Real Ale Reviews Independent reviewers of real ales, beers and lagers from around the world, including beer reviews, breweries, watering holes and real ale events
    Sebright Arms / Lucky Chip

    Sebright Arms / Lucky Chip

    The bar is busy. The tables are full. The backroom is heaving and buoyant. Welcome to the Sebright Arms, dimly light and vivacious. We arrive from Soho at the fading of a sun drenched afternoon - four pubs, six pints, four hours. Three and a half miles later, bellies demanding meat and bread and barley, we bundle over the threshold. A table is found, pale beers ordered, burger menus devoured by hungry eyes. It's a young crowd, an old ...

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    A King and a Prince

    A Prince Amongst Beers

    It's not every day that you get the chance to try a beer that's older than you are. Last Saturday night I opened a bottle that was just that; I opened a beer that was older than me, so that’s over twenty five, give or take the odd ten years. In fact it was a lot older than me, more than twice my age. It was brewed in 1929 in fact, so that’s 83 years old. A mate ...

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    Build A Rocket Boys!

    Build A Rocket Boys! by Elbow & Robinsons

    Elbow are the kings of soaring melancholy, masters of poetic northern introspection.  Let Elbow's albums flow over you and you can be mesmerised by their beauty alone. Put in the time to listen, to soak up the poignancy, the humour, the extraordinary manifestations of the ordinary and their albums become life affirming tributes to the everyday. Conversely, it's quite easy to stick an Elbow album on and realise thirty lethargic minutes later that time - and ...

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    Man shed!

    Readers Pubs

    At the first pub there's a piano in the window but no one to play it. The seats are filled with ghosts. A long pew is adorned with individually wrapped cushions, resembling a bum-friendly box of Mr Kipling cakes. It's quiet, the fireplace glows warm and friendly, everything is cosy and snug. Welcome to Pete's Retreat. "We'll be at home here, let's get a pint." Much as we could stay forever we've a long crawl ahead ...

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    De Struise Pannepot 2008

    Pannepot 2008

    Broody and brown, like blood-red soil on a wet day, four-year aged Pannepot is dragged out of the beer cupboard and into a glass like Jack Dee to an in-laws barbecue... It simply doesn't want to open (the journey back from Belgium wasn't kind: a contemporary shot it's load in the suitcase, drenching the stash of bottles and it's still sticky and downtrodden) but eventually, after much gushing and fizzing, it acquiesces. Perhaps it's just the toll of ...

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    John Keeling Fullers

    Desert Island Beers #50: John Keeling - Fuller, Smith & Turner PLC

    It's a special week on the desert island as we celebrate a half century of castaways being swept up onto our shores. Robinson Crusoe # 50 is a real coup for us as it features none other than Sir (it’s only a matter of time) John Keeling; Head Brewer at Fuller, Smith & Turner PLC, (better known simply as Fullers). John was born in Droylsden, Manchester, in September 1956. When he left school without telling his ...

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    Will Hawkes

    Desert Island Beers #38: Will Hawkes, The Independent

    Welcome to the latest episode of Desert Island Beers which this week features Will Hawkes who works on The Independent’s sports desk and writes about beer in his spare time. Born in London and brought up in sunny Kent, he has had an interest in ale since he could convince a barman he was 18 – but his real conversion to good beer came after a year spent living in Southern California in 1999-2000, when the ...

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    Marston's Fever Pitch English Bitter

    Marston's Fever Pitch

    First off I should point out that I don't often take kindly to products and advertising that jump on the football bandwagon. The best footy related marketing is the football advertising by Nike and Carlsberg (ignoring their most recent attempts). So, I'm potentially a little biased against Marston's Fever Pitch... Let's start with the positives: oranges, lemons, citrus peel but not zest. It's more interesting than I expected, more summery. A mellow bitterness that isn't displeasing and ...

