Remember the old adage ‘never mix grape and grain’?

 

For three years running we’ve taken a perverse pleasure in challenging this taboo with a series of wine inspired beers celebrating the grape harvest.

 

If you find the idea of wine beer challenging, then perhaps it’s best to think of these brews as fruit beers… just fruit beers made with grapes. Does that make it feel better?

 

With each beer we’ve taken the basic idea of infusing each batch of wort (the brewed liquid that will become beer) with freshly crushed grape juice and then fermenting the two together. The result is much more than just wine added to beer. The fermented comingling of the two liquids is truly an illicit tryst, all the more intense by its forbidden nature – almost like a romance between the offspring of feuding families.

 

 

For our first harvest we brewed Sauvin Nouveau, a pilsner wort, extravagantly hopped with Nelson Sauvin hops, and then ferment with freshly pressed Sauvignon Blanc juice from Martinborough’s wonderful Palliser Estate. Maybe it was wrong, but it felt so right - so right in fact that the following year we brewed it again, and added the Pinot Noir inspired Château Aro, a dark rubescent beer, brewed with not only the freshly crushed juice but also the skins of pinot noir grapes from the award winning Escarpment Winery.

 

 

For the 2015 vintage, Sauvin Nouveau is back. Château Aro is too, but this year’s vintage has been tucked away in freshly emptied Escarpment oak pinot barrels, to be seen again at a later date.

 

 

But this year I also wanted to try one more brew. Now I’ll premise this by saying that I am very fond of this beer, but it is imperfect. The idea was to create a Rosé inspired beer – a pale pilsner, brewed with the same hop variety we used for our Hop Trial No. 1, infused with Pinot juice and rested on the red Pinot skins for 48 hours, enough time to lend the brew a pink hue, but not the tannins associated with longer contact with the skins.

It was a beautiful plan. In practice, after running in the wort and Pinot juice there was bugger all room left in the tank for all the skins we’d planned to add, so with beer gushing out of the top of the tank we crammed in what we could and had to call it quits.

 

 


  

So the result is not quite what I had envisaged – the colour change from pale pilsner was wonderful, but only to the point that is described in rosé parlance as ‘onion skin’ orange with a light blush of pink in the foam. I’d hoped for a richer hue, perhaps a light rose petal pink. However, any disappointment is tempered by the delightful crisp citrus and strawberry notes of the beer itself.

 

Brewing is full of lessons. Next year more skins… and a bigger tank.

 

- Pete


Day of the Dead 2014

November 01 2014

The first of November is finally here bringing with it Day of the Dead and La Calavera Catrina! These sought after brews are out now and available in the following locations. More stores may be added but this list will steer you in the right direction over the weekend.

This year we have once again bottled, and canned both beers. Bottled stock is on the way to Australia, and we expect to see it start to hit shelves this coming week!

image

Available at:

Auckland - on tap

Vulture’s
Brother’s Beer
Freida Margolis

Auckland - cans

Farro Fresh - Grey Lynn
Farro Fresh - Constellation Ave
Liquorland Newmarket
Super Liquor Howick
Glengarry - Victoria Park, Jervois Rd, Ponsonby, Dominion Rd, Devenport, Kingsland, Grey Lynn

Tauranga - cans

Liquorland Tauranga

Mt Maunganui - cans

Liquorland Mt Maunganui

Waikato - cans

Liquorland Cambridge
Rose on Roberts (Taupo)
Hamilton Beer & Wine Co.
Super Liquor Hillcrest

Taranaki - Manawatu

Liquorland Albert Street
Liquorland Devon Street

Wellington - on tap & cans

Golding’s Free Dive
Hashigo Zake
Southern Cross
Rogue & Vagabond
The Malthouse

Wellington - on tap

Bebemos
Bin44 

Wellington - cans

Ombra
Moore Wilson’s
Regional Wines & Spirits
Liquorland Miramar
New World Metro
Karori Cellar Room
Crafters & Co
Glengarry Thorndon Quay
Glengarry Kelburn
Pak’n’Save Petone

Nelson - cans

Fresh Choice Richmond

Christchurch - on tap

Pomerory’s

Christchurch - cans

Twisted Hop
Fresh Choice Parklands
Fresh Choice Merivale

Dunedin - cans

The Portsider
Meenan’s

And of course, the Garage Project Cellar Door!

image

Trip Hazard

October 25 2014

Necessity is the mother of invention, but if she filed a paternity suit, my money would be on cock-up being the father.

Last year we had a little disaster. A 2000 litre tank of Trip Hop failed to ferment properly. I suspect a dud batch of yeast but despite every effort it simply ground to a halt. It’s not that it had an infection or any off flavours, it just seemed to lose interest. It didn’t taste bad, it just didn’t taste like Trip Hop should.

It’s not easy passing the death sentence on a brew. At other breweries I’ve seen a number of tanks go down the drain, or more inventively, be shipped off to begin a new life as malt vinegar – but we’d never had to make this call at the Garage, touch wood we won’t again. How would you feel saying goodbye to 4000 pints of beer?

There had to be another way.

At the time we just happened to have acquired a reasonable number of used white wine barrels. With nothing to lose, we packed as much death row Trip Hop we could into these barrels and dosed each one with a cocktail of Brettanomyces strains, Lactobacillus, and Pediococcus. Although they are among the most feared of ‘beer spoilage’ organisms, these little critters are the basis of the European Lambic style and also have a penchant for unfermented sugars – just the ticket for a ‘stuck ferment’. So the lion’s share of the tank got a last minute reprieve, the rest was read its last rites. We tucked the barrels away safely and forgot about them.

