Wednesday 29 August 2012

Adventures in all-grain brewing #2

It had been a while since my first brewing adventure (a huge IPA) and I was keen to have a go at a different style. The first brew was reasonably successful to the point I was brave enough to hand some bottles out to fellow home brewers, with positive and encouraging feedback being received along with some great advice on how to overcome some of the problems I'd encountered while brewing it (with special thanks to David Bishop @broadfordbrewer).  I also seized the opportunity more recently to get some under the nose of Evin at Kernel, who provided some stellar advice on yeast pitch volumes and first wort hopping when tackling the double IPA style.

Armed with the experience of my first all-grain brew and a bag full of New Zealand hops from our recent trip, I fired up BeerTools Pro and set about piecing together a recipe, having researched some previous home brew recipes for inspiration. This was to be my contribution to the Saisonathon Phil Hardy (@filrd) over at the excellent Beersay blog had been scheming. 

The plan was to produce a single hop Saison using only Nelson Sauvin hops. I felt the dryness typical of the Saison style would sit nicely alongside the gooseberry and fruity white wine notes that this fabulous hop brings to the mix and aimed to get plenty of them into the kettle, with a focus on late additions for flavour and aroma rather than early bitterness additions.  After some tinkering, I settled on the below:

Nelson Saison Recipe

The malt bill is, I think, fairly typical of a Saison with the bulk coming from Pilsner malt. The hop schedule saw only half an ounce hit the kettle within the first 40 minutes, with a further ounce and a half being added before the final dump of three quarters of an ounce at flame out. I let this last addition sit for a while (having stirred up a whirlpool) to give it plenty of exposure to the wort before cooling it down to pitching temperature and transferring to the FV. The recipe calculator suggests it'll be 50 IBUs, which is outside the style guidelines but not insanely bitter.

The choice of French Saison yeast over the Belgian Dupont strain was driven purely by the temperatures at which it does its work, which perfectly matches that of my fermentation (ahem, dining) room. 

Brew day went fairly smoothly. The OG was slightly lower than the target at 1.058. The yeast got to work quickly but after a week it was sat at 1.020, without much airlock action going on, so I transferred it to a glass carboy to give it a bit more head space and wrapped it in a blanket to encourage it along. This seemed to do the trick and I'm now patiently waiting for this slow-burning yeast to finish off and hopefully take it down to 1.006 or so, which'll put it in the 6% ABV ball park. I was really pleased with the most recent sample I took. The aroma and taste was encouraging and I'm hopeful this'll be ready and tasting good by the time Saisonathon rolls around on Saturday 15th September.

Tuesday 14 August 2012

A visit to Moa Brewing Company

I could write a few paragraphs on the story of how this Marlborough, New Zealand based brewery came to be, but I feel they've captured it perfectly on their packaging (see photo, click to enlarge).

The "Proudly brewed in New Zealand" tag-line is something they back up solidly through their actions. More on that later.

What their own back story doesn't tell you is that Josh is the son of Allan Scott, a renowned wine maker in this, one of the world's top wine making regions. He grew up in the area and has been around wine all his life. Their respective businesses are barely a few hundred yards apart and I must admit to having genuinely laughed out loud on being greeted by the below sign. I can imagine it creating some banter between Father and Son when it first appeared. 

Fittingly, the Moa Brewing Company's premises are nestled snugly between several neighbouring vineyards and the narrow driveway leading up to them takes you between two fields tightly packed with perfectly straight rows of vines. A site featuring prominently in the surrounding area which, as you'd expect given the pedigree, contains many fantastic wineries. 

In a future post, I'll talk about the booming hop farms which are now competing for this nutrient rich, fertile land across the top of the South Island (home to Nelson, Motueka and Riwaka). Of course, that means Moa has access to some fantastic locally grown hops and their beers feature them in abundance.

The brewery and tasting room building itself looks small from the road but extends to the rear. The sign outside on the left of the door reads "Brewed using traditional, costly, inefficient and labour intensive techniques" - something I'm sure most craft breweries can relate to.