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    Englischer Garten

    Drunken in Munchen

    Let's be frank, I'm not brilliant at getting drunk. It's not that I'm a bad drunk per se, but since my uni days my tolerance has faded and I'm much better suited to a lazy pub garden or the frantic but well partitioned boozing of a hot festival day. So, the morning after the night before, eating pizza along the tramlines of Munich, Stag Day 2 of 3, the first beer is an inevitable mistake. The 12 ...

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    Lowlands Bier Festival

    Beer From The Low Country

    The smell of beer slopped on wooden tables, the glint of light in the top of the chalice, the sounds of a deck of cards and the clink of glasses. I'm in a bar in the north country but my senses are across the sea and howling winds, in the bustle of a backstreet bar in Belgium. Four pm on a sunny Friday, sampling the beers of the Low Countries in a bar in Leeds, dreaming of ...

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    BrewDog Blitz 2.8% ABV

    Brewdog Nottingham

    The blue logo can be seen for hundreds of yards. The windows that look out onto Hockley's student-filled streets, opposite a tea room, cinema and acclaimed bistro, are plastered with huge crest shaped decals, archetypal generation Nike branding for a Starbuck's influenced post-modern brand experience. B R E W D O G Reminiscent of the type of industrial themed sandwich shop found in downtown Prague or New York's Soho, but with added chutzpah and a munificence for ...

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    Shibden Valley by Tim Green

    Shibden Mill Inn

    Down a winding single lane road the descent to Shibden Mill Inn is not one to be taken with nonchalance. A careless clutch foot could result in an unexpected round of automobile tobogganing, even without the help of rain, ice or snow. But survive the swooning approach and there sits a fine pub to be snowed in at: good beer, warm hearths and food fit for kings. The pub is infected with sunny Sunday smiles. Gregarious family ...

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    Packhorse bridge and Old Bridge Inn Ripponden

    A bridge in time

    A brisk day in March, wet but without rain. Ducking through the dripping steel railway bridge, carving through residual puddles, Sowerby Bridge seems jack-knifed between the twenty first century and the 1970s. It's partly the lack of ubiquitous chain stores, partly the dubious puns of the shabby independent shops, but mostly the hues of a downtrodden day in a small Yorkshire town. Out the other side of the town the road befriends the trajectory of the ...

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    Hopback Summer Lightning: a bit of a legend in Beerland

    Hopback Summer Lightning

    Some beers have a pedestal. Sometimes it's deserved because they are truly great beers, technically and taste-wise. Some are headliners, built by a cheeky PR campaign or an elaborate story. And some are deserved winners of awards and a place within beery folklore. Summer Lightning by Hopback falls in the latter category. Back when I was enjoying my third year on this planet and coming to terms with the fact I would soon have a baby ...

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    December 11th, 2012DavidMayhallDesert Island Beers

    This weeks Desert Island castaway is Tammy Viitakangas Head Brewer and M.D of Aotearoa Breweries NZ Ltd. Tammy was born and grew up in the small mill town of Kawerau, Eastern Bay of Plenty, on the North Island; her parents having lived their entire married lives there. (Her father came here from his native Finland as a youngster among the early Finnish families who came to Kawerau to help run the then new Tasman Pulp and Paper Mill.)

    Tammy left school at 18 and went off to Massey University in Palmerston North to study a Bachelor of Technology. She says she never would have dreamt that 12 years later she would be back in Kawerau running her own brewery with her Mum, Dad and Uncle Esko. The thought of ever even coming back to live in the area was not running on the top of her list of things to do; she wanted to see the big wide world first and did just that.

    Tammy says her first memorable beer experiences were at Massey where she learnt about malting and brewing in a biotechnology paper and a part of which involved a field trip visiting a large and small brewery in Napier. She says she subsequently aced that paper. She also indulged in the typical student life and drank a lot of flavourless beer and became more interested in how to make it. The visit to the small brewery which she thinks must have been Roosters, was also a mind opener; as she tried a chocolate beer and had no idea that there was even such a thing as a chocolate beer, and was most impressed being a chocolate lover. She ordered one or maybe many afterwards; loved the tour and seeing a small business in operation. Still though, it did not cross her mind that she would end up doing something similar herself years later.

