I make no apology. These are my opinions and yours may differ. Caveat lector.
So let’s get down to assessing some of the cases for New Zealand’s oldest ‘craft’ brewer. Let’s start with the easiest to dispel.
Hancock & Co. Brewing
How it stacks up: complete bullshit.
Hancock Brewing was indeed founded in 1859. It was in Auckland. Importantly it was one of the ten breweries that merged to become New Zealand Breweries, and ultimately the company known today as Lion.
As such, the company that was Hancock is still operating (as Lion), but Hancock itself ceased to exist as commercial brewing entity. So why is it back?
Well, Lion sold the brand which it still owned the rights of, and new beers were launched under the name, brewed under contract at McCashin’s in Nelson. So as a commercial brewing entity, the Hancock of today can only claim to have existed since 2011.
The claim: 1854, from their website.
How it stacks up: Also bullshit.
If you read their ‘history‘ page, you could easily believe that the Duncans/Dodsons have been handing down a brewery from generation to generation for over a century. They haven’t.
As before, there is a grain of historical truth in this one: an ancestor of the contemporary founder of Founders brewery did indeed have a brewery, although he didn’t found it, he bought into it.
Joseph R. Dodson bought into Hooper & Co., a Nelson brewery. He later then sold these shares and leased the Bridge Street Brewery, only to buy back into Hooper and Co. a few years later.
In 1879 the name of the brewery was changed to J.R. Dodson and Sons and the story runs more or less as the website claims, until 1944 when it merges with the Raglan Brewery (which Dodson Senior had also helped set up) to become Nelson Breweries Limited.
Nelson Breweries operated until 1969, when it was bought out by DB and closed down completely. This is where the dynasty ends and Founders start playing fast and loose with the truth.
When the website claims that Nick Duncan was brewing from 1969-2004, this is technically true, but he wasn’t brewing for Founders, he was brewing for DB, at Tui and elsewhere. This is a bit of a sneaky claim, akin to if Fork Brewing claimed to have been established in 2001 – the year brewer Kelly Ryan also went to work for Tui. Similarly, the claim on the website that John R. Duncan has been brewing since 1987 is also misleading: he was brewing for Mac’s between 1987-1999.
The modern entity that is Founders Brewery, now owned by Asahi, was started from scratch in 1999 by John Duncan. The supposed heritage claimed by the website actually spans five breweries and disguises a gap of 40 years.
The claim: Founded by Stewart Monteith in 1868.
How it stacks up: More bullshit, but not necessarily in the way you might expect.
Stewart Monteith didn’t found a brewery in 1868, he took one over – the Phoenix Brewery in Reefton. Through various mergers and closures, we end up with the Westland Brewery, which was absorbed into Dominion Brewing in 1969.
So in a certain manner, some sort of brewing has been happening out of what is now the Monteith’s brewery for over a century. But the Monteith’s that we know of today, although having the appearance of a family-owned brewery that has been been taken over by a corporate brewer (a la Mac’s and Emerson’s), was a was itself entirely an invention of DB. They took a name from history, stuck it on the wall and said it had always been so. As such, the ‘commercial brewing entity’ that is Monteith’s has only existed since 1990.
The claim: 1981
How it stacks up: Accurate, but…
Mac’s was indeed started in 1981 by Terry McCashin. It was the first independently owned brewery to open since Lion and DB had set about closing down or pushing out all of New Zealand’s small breweries decades before.
As such, it is fantastically important part of New Zealand brewing history. I don’t want to understate the importance of Mac’s to the contemporary beer industry. I recommend you read Michael Donaldson (2012) and John McCrystal and Simon Farrell-Green (2013, see bibliography) to learn more about it.
But was it a ‘craft’ brewery? I don’t really think so. Certainly not by modern standards. Which isn’t to say that Mac’s couldn’t have become a contemporary ‘craft’ brewery; I just don’t think it ever did.
In 1999 Mac’s was sold to Lion, which doesn’t rule it out of being a ‘craft’ brewery (look at Emerson’s). In fact many have said the quality of beer improved after the sale; another reason I’m reluctant to grant early Mac’s the ‘craft’ moniker.
It’s not that Mac’s is owned by Lion. Nor is it that the beers are no longer made in their traditional location in Nelson. Nor is it the fact that they are now brewed in several different locations that churn out products for a range of different labels, all owned by the same conglomerate. Nor is it even the fact that all character and personality (both literal and figurative) has been divorced from the beer so that it now exists only as part of ‘brand portfolio’ with a marketing team behind it. It’s none of those things. It’s kind of all of those things together.
Don’t get me wrong, I bear no ill will towards Lion (I applauded them at the BrewNZ Awards a few weeks back), and I don’t dislike the Mac’s beers. I’d drink a Hoprocker over quite a few ‘craft’ beers of less reliable quality. We’re just back to the old situation of ‘I know it when I see it’ and when I look at Mac’s, I don’t see it. I see a ‘brand portfolio’, consisting of reliably faultless, not very inspiring, but basically fine beers. And that’s OK.
Of course feel free to disagree with me on this one. If Mac’s fits your own internal obscenity definition, then call it case closed. I can’t and won’t argue with you. If like me, you want to keep digging, then read on.
The claim: 1981
How it stacks up: I won’t say bullshit on this one, but it’s not the whole truth.
