05 Jun 2015

A slight throw back to summer with this one. There are few things I enjoy more than a low alcohol sour beer in summer. The addition of fresh fruit and hops is a great combo, you won't find many people that don't enjoy this style if its done well.

I must have guzzled at least 100L of Good George Kiwifruit Sour to my self over summer. It was my go to beer while out and about and it always seemed to fill either the beginning or the end of a pub session. Ive taken what I can from those many litres quaffed and made my own version that pays homage to the legends at Good George. The beauty of this style is its relatively fast and cheap to make at home! The low alcohol >4% means your grain bill is small and simple. The souring bugs abundant and easy to grow and the boil kills any bugs that might otherwise infect your equipment down the line

There are three main rules to consider for a light sour beer. Oxygen exposure, temperature and cell counts. The latter is an easy one and here's my method.

I use a handful of whole Gladfield Pilsner Malt kernels in 500ml of 1.030 starter wort. Keep this at 40 C for 24 hours. You should see a lot of bubbles and activity after this time. Then transfer the starter into 1L of fresh 1.30 wort (you can sieve out the grain at this point). After 12 hours transfer this into another 3L of wort. If you keep it at 40 C in 12 more hours you will have a raging lacto starter that will go to town on 20L of wort and it will work very quickly.

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This is the finished starter with an already thick pellicle and it smells strongly of lemons and stone fruit

By keeping the temperature high and stepping up the starter frequently you are selecting the most thermophilic and vigorous bacteria. There is a lot of wild yeast, pedio and all sorts of other bugs on the grain but none of them are capable of reproducing as fast as Lactobacillus. I find that when I finally pitch the 4.5L starter into my batch and hold it at 40 C, it sours to a PH of 3.6 in under 7 hours and its super clean!!!

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Mash and run off your wort into the boil kettle. The number one thing to avoid from here on out is oxygen. In a nut, all foul smelling things concerning bacteria are a product of oxygen exposure (acetobacter being the main culprit) so do everything in your power to remove oxygen from the wort. I like to do a  quick 15 minute boil to burn out some oxygen and sanitise the wort. Then chill and hold it as close to 40 C as you can, then pitch your starter.  If you have an oxygenation system (a sintered stone) you can run the wort into the kettle and blast CO2 into it at the same time stripping out oxygen, but Ive found that thoroughly purging the headspace of the kettle and then sealing the lid is sufficient to stop the foul aromas associated with aerobic bacteria. I let the PID's take control of the temperature and leave mine overnight then check the PH in the morning. 

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Once the PH is low enough (depends on your tastes but I like mine at or below 3.6) the wort should have a bright apple and lemon aroma and be a cloudy milky brown colour. From here you can proceed with the boil as normal. Some people like to merely pasteurise the wort. I know Good George do this, heating the beer to 75C and then pushing it straight to the fermenter. But I like to cover my bases and do a full boil so I can add some hops and make certain there is no DMS in the finished beer (although as I understand its the boil where its created so in theory a simple pasteurisation is enough).
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I then ferment the beer with a single packet of US-05 and add the fruit puree once its almost terminal. Try to find the freshest fruit you can and blend with a stick blender. Once fermentation subsides dry hop  and condition for a week, then rack it to a keg and force carb at 12psi. Don't try to bottle this beer as the fruit will bring some wild microbes which will eat any remaining sugars. You could leave the fermenter until gravity has been stable for a few months but I think the beer will be out of balance by that stage and we are shooting for a quick sour!

Riwaka Peach Sour

O.G. 1.035
ABV 3.5%


50% Gladfield Pilsner 
50% Gladfield Wheat

5.2  IBU Riwaka at 60 minutes

Yeast nutrients and Koppafloc at 10 minutes

Ferment with US-05. Just before its terminal add the fruit puree and let it ferment out. 

5KG of Peach Puree
3g/L Riwaka Dry Hop

Force carbonating at 15PSI for 7 days. 