A year and a half later we’ve tentatively tapped a barrel and packed a lone keg off to the Pacific Beer Expo. Thoroughly changed by its year of quiet reflection this beer now definitely doesn’t taste like Trip Hop. This batch of Trip Hop may be dead – but long live Trip Hazard. It’s not your normal brew, but it’s all the more interesting for it.

If you want to taste Trip Hazard you’ll have to get yourself down to The Pacific Beer Expo, this Saturday and Sunday 25-26 October.

Remember, cock-up is the father of invention.

We haven’t ever been very good at celebrating any of life’s little victories at the Garage. One reason is that we are often busy. There are periods of all consuming activity at the brewery around the lead up to events and equipment upgrades.

Sometimes these intense patches bunch up together to create a perfect storm.

You can tell when we’ve been through one of these patches when I begin to look like a Chilean fisherman who’s been lost at sea for six months and maybe had to eat his shipmates – all hair with a thousand mile stare.

I looked in the mirror the other morning and realised we’ve been riding the storm.

In the last two months we’ve pulled out our old brew house and replaced it with a new one twice the size and added three new upsized fermenters. This kind of large-scale installation and commissioning of equipment is a cocktail of excitement and terror. In the mix of cranes, forklifts and huge stainless steel tanks there are moments that make the sweat bead up in places you didn’t know you could sweat. Will it fit? Did we measure twice? What have we forgotten? WTF are we doing?

Luckily everything did fit (or was encouraged to fit) in our little Garage. A brewery is always a funny place when it’s not being brewed in - like the heart has been pulled out of it leaving a room full of cold stainless steel.

But now there is cause to celebrate. The brewery’s transplant has been a resounding success. In the last month since the install we’ve brewed what would have taken us four months on the old kit. It’s been hard work but, touch-wood, the upgrade will mean no more beer shortages. There’ll be more scope for playing around, more barrel aging, more cans and more beer in more outlets in more places. That seems like something to celebrate.

Another reason to celebrate is the news last week that we picked up a coveted Silver Medal at the World Beer Cup for our Cockswain’s Courage Double Barreled Porter in the Wood and Barrel Aged Strong Beer Class – one of the top three most contested classes this year.

 

Now, beer competitions are a funny thing and there is always an element of luck on the day. I’m generally the first to moan about them when Garage beers are ruled ‘out of class’ – but fuck yeah, we got a silver! I’m told it has been fourteen years since a New Zealand brewery got a medal. This year New Zealand won two - so huge ups to Speights who also won silver for their Triple Hop Pilsner in the International Lager Class. Well done.

So there is much to celebrate. We’ll try to find time to raise a glass and once again, thanks to all of you who have supported the Garage, even when we had no beer to sell. We look forward to being able to fill your glasses in the years to come.

Cheers.

Dark Days Indeed

February 02 2014

When we opened the cellar door early last year our goal was to always offer a full, interesting and varied line up of beers. Keeping the taps occupied and the beer flowing has been more than a full time job. On several occasions we’ve come perilously close to running out only to have been saved at the last minute. with a timely batch of beer. 

However, it seems likely that at some point early this week the worst will happen. The Garage will run out of beer.

                                 [Cellar Door taps in better days]

Pernicious was the first to fall, then Aro Noir and Hops on Pointe. VPA held out valiantly but was emptied last week – since then Pils ‘n’ Thrills, Trip Hop and Extraordinary Ordinary have been putting up a rear guard action, but as of yesterday only Pils and Ordinary were left standing, and chances are that in the next few days, they’ll be gone too. Dark days indeed.

Why? The answer is something of a perfect storm – a Christmas and New Year in the cellar door that far exceeded our projections, some interruption to production as we install new tanks, two special event beers and several pallets leaving us on an OS trip - but at the end of the day the simple answer is that demand has outstripped our capacity to make beer.

But there is hope. A new batch of Pils will be coming through this week and Wednesday will see the launch of Beyond the Pale, our shockingly pink homage to the Fringe Festival, brewed with sumac, lemon and hibiscus. There are bottles of Hops on Pointe on the way and Pernicious Weed will be making a welcome return the following week along with API, our Webstock ‘reverse IPA’. There is also still Garage Project available in the best bars and bottle stores around Wellington and further afield.

Best of all, our new tanks should be up and running by the end of next week (touch wood) hopefully marking an end to lean times. In the future there will be more beer and even more variety.

In the meantime we want to thank everyone who continues to come to the cellar door and accept the slim pickings on offer with good humour. Thank you all for your support. We’re working hard to fix things.

Your patience will be rewarded.

Pete & Jos

Beer

November 22 2013

It couldn’t be simpler.
Pilsner malt, Saaz hops and Czech yeast. That’s it.
Sometimes simple is exactly what you want.
Why bother dressing it up?
It is what it is.
Beer.

Beer is now available throughout Wellington bars and at the Garage Project cellar door.

Burning Globe

November 18 2013

Guest blog post by Maddie Gillespie

“… a quart of ale is a dish for a King”

A Winter’s Tale

My Dad is the brewer at the Garage Project brewery. When I said I had an idea for a beer he rolled his eyes. I explained that it would be a beer made with smoked malt, to mark 400 years since the Globe Theatre burned down and that we should call it Burning Globe. That got his attention.

The idea came to me while reading a book about Shakespeare. It talked about the Globe burning down and it occurred to me that it was exactly 400 years since the event. What made the idea for the beer relevant was that the book mentioned someone’s breeches catching alight and being put out with a bottle of ale.

“…only one man had his breeches set on fire, that would perhaps have broyled him, if he had not by the benefit of a provident wit, put it out with a bottle of ale.”