    Thereafter Tammy did the typical NZ OE after Uni; and lived in both Melbourne and the UK for a few years. However it was mostly while travelling in Belgium she first truly fell in love with beer. Her first was the Hoegarden Belgium Wit beer which she loved. Aotearoa now have their own interpretation of that style, with their Mata Blondie and which still brings back memories. Tammy also loved the Abbey and Fruit beers, and experiencing the amazing variations in beer flavours and styles. She drank beer all the way through Germany, Pilsener in Prague and also tried UK offerings.

    After returning from the UK, Tammy wanted to start her own business been tired of working for large companies. She looked at businesses to buy, and with having had jobs in food and pharmaceutical manufacturing it was only natural to look for something in that field. Meantime Tammy had started home brewing; she loved it and found others were really enjoying her beer. So she purchased Wellington microbrewery Strongcroft and transported the brewing equipment to Kawerau and managed to convince her Mum, Dad and Uncle to join her crusade. That was seven years ago.

    Thinking back now, Tammy says they were all bloody mad. None of them had ever worked in a brewery before, her dad and uncle were paper makers, and mum a school secretary, but somehow they managed to piece together the brewery, and were happy just to have their first batch boil and ferment. Three months after launch they received their first medal which was a very proud moment, and Tammy says they are still having fun today and absolutely loves that beer has no endings, and there is such a huge array of flavours achieved from just four ingredients and remains excited by beer everyday.

    Tammy Viitakangas

    Mata Brown Boy

    MATA!

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    December 7th, 2012DavidMayhallDesert Island Beers

    Meet Sean Harris, founder and brewer at Raindogs Brewing Co. Christchurch, New Zealand. Sean was born and raised in Christchurch, went to University there and did an honours degree and then a PhD in chemistry. He says he got pretty sick of the insipid mainstream beer on offer back then and with imported beer rare (rubbish mass produced lager only) and with craft brewed beer also pretty hard to come by he basically gave beer up in favour of wine and cider.

    Sean then moved to the USA to work after university, specifically Houston, Texas and it was there that he discovered the world of beer that was just not available back then in New Zealand. The craft brewing industry in the US to him was an eye opener. After Houston he moved to the San Francisco area and spent a couple of years working at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. His love of beer continued to grow and develop there; there were lots of small breweries and brewpubs in the area so lots of great fresh beer to try. And it was whilst living there that he decided he’d had enough of working as a research chemist and given the vibrant brewing scene, could see opportunities to get into brewing and take that back to New Zealand.

    Sean had been successfully home brewing for a while but decided he needed a bit more of a formal education in brewing so he took the American Brewers Guild craft brewing course. He says it was an excellent course that provided a thorough background into the science and practical engineering of brewing and it also provided Sean with a two month internship at E&O Trading Company in San Francisco.

    From there Sean then brewed at a brewpub north of San Francisco called The Broken Drum for a time. He then moved to Seattle which he says had a fantastic brewing scene but was unable to get a foot in the door. So he packed up and moved back home to Christchurch. Soon after he arrived back he got the job brewing at The Twisted Hop, (at the time) a relatively new brewpub in the city. Sean worked there for 5 years brewing predominantly cask beer for service in the bar and which Sean says was his first major exposure to the joys of real ale. He had a great time there but it all came to an end with the Christchurch Earthquakes closing the City Centre and the pub.

    The above, Sean says really forced him to look at pursuing his own business, so he started Raindogs Brewing Co in the late half of 2011 and has been lucky to be able to brew his beers at another local brewery, Three Boys, so has not needed to invest in brewery plant up until now. But as production needs have increased and hopefully will continue to do so, the time has come to open his on brewery and Sean is in the process of doing so right now and aims to have the new brewery site up and running in early 2013.

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    November 16th, 2012DavidMayhallDesert Island Beers

    This week’s Desert Island castaway is Kieran Haslett-Moore, of Southstar Brewing, a Cuckoo brewer, who travels New Zealand sneaking in brews at other people’s breweries. Kieran has been forging a career in fermented food and drink for the last decade although his passion for beer goes much further back than that.

