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.

North American Scum*

November 21 2012

 

Pils ‘n’ Thrills & California Über Alles

Call it a rut, call it a phase, call it what you will but we seem to have been brewing  a lot of American inspired beers of late. We haven’t done it on purpose but looking at the fermenters there’s a definite trend.

Last Friday we released Pils ‘n’ Thrills, Garage Project’s first Pilsener beer. To be honest it was something of a covert release with a few kegs appearing at The Southern Cross and Regional Wines and Spirits, but despite the quiet release this is anything but a quiet beer.

There comes a time in any brewery’s life when they need to make the serious  decision about what sports team they’ll get behind. For Garage Project this decision was simple – roller derby. If you haven’t made it to a roller derby match yet, you really don’t know what you are missing out on. Inspired by Wellington’s own Richter City Roller Derby team Pils ‘n’ Thrills is an American hopped pilsener, with a bright golden colour and a crisp, clean, bitter citrus character.

Like all Garage beers it is also vegan and unfiltered. The fantastic vintage tattoo art work is by local tattoo artist Simon Morse, which seemed fitting since he’s inked half the Richter City team. Unfortunately events conspired to prevent a proper roller derby launch for this beer, but we are looking forward to celebrating the beginning of next year’s season with Pils ‘n’ Thrills. In the meantime, look for Pils ‘n’ Thrills at the Cross and at a few other select outlets.

Then, continuing our American affair, next week we will be launching California Über Alles. Brewed with US Northern Brewer hops, Pale, Vienna, Crystal and Caramel malts and California Lager yeast, California Über Alles is the Garage take on the California Common style made famous by Anchor Steam beer. I should point out that anyone looking for a replica of Anchor’s classic brew won’t find it here – like all Garage brews Über Alles takes the style as a starting point rather than trying to produce a clone of an existing brew. If you don’t get the name then you probably didn’t spend the eighties trying to push safety pins through soft parts of your anatomy. If this is the case don’t feel bad, but remember it’s never too late to start.

 

As if that wasn’t enough, look out for a batch of Angry Peaches and another American hopped Golden Brown in the lead up to Christmas. Honestly, what hop crisis?

* Settle down, it’s a lyric, not a racial slur

Caledonia Über Alles

November 08 2012

When you mention old world India Pale Ale most people who have read the standard history of beer think of Burton-on-Trent, England. It’s less well known  that Scottish breweries played a significant role in the production and export of  IPA, accounting for a quarter of all British beer exports by the late 1800’s.

This is the inspiration for Caledonia Über Alles, an ‘old world’ IPA brewed with Edinburgh Ale yeast, a strain capable of producing beers with a crisp, clean character, and Golden Promise malt made from Scottish spring barley. That’s where any pretense at historical accuracy ends. Other than Goldings, the other hops in this beer - Target and Challenger - are modern British hybrids that weren’t even a twinkle in the hop breeder’s eye in the heyday of IPA. The result is a crisp, hoppy pale ale, weighing in at a respectable 7% abv with a clean amber gold malt base and a hop character which is assertive but distinctly ‘Un-American’.

The name is of course a reference to the song by US proto punk band the Dead Kennedys. Later this month we’ll be launching a new Garage Project beer that we’ve called California Über Alles, a beer based on a style known as California Common. Phil made the Caledonia Über Alles joke. We laughed. It stuck.

Caledonia Über Alles will be available at the Malthouse this Friday 9th October for their ‘old world IPA challenge’. Beers pouring from 5pm - sláinte!

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

PIE vs CAKE

October 24 2012

Announcing a Halloween Special to be held at Southern Cross on October 31st. More details will be posted on early next week, but we wanted to let you know about something very special that is also taking place on the night.

Alongside the beers, we will also be holding a PIE vs CAKE BAKE OFF! We are laying down the challenge to find Wellington’s best baker as judged by an esteemed panel of culinary experts we have assembled.

