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 Expo – Kava 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.