Sir Henry Wotton’s eyewitness account of the Globe burning down 1613

A smoky English ale was destined to be created. 

Double, double, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble – my Dad and I brewing Burning Globe at the Garage Project, Aro Valley

My Dad and I brewed the beer one weekend. We used oak smoked wheat malt, barley, and caramel malts for colour. It has finished fermenting now – I haven’t tried it but my Dad says it tastes great.

I hope there’s some left for the event!

Burning Globe will be available, served straight from an oak barrel at the Southern Cross garden bar on 1st December as part of a special Shakespeare event. As well as a range of barreled Garage beers there will be Elizabethan food, music and, fresh from their very successful run at BATS Theatre, a one-off live encore of the Playshop theatre company’s This Fair Verona”.

Theatre in Shakespeare’s day could be a boisterous and bawdy affair. Beer drinking was part of the audience experience (and useful in the event of trouser fires). Here’s your chance to get a sense of what Shakespeare for the people would have been like.   

Entry is free, as it always is at the Cross, and the event will help to raise funds for the Shakespeare Globe Centre NZ.

Barrels will be tapped at 4pm with the live performance beginning 4.30. Come dressed up if you like! Get a bit of Shakespeare up ya.

Day of the Dead 2013

October 31 2013

 

On this Hallow’s Eve, we’re excited to announce our Day of the Dead line up for 2013. 

From tomorrow, Day of the Dead AND La Calavera Catrina will be available in keg, 650ml bottle and cans. 

We worked especially hard this year to ensure nobody misses out, and to that end, have arranged a simultaneous launch in New Zealand AND Australia! More details on where you can find the beers below…

For those of you not familiar, Day of the Dead is our Chili Chocolate Black Lager, and La Calavera Catrina is a Maize Blonde Lager brewed with Habenero Chili, and condiitioned on Rosewater and Watermelon.

New Zealand

Day of the Dead and La Calavera Catrina will be on tap at the following bars from 1st of November.

It will also be available at the Garage Project Cellar Door from Friday, and the Garage Project Online Store from early next week.

Vultures Lane - Auckland (also pouring Triple DOTD)

Brothers Beer - Auckland

Freida Margolis - Auckland

Hashigo Zake - Wellington

The Malthouse - Wellington

Bin 44 - Wellington

Southern Cross - Wellington

Kelburn Village Pub - Wellington (DOTD only)

Goldings Free Dive (SATURDAY) - Wellington

Pomeroys Inn - Christchurch (also pouring Triple DOTD)

Day of the Dead and La Calavera Catrina cans and bottles will be available at the following retail stores. We expect more to be added in the coming week:

Farro Fresh - all three stores - Auckland - DOTD Cans.

Liquorland Albert Street - Palmerston North - DOTD Cans.

Regional Wines & Spirits - Wellington - DOTD & Catrina Cans

Moore Wilsons - Wellington - DOTD & Catrina Cans & Bottles

Hashigo Zake - DOTD Cans

Bebemos - DOTD Cans

Australia 

Melbourne will have stock tomorrow, with other cities receiving theirs over the next week. We tried very hard for day and date throughout the country, but this is the best we could manage! 

Due to the long lead times on our current in-house canning system, we were unable to get cans across to Australia, and there are kegs and 650ml bottles only.

Melbourne

On tap

Terminus - DOTD & Catrina

Bar None - DOTD

Bottles:

Carwyn Cellars - DOTD & Catrina

Grape & Grain - DOTD & Catrina

Williamstown Fine Wine - DOTD & Catrina

Blackhearts & Sparrows - Fitzroy - DOTD & Catrina

Carlton Cellars - DOTD & Catrina

Purvis Cellars - DOTD & Catrina

The Gertrude Hotel - DOTD & Catrina

The Wine Store Essendon - DOTD & Catrina

Cellarbrations Elsternwick - DOTD & Catrina

Press Cellars - DOTD

For those in Wellington, we are holding an extra special launch event at Golding’s Free Dive on Saturday 2nd November.The Golding’s team are going all out to make the bar as festive as possible, and we will be pouring a sneak peak of Triple Day of the Dead - our Imperial version aged in Tequila Barrels!

Thanks to all the hard work from everyone that went into making these unique beers possible in both can, and bottle, and also to arrange a simultaneous launch in Australia and New Zealand.

 

Alfresco Baltic

December 21 2012

 

Pouring today only at Regional Wines and Spirits will be our Alfresco Baltic Porter, brewed ‘en plein air’ in the car park of Regional Wines and Spirits a month or so ago on one of Wellington’s shittier blustery days.

 

The brew is a Baltic Porter, made with six malts and given a long cold ferment with lager yeast for a nice clean palate. To give this brew a Regional Wines & Spirits angle, the beer was conditioned on French and American toasted oak chips which had first been soaked in red wine and whiskey respectively (get it, wines and spirits - see what we’re doing there).

I think the finished beer is quite fun, complex but not cloying with a nice oak aroma and the ghosts of wine and whiskey lingering in the palate.

The usual Garage Project warning about limited quantities is even more pressing here given that one 20L keg of the porter will be available on the fill your own taps with a minimum pour size of 1.25L (which, if you do the math, means a lucky 16 people get one). However, they will also be reserving another keg for in-store tastings available from today while stocks last. Check with Regional for details.

The Chosen Few

December 17 2012

Last year Boundary Road, the “independently minded brewery nestled in the foothills of the Hunua Ranges” who also brew Tuborg, Carlsberg and Kingfisher beers under license, very generously sent twenty two thousand $5 notes to people who had expressed an interest in trying the brand’s new beer offerings.