    He says he always preferred beer to other alcohols and he discovered good beer on a holiday to Otago: for whilst riding on the Taieri Gorge Railway he came across a bottle of Emerson’s London Porter and his perception of beer changed completely. He went on to start home brewing while enthusiastically tasting as many beers as possible. After a degree in Sociology and Politics he then went on to become the cheese monger at Wellington’s, Moore Wilson’s Fresh Market. At the same time he took up beer blogging, and started to run beer and cheese tastings.

    After 6 years as a cheese monger Kieran took up the position of Regional beer specialist at Wellington’s liquor retailer and distributor Regional Wines and Spirits. He also manages to find time to write regular beer columns for Capital Times in Wellington, SOBA’s Pursuit of Hoppiness and for Consumer Magazine and has judged at the BrewNZ/Brewers Guild Awards, the SOBA National Homebrew Competition and at the NZ International Beer Awards for the last 2 years.

    In 2010 he was the first person to bring a recipe into the Emerson’s Brewery when Regional and Emerson’s made a collaboration brew. The resulting extra special bitter, RSB, was brewed again the following year and won a silver medal at the New Zealand Brewers Guild Awards. This year the collaboration took the form of a best bitter. Named RBB the beer took a gold medal and best in class trophy.

    Kieran was also a founding member of the Society of Beer Advocates and is a long term overseas CAMRA member. He says he finds the current apparent conflict between CAMRA and proponents of English ‘craft beer’ curious and a little saddening. He also regularly presents beer tastings and still specialises in beer and cheese tastings, which are in his opinion two perfectly suited fermented foods.

    His passion is for traditional and modern English style beers and Southstar Brewing is a vehicle for that. It’s more a brand for his cuckoo brewing rather than an actual brewing company. So far there have been two Southstar beers brewed as collaborations with Silverstream’s Kereru Brewing Co, a Strong Rye Brown Ale and a Beervana Festive brew that combined chestnuts, cranberries and currants. Next up is a brew planned with New Plymouth’s Liberty Brewing Co which will be an English hopped IPA brewed in a New World style called Sceptred Warrior. Kieran also still runs a 60L home brewery in the hills of Brooklyn where his partner Sarah puts up with the smell on brew days.

    Kieran Haslett Moore

    Desert Islands are for chillin’

    Galbraiths

    The Beers

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    November 9th, 2012DavidMayhallDesert Island Beers

    This weeks Desert Island Beers features only our second Brewster, Tracy Banner, who is joint owner, with David Barrett and the Head Brewer of Sprig and Fern Brewery, Richmond, Nelson, New Zealand.

    Tracy started her life in the Brewing Industry in North West England at Greenall Whitley’s aged just 16. She started out in the laboratory analysing malts from all over the country, alcohols, pH levels, bitterness, polyphenols and Fusel oil to name a few. She thought she would be at Greenall’s for life, but after eight years the brewery closed with Greenall’s beers subsequently been brewed under licence in Burton upon Trent.

    Next stop was Bass Brewers where Tracy joined the Product Improvement Team. Unfortunately, the powers that be then decided to close three of the Bass Breweries in the UK so she was off again looking for another brewery so she could stay in the industry she had become so passionate about. Subsequently leading the Quality Team at Cains Brewery in Liverpool with a heavy involvement in Cask Conditioned beer was an exciting role and one she enjoyed for four years before Tracy and her husband decided they wanted a better quality of life and headed to New Zealand. That was 1994.

    After a year with brewing giants Lion Nathan in Auckland, they moved to Nelson where Tracy took on the role of Brewer at Mac’s Brewery and subsequently became the Head Brewer and Operations Manager. This was around the time of the craft beer revolution in New Zealand, and Tracy was instrumental in introducing new beer styles that were somewhat more flavoursome than the mainstream beers on offer at the time.