According to the website, McCashin’s was started in 1981 by Terry McCashin. It was the first independently owned brewery to open since Lion and DB had set about closing down or pushing out all of New Zealand’s small breweries decades before and if you’re getting the feeling that you’ve heard this story before, then you’re not wrong.
This is the story of Mac’s. So what’s the deal?
As we’ve established, Mac’s was sold in 1999. Note – this was the brand only, the brewery premises (the old Rochdale Cider Factory) remained in the hands of Terry. A ten year restraint on trade was put on Terry, and his sons Dean and Todd.
Mac’s was brewed in Nelson by Lion from Rochdale until 2004, when it was moved elsewhere and the plant was mothballed. No brewing would take place here by anyone for several years.
Fast forward to 2009, and the restraint on trade on Dean ends. He and his wife Emma take over the brewery location and equipment from Terry and Bev. They started a brewery called ‘McCashin’s Brewery’, and launch a new range of beers in 2010 under the name of ‘Stoke by the McCashin Family’.
Now this company claims to have been brewing since 1981. That’s not technically true. What is true is that the equipment they use was commissioned in 1981 (in fact the premises dates back even further, to the 1940’s). However no trace of any company trading as McCashin’s Brewery or making beer under the name McCashin or from the Rochdale Cider Factory can be found before 2009. All intellectual property associated with McCashin’s Brewery and indeed the company that owns it (660 Main Road Stoke Limited) are registered from 2009 onwards.
We’re back to the Monkey Wizard situation – existing brewery premises, but a new brewery operating out of it. With this in mind, and the fact that no beer was commercially brewed at Rochdale for a period of seven years – therefore failing the ‘can I go buy one of their beers?’ test; the claim of McCashin’s Brewery to be the oldest ‘craft’ brewery doesn’t quite hold up.
So it’s at this point we reach the end of breweries who claim to be either ‘first’, ‘oldest’ or ‘Established [1800-and-something–something]’, and yet we are still no closer to finding a satisfactory answer to our original question.
But I can think of two other potential candidates that are worth investigating.
Sunshine Brewery was started in 1989 in Gisborne by Geoff Logan and Gerry Maude. They made a handful of beers, notably Gisborne Gold (Lager), Gisborne Green (Pilsner) and Black Magic (Stout). I’ve always had a soft spot for Sunshine – I drank a lot of Gisborne Gold in my formative years at university.
In 2013, Sunshine was sold to Martin Jakicevich, the operations expanded and a revamped range of very nice beers was launched, including the revival of several classics of their range, such as Black Magic.
White Cliffs Brewery
White Cliffs, better known under the name Mike’s Brewery Also started in 1989, by Mike Johnson in Urenui, Taranaki. They made one beer back then, Mike’s Mild Ale, which was apparently praised by Michael Jackson and is still available today. White Cliffs has changed hands twice in its history – in 2003 to Stephen Ekdahl and Sharol Cottam, then again in 2007 to Ron Trigg.
Ron has turned the old brewery into a stalwart of the contemporary beer scene.
So we have two breweries both started in 1989. Digging through online records wasn’t much help. So I got in touch with the current owners of both breweries. Whilst no documentation of exactly when beer was first sold could be found, anecdotally, we might have an answer: Sunshine was first brewing in September 1989, with first beer sales happening a few weeks before Christmas (end of November/start of December). White Cliffs on the other hand, was brewing test batches in June/July the same year, with first sales happening in mid-September.
So it seems that White Cliffs/Mike’s wins out by two months, which in brewing terms (And certainly brewer-founding terms) is a nose. With this in mind, perhaps the gentlemanly thing to do would be share the title between them. In the end what makes me happiest is not that both breweries have been around a long time, but that today they are both making great beer.
Names, dates, places and other assertions have been pulled from:
Gordon McLauchlan, Beer and Brewing – A New Zealand History, 1994, Penguin Books.
John McCrystal & Simon Farrell-Green, The First Craft Beer: The McCashin’s Story and the Kiwi Brewing Revolution it Sparked, 2013, Random House.
Jules Van Cruysen, Brewed: A Guide to the Craft Beer of New Zealand, 2015, Potton & Burton.
Kerry Tyack, Kerry Tyack’s Guide to Breweries and Beer in New Zealand, 1999, New Holland Publishers.
Michael Donaldson, Beer Nation: The Art & Heart of Kiwi Beer, 2012, Penguin Group.
The following websites were also useful:
Other websites are linked in the main body of this article.
Let’s talk about beer reviews.
A friend and I have a running joke: if she was ever to start a beer blog, it would be called “This Beer is Nice”. Every single post would be the name of the beer with a single sentence: “This beer is nice”. Alternatively, if she didn’t like it, it would say “This beer is not nice”.
And when you get down to brass tacks, that’s kind of what all beer reviews do. Some do it with more words, some with fewer. Some with greater technical acumen, others with less. But in the end, it all comes down to a subjective opinion on whether someone likes a beer or not (“This beer is nice”).
And you know what? That’s fine. I don’t want to put anyone off contributing to the public discourse of beer in New Zealand. But beer reviews definitely need to be taken with a grain of salt, and a fairly large one at that.
Brewers reading beer reviews should consider the relative reliability of the source. A reviewer who has spent years in the industry, has brewing experience, or has beer judging experience/certified BJCP or Cicerone (I’m thinking of Phil Cook of The Beer Diary and Greig McGill from the short lived Awkward Beer Reviews), will probably give more accurate and constructive feedback than some schmo who’s decided to put their opinions on the internet.
