As usual it has been a busy time at the brewery.
We are on the trail of a couple of potential premises for the brewery (we outgrew our current home probably three years ago), so hopefully something will happen in the near future and we can get set up and operating using all the fermenters and tanks that are currently lying on their side in storage.
One exciting new development for us is that we have filled a couple of ex-wine barrels with Vicars' Vice and will barrel-age them for the next year or so. Should be pretty interesting after that amount of time. [Photo is our guest German brewer, Christian, filling one of the barrels]
We have a couple of new beers either avaialble or in progress. Firstly, Singletrack IPA is our single hop IPA using the same recipe as Galaxy IPA but with a different hop - this time it is New Zealand grown Orbit hops. Fermenting as we speak is what is tentatively named Black Forest, our colab brew with Christan. It is a Chocolate Cherry Porter, and we can't wait to get into it.
Autumn saw the release of a new seasonal plus the return of an old favorite.
The new seasonal was our Raspberry Pilsner, fermented a second time over whole raspeberries that had been crushed. We initially hoped we might get some colour from the deep red of the berries, but instead got a delightful raspberry aroma and flavour. There was also an interesting battle between the big hop flavours from our Pilsner and the raspberries - making it a morish refreshing lager.
The returning favorite was our APA (American Pale Ale), this originally was released in 2011 but was placed on hold while the availability of USA hops was limited. It was a welcome return, and went down a treat... alas probably the only APA left now went to Australia a week or two ago.
Winter is upon us, and what better time of the year to re-release our Coffee Stout. The 5.5% Stout sat on Ethiopian Yirgachefe coffee beans that we roasted in our own commercial coffee roaster. Yirgachefe is an outstanding coffee bean, and delivers a big shot of coffee flavour to this beer - we haven't just paid lip-service to the coffee flavour, indeed there was a great whack of beans added to ensure a big coffee hit. Some have even suggested it is a perfect breakfast beer... now I'm not sure we'd go that far. The first batch disappeared before our eyes, so the next batch is in the fermenter with the coffee freshly roasted. Keep your eye our for Corucher COFFEE STOUT over the winter months.
2012 was another eventful year at Croucher Brewing... why do we do it to ourselves??
April saw Paul on TV recreating the beer Captain James Cook brewed when he arrived in NZ. the program was called The New Old, and was a great snapshot of the local beer scene. the beer, however, was not so great - how the Captain Cook and his crew stomached that beer is a mystery that perhaps only shear desperation explains. The use of molases as the malt substitute made for a fowl concoction, surely even by the standards of that era.
In May Croucher Pilsner won CHAMPION PILSNER at the Australian International Beer Awards - the largest annual beer awards competition in the world. Needless to say we were rather pleased.
The middle of the year saw the creation of 'Today's Morning Tea' on our Facebook pafge, where we would promote and rate various beers that we get to try at the brewery.
In August we joined the pilgrimage to Beervana and BrewNZ. It was a fabulous 3 days in Wellington trying some great beer, and catching up with all the top people who populate our industry. Beervana should be on your to-do list for 2013!
We introduced a few new beers throughout the year, including; Ethiopean Pale Ale (a coffees stout brewed using Ethiopian Yirgicheffe beans roasted on our own commercial coffee roaster), Low Rider (a 2.7% hoppy session ale) and Galaxy IPA.
September saw the brewery that we had been borrowing taken out and shipped to Australia, that started our search for a replacement kit. We found a big kit sitting dormant on a farm in rural Morrinsville (the ex-Kiwi Breweries kit). We temporarily set up our original plant while we worked through getting the new equipment. So over November/December we shifted the plant to Rotorua - set up a small proportion of it while we find new premises that can handle the size of the new tanks/chillers, etc.
So it was a pretty manic end to the year, but it has been a huge amount of fun learning about new equipment, and having a chance to re-design the flow throughout our brewery... and we will get to do it again in 2013 with a new premises.
Thanks to all our supporters for sticking with us for another year - we some exciting plans for 2013, so stay tuned!
The opening of our pub in Rotorua, BREW, highlighted an opportunity for the brewery. Being a pub dedicated to NZ craft beer, it became obvious that there is a lack of low alcohol yet tasty craft beers - every brewery and it's dog is cranking out 6-10% hop bombs like they are going out fashion, but there are virtually no craft beers below 4%.
This, and meeting a brewer from the UK whose brewery produced about 10 or 14 beers below 4%, was the genesis of the idea for Croucher LOWRIDER our first low-alcohol IPA at 2.7%.
Making a low alcohol tasty beer is tricky - it is a battle between balancing flavour without tasting too thin. We were exceptionally pleased with our first effort, you could smell the hops in a glass of Lowrider from across the bar.
