Oldham's Harvest Ale
May 03 2012
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…
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.
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.
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..
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.
Little Kölsch Project
February 13 2012
There was loose talk about this Kölsch back in November of last year. The idea was to design a crisp little Kölsch with Little Beer Quarter in mind, something to sip while sitting in one of Wellington’s more notable laneways.
A flurry of tweets were traded and there was even a ‘think up a Kölsch name’ competition. However, this excitement may have been a little premature given that Kölsch is a beer that needs time. Lots of time.
In fact this beer has been lagering now for over three months. The result is an incredibly pale, straw coloured beer, with a crisp white head, a delicately perfumed aroma from the addition of Motueka and Galaxy hops, a smoothness that comes from sitting around at near freezing point for three months and finished with a hint of tartness from an addition of German acidulated malt. The bad news, there is only one 19ltr keg of our experimental Little Kölsch Project so chances are it will be a fleeting visit to LBQ (I believe Stu from Yeastie Boys put forward the name - cheers!).
The good news, Little Kölsch Project will not be the only Garage Project beer available. There will also be a return visit from two of our 24 series, our ANZAC Amber ale, brewed with toasted oats and golden syrup, and Pernicious Weed, our hop driven IPA, a big favourite in the 24 but definitely not a beer for the faint hearted. So, three Garage Project beers, in one bar, on one night. A first outside the hallowed walls of Hashigo Zake.
More bad news… there’s only one keg of each. Available only at LBQ this Wednesday 15th from 5.30pm till the kegs run dry. Might see you there.
What is the Garage Project?
June 07 2011
Welcome to the Garage Project. A new Wellington craft brewery coming soon.
Why Garage Project? Garage because it started in a garage, but it’s more than that. It’s also about approaching things with a garage mentality. It’s about playing around, making do and thinking outside the box. The surroundings might be basic but this is no barrier to creativity. This is bière de garage – beer from the garage.
And why Project – because it’s ongoing, it’s a work in progress and we plan to keep it that way. For example, we don’t plan to come out with a fixed portfolio of beers – this is about experimenting, pushing boundaries, blurring the boundaries between styles - seeing what works. We love beer styles, but we want to take them somewhere, to reinterpret, not just reproduce them.
To start with we’ll be tiny. This won’t even be micro brewing… it’ll be a truly nano brewery. For the last nine years I’ve been brewing in breweries with equipment 100 times bigger than the kit we’re planning to use. But 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.
We’re starting small. Want to see where we end up? Stay tuned…