 

 

At the time we were hard up against it trying to find enough cash to upgrade from our 50 litre pilot plant, and their marketing ploy seemed a tad extravagant to us. Jos cheekily suggested that anyone who didn’t want their $5 Boundary Road beer money could donate it to our fermenter fund as a way of helping us buy some more equipment.

 

 

A surprising number of people did pass on their stamped $5 bills and thank you very much to all of you who did. Fact is that it didn’t quite add up to a fermenter (they are expensive) and that left Jos and I with a neat little pile of fivers and the sense that we really ought to do something worthwhile with our ill-gotten gains.

Jos once more came up with a plan – why not use the money to make the most gratuitously extravagant beer we could imagine and then offer this to those who had supported us.

So this Tuesday night at Hashigo Zake we are proud to announce the launch of the beer we have christened The Chosen Few (aka. Mr. Truffleupagus). At its heart is a specially brewed strong blonde Belgian ale, to which we added 20g of freshly dug white bianchetto truffle that we first infused in honey, and then refermented with champagne yeast. The result is something you’ll just have to taste if you can make it down to Hashigo Zake this Tuesday night.

Those of you who gave us your details with your Boundary Road beer money will be contacted, but for those who anonymously donated (and be honest), it would be in your interest to make your way to Hashigo Zake this Tuesday and make yourself known to the bar staff. Hopefully we can make it the best $5 you ever did nothing to earn and then gave away.

All of you be warned, only one 20 litre keg of this beer exists and it starts pouring at 5pm on Tuesday 18th, so get in quick.

We would like to especially thank Jeff Weston from Borchii Park for sharing his knowledge of bianchetto truffles, Ace, Bonnie and Bellasconi, the truffle dogs responsible for finding this brew’s extravagant addition and without whom this beer would not have been possible… and of course, cheers to Boundary Road.

 

This week we’re genuinely excited to announce the re-release of Summer Sommer, our Double Summer Ale. We first brewed this beer in November last year as part of a hugely enjoyable and successful collaborative brew with Kjetil from the Norwegian brewery Nøgne Ø. We were all happy with the result back then, so much so that we sent a couple of bottles off to the Australian International Beer Awards where it ended up winning a trophy for best in class for speciality beer, which was nice.

Despite the inevitable dramas of brewing with rye, (see our post on Bastard Rye) it is great to brew this recipe again. I love the tradition of brewing festive beers, but in the northern hemisphere these brews are often dark, rich and spiced, something like a liquid Christmas pudding, which somehow doesn’t seem quite right for an antipodean Christmas. Summer Sommer (sommer is Norwegian for summer) is our answer to Christmas in the sun.

Brewed with pale, rye and cararye malts, Pohutakawa honey and finished with Kohatu hops - the aim is a strong summer blonde ale, something a bit special for the festive season.

If all goes well Jos and I will be heading over to Norway next year to brew this beer again with Kjetil. Fingers crossed.

Summer Sommer is available first at Hashigo Zake (it’s going on as I write this) and then in all good beer bars around New Zealand, and maybe even Australia. There will also be a limited number of Summer Sommer bottles available soon, stay tuned for details.

From all of us at the Garage Project, Gledelig Jul and have a great festive season.

PS - Dylan and the guys at Hashigo filmed the original brew, which you can watch here. Thanks guys!

El Dia de los Muertos

October 31 2012

For el Dia de los Muertos - Mexico’s Day of the Dead, it gives us great pleasure to announce the return of an old friend, and introduce to you his little sister.

Last year’s Dia de los Muertos provided one of the most memorable nights of the 24/24 with the launch of the Day of the Dead - a strong black lager inspired by the Aztec beverage xocolatl, “a bitter, frothy, spicy drink” combining cocoa and chilli.

This year we’ve brewed Day of the Dead again, this time on our big kit. We made a special effort with this brew to source as many authentic Mexican ingredients as possible, with Mexican cocoa and smoked chipotle chilli going into the brew.

The finished beer was then rested on Mexican vanilla pods, more chipotle, agave syrup (the basis of Tequila) and raw cocoa nibs sourced from Whittaker’s Chocolate. The result is a smooth and complex mix of smoke, chocolate and restrained chili heat that builds as you drink. I’m happy with the result, which I think might be even more balanced and complex than last year’s offering.

We’re also excited to introduce a new beer especially brewed for this year’s Dia de los Muertos. La Calevera Catrina, the elegant skull, little sister to our original dead head.

La Catrina is as blonde as Day of the Dead is dark, but she’s no lightweight. The base beer is a blonde lager with a cheeky, even ironic addition of maize. Maize is an ingredient you’d normally associate with much blander lager offerings, but here it is fired up with a generous addition of organic Habanero chillis, giving Calevera a far more assertive chilli heat than the smoky chipotle of her brother. To this blonde chilli base went an addition of rose water and watermelon. The result is a complex and surprising beer we think can stand proudly beside the Day of the Dead. Cheeky, ironic, complex and firey – what more could you want in the Lady of Death? We hope you’ll give her a warm welcome.

This Día de los Muertos, November 1, Day of the Dead will be available in good craft beer bars around New Zealand. La Calevera Catrina will be available in limited supply at Hashigo Zake the following night, Friday November 2.

Pie vs Cake

October 30 2012

Cakes and pies, cakes and pies!

Ziggy’s Carrot Cake came as a bit of a surprise for us at Beervana. Honestly, I just really like my Mum’s carrot cake (always referred to in the family as Ziggy’s carrot cake, though no-one knows why) and I thought it would be funny to brew with carrots. Then everything got a bit crazy, Ziggy won the trophy for best festival beer and we ended up having to ration people to half pours to make the beer last each session of Beervana (which it didn’t even).

