Friday, September 17, 2010

In Absentia acceptance speech

It’s probably time to make an in-absentia acceptance speech for our Champion International Lager Trophy.
Firstly, we can’t believe we missed the greatest moment of our brewery’s life! The best knees-up of the year just seemed a bit indulgent when we had no beer. (Is that the fundamental measure of incompetence – no beer in a brewery?)
 It’s been friggin’ frustrating trying to make the perfect beer! Brewing seems to be one of those disciplines where even the best in the industry have such contradictory ideas that we’ve often wondered if old wive’s tales transcend hard science. The two most recent pieces of advice are “measure the pH every step of the way” and “the first thing you’ve got to do is throw away your pH meter”. So, when you’re trying to learn there are a lot of wrong turns and cul de sacs!
That said there are a few fundamental truths. Clean, clean, clean and get your ferments right. Both easier said than done. “Just get a pitchable quantity of healthy yeast with consistent viability” rolls off the tongue so easily! Also, bugs hide everywhere and when a keen homebrewer’s brettanomyces-infected beer explodes through the brewery it complicates things.  Thanks Albrecht.
Our first acknowledgement (second if you count Albrecht) is to Richard Emmerson. I (Paul) used to flat about 200m from his Grange St brewery in Dunedin.  I discovered that I was different during an impromptu tour. Six of us beer obsessed students were hanging around when Richard invited us to see the brewery. Once the other five realised there was not copious amounts of samples being distributed our number thinned but I was oblivious, absolutely fascinated by the process and the passion of the man for his craft. Richard is also the first man to cross the floor to offer congratulations or words of encouragement.
We’d like to thank Lion Nathan. Not for brewing such boring beers that we had to brew our own, but actually for having been pretty helpful all the way along. The New Product Development team have always been great to bounce ideas off. I recall when we were looking to collaborate on a research project when I (Paul) was with Auckland Uni. The University’s commercial development officer was so bad and so clearly wanted to rip off the big brewer that the project was ruined before it started. Watching the Universities deal with commercial realities is like watching the Eastern Bloc embrace capitalism. Plenty of rorting and incompetence! Thanks Lion for not tarring me with the same brush.
Thanks to Luke Nicholas from Epic Brewing and He’s possibly one of the most confronting  guys in the industry because he calls a spade a spade.  That’s not why we’re thanking him though. He’s been a big part behind the evolution of the Kiwi beer-palate to “big and hoppy”, not to mention the Kiwi beer-vernacular with words like “shedloads”. He’s also been really open with technical advice and direction punctuated with useful criticism like “Dude, it’s got the funk”. We still don’t know what that means.  Thanks to Tony, also at, for calling us up every time a Wyeast order is due because we’re nearly always late!
Graeme Mahy was another big influence right from my homebrewing days. He helped with my original BrewNZ Champion non-commercial Pilsner back earlier this century. His first words to me when I told him of this success stay with me to this day – “Man, you were just lucky I didn’t enter!” Mentor or bitch?
Another major influence has the team at Galbraith’s, Ian Ramsay and Keith Galbraith. They’ve let me brew with them, they have bought our beer and always given sage advice whether brewery, beer or business related. Keith once warned us about someone. As part of this warning he informed me that he (Keith) had more brewing talent in his knob than this person (who for the purposes of this blog shall remain nameless).  Turns out it’s true and not just an idle boast.
Early on in our relationship I brewed with Keith. He thought it funny to see how early he could write me off with his generous provision of delicious ales. 6am brewing started and we kicked off with a Bob Hudson’s Ale. 6.30am a Bellringer’s. 7am a Bitter and Twisted. I can’t remember the next few to be honest. At 10am I was smashed and ready for a sleep. “No more beer” I insisted but Keith cracked a bottle of one of his Australis Romanovs. Whoah - he had me at hello! I woke up sore.
Doug Donelan from NZ hops has also been hugely helpful – love those New Zealand hops. We don’t have a story about Doug – what goes on tour stays on tour! (Sorry Mrs Donelan, that was just a joke, we really don’t have a story about Doug).  
These guys have been massive influences but it on the other side of the froth are our customers. Rohan Evans from the Wine Cellar on K-Rd has been with us virtually since day one. More recently Hashigo Zake (Wellington) and House on Hood (Hamilton) have really embraced what we’re trying to do and have been incredibly supportive.  After our first sale to Dom at Hashigo Zake we had to ask for the beer back because we’d sold out early at last year’s Beervana!
The craft beer scene in Rotorua has taken a turn for the better with Abracadabra, The Rotorua Golf Club and the Great Kiwi Alehouse all taking our beers on tap and putting up with the vagaries of a suspicious small city and a beer supplier who can’t always pull a keg from the shelf in 5 minutes flat!
On the other side of the tap are the punters - the greatest advocates of craft beer. You guys have driven the bar owners to stock craft beers and we’ve been a beneficiary. Mr Greig McGill is perhaps the king of the punters. He’s either really, really, really supportive or he drinks too much. Either way he drinks well and is a great advocate for drinking better.
Thanks to the Brewers Guild – in particular David Cryer and Craig Bowen. The industry would be a poorer place without you. Not only are these guys great for the industry with their work ‘off the ball’ but they are great to do business with.  
Finally, thanks to Kate and Kirsty - our other halves. Not only are they hot svelte blondes but they have given us permission and support to indulge our premature mid-age crises and own/run a brewery. I suspect the trophy means as much to them as it does to us. Thanks Honeys!
 The moral of the story – TURN UP TO THE FREAKIN’ AWARDS DINNER!