In the spirit of October's "Kiwis for Kiwis" movement, Croucher Brewing, BREW Craft Beer Pub and Rainbow Springs Kiwi Encounter have teamed up to help support New Zealand’s iconic native bird. And what better way to work together than to release a special edition beer, where some of the proceeds of keg and glass sales go to help the crucial Kiwi conservation work done by Kiwi Encounter right here in Rotorua.
This evening at BREW Rotorua, we are tapping the first keg of North Island Brown Ale, where $1 of each pint sold will be donated plus a portion of each keg sold around the country.
Croucher North Island Brown, is a 4.3% Brown Ale with a dose of fruity hops. The concept behind the beer was inspired by Rotorua itself. “This beer is a great Spring-time celebration,” says Croucher Craft Beer Evangelist, Julie Howard, “it’s sessionable enough for an afternoon on it and it’s a nice celebration of the Kiwi hatchling season. We’re excited to give people an excuse to have a pint and do some good at the same time.”
As mentioned, the Kiwi hatching season is just commencing. When Kiwi eggs are located they are taken to Kiwi Encounter, incubated and then once hatched the baby Kiwi is raised to the point where they can be returned to their natural habitat.
Our North Island Brown Ale will be featured at this weekend’s Pacific Beer Expo in Wellington, after which it will be available for national distribution. North Island Brown is a very limited release and available in kegs only, so get it while you can.
About Rainbow Springs Kiwi Encounter: The Kiwi Encounter at Rainbow Springs is New Zealand's largest and most successful Kiwi conservation centre, having hatched and nurtured over 1350 eggs since 1995. Find out more about what they do and how you can support them by visiting them here.
I have a confession to make. I’m a closet mycophile. Look it up if you have to. I’m not especially proud of it but it gnaws away at me and next thing I know I’m wandering around public parks with my camera or loitering around the fresh produce section of supermarkets with intent.
There’s a bit of an underground network where, through shadowy websites, enthusiasts share their pictures under pseudonyms. I know it’s not normal or socially acceptable but also know I’m not alone.
I’m also a pivophile. I know it’s not a good look but some vices are hard to shake. I don’t care what you say; I think most men think about it. I don’t want to name and shame my brethren but I know there are other brewers that share both predilections. Sometimes I wonder if brewing is actually part of my addiction. Perhaps the yeast we use in brewing is like a nicotine patch for mycophiles. It can get you through those hot dry summer months until the autumn rains bring the budding fruits to sate the urge. (For clarities sake and to avoid further damage to reputations “pivo” means “beer”).
Reflecting on this, I’ve been considering some workplace rehabilitation. Recently I met Bas, also encumbered with the mycophilia/pivophilia double whammy. We discussed our interest and shared some photos. We discovered we’d both grown a little at home for personal use and wondered whether we might be able to crank up the mycobator (incubator for mushrooms), grow a little more and put it into a beer.
During a furtive website viewing session we discovered mushroomgourmet.co.nz. It has a whole series of categories depending on your preferences. It turns out that oyster mushrooms are easy to grow on straw and spent coffee grounds. How about an Oyster mushroom stout? Now you’re talking. We can use it as therapy and how yum would it/could it be?
We set up the 'deal' and scored several doses of oyster mushroom spawn. Bas reconsitituted my contemporary hangi (beer keg steamer) and we steam sterilised a series of bags of straw and coffee grounds as substrate to grow the mushrooms on. We inoculated the bags and hung them in the mycobator (a modified beer fridge).
That was a forntnight ago. Today Bas and I shared a moment. The budding fruits of our labour were bursting forth; the prospect of several kilos of fungal gold to harvest for our stout was almost too much to bear. I’m sure a quiet man-tear was shed. Even Dikkie, my right hand man who has poo pooed my mycophilia as an over indulgent nerdism was caught up in the sheer emotion of the moment, snapping perhaps his first mushroom shot (I have no doubt he’ll start a catalogued collection).
Now we’re off to the pub to try a stout and wonder just how much better it might be with mushrooms.
With 2015 only a week or two old, it is probably a timely opportunity to reflect on 2014 here at Croucher Brewing. And what a year it was.
Th biggest event was shifting the brewery. After the best part of 10 years in the same old sausage factory (which we had actually grown to big for at least 3+ years ago), we found an ideal new site in Dec 2013. However there were significant delays due to plumbing issues with the building - a function of a neighbouring development gone rogue (with Councils permission). It took until July/Aug for this to be remedied. So eventually the process of moving and upgrading the brewhouse commence. The highlight was the building of a 100+ square metre chiller - sheer luxury after 10 years working in a refrigerated shipping container.
By October we had the brewhouse in place and a few brews under our belts. There is still a strong element of number 8 wire technology in use, but have improved number of process challenges and identified the ones we need to address in 2015.
The increased capacity of extra fermenters and bright beer tanks is starting to pay dividends, with better availability of our core range of beers (Pilsner, Pale Ale, Lowrider, Patriot and ANZUS IPA) and a number of seasonal/one-off beers rolling off the line. Look out for a return of Croucher Black Forest in Feb, which this time is a chocolate sour cherry porter. The Raspberry Pilsner will be back in Jan, along with our APA (Nigel's favourite). The Singletrack IPA experiment continues, where we brew the same base beer but use one (different) hop variety each time - Singletrack IPA has been a really popular addition to our brewing programme.