After the dust of Beervana had settled people asked if we were going to rebrew Ziggy’s. I said definitely not – festival beers are for festivals and the Ziggy’s recipe was filed away.

Pie vs Cake has made me a liar. But how could I say no – a proper confectionery confrontation, a real dessert storm. Ziggy’s Carrot Cake the original recipe spiced carrot ale vs the contender, Pecan Pie, a rich dark ale brewed with caramel and biscuit malts, Moscova sugar and infused with candied pecans. And along side, a proper old fashioned bake off, with Wellington’s sweet elite bringing in their best Carrot Cake and Pecan Pie offerings for our panel of experts to judge.

As for the beers, you decide.

There can be only one.

Very limited stocks of Ziggy’s and Pecan Pie will be pouring from 6pm at the Southern Cross, Halloween Eve, until the kegs run dry.

BEER BAKE OFF

October 28 2012

Kava Coconut

October 19 2012

 

Sa vakarau na yaqona ni turaga - the kava of chiefs has been prepared

 

There is an important lesson to be taken from the research we undertook before brewing this beer. On no account should you ever engage Sean from the Thirsty Boys in any form of competitive Kava drinking. Really.

Some facts. The drink Kava is a popular recreational drug widely consumed throughout the Pacific Ocean cultures of Polynesia, including Hawaii, Vanuatu, Melanesia and some parts of Micronesia. It is made from the powdered roots of the Kava plant Piper methysticum, a plant that coincidentally is closely related to the New Zealand Kawa Kawa, the leaves of which (6000 to be exact) went into our Wellington in a Pint beer earlier this year. Powdered Kava root has mild sedative and anesthetic properties and when consumed produces a state of relaxation. Another interesting fact, you can buy it at Pak’n’Save– who knew?

Sean and his wife Tere had very kindly agreed to come around to the brewery to help us do a little research on Kava. We chatted about the cultural practices of Kava drinking while Tere prepared a large bowl by mixing the powdered root with water and squeezing it through a fine mesh bag. She then poured me a shallow coconut cup worth of the hazy liquid.

I’ve heard people describe Kava as tasting like muddy water, but I’m not sure that this quite does it justice. The normal descriptors I’d use for beer are useless here. It is oddly numbing, at once somehow both bland and intense, with a muted spiciness and well, a little bit of mud.

I tried to down my cup in what I imagined was a confident worldly way. I obviously failed at this because Sean gave me one of those special sympathetic smiles before he and Tere both effortlessly downed a coconut cup each. Phil, the most recent member of the Garage Project, was given a cup that he took away and thoughtfully nursed.

At this stage a significant portion of my face went numb. “Sean”, I said, “I can’t feel my face.” This was quite hard to say because my lips weren’t really working very well. “What, already?” said Sean lifting one eyebrow. Now, as a brewer I’m normally pretty good at holding my drinks, but this was a different story. Clearly I was out of my comfort zone here and judging by the look on Sean’s face I was obviously a bit of a kava woose.

Not to be totally put to shame I accepted another cup, downed it in what I hoped was a more confident way and smiled. Job done, I thought.

It was at this stage that Tere explained that once a bowl was made it was customary for drinking to continue until it was empty. WTF. I looked at the bowl. It seemed like a pretty big bowl. Why would anyone manufacture a bowl that big? What were they thinking? It also still seemed quite full. I looked at Phil who was avoiding eye contact with me and was still nursing his first cup. I looked at Sean who just grinned and passed me another cup.

Around cup number four I had the interesting sensation that my brain was a boat, that the rope holding it to the pier had slipped off and that the boat was just floating gently away. I won’t lie, it felt quite nice.

Somehow the bowl was finally emptied. Neither Sean nor Tere seemed to have been effected in the slightest. I on the other hand felt that I had severed ties with time and space. I thanked both of them, doing my best impression of having my shit together. They both grinned at me. I grinned back in a slightly lopsided way and hoped that I wasn’t drooling.

And from this exhaustive research comes our offering for the Great Pacific Beer ExpoKava Coconut, a truly Pacific inspired brown ale, brewed with coconut sugar, Maris Otter, Biscuit, Crystal, Caramel and Special B malts, lightly hopped with Centennial and infused with toasted coconut and yes, Kava. Available on Saturday and Sunday this weekend at the Great Pacific Beer Expo. We are told some tickets remain…

Finally, huge thanks to Sean and Tere for all their help, and for being so tolerant of my amateur attempts at Kava drinking. Make sure you check out Sean’s side of the story at the Thirsty Boys blog site.

Aro Noir

September 25 2012

Don’t get me wrong, we love Aro, but let’s be honest, it’s an interminably long, damp, dark bastard of a winter in the Valley. It’s made worse by the fact that which ever deity is in charge of Wellington’s weather clearly does not bestow his/her love equally. As anyone who has ever lived in the Valley knows, in the middle of winter, one side of the street gets all the sun, while the other moulders in perpetual gloom.

No guesses which side of the street we’re on.

Perhaps it was one of the early symptoms of vitamin D deficiency, but there were days when I’d stand at the garage doors peering out from the shadows at the sun drenched houses on the other side of the street, and I swear I’d begin fantasizing about building some kind of giant fuck off mirror on the other side of the street so that we could share their warmth.

Inspired by what is now two winters on the ‘dark side of the street’ comes Aro Noir, one of the stars of the 24, and a personal favourite of mine. I have been asked a number of times what my favorite Garage Project beer is. I’ve always been reluctant to answer– but this would have to be one of them. It’s pitch black and full flavoured but with a nice balance of hops and roast malt character. At its heart is English Maris Otter pale malt, with a touch of Crystal and a generous addition of Roast and Black malts. The hops are American, Chinook and Summit, creating a nice citric bitterness and aroma which marries nicely with the roast malt character. At 7.1% abv it’s rich but not heavy or cloying.