Likewise, consumers need to be wary of taking any reviewer’s opinions as gospel. There are writers out there (like Greig and Phil) whose opinions I regard highly. At the same time, I know that my particular palate is quite different to both of theirs, so just because one of them likes a beer, I don’t automatically assume I will as well.
I recommend either finding a beer reviewer whose particular tastes overlap with your own. Or better yet, try everything and decide for yourself. Be your own beer reviewer. Start a blog even. I encourage everyone to take part in the conversation about beer in this country.
But you really do need to be wary of and acknowledge the limits of your own subjectivity (and I’m talking to the writers out there, both present and future). I’ve always struggled with writers who give reviews without qualifying them as opinion, particularly if they’re using a numerical/star rating.
If you want to assign beers a score according to your own system, that’s fine, but keep in mind one thing: In the end, someone writing “this beer scores 4.3 bottlecaps out of 5,” may sound intelligent, but it really isn’t any more valid than some loon, on his knees behind a table, burbling into a can of Kauri Falls.
Just for the record, I think Kauri Falls is pretty excellent. Ten ‘gurgles’ out of ‘hurgh’. But that’s just my opinion. Your mileage may vary.
Who went to Beervana this year? Did you all have as excellent a time as I did? Were all the the beers you tried absolute blinders? Did you feel that the vibe was on point and the effort from the vendors top notch? Were you stoked that the southerly wasn’t blowing, so the stadium was actually at a temperature humans could inhabit? Good on the organisers for sorting that one out.
In all seriousness, I was very impressed with Beervana this year and I’m stoked to see what next year will bring. Well done to Sarah Miekle, The Wellington Culinary Events Trust, Beth Brash, the breweries, restaurants, and of course everyone else who contributed in in any way, shape or form.
I had a great time, and so to did a lot of visitors to this city – Wellington was chock full of Aussies, Brits, Americans and of course, New Zealanders from every corner of the country. And here lies the only tiny little blotch on the whole event. A small group of people; I don’t know who or from where (and I really don’t care) came into town, visited various bars and left behind these little cards:
These are pretty serious claims, which I like to repudiate. Before I begin, I must point out, none of these cards were left at Golding’s. They were however, left at Hashigo Zake, Malthouse, Bethel Woods and Little Beer Quarter. As such, the views I’m going to put out in this post are entirely my own and do not represent those of my employer.
At the same time, I feel it is appropriate for me to comment because Golding’s uses the same pricing formula (give or take) as all these other bars. I am the person who sets the prices of different products at the bar. By extension then, these people are accusing me, personally, of ripping off our punters. I take exception to that.
What You Got Right:
Yes, you are correct. 425 ml does not fit any official definition of a ‘pint’. There are several different definitions of a ‘pint’, which vary depending on where you are in the world and what you’re measuring. When it comes to beer, a ‘pint’ is technically either 568 ml (strangely, not the 562 ml mentioned on the card) or 473 ml (which, for the record is what Hashigo uses).
So technically, you are correct. Bully for you. But you’re also wrong: since we adopted the metric system in 1976, the definition of a ‘pint’ ceased to have any legal relevance. In the same way that I can’t sell you a ‘pound’ of butter or a ‘gallon’ of petrol, without telling you the relevant mass in grams or volume in litres, technically I can no longer sell you one ‘pint’. I have to sell you X number of millilitres.
But that’s not quite how modern language works and people still order ‘pints’ in bars. The difference is that now the common usage in New Zealand is that ‘pint’ means “the largest single-serving of beer you offer”. You may not like this usage. You can protest it until you’re blue in the face. But you won’t be able to change the way people use the term.
So congratulations, this make you the beer equivalent of King Canute, telling the tide to turn back. It ain’t gonna happen.
What You Got Wrong
Everything else. But let’s start with the assertion that you have been served “34% less beer for the same $”. This is utterly false.
Let’s have a quick talk about the price of beer. Basically, I’m going to give you two links: Stu’s breakdown of the cost of a Yeastie Boys Beer. Also useful is Dom Kelly’s breakdown of the pricing of different beers from Australia, New Zealand and the United States.
Basically, beers are priced according to margin. Breweries set the price of the keg, then we put on a retailer margin (~22%), and then GST on top of that. Now of that margin, it breaks down in various ways. The biggest cost that needs to cover is price of the beer. After that come staff wages, and following that, various other expenses, ranging from rent, to electricity, to freight on empty kegs, to sanitising solution for our dishwasher, to cloths for drying glasses, to food grade carbon dioxide bottles to push the beer through our taps and a million other things.
After all of these is profit. Now we are profitable. We need to be. We’re a business, and this is capitalism. You’ll have to take my word for it, but let me assure you, neither Golding’s, nor any other beer bar in Wellington will ever make its owners fabulously wealthy. I will never be a millionaire from working my job. Hell, I’ll probably never be able to own a house.
What I’m really getting at here though, is that beer prices work on a set margin, and this is calculated by the millilitre. So your assertion that you should get more beer for the same price is ludicrous. Working off a margin, if you wanted 568 ml of a beer that costs $10 for 425 ml, you would need to pay $13. If it was a more expensive beer, say a big Imported IPA that cost $12.5 a 425 ml, you’d be paying around $17 an imperial ‘pint’.