Bake your best Carrot Cake, Pecan Pie or something for the open ‘wild card’ category (pie, cake, slice, you decide!) and go into the running to win prizes, fame, glory and the title of Garage Project Beer Baker Extraordinaire 2012!

The entries will be judged by:

Jacob Brown - Owner and Chef at The Larder 

Beth Brash - Editor at Eat & Greet

Jeremy Taylor - Food Blogger at The Omnivore

The Pies and Cakes will be judged on appearance, flavour and most importantly, how well they pair with either the Pecan Pie or Carrot Cake Beer.

There will be a winner, and they will receive a prize pack including $50 voucher to the Southern Cross, and exclusive bottles of Ziggy’s Carrot Cake, Pecan Pie, Double Day of the Dead Bourbon Barrel Edition and one other secret beer yet to be announced…

To enter - please email jos@garageproject.co.nz to receive further instructions.

Good luck, and may the best Beer Baker win!

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.

This is definitely one of our more playful beers. The base is our Bastard Rye, which had its debut at Hashi a couple of weeks ago and will appear in a number of forms over the months ahead. This particular batch was soured up and has been resting on cherries. We were having a taste of it to see how it was getting on when Jos just happened to play Lola by the Kinks, with that classic opening line.

“I met her in a club down in old Soho Where you drink champagne and it tastes just like cherry-cola”

The next thing you know our sour cherry rye is getting a dose of Six Barrel Cola syrup. The result is a bright cherry red beer with sour cherry palate and a whimsical cola finish. We’ve called it Lola. As well as being the musical inspiration for this beer, Lola is also the name of the Aro Park cat – the tabby who frequents the park beside our brewery - one of the few cats I know with its own Facebook page and definitely among the most charming and photogenic local Aro characters.

Lola the Aro Park Cat

If you’re keen to give Lola a try be advised that there is an extremely limited quantity of this beer in existence, so get down to Hashigo Zake from 5pm on Tuesday the 16th. First in first served.

Bastard Rye

October 01 2012

Rye, it’s a bastard.

Its lack of husk, high water retention capacity and high beta-glucan content mean rye is notoriously difficult to brew with. In simple terms it can convert a brewer’s mash (the porridge like mixture of hot water and crushed grain designed to convert starch into sugar) into a giant vat of gluggy jello, making it almost impossible to run off the sweet wort needed to make beer. There are cautionary tales among brewing circles of rye brews lasting days while their brewers sit rocking back and forth in a fetal position, sobbing.

But despite, or perhaps even because of the difficulties it causes, rye holds a special place in brewing lore. It delivers a unique and distinctive spice character to the beers it’s used in, but I suspect that, like eating puffer fish, its popularity has something to do with courting danger.

With a few rye beers under our belt on the pilot plant I was feeling pretty confident, even cocky, about brewing a batch on our big kit. Summer Sommer, our first rye beer, brewed with Kjetil from the Norwegian brewery Nøgne Ø, was a bit of a bastard to run off - but I was pretty sure I’d improved my technique, pretty sure I’d dodge the rye bullet.

Wrong.

Normally the run off from the mash takes a couple of hours. By hour seven of my rye run off I was feeling decidedly less cocky. Bastard rye. This was shaping up to be a nightmare brew.

It was particularly interesting to chart my mood with the slow realization that this was going to be a terminally slow run off. I was reminded of a ghastly human resource workshop I was forced to attend when I worked for Lion Nathan in Australia. In this workshop we were introduced to SARAH - a description of people’s reaction to traumatic events (S-hock; A-nger; R-ejection; A-cceptance; H- ealing). What I thought was interesting was that after reaching a state of calm at around hour 9 (which I assumed was H-ealing) I seemed to go back to S and start all over again. It’s personality flaws like this that meant I would never be a good Lion Nathan employee.

At hour 13 of trickling slow run off I decided I had enough, in more ways than one, and started the boil. I have to say that after a 13 hour run off a one hour boil just seems like an anti climax.