Yes, it is inspired by the darkness of a Wellington winter in Aro Valley, but truly it is a stout for all seasons.

Join us on the dark side.

It’s 7 o’clock in the morning, the Sunday morning after Beervana, and most sensible craft beer enthusiast (not to mention quite a few less sensible ones) are still tucked up in bed. But we’re not. Despite having only finished packing up our Beervana stand about 6 hours earlier we’re now setting up our little brewery and bar just outside the front of Moore Wilson’s. It’s the Wellington on a Plate Food Heroes’ market and for a day the Moore Wilson’s car park has been taken over by an army of stallholders offering just about every kind of produce imaginable. It’s a foodie’s dream and more than enough reason for us to be there, but there is another reason.

Just outside the front of the store is a water fountain, a very special water fountain which is fed by the Thompson Lewis Crystal Spring bore which taps into an aquifer of pure artesian water 470 feet beneath Wellington. I have actually spent a number of distracted shopping trips to Moore’s, often totally failing to buy what I’d gone to get because I’ve been thinking about brewing with this water. This was, finally, my chance.

We’ve brewed al fresco before. The last time was in the hop fields of the Tadmore Valley for our hop harvest brew. Brewing out in the middle of a hop field is challenging. Brewing outside a supermarket has its own challenges, but a lack of convenience is not one of them. So in addition to Moore Wilson’s spring water, English Maris Otter, Aromatic and Crystal malts and whole New Zealand grown Goldings hops, a quick nip around the store yielded some fresh oranges to zest and a rather nice jar of marmalade.

The resulting beer is our Moore Wilson’s, Old English Bitter Marmalade, a proper English session Bitter with a marmalade twist, coming in at a modest 3.8% abv, dry hopped and conditioned in the Firkin and served straight from the cask on the bar top at Hashigo Zake tomorrow. We’re calling this number one of 24 More, a nice gentle start to our next installment of new brews at the bar where it all started.

It’s good to be back.

Red Rocks Reserve

September 06 2012

Sometimes you can be wrong about a beer.

When Jos suggested that we do a ‘stein’ version of the Red Rocks beer we originally brewed for the 24/24, I distinctly remember telling him to fuck off. ‘Steinning’ is an ancient brewing method dating back to a time when beer was brewed in wooden vessels. Instead of applying external heat (tricky with a wooden kettle), hot rocks would be thrown into the wort to create a rolling boil.

Cool. But seriously, why would I bother super heating rocks to make my beer.

Ancient people used to do all sorts of crazy shit. Example, trephination was once a popular way to cure migraines, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to rush off to Bunnings to pick up a trephine next time I’ve got a headache.

I got it in theory. Conventional modern brewing techniques bring the wort to a boil around 100˚c, but rocks heated in a fire can reach many hundreds of degrees creating a super boil when plunged into the wort. The motivation behind recreating this ancient brewing practice is to create a rich toffee character in beer through the caramelization of wort sugars on the super heated surface of the rocks. But still, it does sound like a ton of effort to go to considering the modern brewer has a whole swag of other ingredients and techniques at their disposal to recreate this kind of character in beer.

So I admit it was with a certain amount of reluctance that I finally agreed to give it a crack. Jos’ enthusiasm for the project was infectious, and at the end of the day who doesn’t like having a nice big fire.

The first step was to find our rocks. Our original idea was to use some of the red rocks from Red Rocks on Wellington’s South Coast – the place that originally inspired the name of our beer. Here’s where it gets tricky. You see, it turns out that red rocks from Red Rocks tend to explode when heated. Crap. But all was not lost. Apparently, according to the geologists we spoke to, the rocks 100 meters down the coast from Red Rocks, although not red, were less likely to explode. No promises you understand, just less likely.

My growing confidence for the project was only temporarily dented by Jos’ announcement at this point that he would actually be in America for the week we were planning the brew (which struck me as a safe distance to be in the event of exploding rocks).

           [Jos at said safe distance in the Stone Brewery in Escondido ]

Heating rocks in a great big fuck-off fire in the forecourt of an old petrol station in Aro Valley takes a lot more organisation and planning than you might think, but we managed it. A good heap of non-red rocks were collected from the South Coast and this pile supplemented with a load of stone grill rocks. A fire permit was obtained and a roaring manuka wood fire was stoked up out the front of the brewery. We even managed to get Rob, a fireman I know, to come and spend his day off with us while we played with matches. All seemed to be going well. There had been no explosions and the rocks, after a morning in the fire, had reached over 500˚c.

But after all this I still had my reservations. Would it be worth it? Would this massive effort pay off in the flavour of the finished beer or would it all have been a load of buggering around for nothing?

Any reservations I had evaporated the moment the wort hit the hot rocks. I have never seen a boil like the one these rocks created. As the column of steam cleared after the initial roar of contact, the boiling wort looked like lava - like rich red toffee lava. It was one of those moments of pure joyous excitement when you know for a fact that you’ve pulled something off, that it’s worked, that despite everything that could have gone wrong it’s gone just right. I love that feeling and the stupid indelible grin that goes with it.

And the flavour is there, unmistakably, in the beer – rich juicy toffee sweetness from all those caramelized sugars, layered with Red Rock’s distinctive lush hop aroma. We’ve been calling it a hopfen-stein bier. I don’t know if that really is a style but I do know it is definitely one of the most fun beers I’ve ever made.

Sometimes it’s good to be wrong.