Another satisfying part of 2014 was growing the team at the brewery. When we include the bars we employ 50 (I just about fainted as I wrote that!) people across our businesses and in 2014 we finally put some meat on the bones at the brewery too. With Dikky taking on the brewer role, we employed Julie as our Sales and Marketing Manager. Julie is ex-Rogue and ex-Hopworks in Portland, Oregon, so brings a wealth of pub/brewery experience and sheer enthusiasm to the team. Talking of enthusiasm, Kim joined later in the year in a sales and events role and has quickly formed a dynamic duo on sales with Julie. The final piece of the puzzle was Ramsey, who joined us as a cellar hand late in the year, and with Dikky these two made sure we have kept beer moving at all times since. We finally have a real team, which is super satisfying after many years of just Paul and Nigel running like mad things on the brewery mouse wheel.
We had great results at beer awards in 2014; five medals from six entries at BREW NZ, and a couple of medals at the Australian International Beer Awards too.
Our ANZUS IPA was selected to represent NZ in a Canadian craft beer advent calendar. It was a huge order by our standards and had to be shipped in the the middle of the year to allow all the collation and packing (there were more than 23,000 packs made up). Reaction to the beer was fantastic, and there was around 1000 reviews of ANZUS IPA made on Untappd in the period following the release of the calender.
Our two BREW | Craft Beer Pub's (Rotorua and Tauranga) went from strength to strength. BREW Rotorua has become one of the most popular bar/restaurants in Rotorua and won OUTSTANDING BAR at the Rotorua Hospitality Awards for the second straight year!!
The year ended with a change to the drink-driving laws in NZ, introducing a lower blood/alcohol limit. The most obvious initial impact us was an immediate increase in interest in our LOWRIDER IPA. This 2.7% flavour bomb re-wrote the book on lower alcohol beer, and is a great go-to option for all of us who want a drink or two with a meal.
2015 promises to be another exciting year, with more production improvements to be made, new beers to be brewed (and sampled), new markets to explore and more fun to be had. Stay onboard for the ride, we love and appreciate your support.
Best wishes for 2015 from all of us to all of you.
The highs and lows in this business are extreme! This week we experienced both over one piece of equipment... our keg washer/filler.
The history of this piece of kit goes like this; a few years ago Little Dave (David Brown - one of the D's who brewed our seasonal Double D) let us know that there was a keg washer/filler for sale on Trade Me. Turns out it was ex-Lion, and was sitting at a scrap yard in Auckland. With Nigel's eye for a bargain (which probably only bats 50:50 - there have been some absolute steals, and some right dogs too) he entered a bidding war with another player, who turned out to be Craig Fitzpatrick from Fitzpatrick's Brewing in Tauranga. But Nigel won out for the ridiculously low sum of $450.
The machine then sat untouched in the brewery for almost 12 months before Dave, on Xmas holidays from Uni, got it operational. It was a piece of kit that really changed our production capacity.
Fast forward to the last week, and after moving and installing it in the new brewery we started having problems, in fact it ended up not being able to do anything except reject kegs. And this at a time when we had lots of beer coming through the process ready to be packaged and customers screaming out for beer. We had accurately identified the problem, which was to do with a temperature probe, but couldn't figure the solution. After a couple of days of deep depression at being unable to fix it, an SOS call went out to a local engineering firm, the guy walked in and seemingly sorted the problem in moments - and it was the easiest of fixes. RELIEF!!
The steep ascension from dark clouds to high fives was a beautiful thing!
Our long awaited brewery move is well underway. In fact we got the brewing equipment up and running pretty quick and now have our first few brews under our belt.
As expected there were a few teething problems, but nothing that slowed us too much.
The two highlights are the MASSIVE chiller we now have, which is over 100m2, and secondly the prepared and painted floor in the wet area. These might now sounds all that exciting, but they are the sort of things that get brewers tweaking at the seams.
Over the next couple of months we will be filling every tank and fermenter as often as possible in preparation for summer. We are also in the throws of planning our 2015 production schedule, and we should have capacity now to roll out more occasional beers next year, and we will keep you informed as we go.
Earlier this year we employed the fabulous Julie Howard, ex-Rogue Ales and Hopworks Urban Brewery, both out of Portland Oregon. Julie is heading up our sales efforts and has been doing some great work. If you have any suggestions of bars/restaurants/liquor stores that you's like to see Croucher beers at, then flick an email to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With the virtual completion of the 'Eat Street' development, ignoring some peculiar behavious by some contractors, summer should be pretty crazy at BREW. We have an awesome team there, who work tirelessly to ensure our customers have a great time, drink some great beer and eat some great food. We have lots of love music coming up over the next few months, so keep informed on BREW Rotorua Facebook page. Check out the carboot sale on there right now.
In August we ticked past our one year anniversary for BREW Tauranga. The business continues to grow, and with some really keen craft beer supporters locally we are in for a busy summer. We have had a few personel changes, with Mark O'Connor moving across from BREW Rotorua to become General Manager. We are stoked to have Mark onboard, and look forward to seeing his energy kick BREW on to the next level. Our Monday Quiz Nights have become really popular, along with our Monthly BEER CLUB and WINE CLUB. If you are in Tauranga over summer, head in to BREW on The Strand for your Croucher fix. Follow BREW Tauranga on Facebook.
Better get back to work...
Nige & Paul
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...
Please come visit us at BREW next time you are in Rotorua. And thanks for your support.
Nigel & Paul