Sunday, December 21, 2008

A little brewery called Founders

What is the best possible way to spend a gorgeous summer day when visiting Nelson?
Enjoying freshly brewed beer at the Founders brewery bar and cafe of course.

Founders is a Nelson-based brewery, situated in the local Founders Park attraction, which is currently producing five beers for the local and international markets. All five of these brews are widely available in bars and off-licences all over New Zealand, but absolutely nothing could beat having a couple of pints of the freshly brewed Founders lagers and ales under the beaming sun at the brewery itself.

The brewery itself is tiny. And, as a 100% certified organic brewery, the brewers have only four different hops which can be used in their brews. Surely, these are two incredibly limiting factors for Founders. So it is hard to imagine that John Duncan and his two sons can brew and bottle the quality and volume of beer that Founders produce in this one establishment, using only a selection of ingredients. But they do. And somehow manage to do an amazing job of it.

Tall Blonde is the brewery's most popular beer, a European-style golden lager which is rich in colour and flavour. Incredibly smooth with a beautiful balance of hop, malt, passionfruit and citrus flavours and even a vanilla character which comes through to sweeten at the end of each mouthful. A very drinkable brew, which puts New Zealand's most popular local lagers to shame with its abundance of flavour and full-bodied texture.

RedHead is a vienna-style amber lager, also very full-bodied and full of flavor. The beer has a crisp hop character, with burnt coffee notes, a bit of spice and a slight dark-chocolate sweetness. The dark malt really dominates the beer, however, which produces a very smooth, yet almost clean, well-rounded beer.

Long Black is a German-style dark lager, which has a lot of substance for its style. As the name would suggest, the smooth black coffee flavour dominates every mouthful, with notes of dark chocolate and caramel to slightly sweeten each sip. Although hop is present in the beer, the bitterness from the malt is far more prominent, which results in a smooth, balanced and incredibly drinkable dark beer.

Generation Ale is an amber-red ale with a lot going on. The caramel and vanilla notes smooth out the malty bitterness, while the sugary sweet apple and pear flavours add an entirely unexpected dimension. This fruity sweetness is brought into check with subtle nutty and cinamon spice flavours. A smooth, balanced beer which was the perfect brew to drink under the very hot afternoon sun.

Finally, Fair Maiden is the newest addition to the founders range. It is more of an American influenced pale ale with the fruity hop and bitter malt characters, which has citrus fruit and caramel sweetness to offset the strong bitter flavours. Smooth and hearty, this palatable beer is lovely on its own or complementing a meal.

Five incredibly high quality beers, all brewed and bottled in only one small brewery in Nelson. The beers are well worth a try and if in the Nelson region, visit the Founders Brewery and ask for a tour by John Duncan - it's my pick for best attraction in Nelson. Have a burger while you're there - beautiful.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

It's all thanks to Fraser

The annual Regional Wines and Spirits Beer Options was held this evening at Wellington College's Firth Hall, where 14 teams competed for the coveted Gisborne Gold cup.

In a pub quiz-style competition, the Regional crew provided a total of 6 beautiful jugs of beer per team, accompanied by three multi-choice questions per brew.
The questions included:
"What is the alcohol content of this beer?",
"Where was this beer brewed?",
and "What is this beer?",
along with many a curve-ball, such as "What unusual style of fermentation is used to produce this beer?".

My boyfriend and I happened upon this competition purely by chance. We were told of the Beer Options only yesterday afternoon by Fraser, the head of Regional's beer section, when we went in to buy the new Emerson's Brewers Reserve.

We managed to talk two of our close friends into joining our team, and entered into the Beer options as the 'Garden Tools Gang'. We really did deserve the title of the worst name, but were ousted by the 'Novice Pints'.

We, the Garden Tools Gang, were both the last team to enter and the last team to arrive. After consuming some gorgeous beer, however, including Moa's St Joseph's Tripel and Belhaven's Scottish Wee Heavy, we managed a very surprising third place, closely following 'Seeing Pink Elephants' in second and the defending champions 'White Rhinos' in first.