Massive thanks to all involved. To the geologists who gave such considered advice, to Phil for embracing the madness on his first week at work, and to Rob, for taking a day off from putting out fires to light one and letting us play dress ups. Cheers. 

Special thanks to Corie for filming and editing a video of the brew, which you can enjoy here, and to local artist Evan Purdie who painstakingly hand painted the awesome Red Rocks Reserve poster (and also Pernicious Weed Killer Hops one). 

You can view more of Corie’s work here including the horror film ’Fetus 5000’ shot in the brewery for the 48 hour film competition earlier this year and we will let Ev’s genius speak for itself…

Very limited amounts of the beer are available still. If you see it in a bar, grab a pint. It might be a while between drinks. For a list of bars pouring our beer, check out our Facebook page every Friday afternoon for a fresh update.

Looking back over our blog, I realise we’ve been off air for some time – an indication of just how busy things have been of late. Getting resource consents, building consents, certificates, licenses and codes of compliance takes time - apparently lots of time. Lots and lots of time.

So busy, yes, but not necessarily busy doing what we like doing best.

That’s why it is such a pleasure to be announcing some new brews. In fact, next week is starting to look like a Garage Project fruit salad. First up, for the Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge comes…

Super Angry Peaches

The fact is there are no peaches in Super Angry Peaches. None. Why’s it called Super Angry Peaches then? The reason is that last year we brewed a beer called Angry Peaches, and, well… this beer is just a little bit more Super. Actually, at 10.1% it’s quite a bit more super. Super-duper even. But why Angry Peaches? 

Again, no peaches. None. Inspired by a throw away beer descriptor line by beer blogger Phil Cook, Angry Peaches was all about trying to create an aggressive stone fruit character with absurd amounts of the American hop Amarillo. This time around, for Super Angry Peaches, we got all the Amarillo we could find, and put it all in.

It’s Amarillo in your face. Remember, Angry is the new nice.

And then, just when you thought it was safe to go back to the bar…

Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-cherry Bomb

The fox you’ve been waiting for (yes, here there are cherries in this one). Especially for the SOBA Winter Ale Festival formerly known as Matariki, Cherry Bomb is a cherry, chocolate Imperial Porter. Weighing in at a thoroughly warming 9.5%, it’s a rich ebony/mahogany colour, with layers of cacao nib bitter-sweet dark chocolate and a distinct tart cherry tang (and hints of stone age love).

West Coast IPA Challenge and a Winter Ale Festival. A good week for Wellington beer lovers (and fruit).

Coming soon 24 more…

 

It’s amazing how time flies. Old Scratch was our last post almost a month ago. As many of you will know, we’ve been far from idle, and look out for a post on the big shinny things tying up our time hopefully tomorrow..

 

In the meantime, PBT Couriers willing, our Harvest beer that Pete blogged about in March, Oldham’s Farm Harvest 2012 will go on at Hashigo Zake tomorrow night, Friday 4th of May. Look for it in other fine New Zealand craft establishments soon after.

If you do make it down tomorrow night, here’s what you can expect…

Oldham’s Farm 

Brewed with pale, munich and crystal malts and a Toyota Hiace load of whole cone Rakau and Wakatu hops, picked fresh from Colin Oldham’s farm in the Tadmor Valley. The result is rich, aromatic and intensely bitter.

An anonymous source, asked to describe the flavour, said it was like eating marijuana fresh from the plant. Not something I’ve tried recently, but you get the idea. 6.8%ABV.

 


Double Day of the Dead

Behind the scenes look at our upcoming Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular brew, Double Day of the Dead. 

Old Scratch

April 11 2012

The Devil will find work for idle hands to do

- The Smiths

It’s been some time since our last pilot plant release. We’ve been tight lipped about the reason for our little kit being idle (apart from a brief sojourn to the hop fields), but the fact is that Wellington is a pretty small place and what we’ve been up to over the last three months is probably no secret to anyone. Anyway, all will soon be revealed.

During our little pilot plant’s period of idleness we have had a keg of something tucked away in a dark corner of the Garage. This Friday, being Friday the 13th and all, seemed like a good time for its release.

There is a tradition of giving strong beers a demonic moniker. The Dark Lord really does have the best nicknames, and if you’re after a good Barleywine or Old Ale name there are rich pickings to be had. Consider Old Ned, Old Nick, Old One, Old Roger, Old Horny (or in the Scottish spelling, Auld Hornie), the old boy, old gentleman, old gentleman in black, old serpent, old smoker, old poker, old dragon, old enemy, old adversary, Old Billy, Auld Clootie and old gooseberry.

So in this tradition we give you (my personal favorite) Old Scratch. A British Barleywine of impeccably dark credentials, Old Scratch was brewed back on Friday the 13th of January, and will be served on Friday the 13th of April, after 13 weeks of conditioning. Brewed with Pale, Amber, Crystal and black malts it weighs in at 8.2% abv, with just enough English Admiral and Challenger hops to balance the hefty grain bill.

Two 19 litre kegs of Old Scratch will be available this Friday the 13th in the bowels of Hashigo Zake. Given the date’s association with ill luck it might be wise to get in early.

Oldham's Farm

March 27 2012

 

There is something central to the human psyche about the idea of pilgrimage, of reaffirming and celebrating your faith by making a journey to some spiritual heartland. For some it might mean a trip to Mecca or to Jerusalem.

For us it was a trip to the hop fields of Nelson.

 

That’s what I wrote last year about our trip to the New Zealand Hop Harvest. So inspired were we by that trip that we immediately began planning our 2012 visit. It would have to be something bigger, more challenging, with higher stakes and possibly even greater rewards.