Now I’m perfectly willing to do that for you. Come in, tell me who you are, tell me you want an imperial ‘pint’, and I will make a product item in our till system just for you. But you better be willing to pay, because if you think you should be getting a 568 ml serving for the same price as 425 ml, then you are delusional. That’s not how mathematics work.
“But Dylan,” I hear you say, “In XYZ town/city, I can get an imperial ‘pint’ of the same beer for less than $13”. Yes, this is true; I quite enjoy going to Nelson or Christchurch and paying slightly less for beer. The reason for this is because of variation in local economies. Just like the cost of rent changes from city to city – renting a two bedroom house in central Wellington or Auckland will cost you much more than a similar house in Hamilton – the cost of beer will vary from place to place (in fact rent is one of the big factors).
If you’d like a more dramatic illustration of this, then all you need to do is step over the Tasman. I’ve met Australians who have been astounded that they can get a Coopers for the same price (or even cheaper) in New Zealand than they can at home. On the other hand, in parts of America you can pick up a ‘pint’ (of the 473 ml type) for the equivalent of $4-6, plus tax and tip.
But the most extreme example I’ve personally come across is Norway. In Oslo I paid the equivalent of $18 for what amounted to 300 ml of 7% beer (I was almost never served a ‘pint’ in Scandinavia). And you know what? I didn’t feel the need to complain. Because that’s how the world works. If I can’t deal with that fact, that’s my problem, not the operators of the Norwegian bars and restaurants I visited.
If you really can’t enjoy a beer because because it came in the wrong glass size, for slightly more than you might pay elsewhere, then I don’t think you’re a good Beer Geek. In my books you’re a pain in the arse with entitlement issues. But enough of this. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.
Why I’m So Angry
This really boils down to two things. First of all, the way the message was delivered. Note cards? Dropped on the table as you scarpered? What are you? An emo 16 year old? A passive aggressive flatmate, leaving notes for everyone around the house before locking themselves in their room?
That’s not how adults should behave. If you have criticism for someone, you discuss it privately, in person or via message. Or, you could face up to your peers and state it in a public forum. God knows I spend a decent part of this blog criticising people in the beer industry, but I sign my name to it. On the left hand side of this page is a link to my Twitter, where anyone can contact me.
Dropping an anonymous note is cowardly. But even this isn’t what annoys me the most. What really gets me going is the accusation that I, or any of my fellow Bartenders/Owners/Managers are deliberately, maliciously, ripping people off.
I am an honest human being. If nothing else, let that be the last thing they say about me. When I’m gone, put that on my gravestone. You’re accusing us of setting out to swindle. I wouldn’t do that to a stranger, and our customers aren’t strangers to us. They’re our friends. You think we’re being greedy when we set our prices? I assure you we’re not. I spend a big chunk of my week buried in the company accounts. I know the numbers inside-out.
Yes, we make money. We’re businesses, not charities. We need to make money if we’re to survive. Because this is our livelihood. Each bar has at least half-to-a-dozen employees who also rely on their jobs to live. And it’s not just us. It’s the whole damn industry – the distributors, the logistics companies, the brewers, the hop and malt growers, the brewery equipment manufacturers and thousands of other invisible people cash their paychecks when you buy a beer. To be sustainable everyone down the line needs to make money, or the whole thing doesn’t work.
But if you honestly think that the markup is too much, feel free to open your own bar in Wellington. Charge what you think it should cost. Put us all out of business even. Be our guest.
Мы вас похороним.
Hallelujah, I’ve hit the big time! Yes, at last I’ve been recognised as a legit-grownup-journalist. No, I’m not finally getting paid to write this. Official recognition has come in another form: a Beervana Media Brew.
This is an annual competition in which journalists and breweries collaborate on a beers, which are then served at Wellington’s biggest beer festival, Beervana (which I’ve written at length about here, here, here, here, and here). The journos then drum up publicity by talking about the beers on their respective platforms. This year I am to join the illustrious company of journos from Stuff, Dish, the Manawatu Standard, and Fishhead Magazine to create a unique beer you can try at this year’s Beervana.
Alright, I’ll be fair. I’m also going head to head with Ben Irwin and Patrick Gower; which is a sentence I never thought I’d find myself writing on this blog…
“I’ve got an idea… It’s a bit weird though.”
Which brewery was I to be collaborating with? Turns out, I’d been paired with Wild & Woolly. Wild & Woolly is a new player in the brewery scene and run by Llew Bardecki, one of the most talented off-the-wall brewers in the country. He also happens to be one of my closest friends in the beer scene. Perfect.
The collaboration process for us was a lot of fun and mainly involved me wandering into the brewery where Llew was working, and the both of us throwing ideas at the wall to see what would stick. And we had a lot of very strange ideas. The theme this year is “Can the Flag Debate”, which isn’t bad as themes go, because it’s broad enough that you can basically do anything you feel like and then retcon a justification for it.
So here’s our pitch:
Changing the flag? Barely seems worth it. But since we seem to be committed, I guess we may as well make a go of it. I actually wouldn’t mind changing to something a little more culturally relevant. I mean the current one is a bit of an old colonial rag, isn’t it? I would quite happily leave behind the trappings of Britishness and start again with something that reflects the multiculturalism of New Zealand.
And let’s finally admit that our ancestors nicked this country off some people that had one hell of a better claim to it. Then perhaps we can do a proper job of making amends for that fact. And let’s change the name from ‘New Zealand’ to ‘Aotearoa’…
Oh, sorry, getting off topic.
