Come join us Saturday 31st October for our Annual Day of the Dead Street Fiesta! 

If you can't make it down on the 31st of October for the official Garage Project Day of the Dead Fiesta at Golding's Free Dive and Hannah's Laneway - then do not despair! The 2015 batches of Day of the Dead and La Calavera Catrina will be available at some great spots across NZ and Australia around that time. Check the list below and tune in on their channels for more details and release dates. More venues to be confirmed in the coming weeks! 

NEW ZEALAND

Wellington:
One Fat Bird - www.onefatbird.co.nz
Malthouse - www.themalthouse.co.nz
Bebemos - www.bebemos.co.nz
Bin 44 - www.bin44.co.nz
Southern Cross Garden Bar Restaurant - www.thecross.co.nz
Kelburn Village Pub

Auckland:
Brothers Beer - www.brothersbeer.co.nz
Vultures' Lane - www.vultureslane.co.nz
Frieda Margolis - (available 30th October!) www.facebook.com/FreidaMargolis

Christchurch:
Twisted Hop Pub - www.thewoolstonhop.co.nz
Pomeroy's Old Brewery Inn - www.pomspub.co.nz

Napier:
Monica Loves - Napier www.monicaloves.co.nz

Queenstown:
Smiths - www.smithscraftbeer.co.nz

 

AUSTRALIA ON-LICENSE

Melbourne:
Beer Deluxe Fed Square - www.beerdeluxe.com.au  
Carwyn Cellars - www.carwyncellars.com/  

Sydney:
Harts Pub - www.hartspub.com
Local Taphouse Darlinghurst - www.thelocal.com.au

Perth:
Dutch Trading Co. - www.facebook.com/dutchtradingco      
Bob’s Bar - www.printhall.com.au/bobs-bar/

 AUSTRALIA - OFF-LICENCE

Western Australia:

Dutch Trading Co. 
The Pour House
Cellarbrations Superstore Hamilton Hill
Cellarbrations Victoria Park
Cellarbrations Carlisle
The Freo Doctor
The Liquor Shed
Old Bridge Cellars
Mane Liquor
Cape Cellars
Copper and Oak
De Vine Cellars
Dainty Dowager
Ballajura IGA
Scarborough Cellars
Swanbourne Cellars
Rosemount Hotel
Re-Store
International Beer Shop
Budburst Small Bar
Liquor Barons Ocean Reef
Willagee Liquor Store
Treasury Buildings
Cellarbrations Capel

Victoria:

Beer Deluxe Hawthorn
Slowbeer
Purvis Surrey Hills
Purvis Richmond
Grain and Grape Yarraville
Acland Cellars
Williamstown Fine Wine
Grape and Grain Moorabbin
Nillumbik Cellars
Chas Cole
Coach House Ale
Bottles and Barrels

Queensland:

Black Bunny Kitchen
Brewski
Redbrick Hawthorne
XO Cellars Noosa
XO Cellars Sunshine
Mort Estate
Bine Beer Bar
Vine at Cleveland
Archive
Phoenix Hotel
QA Hotel
Craft Wine Store
Malt Traders Emporium
Wooly Mammoth
Brisbane Brewing Co.

New South Wales:

Clock Hotel
Marlborough Hotel
Camperdown Cellars Parramatta Rd
Stanmore Cellars

 

 

Both beers will also be available in 330ml can, 650ml bottle and FYO at select bottle stores throughout Australasia.

 
 

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.

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.

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.

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!

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

[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.

 


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.

Motueka & Mexico

March 14 2012

This week is all about the road trip. I love jumping in the car and hitting the road with a loose plan and a sense of nervous excitement about what the journey might put up along the way. It’s liberating and invigorating. 

This week marks the one year anniversary of the first Garage Project road trip. We went down to Motueka for the Hop Harvest. I know this because the trip coincided with my birthday. Visiting New Zealand Hops and local producers like George’s Farm was a fantastic experience for us, and planted the seed of an idea that later this week, with a little luck from the weather gods will come to fruition. 

So this morning Pete packed up a van with a few supplies that should see him through the next couple days and is sailing South to once again visit Motueka and experience the Hop Harvest first hand, although things will be a little more hands on this time. More about that later.

If you get the sense that I am not coming along for the Motueka ride, then you’d be correct. In true Garage Project style, a single trip within New Zealand wouldn’t cut it, so we’ve split. Divide and conquer. Motueka and Mexico.

While Pete is getting busy in the hop vines of Motueka, I’ll be embarking on a mission to track down some of the finest Tequila Distilleries in Mexico and liberate a used oak barrel or two from them. Tequila Barrel Hunting is a new sport to me, but I am up for the challenge and excited to learn more about the production of a spirit that has caused me great pleasure and pain over the years. 

We will both be doing our best to keep you updated about our duel road trips. As a precursor, I’ve been up in States for the last three weeks visiting some of the finest breweries, brewing equipment manufacturers and craft bars in the world. It’s already been an phenomenal journey and the Tequila Barrel Hunt is a fitting crescendo. 

Things have outwardly been a little quiet from us lately, but as you will see in the coming weeks, it’s not for lack of activity. Hop Harvest Road Trip and Mexico Tequila Barrel Hunting is just the beginning..

Cheers!

Jos

24/24 Wrap Up

February 23 2012

Jos has been busy. Among other things he’s been compiling the coaster feedback from the 24/24. It makes for an interesting read. Jos, in inimitable style, has pulled many of the comments together into word clouds. It’s fascinating to look into the cloud and see people’s responses - to see in some cases how different people’s reactions can be to the same beer.

(Word Cloud of all the 24/24 coaster feedback comments)

And which beer came out on top? The number 1 spot belongs 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. For those who loved Day of the Dead, we’ve just been down to Three Boys to brew a special, high strength Double Day of the Dead. Most of the beer will be going to Australia for the Great Australian Beer Spectapular (not a typo) to be held in Melbourne in May, but a few kegs might find their way to some of Wellington’s better craft beer bars.

 

(Day of the Dead Feedback comments)

Coming in neck and neck in second place were Pernicious Weed and Trip Hop, two of the most hoppy offerings in the 24. We liked these brews too, and kegs of both Pernicious Weed and Trip Hop, the fruits of last months trip to Three Boys, will be appearing in good Wellington bars over the coming weeks.

Other big favourites from the 24 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 Peoples Project No. 1 Coffee Bock.

And then, there is the inevitable question, which beer came in last? Perhaps no surprise, it was the beer which polarized drinkers more than any other. It was of course 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.

 

 

(Peoples Project #2 Feedback Comments)

And you can expect more to come. We’ve already planned over 24 more limited release experimental brews, to be small batch brewed on our pilot plant over the year ahead. We also have plans for more brewing equipment, meaning that we’ll be able to craft bigger batches of the best beers from our experimental runs. This should mean that more of you should be able to try the best of Garage Project.

It should be a fun year ahead.