    After ten years of being the face of Mac’s, Tracy and her husband moved their young family to Dunedin where she took on the role of the first ever female Brewery Manager and Head Brewer of the iconic Speight’s Brewery in the Southern Man Territory. Following a return to Nelson a couple of years later, she then took on a National role looking after Mac’s range of products until Lion Nathan ended the lease of the brewery and the brewery subsequently closed.

    Early in 2009, Tracy and her husband acquired a shareholding in Sprig & Fern Brewery and Tracy became the head brewer. The brewery produce some 20 or so products with a number of their beers being multi award winning and this year the brewery was voted runner up Champion Brewery at the Brewers Guild of NZ Beer Awards.

    Tracy professes to being a bit of a workaholic, managing to run the brewery and producing an extensive product range and raising three school age children all at the same time. In addition Tracy and her husband own and operate the Sprig & Fern Milton St Tavern, which in September this year was named the Best Bar in New Zealand at the Hospitality NZ awards.

    Tracy Banner

    Sprig Fern Pilsner

    Sprig Fern Hops

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    November 3rd, 2012DavidMayhallDesert Island Beers

    Meet David Gaughan, director and brewer, at Golden Eagle Brewery, Rolleston, Canterbury, New Zealand. David was born and raised in Rotherham, South Yorkshire and after finishing secondary school followed his father into the steel industry with the newly privatized United Engineering Steels (formerly British Steel). After nearly 20 years there he used his experience and qualifications to move to New Zealand as a marine castings manager in 2006.

    David says it was then he found that he really missed the diversity of the real ale scene back in England and armed only with the experience of drinking ales, in 2009 he decided to become a part time brewer, albeit a home brewer. He researched and researched, designed his own 60 litre all grain brewing system and began making beer. He won the first home brew competition he entered and drew 2nd, 1st, and 2nd in subsequent competitions.

    David Gaughan

    South Island Pale Ale

    Around a year after starting to brew, David went commercial, selling 40 litres of cask conditioned ale a week. Good reviews and happy customers gave him the incentive to brew more. Plans to build a microbrewery were hampered by the Canterbury earthquake, but he still had the desire to brew, so he utilized another local breweries’ facility (Three Boys Brewery) to brew his recipes at the weekends when they didn’t operate. That was May 2011.

    David currently produces a permanent range of 5 beers, with bottled and draught available nationwide along with 2 collaboration beers with Raindogs Brewing Co., one of which took a silver in the NZ brewing awards this year. David also brews experimental and one off brews on the pilot kit.

    David has in recent years judged in the BrewNZ awards and also the NZ national homebrew competition and has recently made collaboration brews with theBrew in Shanghai and took his South Island Pale Ale recipe back to Rotherham collaborating with Wentworth brewery.

    Now that the earthquakes have receded David has plans in place to open a shared brewery with his good friends at Raindogs Brewing Co. with hopefully production starting sometime early in 2013.

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    October 26th, 2012FletchtheMonkeyDesert Island Beers

    Welcome to the latest episode of Desert Island Beers which this week features Phil Cook, a writer who has an affinity for all things beer. Awarded the inaugural Brewers Guild of New Zealand, Beer Writer of the Year Award in August 2012, Phil writes an incisive and often strongly worded, no holds barred blog. He was was born in 1979 and raised in the suburbs of Wellington and has lived almost his entire life in the City, with a few years each in Canberra (for University) and Melbourne (just because).

    He says he spent too-many years at University, especially considering he came out with two degrees (Philosophy and Law) that he doesn’t now use (at least directly and/or daily), and during that time (and after) clocked up over a decade of bar-tending experience – ranging from dive bars, to restaurant bars, to running a cute little part-time bar at University, to working at the Malthouse in Wellington when it was, says Phil the undisputed High Altar of craft beer in New Zealand.