Our beer starts as a strong Scotch Ale. Then, as a symbol of protest and rejection of colonialism, we took Britain’s favourite beverage, tea, and set fire to it.
A portion of the beer’s malt bill was hot-smoked using Dilmah’s finest Ceylon.
The normal process for smoking malt is to cold-smoke it, but time and equipment were limited in this instance.
I’ve done a fair amount of hot-smoking, usually with meat and wood smoke. Smoking with tea is a whole new experience for me. The aroma coming out of the smoker when I turned the burner on was amazing. At first it smelt like someone brewing a cuppa, then, as the moist tea began to smoke, it smelt like I was sitting by a campfire, brewing a pot of tea after a long tramping expedition. Delicious.
The tea-smoked malt was mashed into the beer with the rest of the grain and everything continued as usual. That is until we reach the boil. Instead of hops (another import from the UK, we wanted to use a New Zealand native equivalent. Specifically a New Zealand equivalent to the tea that we had just burnt – Tea Tree, better know to us as Manuka.
We threw 300 grams of fresh Manuka tips into the boil, at about the time hops would normally be added to the beer (and in direct violation of Patent no. 519778).
Again, the aromas that come out of the kettle at this stage were fabulous. I remember saying to Llew that if we capture half that aroma and flavour in the finished beer, it’ll be fantastic.
After chilling, we tried a little of the wort (unfermented beer) while running it into the fermenter. Whilst I don’t want to blow too hard on our own trumpet, but that wort was the most delicious I’ve ever made, possibly the most delicious I’ve ever tasted. Sweet, herbal, medicinal, with just a hint of smoke.
At time of writing, the beer is finished fermenting and is just about to go into the keg. It tastes excellent. I am really, really proud of this beer. The smoke has come forward a fair bit, and is completely unlike any other smoke character I’ve tasted in a beer. The beer is a little sweet, with a wonderful manuka flavour following (somewhere between banana and rose, with just a hint of menthol).
We’re calling the beer ‘Flag Burner’. It will be available at Beervana at the Media Brew Stand. There’s only 50 lites and no guarantee you’ll ever see this beer again, so if you’re going, seek it out.Fun fact: this taste of New Zealand was brought to you by a 1st gen Canadian and 2nd gen Swiss immigrant.
Every year at Golding’s we’ve run an event with Garage Project as an SPCA fundraiser. A sort of tap takeover/bring your dog to the pub day. This year was a raging success and collectively we raised over $6000 for the Wellington SPCA. Absolutely Stirling.
One of the things we decided to do was rename every beer on tap with dog/animal puns. Sounds easy enough. We’ll just change the name on the menu board, and that’s sorted. Oh, and I got asked very nicely, if I could please change the tap badges to make them more ‘doggy’.
Well now, messing around in Photoshop is one of my favourite ways to waste time when I should be doing more important things at work. We had eight beers to re-brand, plus one new beer that required all new art. Whilst some came out better than others, overall I’m pretty pleased with the end results (if I do say so myself). I thought I’d share them here.
Credit to Mattie, Ian and the Garage Team for the dog puns.
Death From Above
At Golding’s we use a rectangular tap badge, quite unlike what most other bars use. So my usual technique is to take bottle labels or posters, then crop and shrink them down to size. With Garage project I’m usually pretty blessed. They frequently commision artists to create unique label art. In this case, it’s Tim Gibson of Flying Whities who made the original:
And our version…
The original is designed by ALC, and features a boxing Russian Bear.
For out version, I nicked a wolf head from another piece of ALC art and popped it on the bear’s body (because wolves are dogs, right?).
Mon P’tit Chou
Mon P’tit Chou means “my little cabbage”.
The original art reminds me very much of the work of a wonderful artist Stasia Burrington. So I cycled through her portfolio to find something doggy that still had the right feeling basically stole it wholesale (sorry, it was for charity).
Mon P’tit Chien means ‘my little dog’. This badge presented an interesting challenge – typefaces. Swapping the image was easy, but altering a unique lettering, that’s difficult. For expediency, I started from scratch, and went with a typeface that evoked the right feeling for me.
China White Beyond the Pale
Silhouette of a bottle? No problem. How about Silhouette of a cat? I had cats growing up, so I couldn’t resist a kitty reference somewhere in here.
Recreating the background was the hardest part of this one. In fact, I feel like this is perhaps the most slap-dash of all the badges I made. Then again, I was on a deadline and I feel I got the jist of it.
This is another Tim Gibson work. It’s pretty great. All I had to do was change the words and drop in a doggie with a frisby.
Hops on Pointe
This one I’ll admit to copping out on. The art simply does not crop well.
So basically I simplified the whole design, added an ‘R’ and popped in a few paw-prints.
L’il Red Rye
This was my easiest job of the lot, being the most canine-related of all the GP bottle art I was working with.
This is both one of my favourite Garage Project beers, and the badge I’m proudest of/spent the most time on.
It’s also, coincidently, the badge that had the most Photoshop-trickery/bullshit go into it. Can you spot any?
My only wish is that I’d made the top dog blue. Otherwise, FUCKING NAILED IT!
Tummy Tickles Brown Ale
So we had one more beer to make a completely new piece of art for. Tummy Tickles was a one-off small-kit brew batch of a hoppy Brown Ale. So basically, one of my favourite styles of beer, ever.
I had a concept, which was fake/subversive Victoria encyclopedia illustrations. I think that there’s potential for an entire brewery brand to be based around this idea (Remedy Brewing has played with something similar).