Now the funny thing is that we brew two days in a row to fill our fermenters, so with the brew finally done and dusted by the small hours of the morning, I crawled home with the knowledge that in a couple of hours I’d have to be back at the brewery to do it all over again.

I arrived back at the brewery feeling significantly less cocky. Now, I’m not normally big on the whole modernist ideal of man’s dominance over nature, but after a 19 hour brew day the day before I was keen to bring the full power of science to bear on this beer. This time I made a separate mash for the rye with not one but two protein rests designed to break down those troublesome beta glucans which had ruined my run-off the day before. I then added this to the main mash and this time success – a respectable four hour run off, and a warm slightly smug feeling. In your face rye.

This Tuesday night you can taste the first installment of Bastard Rye as part of our 24 More series at Hashigo Zake. The lion’s share of this beer has been tucked away to mature in Maker’s Mark bourbon barrels, but we pulled out a small portion that we have been quietly resting on raspberries. At 11% abv this is one of the strongest Garage beers so far, so strong it seems to cling to the glass. The result is a boozie hit of rye spice and berry character, blonde but with a definite raspberry tint. With an alcohol content this high, although it was brewed almost four months ago now, it still seems ‘young’ to me. It’s great fun to try now, and it will be fascinating to see what happens to the beer as it ages in our bourbon barrels.

A proper bastard to brew certainly - but well worth the effort. 

 

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.

 

We’ve probably had more than our fair share of fantastic collaborations. Wellington’s a town with a nice buzz going on and the fact is it’s not been hard to come across inspiring and like-minded people doing all sorts of interesting and creative things.

But our collaboration with chef Jacob Brown and his partner Sarah, the owners of Miramar restaurant The Larder for Wellington on a Plate has definitely been our most challenging and perhaps most audacious project yet.

 

 

 

I really like Jacob. There’s no doubt he’s a great chef, but he also has a cheeky streak and you can tell that he likes to stir. Witness his soft spot for offal. It’s an interest grounded firmly in the philosophy of using the whole beast, from tail to snout - but there’s definitely a twinkle in his eye that suggests there is more than a hint of mischief at work. It’s just as well for those who are lucky enough to have tried his meals, because this kind of mischief, when it’s backed up with real skill, creates something pretty close to genius.

 

This was the premise - hatched up over beers and a slab of barbequed meat in Jacob’s back yard – a six course meal, to be held among the tanks of the brewery, each course to be served with a different beer, three courses designed by Jacob to go with existing Garage Project beers and three courses with beer designed to go with a dish suggested by Jacob.

 

 

What happened next was about three months of discussion back and forth, testing, tasting, design and revision - nowhere near as clear-cut as the original idea, but in practice even more productive and fun. The highlight was definitely brewing our Oyster and Black Pepper Stout with Jacob, sharing the brewing process with him while he shucked his way through a pile of fresh Tio Point oysters - one for us, one for the brew, two for us…

 

The result in the end was eight rather than the original six courses (there were just too many ideas that seemed too good to pass up). The beers in order of appearance were, Purple Haze Honig Hefeweizen a tart, dry Blue Borage honey wheat beer designed as an aperitif, Pernicious Weed, Bier Blonde sur Blonde, a Belgian Blonde brewed with malted barley, rye, wheat and oats, a quick Red Rocks Reserve to stall while the finishing touches were being put to the pig, Smoke and Mirrors, our lightly smoked Bock beer that’s also been served along side LBQ’s Hare of the Hog Burger, our Tio Point Oyster and toasted black pepper stout, Lord Cockswain’s Double Barreled Porter and the very last of the Double Day of the Dead.

 

I won’t give a blow-by-blow account of the night itself, that’s already been done in inimitable style by the food blogger Jeremy Taylor the Omnivore detailing the eight courses of inspired and surprising food that greeted the diners on the night. If you were lucky enough to be one of the forty people who sat down to Jacob’s dinner I’m sure it will bring back fond memories. For those who missed out, sorry, we’ll try to do it again. But in the meantime just think of this as porn for food and beer lovers.