    Back in 2004, when his best friend saw his beer-nerdy side blossoming, hampered only by his basically non-functional memory, he bought Phil a Beer Diary for Christmas, and that eventually turned into a real passion, a consuming hobby, and says Phil a long-winded blog – which as aforementioned picked up – to Phil a rather-surprising and massively-flattering award. Phil has now (mostly) given up bar-tending, and recently landed a job with Wellington’s new(ish) brewery, The Garage Project, (from which brewery Pete Gillespie also features on Desert Island Beers shortly) and which Phil says is proving to be tonnes of fun – and a nice change of pace within the same scene.

    Phil Cook

    Hallertau Minimus

    Gunnamatta!

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    October 19th, 2012FletchtheMonkeyDesert Island Beers

    This weeks Desert Island Beers features Andrew Dixon, legendary proprietor of the Mussel Inn, Onekaka, Golden Bay, New Zealand, home of the original Captain Cooker, Manuka Beer*.

    Andrew started brewing in his mother’s kitchen at the age of 15 – and says that despite the mess there was nothing but encouragement on her part – the wafty aromas of malt and hops taking her straight back to fond childhood memories of her own grandmother brewing beer out the back of their tearooms – destined to be consumed at dodgy poker sessions she ran on Sunday afternoons.

    Andrew then brewed pretty much continuously – using the very convenient kits that were then new to the market – as he traveled around NZ with a young family – building log houses. Returning to Onekaka in the late 1980’s to build their own house, Andrew started brewing properly in a lean-to attached to the garage – producing about 100 litres a week for a select local clientele – whom he refers to as his market research team.

    In 1992 Andrew and his family built the Mussel Inn and all brewing was put on hold while they ‘house trained’ the new baby. During this time they stocked around 30 odd craft beers, sourced from all around NZ – no mainstream products – and the success of this gave Andrew the confidence to take the next big step into brewing for real.

    Andrew-Dixon

    Andrew Dixon

    No suitable brewing equipment was available back then so Andrew designed his own and had it built locally – a 350 litre brew length – which served him well for ten years – selling only through the Mussel Inn. In 2005 Andrew upgraded to a 1,200 litre brew length and finally succumbed to the pressure to make his product available far and wide.

    Around this time, the Mussel Inn also allowed brewing of their Captain Cooker Manuka beer under licence in Belgium at de Proefbrouwerij in Gent. They made such a good job of it that they then let the Squatters brewery in Salt Lake City have a go – also with much success. Andrew says that a couple of years ago, Matt Clarke at Hawkshead brewery also made a decent fist of a cask version for a Hawkshead Beer Festival.

    The Mussel Inn is now coming up for its 20th birthday in December 2012 – this will comprise a week long event featuring a selection of entertainers that have been playing there since way back – and a brew of “First Light’ lager – the first beer to come out of the original brewery – at 20 year ago prices!

    *This is the flagship beer of the Mussel Inn, brewed since 1995. It was inspired by the first beer ever to be brewed in New Zealand, by Captain James Cook in 1773. The Mussel Inn version is a red brown all malt beer flavoured with the freshly picked tips of the Manuka tree and locally grown New Zealand organic hop varieties. It was the only beer out of 240 New Zealand beers to rate 10 out of 10 in Keith Stewarts book ‘The complete guide to New Zealand Beer’ and also featured in ‘Best – a New Zealand compendium’. . NO ADDED SUGARS, NO PRESERVATIVES, NO WORRIES!

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    October 12th, 2012DavidMayhallDesert Island Beers

    Meet Paul Croucher, co-founder and brewer at Croucher Brewing Co. Rotorua New Zealand. Paul was born and schooled in Rotorua and then went off to Otago University to study Chemistry. It was there he says he discovered craft beer through one of New Zealand’s iconic brewers – Richard Emerson of Emerson’s brewing fame. Paul says Richard would pour his London porter from hand pump’s in a market that was swamped with the sweet brown lagers, that New Zealand was in-famous for at the time, so says its no wonder Richard made it big.

    Paul later went off to Australia to a post-doc in nano-technology. While Oz was a beer desert at the time, Paul had the opportunity to travel to North America and Europe which really got him into craft beer. Brands like Marston’s, Shaftesbury, Boston Brewing, Deschutes and even some of the classics like Eggenberg and Pilsner Urquell he says really got his juices going. And Paul says he distinctly recalls a moment in Poland where thinking having exhausted his tolerance for beer he went into a pub in Krakow and ordered a long black and when the barman poured him a Lech, he figured beer was his destiny.