We were then asked to contribute a beer for the GABS (Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular) in Melbourne. They approached a whole bunch of Australian and New Zealand craft breweries asking us all to create a new beer especially for GABS. We knew that the vast majority of brewers would go for something BIG and BIGGER... so we thought we go for something BIG and SMALL (BIG hops, SMALL alcohol). So taking what we had been learning about lower alcohol hoppy beers, we decided to create ANZUS IPA.
For those born after 1984, ANZUS was a military alliance between Australia (A), New Zealand (NZ and the United States of America (US). The alliance hit a slight snag when in 1984 New Zealand decided it wouldn't let American nuclear (powered or weaponed) navy vessels in to our ports.
What we hoped with ANZUS IPA was to give these three nations another shot at working together in harmony - however rather than it being on a military basis, this time it would be on the craft beer frontier... specifically HOPS! Representing New Zealand was the newly released Kohatu, the Australian representative was our new favourite hop Galaxy, and the new US release Zythos.
We were pretty pleased with the result - in all honesty it probably could have had a bit more aroma (we blamed the Aussies!), but the malt character was superb for a 2.7% beer. Paul kegged his heart out, we shipped the beer, and despite a few frustrating delays the beer made it to Melbourne in time for GABS.
Needless to say, we were a little nervous... how had the beer travelled? Would a low alcohol beer stand up to the rigors of trip across the Tasman? And on tender hooks we waited for the first news. Fortunately one of the great things about the world we live in is that mobile phones, websites and apps make feedback easy and immediate. GABS kicked off, and before we knew it there were Tweets and Untappd reviews ticking in.
The making, selling and response to this beer has been a fun ride for us. Thanks to EVERYONE who tried ANZUS IPA at GABS, even if it wasn't to your taste. We appreciate that you were open enough to try a lower alcohol beer (believe us, there are plenty of people who turn there nose up at the thought of a lower alcohol craft beer).
We'll leave you with some of the fantastic (as well as the less fantastic) comments about ANZUS IPA from GABS attendees. It is hard to please everyone, so we don't even try!
Nige & Paul
> "This proves we've been conned into thinking that light beers have to taste like nothing. A really wonderful beer." WHMY, via Untappd
> "Best light alcohol IPA out there.", VicbeerOclock, Untappd.
> "That was a great brew. You got my vote ANZUS IPA", noizurgy, Twitter.
> "Lovely example of low alcohol, high hopped and bitter pale ale. Awesome." Matt, via Untappd
> "A great hop kick & low ABV. THIS is what should get served at the football." Matt Goddard, via Untappd.
> "I could drink this all day; thin and watered down but all the lovely hop notes I love", LaitueGonflable, Twitter.
> "Excellent light beer" Dean, via Untappd.
> "Amazing for 2.7%", Allan S, via Untappd
> "Yeah that's ridiculous for 2.7... it does have that low alcohol taste to it, but it's amazingly well balanced", Ale_of_a_time, Twitter
> "Too light in flavour", Ross, via Untappd
> "A little too watery", Jenn Davidson, Untappd
> "Yikes. In need of some aroma hops me thinks", Nathan Costello, Untappd.
> "Hops and not much else, thin", John G, untappd
Firstly, apologies for the lack of blog updates in 2011. It would be fair to say it has been a crazy busy year so far. So we thought it was time to give you a brief run down on what you've missed...
- Summer was busy with the summer beer festivals. We only did a handfull this year, but they were all great days. Thank you Tairua, Mt Maunganui, Rotorua and Auckland. (Jan-Mar)
- Paul participated in the NZCraftBeerTV collaborative brew in Auckland - the resulting MASH UP ale is on tap right now at BREW - I'll explain what BREW is shortly (Feb)
- We closed a deal to open a craft beer pub in Rotorua... scary times! (April)
- Launched Croucher PATRIOT in bottles - this is our extremely hoppy American Black Ale. Co-incided with our first major keg shipment to Australia (April)
- DISASTER... while dancing (yes, dancing) in the brewery, Paul danced the sole off one of his boots! they don't make steel-capped workboots like they used too! (April)
- Some guy tried to sell one of our kegs on Trade Me... thanks to the Hamilton Craft Beer Mafia the culprite was apprehended. (April)
- Our brewery posted a comment on our Facebook page "Dear Nigel and Paul, where are you? Love, The Brewery." It was a lonely time - we barely saw the brewery for 2 months!
- BREW | Craft Beer Pub (http://brewpub.co.nz/) opened it's doors after 6 weeks of renovation, council compliance, cleaning, cleaning and more cleaning. It was all consuming... we even had a facebook message from t he brewery (May)
- We won medals at the prestegious Australian International Beer Awards - Croucher Pilsner (Silver) and Pale Ale (Bronze). Chuffed!