What made our (almost) victory even sweeter, was that we were the second youngest team there, up against some veteran beer tasters, including one team who had competed in every Beer Options since it's inception.

Our acute beer-tasting skills won us 4 Crown Lager Umbrellas, 6 Christoffel Bier glasses, 6 500ml Epic Lagers and a voucher for Pizza at Bar Edward in Newtown. Expecting a near-bottom performance, it was a very surprising win and an incredibly enjoyable night indeed.

My excited boyfriend, David, is modelling some of our prizes below.

Who knew that loving beer could be so rewarding?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Piracy has been headline news in the past few weeks as Somalian pirates continue to hijack a considerable number of vessels passing through the Gulf of Aden, also known as 'Pirate Alley'.

When the world is facing such economic instability, ransoms of several million US dollars have been paid to the Somalian pirates without so much as a blink of an eye in order to secure the safe release of crew members and (in the majority of recent cases) millions of dollars worth of oil. It is certainly not a bad days work for the pirates, who don't even need to threaten the lives of hostages before large sums of money have exchanged hands.

With this widespread media attention of late, a recent trip to Regional Wines & Spirits resulted in my bringing home a 10.5% Belgian beer named 'Piraat'. Unfortunately, the beer does not reflect in any way the dispicable behaviour of those pirates roaming the African seas.

The beer embraces the pirate name by being a bold and daring drop, rich in both colour and flavour. It pours a beautiful amber-golden colour with a fluffy white head. Malt is the dominant flavour throughout, however, there is a strong sweetness to the beer thanks to the citrus and grape-like flavours which balance the bitterness well.

At 10.5%, there was undoubtedly a shocking alcoholic flavour at first. My best friend's only reaction to her her first (and last) taste was a very fitting "Arrrrgh!!!!" But after a few mouthfuls the strong alcohol is completely masked by the complex and smooth flavours of both the malty bitterness and fruity sweetness. One most definitely feels the strength of the beer by the end of the glass however.

As the pirates of the storybooks like to say, "Yo ho ho!"

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hoppy Heaven

Despite a price rise in packaged beer looming, Lion Nathan's Mac's Brewery range was on special for $9.99 a 6-pack at my local supermarket this week. Taking advantage of the low price, I grabbed a pack of the Hop Rocker Pilsener. In my opinion, it's the best pilsener lager on offer from the two mainstream brewing companies in New Zealand.

The Hop Rocker has a lightly hopped nose with floral notes, but the first sip offers a far more complex flavour than the aroma's let on. A smooth mix of passionfruit, malt and floral hops which both begin and finish the mouthful. Quite sweet at the start, perhaps a hint of vanilla, but a powerful hoppy bitterness to stay true to the Czech style. Beautifully refreshing, perfect to enjoy with the last of the afternoon sun.

The beer looks great too. A deep golden colour with a white fluffy head.

And, Mac's have packaged the range in a really cool way: block letters on colour-coded background - it's as if the letters have been painted on the wooden panels of a kiwi holiday bach.

Plus, there are several different labels on the back side of the bottles, so there is something new to learn on the back of each bottle in the pack. Awesome.

My definite favourite of the Mac's Brewery range.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Beer prices to rise

As the Western world is facing a period of uncertainty due to the unexpected "credit crunch", currencies have weakened, food prices are rising and employment is becoming harder to find.
It was only a matter of time before new Zealand's beer industry was also effected by the weakened economic climate.

New Zealand's Dominion Breweries (DB) have announced that from March 2009, the price of their packaged beer products will rise by up to 5% due to rising glass, aluminum and cardboard costs. That's an extra 10c per bottle in a Monteiths 6-pack, or an extra 30c for a Heinekin at your local pub. All this starts to add up when hosting a family barbecue or buying a round on a Friday night.

DB's biggest rival on the local beer market, Lion Nathan, are yet to comment on whether a similar rise will be seen in their products, but in the current financial climate it looks like there will be more bad news for local beer consumers next March.

On the bright side, with summer just around the corner there will be many beer bargains to take advantage of before the price hike in March.

For full article as it appeared in the NZ Herald click here.