    Paul then came back to New Zealand having accepted a post as Lecturer in Pharmaceutics at the University of Auckland. Not having much experience in Pharmaceutics, he took to “consulting” to the local wine and beer industries. These included the multi award winning Villa Maria, with whom Paul had the privilege of being cellar hand on their 2001 Champion Pinot Noir, and the incomparable Galbraith’s Alehouse. This consulting essentially meant being unpaid labour while Paul learnt how to make wine and brew beer. After a while, fate plate her cards. Paul’s teaching was put over the southern hemisphere vintage and the Research Institute he had started some wine collaborations with, lost all of their funding. Anyway to cut a long story short, the wine doors closed and the beer doors opened. Paul then won the National amateur section of BrewNZ for his New Zealand strong Pilsner and from there a small group decided to start the Croucher Brewing Company as a concept.

    A little while later when Paul and his wife were traveling back to their home town of Rotorua he says they felt a real sense of home; they drove around the lake and on a whim bought a house on the edge of Lake Rotorua and his wife took on her father’s business, allowing Paul to indulge in his premature mid-life crisis of setting up a brewery for real. They found a site, modified a few dairy tanks (it is New Zealand after all) and some old cellar tanks to make a rudimentary but functioning brewery and the rest, as they say, is history.

    Paul Croucher by Jed Sloane

    Paul Croucher

    Croucher Brewery by Jed Soane

    Croucher Brewery by Jed Soane

    Epic Brewing Armageddon IPA india pale ale

    Armageddon!

    Pliny the Elder Russian River

    Pliny the Elder Russian River

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    September 30th, 2012FletchtheMonkeyDesert Island Beers

    It’s exciting times across the world, and particularly in New Zealand and Australia. Both countries are seeing a boom in craft breweries, and r’David over at Allgates Brewery has been keeping tabs on the vibrant beer scene developing down under.

    So, for the next few weeks we’re letting the Australians and New Zealanders take over our regular Desert Island Beers feature, with a passionate selection of brewers, writers and beer lovers to share their favourite beers

    Desert Island Beers has already featured a handful of Kiwi brewers and a lone Aussie writer but hopefully by featuring all these brewers and brewsters together it will give us a better insight and focus into & on these markets and showcase the number and quality of the craft beers now been brewed in these countries, some of which are now available here in the U.K.

    Desert Island Beers goes Down Under Australia New Zealand brewers

    Desert Island Beers goes Down Under!

    As usual featured castaways will features on both the Allgates blog and Real Ale Reviews, and over next few weeks we’ll be interviewing:

    • Josh Scott, Moa Brewery – New Zealand
    • Marcus Muller, Matso’s Broome Brewery – Australia
    • Paul Croucher, Croucher Brewing – New Zealand
    • Andrew Dixon, Mussel Inn – New Zealand
    • Phil Cook, Beer writer and Bursary winner – New Zealand
    • David Gaughan, Golden Eagle Brewery – New Zealand
    • Brendan Varis, Feral Brewing Co – Australia
    • Tammy Viitakangas, Aotearoa Brewery – New Zealand
    • Dr. Ralph Bungard, Three Boys Brewery & President of the NZ Brewers Guild – New Zealand
    • Shawn Sherlock, Murray’s Craft Brewing Co. Pty Ltd – Australia
    • Sean Harris, Rain Dogs Brewing Co. – New Zealand
    • Tracy Banner, Sprig & Fern Brewery – New Zealand
    • Ben Kraus, Bridge Road Brewery – Australia
    • Carl Vasta, Tuatara Brewing – New Zealand
    • Kieran Haslett-Moore, South Star Brewery – New Zealand

     

    A bit of background from David at Allgates…

    The New Zealand market in particular has seen significant growth and it is somewhat reminiscent of the U.K. market, albeit on a smaller scale with the total number of breweries in New Zealand increasing over the last four years from 48 to 68. The number of small “craft” breweries (under 40,000 litres p.a.) has grown the most, doubling from 15 to 30 in this same period. These latter breweries have also seen the largest increase in production over the period, their output growing by an average of 7% in each six month period. And the total NZ craft beer market grew by 14% in the 6 month period to Dec 2011. New Zealand beer is also travelling abroad with nearly half of all craft breweries now exporting.