The brewery (to the rear) and tasting room
We arrived just after opening (11am) on a Saturday morning in June, to be greeted by a cheerful, if camera shy host. Her passion for the beers on the bar was infectious as she poured and talked us through a tasting. Moa has a core 'estate' range produced in volume and a number of 'reserve' beers, brewed seasonally in smaller batches. Details and tasting notes can be found on their website.

The bar inside the cosy tasting room, complete with roaring fire
On the bar for sampling were Pale Ale, Methode, Noir, Original, Imperial Stout and  Weka Apple Cider. The Pale Ale, which uses both US Cascade and Nelson Sauvin hops, was a standout for me being fresh as a daisy, whereas Jane adored the Imperial Stout aged in Oak Pinot Noir barrels.  Takeaway bottles are keenly priced and we took the opportunity to stuff our campervan's fridge full.

As we tasted, our host explained that a lot of their passing trade are wine tasters, on self-guided or organised tours of Marlborough region. Her favourite moments behind the tasting taps are those where she manages to open a wine drinker's eyes to the world of craft beer. Each one chalked up as a victory for Moa and what it stands for. Of course, with Moa's heritage I'm sure they're happy to see both wine and beer thriving in New Zealand but given where they're based, it must be fun to change perceptions.  

The brewery is fully self contained and I was allowed to sneak out the back for a few minutes to snap some photos of the kit. There is a small viewing window within the tasting room but as they've expanded outside the building, you can't see too much from there.

HLT, mash tun and kettle. Perhaps the kit they started on?
Shiny new kit outside including all-weather fermenters
Bottling line, apparently as temperamental as bottling lines the world over
After visiting the brewery, I sought them out on twitter (@moabeer, worth a follow) and later learned that they were partners/sponsors of Kiwi House, a 'haven for friends, family and proud supporters of the New Zealand Olympic Team' during the London 2012 games, based near King's Cross. They celebrated every medal won by NZ athletes with aplomb, with golds being toasted with $1 beers back home.  While those inside the park were supping bland rubbish thanks to multi-national brewing giants securing exclusive rights to sell beer at the games, vistors to Kiwi House were enjoying craft beer supplied by a brewery obviously proud to be kiwi.

Kiwi House got through so much Moa that it had to appeal for folks flying in from New Zealand during the latter stages of games to bring more with them (a reward was offered)! I'll drink to that!

Monday 6 August 2012

Back from a blogging hiatus

You may have noticed that I've been quiet of late. Then again, there's been so much going on in the beery world that I think that's very unlikely. It was fantastic to meet so many fellow bloggers at EBBC in Leeds back in May. A conference like no other, where the emphasis was firmly on inclusiveness, ethics and let's be honest, having a damn good time. I was also thrilled to be able to visit two of the rising stars of the UK's exciting craft brewing scene during the weekend - Summer Wine and Magic Rock (blog posts will follow!).

A few days after that weekend in Leeds, I set off on an 8 week journey that would take in some of the most incredible places in the world, including some top beery destinations. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity, created by the perfect storm of planetary alignment and a touch of good fortune. A pre-wedding adventure like no other. I've so much to blog about from this trip that it may take me a while to catch up! Look out for posts on:

  • Craft beer scene in Sydney, Australia
  • New Zealand's craft beer explosion 
  • Visits to some top US West Coast breweries including Stone, Ballast Point, Port Brewing/Lost Abbey, Alesmith and Green Flash
  • Seeking out good beer in Las Vegas
  • A whirlwind trip to Wisconsin
  • A visit to the Goose Island brewpub
  • A tour of the incredible Dogfish Head brewery

As if that wasn't enough, I'd also like to post about IPA Day and GBBF. This will all have to play second fiddle to the wedding planning though - only 6 weeks to go!

I'll leave you with a graph (of course) knocked up to respond to a post on twitter. Completely out of kilter with the rest of this blog post but I think the colours of the Abstrakt labels look nice together and may brighten it up a bit. My only observation is that this somewhat resembles BrewDog's growth in terms of revenue. I wonder what happened to the couple of litres of AB:03 that prevented it being a nice round 3200 bottles. Maybe they fell into Bracken's bowl.