Here was what I came up with:
I think I can safely say I nailed the look I was going for.
With so many new breweries opening in recently and no doubt more opening in months to come, there’s a discussion we need to have: how to name breweries and beers. This post is going to be related to the former rather than the latter (I’ll write that next). Both I think, are very important, because of one simple truth:
A good name attracts customers and sells more beer. A bad name discourages customers and will lose you sales.
This is a simple fact that I’ve observed from almost six years of selling beer to the public. There are also quite a few pitfalls that new breweries can fall into when it comes to naming themselves and their beers.
Now I know what you’re thinking and I totally agree: surely the quality of what’s in the glass should be more important than what it says on the label. Yes, it should. But getting your beer into the hands of first-time customers is also important. You want your brewery name to stick in someone’s head and, if your beer impresses them, you can create something valuable – a returning customer.
It’s true lot of brewery names come from stories. Stories are good. Stories help build a brand. ParrotDog was founded by guys who owned a parrot and called each other ‘Dog’. That’s great. But stories are not what I want to talk about here. I’m more interested in the mechanics of what makes one brewery name work better than another.
I had originally intended for this post to list some hard and fast rules of how to name breweries The more I thought about it, the more I realised how much of this is subjective. But in my six years I’ve poured more beers than most people will drink in a lifetime. There are certain things about brewery names that I see trip-up customers time and time again. Here are a few, what I guess you’d call ‘guidelines’ to avoiding some of the major pitfalls of naming a brewery.
No offence to any brewers I use as examples. Firstly this is no reflection on the quality of your beer. Secondly, quality of beer is ultimately more important. A bad brewery name is no reason to turn your nose up at a good beer. Third, if you’ve had your name for years and you’re doing just fine, then by all means ignore this post. This is more directed at the newcomers. Alright, let’s do this. And we’ll start with perhaps the most important point first.
1. Keep it Short
Short is good. Short is dynamic. Short is easier to remember. Brewery names need to be direct and to the point. It should be one or two words, three at most (but only if one of them is ‘and’ or ‘the’). This doesn’t include the words ‘Brewery’, ‘Brewing Company’ or similar, which naturally get sliced off the end in conversation. Nobody ever refers to Brew Moon by its full name: ‘Brew Moon Brewing Company’. What I consider to be good brewery names are a handful of syllables that roll off the tongue and are away: ‘Liberty’, ‘8 Wired’, ‘Three Boys’. These are simple words that you can say without tripping-up over. There’s a very good reason for this – when written on beer labels, tap badges or menu boards or spoken to bartenders, brewery names sit in front of a beer name. Let’s take an example: 8 Wired Hopwired IPA – Good. Quick, easy, to the point (some people don’t like the repetition of ‘wired’ in the name, but that’s a different discussion).
Sometimes however, customers get confused about this name and refer to 8 Wired as ‘Number 8 Wired’ or occasionally ‘The Number 8 Wired’. Fair enough, it’s an easy mistake to make as the name originates from number 8 wire. But for argument’s sake, let’s give that a go. The Number 8 Wired Hopwired IPA – Bad. A clunky mouthful.
Beer names can already lumbering enough, if you’re going to hitch it to an already difficult brewery name, you’re not doing yourself or your customers any favours. But how long is too long? Hard to say. Two breweries that I think are pushing acceptable limits of syllables are ‘Garage Project’ and ‘Beer Baroness’. I think both get away with it, Garage Project because it has a nice structure, and Beer Baroness because it has alliteration, but that’s just me.
2. Names of People/Places are Perfectly Acceptable
There are quite a few breweries named after the brewer. Sometimes it’s a first name, like Mike’s or Dale’s. More frequently, It’s a surname: Townshend, Gailbraith’s, Croucher, Harrington’s, Emerson’s, Fitzpatrick’s, Cassels and so on. Very rarely, it’s both first and surname – I’m looking at you, Ben Middlemiss.
Likewise, place names are commonly used: Invercargill, Baylands, Coromandel, Hot Water, Kaimai, Queenstown, Arrow, Waiheke, etc. This is also a good option, although I guess it might reduce your options of changing where your brewery is (Baylands is not on Baylands Road anymore). Personal or place names are perhaps the least interesting way to name a brewery, but they are basically functional. I think names like these are a good option because they usually obey rule 1. – They’re short and informative. Although, as I type this I realise I shall never found a ‘Jauslin’s Brewing Co.’ as no Anglophone can ever say it properly…
3. No More Dog Breweries
Animal names are another popular choice, and seem to work fairly well. They also tend to be short and to the point. Some go simple – just the animal name. Tuatara, Moa and Kereru fit this bill. Others, like to use what I call the ‘Indie Band’ approach. A trend in recent years amongst indie bands is to use a ‘something-animal’ name. Hence: Modest Mouse, Fleet Foxes, Frightened Rabbit, Wolf Parade, Tame Impala, Arctic Monkeys, Band of Horses, Grizzly Bear, Deerhunter, and so on (it’s a regular Animal Collective). Similarly, in the brewing world, we have Golden Eagle, Golden Bear, Monkey Wizard, Velvet Worm, Pink Elephant, Crafty Trout, and I could go on. Animal names are a good option, with one notable exception: Dogs. You see the problem is, people come in and say “I want that ‘Dog Beer’ please,” and I really can’t help them because in New Zealand, we have:
- ParrotDog (Wellington)
- Black Dog (Wellington)
- Raindogs (Christchurch)
- Eagle vs. Dog (Christchurch)
- Weezledog (urg) (Auckland)
- And most recently, Thirsty Dog (FFS) (Auckland)
That may not seem like many but they may, even in the New Zealand context reasonably also be referring to:
- BrewDog (Scotland)
- Moon Dog (Australia)
- Flying Dog (USA)
- Dogfish Head (USA)
I’m officially marking New Zealand as above quota on ‘dog’ breweries. No more guys, we’ve got too many already. In fact a search for ‘Dog’ on Untappd brings up 760 brewery results. Forget New Zealand, the whole world has too many dog breweries.