    While Australians have always had an insatiable appetite for a cold lager, since 1978 they have been drinking less per capita, with any volume growth in beer sales, since this time, been driven by population growth. However, there has again been a sea change in that consumers are now prepared to spend more which is driving value growth. Drinkers are now looking for different beers for different occasions with a category shift within the Australian beer market to Craft, Low Carb and Premium Beers.

    Foster’s remain the biggest beer force in the nation, but the fact is that its market share has fallen as low as 48%; from 55% five years ago. Now trading under the name Carlton and Union Breweries its main brand is not even Foster’s but Victoria Bitter, the biggest-selling beer in Australia and a lager in spite of the name, and Carlton Draught. With Lion Nathan, which brews Castlemaine XXXX, Toohey’s and Swan, the two giants along with imported premium beers command about 94% of the Australian market.

    Recent figures also reflect the UK with beer consumption in Australia falling by more than 5 per cent in the year to November 2011, to its lowest level since the 1940s, but local craft beer enjoyed double digit revenue growth, including 25 per cent for Little Creatures. However “craft” beers made by independent brewers still remain small players – making up just 2 per cent of the market, or 6 per cent if Cooper’s is factored in. There are however now estimated to be approximately 175 small craft brewers in Australia and it is forecast these craft brewers will over the next five years grow their market share from the present 2% to around 5%. Way to go!

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    September 28th, 2012DavidMayhallDesert Island Beers

    Meet Josh Scott, founder and Executive Brewer of Moa Brewery of Blenheim, Marlborough, New Zealand. Founded by Josh in 2004, Moa began with a focus on brewing super premium beers – and that’s exactly what they have done since, as for the second year running Moa recently chalked up the biggest medal haul of any brewery at the Asian Beer Awards, with one gold, two silver and four bronze medals.

    Their beers and ciders are fastidiously handcrafted with traditional brewing methods and rounded off through the use of wine making techniques, including barrel ageing, bottle fermentation and conditioning.

    Josh brewed his first beer in an old shed out the back of his father’s Marlborough vineyard in 1987. It wasn’t very good and technically, because he was only 13 at the time it also wasn’t very legal. But that single event set the course for the next 20 years of his life. The very next day (officially, five years later when Josh was of legal drinking age which in New Zealand is 18) Josh and some mates from school (who were officially also all 18 years of age, even though they were still in Third Form) set about finding out everything they could about the biology and chemistry of brewing. No small feat in 1987 as the Internet hadn’t been invented, school libraries didn’t really cater to their needs and none of them could drive to a library that possibly could.

    Josh Scott Moa Brewing

    What followed was 15 years of trial and error, where Josh learnt the trade at the feet of some of the world’s most well regarded traditional brewers. Until finally in 2004 he felt comfortable enough to produce a beer that people wouldn’t actually mind paying for and established Moa Brewery.

    A Moa was a giant bird (up to 12 feet high) that use to roam New Zealand. It was hunted out by the first Maori inhabitants some 600 years ago and Josh decided to name the brewery after this giant bird because the Maori hunters known as the ‘Moa Hunters’ lived not too far from the breweries location. There were also a lot of Moa bones found close to the brewery itself.

    Since establishment Moa has become a staple beer at festivals worldwide, won the respect and loyalty of connoisseurs from Europe to the Americas and the brewery is currently one of the largest New Zealand beer exporters to the United States. Moa Beer also recently took over as the official beer of New Zealand’s 2012 Olympic teams and it’s packaging won gold at this year’s Brew NZ Awards.

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