12 Feb 2015

More and more, I come across establishments in Auckland that value flavor and quality over popularity or price. They know that today's  customer is more informed, and they know that it’s no good just stocking any craft beer to tick a box. The customer wants to engage with the staff and to be a part of the culture.

A big part of what drives this industry and its growth is its authenticity. It’s not easily faked. Those that truly embrace variety and form their own opinions on what they like and want to sell will fare well over the next year. It’s not an easy decision for some to make when looking at a potential balance sheet: the margins on craft beer are much lower compared to mainstream beer but the type of customer that opts for craft is the customer that you want. They’ll come back for more, and they will tell their friends.

I’m glad that its catching on in Auckland, with more and more places starting to get involved. As Luke Nicholas put it last year on his blog, Auckland "has the most potential in New Zealand. The most new customers, the most potential bars. Craft Beer + Auckland = the biggest win for beer in New Zealand in 2015."

A new addition to Auckland's scene who is doing just that is The Garden Shed in Mt Eden. Themed as you might expect with upside down buckets for light shades and trowels for tap handles its a comforting venue that's relaxed and unpretentious - wholesome even!

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The people in charge took a firm stance that craft beer would be involved from the outset and the staff are eager to get amongst it with favorites from Mike’s, Epic, Hallertau and Behemouth already making a steady appearance on the taps. We have some Prospector on at the moment, so I popped down for some quality testing and to grab some lunch. I had the fish cakes, which came topped with a perfectly poached egg, relish and a really fresh salad on the side, washed down with some farmhouse ale it was delicious!

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The cafe flows to an outside area adorned with pot plants and creepers, covered with a sail to keep the rain out. It’s definitely one of the best places to enjoy a beer in Auckland.  Comfort, good food, friendly staff and a growing selection of great beer is a good combination. The writing on the trowels (tap handles) doesn’t appear to be updated regularly so you may have to ask what beers are on.

Its often the little things that really make an impression when you visit somewhere new. Having the bill brought to you topped with a packet of lettuce seeds to take home was a great  touch. I’m already looking forward to going back.


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21 Nov 2014

Well that was an exciting finish to the year. From when we brewed our first batch of Frontier at Scotts in July and then Prospector in December my schedule started to fill up with a stupid amount of things that needed doing. Launching two beers in 6 months while still working 50hrs a week mixing television shows (still my day job) was a challenge for sure. Not to mention learning all  of the little things that make up running a business. But we made it up to December with sanity intact and a great sense of joy in the fact that, we can actually do this! The process works and the little details that I agonize over (water chemistry, PH healthy yeast and the right ingredients) all add up to make beer that Im truly proud of and is increasingly receiving excellent reviews.

Christmas is a crazy time for most but I now fully empathize with hospitality staff for they are the worst hit by the madness. At the very tail end of December our new beer Prospector hit the shelves and that meant I had some very last minute promo work to do. Visiting bars and stores at this time of year is  probably not the greatest idea as they are scrambling to keep up anyway, so I do thank all of those who took the time to sit down with me and taste some beer. The overwhelming support was a great end to the year!

A little frazzled and in need of a proper relax my wife and I took off to Bali for 18 days to recoup and reset. It was actually a belated honeymoon, we've been married for five years but never had the time to head away. Indonesia is a great place for a brewer to go on holiday. There is only one major beer available, Bin Tang and its basically Heineken, refreshing enough but plain as a tin can. With no bars or breweries to hunt out the mind can let go of its relentless pursuits and unwind on fruit juice and Nasi Goreng. We did however stumble across this crazy Bali hoople missing half his teeth and making Arak which is a spirit distilled from fermented palm sugar. As you travel through Indonesia you realize that anything can be built form bamboo and this was no exception. The most ghetto pot still Ive ever seen. I wasn't expecting much other than petrol when I tasted it but it was surprisingly clean, there were a load of esters from what I imagine must be an uncontrollable fermentation previously but it was a very clean spirit. I thanked the man and took a bottle which I think I paid $1.50 for.


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