4. Jokes Get Old
So you’ve come up with a clever pun or something, and you think you’re going use it to name your brewery. That’s cool, but keep in mind one thing: you will be repeating that joke again, and again, and again. It gets less funny every time (this is known as The Bee Sharps Effect). Now this isn’t an issue if the name works well regardless of the joke. I’m thinking of Yeastie Boys here. “Yeastie Boys! Haha, it’s a music-themed brewery riffing on The Beastie Boys!” But underneath that joke, I find ‘Yeastie Boys’ to be a nice, short, chewy-sounding name. But what if the name isn’t so good? Well then the joke just sits there being repeated, again and again. And it’ll be repeated a lot. It’ll be tacked on the front of every beer you brew. It’ll be plastered on menu boards and tap badges. You will never escape it. Fork & Brewer, I’m looking at you guys. The Cameron Slater school of humour. Yeah. Nah. Sorry Sean, Colin, Neil and Kelly. I really like your beer, but I think you should have stuck with Bond Street Brewery.
5. Choose Descriptors Carefully
A lot of brewery names have descriptive words in them – Pink Elephant, Wild & Woolly, Fat Monk and so on. These are all fine. But choose your words carefully, because if you include a descriptor in your brewery name that frequently applies to beer, many customers will automatically assume that descriptor applies to any beer you make. What do I mean by that? Well, let’s look at the two most common examples. First of all, ‘hop’. As in: Twisted Hop, Dr. Hops, Hopmonger, Hophugger, Hop Federation, Hop Baron, Hops Valley, etc. Besides being incredibly unoriginal at this stage, having ‘hop’ in your name can put off many inexperienced customers who see the word on a menu and automatically steer clear of it, because for whatever reason, they’ve decided they don’t like hoppy beer.
Likewise, but perhaps for another reason, be wary of the word ‘golden’. As in Golden Eagle, Golden Bear and Golden Ticket. Inexperienced drinkers see the ‘golden’ on a menu and automatically assume the beer in question is a lager of some sort (the same but opposite may apply to the ‘black’ in Black Dog).
Think I’m kidding? I’ve had customers come up to the bar and ask me: “So this Golden Bear Seismic IPA, that’s like a Pilsner, right?” or “Golden Eagle Coalface Stout, that’s a lager, yeah?” Or they just order a Coalface (which is an awesome beer by the way) and look at me blankly when I put a pint of black beer in front of them.
Now I know ‘Coal’ signifies dark and ‘Stout’ should clinch the deal, but what needs to be understood here is that a large slice of customers, perhaps even a majority of the people who drink all the ‘craft’ beer in New Zealand, are not Beer Geeks. They may not know the difference between a Lager and a Stout. They may assume all Lagers are pale, and all ales are hoppy. They may have all manner of assumptions they have picked up or been taught over the years.
I’m not saying we need to pander to or talk down to this demographic (that’s patronising behaviour that breeds resentment). I’m just urging a bit of forethought as to as to how your brewery name will influence customer expectations.
6. No. More. Fucking. Dog. Breweries.
If you’re opening a brewery and you, even for one moment, consider giving it a ‘dog’ name, I will come around to your brewery, open all the valves on your tanks, and then beat you to death with your mash paddle. I don’t want to go to prison.
Please don’t make me.
Invariably whenever a beer writer goes on holiday, they almost always write a post about the local beer scene, and the exciting things happening where ever they happen to be. This is not one of those posts.
You see, I’m in Bali, and near as I can find, there’s no local beer scene what so ever. The usual thing to do in this situation is write about the local lager, and how wonderfully suited to the hot climate it is. This is not one of those posts either.
Yes, it’s 30°C and 100% humidity, which is perfect lager territory. And yes Bintang and Bali Hai are perfectly acceptable mass-produced lagers, but unfortunately they bring me no joy. At a time when I could gladly drink down an entire bucket of Townshend Black Arrow, every time I start a Bintang, I find myself rarely able to finish it.
It’s not that it’s bad, rather I can’t be bothered. I forget that I’ve got it and by the time I remember, it’s gone flat and warm. I had hoped that the handful of dark beers available would be better. Anker Stout is pretty alright (although tasted more like a Schwarz Bier), but Panther Stout seems to be an exception to the rule “it’s hard to fuck up a dark beer” (It tastes like thin Marmite).
In fact the only saving grace of the Bali offerings seems to be Bintang Radler, which is a) authentic, b) wonderful. I’ve been drinking litres of it.
All is not lost: duty free to the rescue. The gin and tonic is my go to beverage in bars where the beer, cider and wine lists (in that order) are not up to snuff. It’s pretty hard to fuck up a gin and tonic. So I picked up a bottle of Tanqueray 10 duty free, with the intention of mixing enough G’n’T to while away two weeks of sunshine.