 

 

Huge thanks to all involved, to Jacob, Sarah and their team, to Jeramiah Ross aka Module for the perfect mood music, to Simon, the small holder who takes our spent grain and of course his pig, who made the greatest sacrifice of all - you will be remembered fondly by all who attended the night.

 

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…

[This article was written by Pete earlier in the year for SOBA’s rather excellent Persuit of Hoppiness magazine. For those overseas, here is the full piece to enjoy, hence some upcoming events mentioned have already happened - GABS, new brewery install etc].

24/24 in Retrospective 

It seems timely to be writing an, albeit short, potted history of the Garage Project. There are two reasons for this. One is that this article is due tomorrow (I wouldn’t say that running things right down to the wire was a defining feature of my own personality, but it seems to have become something of habit the Garage Project). The other reason is that we’ve spent the last two days installing (and the last year planning) a new 10 barrel brewery in our Aro Valley garage site.

The whole Garage Project story probably goes back further, but a defining moment came at the beginning of last year when Jos and I sat in the corner of Hashigo Zake to try to work out how we might go about starting a craft brewery in Wellington. It would have to be something different, something remarkable. What would be the point in just opening another craft brewery?

But how? I’d just chucked in my job after 5 years brewing for the Malt Shovel brewery in Sydney. This had not been a snap decision so much as a slow motion table flip, but the adage ‘don’t give up your day job’ seemed suddenly poignant. Neither Jos nor I were eccentric millionaires. We might have had the first trait nailed, but that second one seemed to have eluded us.

The idea of going around, cap in hand, to scrape up the funds necessary to start a brewery somehow just seemed wrong. We needed something different, something maybe a bit daring, something which might set the tone for the brewery we imagined.

That’s when we decided to strike out on a tiny pilot brewing kit. Funds dictated that it would have to be small, but the best we could get with the money we had, and it would have be something that would stay with us, even when were able to grow.

But there was more to this decision than just economic necessity. Back then I wrote, “bigger isn’t necessarily better. What we lack in size we will more than make up for in agility and the ability to experiment. When you’re brewing on such a small scale you can afford to take risks. You can try things on a 50 litre brew kit that you wouldn’t dream of attempting on a 50 or even 5 hectolitre brew kit. That suits us. We’re here to try something new”. It was true. After brewing professionally for 9 years in large breweries I was ready for something a bit different.

So, inspired by Hemmingway’s advice to always do sober what you said you’d do drunk - on the grounds that it will teach you to keep your mouth shut - we embarked on brewing 24 beers in 24 weeks. 24 different beers in 24 weeks, what an awesome idea… until you wake up and think about what’s really involved!

If I’d wanted an antidote to the routine of commercial craft beer production I certainly got it. A beer launch a week for six months; part excitement, part terror - especially as our frugal supply of beer meant that there was often barely enough for me to have even had a sip before the kegs went to the bar.

The spirit of the 24 was to experiment openly. There would be no tinkering away perfecting the beers that we launched, people were trying our raw results. Imperfect, yes, but we hope always interesting. We promised to try and push some boundaries, and we hope we lived up to this promise.

I realise that I’ve never actually written a list of the whole 24 beers before. This seems somewhat remiss of me, so here goes. Roughly in order they were:

Trip Hop

Pernicious Weed

Munuka Dark (made with hand smoked malt)

Hazy Daze (A & B)

Venusian Pale Ale (VPA) and Cockswain’s Courage Porter

Hapi Daze

Golden Brown

Bière de Garage sour cherry Bière de Garde

Red Rocks

Salt & Pepper Porter

Hazel Mapel Mild

Aro Noir Stout

Razor Sharp Orange & Cardamom Wit

People’s Project no.1 Coffee Bock

Pacific Ring of Fire

People’s Project no.2 Green Coffee Saison

Home Bake Roast Kumara ale

Day of the Dead Chilli Chocolate black larger

Hellbender Barleywine

Wee Heavy

Shock & Awe IPA

… and last but not least Rum & Raisin.

