There are worse ways to spend your Saturday than drinking beer with friends. A few hundred friends. And to also have the chance to talk to the people who made the beer you're drinking is pretty cool too. It's like walking through an art gallery with the artists.
My beertinery ran like this: Yeastie Boys' Punkadiddle; Three Boys' Pineapple Lump Porter; Cock and Bull's Kumera Kawapeto; Emerson's Billy T Witt; Epic and Dogfish Head's Portamarillo; Epic's Barrel-Aged Stout; Renaissance's MPA; and a Yeastie Boys' Her Majesty 2010.
All of those were medal winners, some were trophy winners, none were bad.
My favourite, if I am forced to choose one, was Emerson's Billy T Witt (their festive brew made with kumara and kawakwa with a hint of pikopiko). It was made with almost the exact same ingredients as Cock and Bull's Kumera Kawapito (also in the festive brew category) except C&B added horopito instead of pikopiko and brewed a cloudy Hefe while Emerson's was a Belgian style. C&B's beer with its fizz and acidity caused me to describe it as being "like Dispirin", though I meant it nicely. Emerson's brew seemed to have a more rounded flavour and suited my taste buds perfectly. When Jed (he of the wonderful photos) mentioned to Richard Emerson of the small difference in the two beers' ingredients, Richard was surprised and said "but horopito stops the fermentation process!" Like I said, I love brewers.
I was also incredibly keen on the Punkadiddle. It is one of a growing range of so-called "session beers", beers with low alcohol levels so you can have one over lunch without falling asleep at your desk in the afternoon. Punkadiddle, which was only 3.7%, had a nice flavour to it, not too bitter, and felt like a beer I could easily drink all day without later waking up somewhere strange and without pants. It also received high praise from other brewers some of whom texted Stu (half of the Yeastie Boys) to say they were drinking it and it "was stunning". "Three separate messages praising the drinkability of my beer, from three of the brewers I respect the most, are better than any medal or trophy".
I also got to sit down with Sam Calagione (that's him above and yes he is wearing a Slow boat Records t-shirt), founder and President of Dogfish Head brewery in Delaware. A real character, Sam built the brewery with the help of friends, and in one case, stolen empty kegs. He's now fronting a new show for the Discovery Channel on craft beer and brewing around the world (called Brewed), and is a big part of the reason why he was in New Zealand.
Audio to go here soon!
I also talked briefly to Dave Bernard of Tuatara about an upcoming project that you'll learn about soon enough. Oooo mystery… actually it's not a mystery at all if you've spoken to me in the last month or so.
Now your job is go out and find these great beers (yes Tui is on the list again as Best NZ Draught) and drink them.