What I hadn’t counted on was Tonic being a surprisingly rare and expensive commodity in this part of the world. But I was not to be deterred. What they do have here is an abundance of rhinoceros-themed local soft drinks.
Since pretty much everything goes ok with gin, I figured it was time to play a round of a game I just invented:
Will it Gin?
The rules are simple: each soft drink with 30-75ml gin (to taste), ice, and lime (also to taste), then rate it’s ginablitiy out of 10.
Lasegar Rasa Leci (Lychee)
This has an amazing aroma – super fruity. When mixed with Tanquers, a wonderfull spicyness comes out. Unfortunately, so does the booziness of the gin. Ultimately too soft to be a great combination. Ginablity: 6.5/10
Lasegar Rasa Sirsak (Soursop)
Lasegar Rasa Jambu (Guava)
Larutan Penyegar Rasa Melon (Honeydew)
This seems to be the lightest of the different flavours, very reminiscent of fresh melon. The base soda is lovely, but the combination is wonderful. This lacks the cloying character of the other flavours and is a really great combo with the gin. Ginability: 8/10
Pocasri Sweat is a Japanese soft drink, with a flavor I find a little hard to explain. It kind of reminds me a little of a very dilute Schweppes Lemon, but really nice.
Yeah, I know a drink called ‘Sweat’ is unappealing, but if you can get past that, it’s quite pleasant; and with gin, it’s fantastic. It’s soft, mild and not too sweet, which means the gin can really shine through. And with a goodly squeeze of citrus, it becomes wonderful! Ginability: 9.5/10
Congratulations Pocari Sweat, you win today’s round of “Will it Gin?” In other news, I’ll be back in Wellington soon, which is good, because by god, do need some hops. See you all soon!
I’ve got to say it: there seems a weird sort of snobbery around the IPA.
There’s a whole faction of brewers and drinkers (this is definitely an issue that goes both ways) who seem weirdly proud of how the beers they brew/drink aren’t hop bombs, as if that somehow makes them a better, more distinguished class of brewer/drinker. Kind of like this guy:
My theory is that this mindset comes from the misconception that throwing enough hops into any beer will cover any multitude of brewing sins. I can come up with many reasons and examples of why this isn’t true, but I digress (that’s for another post). I’m bringing this up because of Hopstock.
Hopstock, for those not in New Zealand/Wellington, is our annual wet-hop festival, where each of the beer bars gets to host a beer (or two) from a different local brewery. This year it was massive. I mean absolutely huge. Every bar was packing out, and a lot of beer was sold.
Now as I see it, Hopstock is a festival to celebrate the hop harvest, and as such, the first rule of Hopstock, and in fact possibly the only rule of Hopstock is:
Thou shalt make a hoppy beer.
Like all of god’s commandments, this one often gets mis-interpreted. You see, what people (both drinkers and brewers) think this means is that every beer should be an IPA. Preferably a IIPA, perhaps even a IIIPA. This is not the case.
As I see it, there’s only one deadly sin at Hopstock, which is making a beer with absolutely no hop character. And I can name two beers that committed that very sin this year: Mike’s Hopstock and Two Smoking Barrels and Hallertau Bier das Schwarz Massive (BDSM for short… low-hanging fruit there Steve). Now the reason I can single out both those beers, is that although they broke the first rule of Hopstock they were both deliciously, fantastically awesome; so I guess they get a free-pass on that one.
N.B. there has been some debate about the hop character of BDSM. Some reckoned it was very hoppy; I found it comparatively not so. I must try it again with fresh eyes/taste buds. Anyway, let’s get back on track.
So if you don’t have to make an IPA, what sort of beer should you be making for Hopstock?
The simple answer is: anything.
You can make a Pale Ale. You can make a Golden Lager. You can make a Saison. You can make a Stout. You can make an Imperial Pilsner, an ESB, a Golden Ale, an India Pale Lager, Red Ale, a Hopfen-Weisse, even (if you’re bloody mad) a Black IPA. In short, you can brew anything as long as it has a perceptible hop character. Whether it be in-your-face-bitter-and-angry, or a soft, gentle floralness, cushioned by malt, then that justifies using fresh hops.
In fact, this year, Hopstock had some good diversity of styles. Besides the aforementioned Barrel Aged Sour and Imperial Schwarz, we also had a Berliner Weisse, a Märzen, an Imperial Red Lager, a Special Bitter, a Rye Black IPA, a good ol’ fashioned NZ Pilsner, and of course, more Pale Ales, IPA’s and IIPA’s than you could shake a mash paddle at. That’s pretty great diversity for a festival that people write off as just an IPA-fight.
This all links back to one of my larger bugbears, which is people complaining that every beer is too hoppy these days. Frankly, we have more diversity in beer styles available now than probably at any other point in New Zealand history. But whatever (again, that’s for another post). If you take away two things from this post, I’d like them to be:
1. It’s perfectly OK to not like massive hop monsters. No one should ever look down on you. You’re allowed to like what you like and not have to justify it to anyone else.
As long as….
2. You don’t look down on others for making or liking the big IPAs. There’s room for all tastes.
Being a good Beer Geek and citizen of the ‘craft’ beer community means making room for all types of drinker, whether they want a finely balanced ESB, the lightest Golden Lager, or the hoppiest, booziest, highest-IBU-perceptible-to-the-human-tongue IPA.