Garage Project’s unofficial motto could be why do something the easy way when it’s so much more fun making it complicated? Why bring hops to the brewery when you can bring the brewery to the hops? So the idea was hatched, a wet hop brew, in the hop fields, using whole hop cones, fresh from the bines.

When hops are harvested they are immediately dried to preserve them. Without the drying process the hop cones would quickly deteriorate.

But what if you use the hops straight away? What if you can get them into a brew while they are at the peak of their freshness If you’ve ever been in a hop field at harvest time you’ll know what I mean. The clusters of ripe cones on the bines are a vivid green, which is almost hyper real. They are literally bursting with freshness, sticky with resin and so pungent that the still air between the rows of bines is almost dense with their piney, spicy aroma. Last year I wrote that for any true hop enthusiast a trip to the hop fields really is something akin to a spiritual experience. I’m not kidding. If you love hops it’s enough to put you into a state of rapture.

What if you could capture that intensity in a beer?

That’s the aim of a wet hop brew. Exponents of this brewing style liken it to using fresh basil or coriander rather than the dried equivalent. It isn’t a brewing technique that I’d ever had the opportunity to try before, but I’ve wanted to give it a crack from the moment I first heard of it.

What we needed first was to find a hop farmer who was willing to tolerate an over enthusiastic brewer with a scheme to brew in their field during the frantic height of their working year. We got lucky when we were put in touch with Colin Oldham, a third generation hop farmer from New Hoplands, in the Tadmor Valley near Tarawera. Not only was New Hoplands one of the very first farms to grow organic hops, well ahead of their time, but they also grow an amazing variety of different hops, which speaks volumes of the enthusiasm and passion that Colin has for his work.

So with a hop farm sorted I hired a van, loaded up the little pilot brewery that has served us so well over the 24, and Garage Project hit the road.

 

Getting off the ferry and heading down the Wairau Valley I discovered that the van I’d hired was notable for two things - that the speedo read 15km faster than the van was travelling, giving an impression of speed that the vehicle was totally incapable of giving, and that it took corners like a medium sized yacht.

I finally arrived at Colin’s farm to find it in the full swing of harvest, with the drying floors working round the clock to process the harvest, rooms full of huge sacks of hops waiting to be dried, and literally mountains of dried cones waiting to be baled up and loaded onto trucks.

 

Part of my pilgrimage was to actually sleep in a hop field. I just thought it would be fun. Colin looked at me a bit funnily when I told him this and offered me a nice warm bed in their guesthouse, but I assured him that I’d be fine. I’d come prepared with a sleeping bag and hammock tent complete with mosquito net. What could go wrong? I slung the hammock between the poles of the hop rows and as I lay looking up into a crystal clear night, full of stars and framed by the hops above me, a shower of shooting stars went over. I’ll tell you, it felt pretty special.

 

About four hours later I woke up, drenched in dew, feeling colder than I can ever remember being and thinking whose fucking clever idea was this? I’ve no one to blame but myself.

When the sun finally came up, and I’d stopped exhibiting the early symptoms of hypothermia, I unloaded the kit and fired up the brew.

 

Sometimes the reality of fulfilling something you’ve always wanted to do can fall short of your expectations, but not here. Brewing in a hop field with the harvest in full swing around me exceeded all expectations. Colin and everyone at the farm were as generous with their time as they were with their hops. Walking through a hop field, hand picking hops and throwing them straight into a rolling boil has to be one of the brewing highlights of my life.

 

The concern I always have when I try a new way of brewing is that the finished product will somehow be unremarkable. What if we went to the effort of brewing a fresh harvest beer, only to produce just another hoppy beer like any other? I can’t say for sure, but based on the intense and unique hop aroma that came off the boil as I threw in mounds of fresh green cones, I’m pretty confident that we’ve got something pretty exciting here.

 

With the test brew in the fermenter and the van loaded with huge sacks of fresh hops I took off on a mercy dash to Christchurch, to get the hops to Three Boys to brew a large scale version of our harvest beer. It was an uneventful trip other than the discovery, somewhere over the Lewis Pass during a sudden down pour that the van’s windscreen wipers offer what can only be described as an implied wipe.

But what pilgrimage is complete without some moment of existential crisis where all seems lost? At Three Boys, the plan was to boil the wort with the fresh bittering and flavour hops, and then using the mash tun as a huge hopback, to pass the wort through a mountain of whole cones to capture that fresh hop aroma.

This large scale version of our hop field brew went like a charm, without so much as a hitch, that is, right up until the end of the boil when the hot wort, laden with whole cone hops just flatly refused to come out of the kettle into the hopback where the late hops were waiting.

I normally manage to maintain a fairly optimistic approach to brewing. There’s almost always a way of dealing with a crisis, no matter how bad it may seem at the time. However, after exhausting almost all my mental list of possible solutions, I’ll admit I felt the first twitch of icy, sphincter clenching panic at the prospect of having to just open up the bottom of the kettle and dump the brew, chalking it down as a painful learning experience.

 

Luckily it never came to this and with an improvised hop filter in line and a bit of fiddling the kettle finally gave up the wort to our improvised hopback. I used to use hopbacks in England, and there’s almost nothing better than watching and smelling the steaming hot wort running through a mountain of whole cone hops. It’s simply magic, and all the sweeter having so narrowly averted disaster.

 

And that’s it. The pilgrimage is complete. The harvest brews are tucked away in their fermenters. Thanks to Tony at Three Boys for his support in our moment of crisis. Huge thanks too to Colin Oldham for letting us brew on his farm, for his generosity and tolerance. It’s always inspiring to meet someone with such a knowledge and passion for their work, so inspiring we’re calling this brew Oldham’s Farm. How often do you get to fulfill a dream and have it live up to all expectations? I can hardly wait till next year.