- Paul Mecurio came to town and shot a food show, including Paul and the brewery. He cooked Pheasant using Mrs Claus' Famous Christmas Cake Ale. Yumbo. Paul (Mecurio) is a great guy too, LOVES his craft beer!
- Croucher PATRIOT was the inaugural WINNER of the NZ Beer Cup!! Beating a host of other top craft beers to the title! Super Chuffed! (June)
So there you have it - it's been quite leisurely really!
Please come visit us at BREW next time you are in Rotorua. And thanks for your support.
Nigel & Paul
As 2011 approaches, it is a perfect time to reflect on the highs and lows of 2010. Overall, it has been a really good year for us. We have made some huge decisions on the direction of our business, our beers have had some great kudos, and we have been able to grow strongly against a backdrop of recession and increased competition.2010 HIGHLIGHTS
- We are still talking to each other!
- That might not sound like such a big deal, but crikey, we (Paul and Nigel) have been working together for like 6 years. The seven-year-itch is just around the corner! Watch this space - next year things could be a very different kettle of fish.
- It has been a great year on the awards front. Firstly Croucher Pilsner won Gold and Trophy for Champion International Lager at BrewNZ 2010... unfortunately we weren't even there to accept the awards (you can read our absentia acceptance speech here).
- Secondly, Croucher Pale Ale was named Champion Beer in the Capital Times Beer necessities Survey 2010. Our Pilsner, as well as the Pale Ale, were named in the countries Top 12 Beers.
- This blog was named in the world's 50 Best Beer Blogs
Steaming pistons! [obscure Thomas reference]
- One of the most satisfying achievements this year has been the addition of regular seasonal beers to our line-up. The year kicked off with the Vicar's Vice and Cherry Bock, followed by Vicar's II, Patriot (American Black Ale), October Ale, and the most recent Mrs Claus' Famous Christmas Cake Ale. Patriot is up again next, just in time for the summer festivals. We have a few ideas lined up for 2011, so will let you know as they unravel. Making these beers is pure fun and excitement, a chance for us to experiment and learn more.
- After a long period of struggling to keep up with production, we made the decision to investigate contract brewing some of our bottled beers in a facility geared up for larger volumes. Our search led us straight toSteam Brewing in Auckland, they are responsible for handling the brewing of some of this countries better craft beers. It has been a HUGE change for us and our business - but we are very pleased with the beers coming out of Steam, sales are going well, and we hope we are well placed for continued growth in 2011.
The Release Of Croucher Pilsner In Cans
- A couple of months ago we were invited by Galbraith's Alehouse (the iconic Auckland BrewPub) to have a permanent tap of Croucher beer in their bar. Keith and Ian have long been friends and mentors, so this is a great honour for us.
- Early this year Hamiltonian's got their own craft beer pub - House On Hood. On the recommendation of Greig McGill (renowned Hamiltonian Raconteur), House contacted us about supplying beer to them. Well it has been a great relationship. We LOVE what they are doing there (please check it out next time you are in Hamilton), and they seem to love our beer too.
- Exporting - Croucher beer is now available in Australia. We started working with a distributor a few months back, and are now sending regular shipments into and then around Australia. What a cool addition to our business - streuth, we think its grouse that our cobbers over the ditch are keen to head down to the bottle-o to grab a Croucher coldie.
- Rotorua hosted the 'Kiwibikes Single Speed World Championships' as few months ago. One of the local bike shops, Bike Vegas, put a team in dressed as cans of Croucher Pilsner. It was a scorching hot day and these guys suffered! The highlight was Dave checking whether the cans would float or sink - check out this AWESOME video (be patient - wait for the 3rd can to come through).
Alas, you can't have it all you own way, and there have been a few road blocks, disappointments, and drama's. Some details, however, are best kept in-house.
- The Underground Got Buried
D Rated Food Outlets
- At the beginning of the year we were running our own tiny craft beer pub (The Underground Bar) in Rotorua, having opened the doors in May 2009. But by the end of January it had closed down - the restaurant whose liquor licence and kitchen we utilised had decided to go out of business. It was a shame in many ways, as it had been a great way of introducing Rotorua people to craft beer, but the flip side was that we were able to put more effort back in to the brewery.
- For some reason Paul found and then dragged me along to a restaurant in Otahuhu with a D Grade food certificate. They have to display the rating, and alongside it was a sign saying no credit cards. When Paul went to pay by credit card, they allerted him to the signs on the wall - you would think a restaurant with a D food rating on display would be doing everything in its power to NOT alert your attention to signs on the wall!
The biggest thanks goes to all of you who have gone out and purchased our beer this year. We do appreciate your support and enthusiasm, and we consider you a vital part of the Croucher Brewing Team. Thanks, and our very best wishes to you for 2011.
Nigel & Paul