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?