We also snuck in Summer Sommer, Angry Peaches pale ale, ANZAC biscuit inspired amber ale, a couple of cask ale offerings and a coffee porter (If you’re interested you can check out any of the beers we’ve brewed in the archives of our web site www.garageproject.co.nz).

It was quite a trip. Along the way we collaborated with artists, coffee roasters, ice cream makers, a band and even brewing legend Kjetil Jikiun, cofounder and brewmaster of the Norwegian brewery Nøgne for our Summer Sommer Rye and Pohutakawa honey ale.

All the way through the 24 we asked people to tell us what they thought of the beers and rate them on our Garage Project coasters, which we collected in our little black box on the wall of Hashigo Zake. This coaster feedback made for a fascinating read, particularly, in some cases, how different people’s reactions could be to the same beer.

And which beer came out on top? The number 1 spot belonged to Day of the Dead, our chilli chocolate black lager, launched on November 1 to coincide with El Día de los Muertos - Mexico’s Day of the Dead (we’ve since then brewed a special, high strength Double Day of the Dead for the Great Australian Beer Spectapular (not a typo) to be held in Melbourne in May).

Coming in neck and neck in second place were Pernicious Weed and Trip Hop, two of the hoppiest offerings in the 24. Other big favourites were the Dr Grordbort’s inspired Venusian Pale Ale (VPA) and Lord Cockswain’s Courage Porter, our hoppy stout Aro Noir (brewed on the dark side of the street), and the first of our coffee collaborations with People’s Coffee, the No. 1 Coffee Bock.

And then, there is the inevitable question, which beer came in last? It was a beer that polarized drinkers more than any other, the infamous Green Coffee Saison. Not to everyone’s taste certainly, but still a beer we’re proud to have tried. Experimentation was what Garage Project promised and we think we delivered.

And as of today we now have not just the little pilot plant that saw us through the 24, but a 10 barrel brewery. Some might think that this is a huge leap from our 50 litre kit and the 24/24, but I don’t think all that much has changed. Today we also received delivery of two 140 litre fermenters that we’ve bought off Jo Wood from Liberty Brewing. Due to Joe’s deserved success he’s growing and no longer needs these smaller tanks, but they’re perfect for us. They’ll allow Garage Project more room to experiment - to play on our pilot plant – to keep that spirit of the 24.

We already have 24 more planned, and that’s just the beginning.

WATCH A VIDEO OF THE ARO STREET INSTALL HERE.

It’s been called Wellington’s worst kept secret. It’s no secret really, but we have been careful not to mouth off too much about what has been going on in the Garage this year. Why? The fact is starting a brewery isn’t easy. Things can go wrong, even when the goal seems so close you can almost taste the first brew. That’s why we’ve been keeping stum.

But to be honest, the other day, surrounded in our garage forecourt by tens of tonnes of shining stainless steel brewing equipment, as people streamed down Aro Street on their way to work, the idea of keeping things under wraps any longer seemed a little pointless.

Over a decade of dreaming, years of preparation and planning, months of gruelling hard work, negotiation and submissions to council, sleepless nights and moments of doubt, twelve hours of intense forklifting and we’re almost there.

And we’re stoked.

The kit’s a 10 US barrel system from American manufacturers Premier Stainless. It’s a brew kit with a story behind it, not originally destined for us, but it fits the Garage like it was made for it. They say pride comes before the fall, so I’m trying hard to restrain myself, but it’s enough to say that there’s been nothing to disappoint so far.

At the moment we’re making the last connections and putting the finishing touches to chilling, plumbing and electrics. It’s pure pleasure after months of preparation, planning and worry. You can almost taste the first brew. Fingers crossed.

 

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.