Monday, July 27, 2015

Five Kiwis and Their Beer: Part II

Continuing our look at the five New Zealand brewers that were in town for OBF in Part I, we'll pick up with a look at ParrotDog's beer, Riwaka Secret.

The double IPA they brought to town, Riwaka Secret is named for two unique New Zealand and Australian hop varieties, Riwaka which is very hard to come by and not exported outside of New Zealand, and Victoria Secret which now goes by "Vic Secret" after a cease and desist letter from that lingerie company. Using at least two hops in every beer is Matt's M.O. as he admits that he's not a single hop beer fan, perhaps because he feels like he's never brewed a good one. DIPA and hop-forward fans will enjoy this beer.

Those into Harley Davidson motorcycles may recognize the name "Panhead" as slang for one of the old HD engines and Panhead Custom Ales is a brewery that likes to tinker, to customize and to make accessible, drinkable beers. Founder Mike Neilson expanded on Carl's comments about the challenge of getting his beers into bars with the update that today the challenge is less about fighting for tap handles with the big guys and more about getting into the good beer bars. In Wellington there are only about 15 of those, which have anywhere from eight to 40 taps. To the brewers' benefit, those taps turn fairly frequently and those bars tend to give New Zealand brewers 75% of their handles, a percentage that would please most craft brewers and drinkers anywhere. Replacing the challenge of fighting the big boys has perhaps been the challenge New Zealand brewers have with capacity. Looking at the US market, they're heartened that craft beer drinkers will be eager to fill their pints with as much as can be produced.

The final representative of the New Zealand craft beer scene to speak was Stu McKinlay of Yeastie Boys. First off, I have to give huge kudos to Stu for soldiering on after breaking both his forearms during this trip (neither of which required a cast, but only one of which was bandaged and in a sling). Stu is a self-described "yeast-head" that got his start after receiving great praise for his homebrewed porter, which in turn became Yeastie Boys' first commercial beer. Initially they were only brewing every three months while Stu continued to work his day job. Recently he's been able to quit that and move to the UK where brewing operations will be based.

In creating a beer for the Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular, Stu cupped 20 teas to find just the right one. That right one is Earl Gray Blue Flower, a tea that reminds Stu of his childhood, and is used so heavily in the beer that it is described as "dry-leafed" (a counter to "dry-hopped"). Named Gunnamatta, this is also the beer that they brought to OBF. Not being a big tea fan myself, I wasn't sure how well I'd like it and I was pleasantly surprised from the first sip all the way through the last, at which time the beer was warm and may have been even more enjoyable than when it was first poured.

If you didn't run into any of the brewers or drink the beers that they brought to OBF, the opportunity to taste their work hasn't completely passed. While the group was in town, each of them teamed up with a local brewer to make a collaboration beer. When exactly those beers will be released I have not yet heard but keep an eye on the local breweries - Cascade, Ecliptic, Gigantic, Lompoc and Widmer - for more details.

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