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I am often being asked to, “tell me about that new Whistling Sisters place”. So, here you go. I spent some time chatting with Bede Roe (part-owner and sales person) and Dale Gould (head brewer) for this piece. It was great fun. Bede has an infectious energy when talking about the brewery and its background, and the vision for the future.

It is also great fun visiting Whistling Sisters on our Craft Beer College tours. We go “behind the scenes” and into the brewery for a look-around. And, a nice brewery it is indeed. It was designed and engineered in Nelson, making it one of the few, if not the only, New Zealand made breweries in Central Wellington. Despite Nelson being close to home, it took a long time to build.

The 2016 Kaikoura earthquake had an impact. The brewery and restaurant building was in the design and construction phase. When the quake struck, the consulting engineers were called away to prioritise the assessment and remediation of existing, occupied buildings. It was a bit of a set back, along with the imposition (by the local council) of the $16,000 extractor on the brewing kettle. Steam is now collected and condensed to go down the drain rather than being vented outside. But, on the bright side (!), they’re looking at ways it can be recycled and re-used.

The mention of looking on the bright side is a nice little segue into the title of this piece, and the background to the brewery and its restaurant – The Fermentery. It might surprise some people. Even though the story is on their website, there’s been criticism of the name due to it being owned and run, primarily, by two men; Bede and his business colleague Russel Scott. Russel has shares in the brewery and owns the restaurant. People might not see the commitment, and time, put in by Bede’s wife, Angie, when they say this.

The Whistling Sisters name is painfully close to Russel and the Scott family’s hearts. This is one of the reasons none of the team make a big deal about it (even though, arguably, they should). Russel and his wife Elwyn, sadly lost a beloved daughter – Karen Louisa – to secondary breast cancer in 2015.

As her cancer progressed Karen Louisa took a passionate interest in work to find a cure and to support women with the deadly disease. The family wanted to honour her legacy, setting up the Karen Louisa Foundation with a focus on generating funding to provide direct assistance in supporting patients with secondary breast cancer. The Scott family used their networks, and businesses, to run events and raise money – quiz nights and auctions – and soon realised that they were being supported by the same set of friends and customers. For the Foundation to continue, it needed a more sustainable income.

On New Year’s Eve 2016, Russel sent Bede a text, asking him if he still wanted to start a brewery. “I thought he was pissed”, Bede chuckles. But, a brewery was a dream that he’d talked about over the years with wife Angie. He spent 15 years at Lion Nathan including as their sales representative for Steinlager in the United Kingdom. During that time, he watched the beer scene develop in New Zealand, noticing some of Lion’s traditional products being swapped out by the likes of Gisborne Gold.

The beer scene was something Bede and Angie wanted to be a part of but never really had the start-up capital needed, especially after a few failed hospitality ventures in Hamilton. Russel could provide that capital, if Bede and Angie could provide future support to the Karen Louisa Foundation; through the profits from the brewery. It was a risk for them – as they thought there were tracking towards retirement – but the lure of the dream was too strong. So, a deal was struck.

The name Whistling Sisters was chosen to reflect the brewery and restaurant’s charitable goal, and the Scott family’s focus on finding the good from a sad situation.

When you're chewing life's gristle,
Don't grumble,
Give a whistle
And this'll help things turn out for the best.
And...Always look on the bright side of life.

Those of you old enough to know the song, know the chorus is accompanied by a whistle.

Bede comments that since the start of the dream, all those years ago, the beer scene and “the market has become more discerning, it’s really, really changed”. But, his background, Angie’s support and Russel’s networks have been really helpful in establishing pathways to bring the Whistling Sisters beer to market.

As well as leveraging established networks, Bede’s focused on building new relationships. Along with sales, he does most of the deliveries himself.  He finds that the time spent dropping off and picking up kegs provides a great opportunity to talk with bar and restaurant owners.

As a newcomer to Wellington, one might have though brewer Dale would have to build new relationships as well, but he and wife Gemma have comfortably slotted in. They’ve come via Blenheim, where Dale spent some time brewing with Renaissance. Prior to that, Dale worked in a few breweries in Australia with quite the pedigree. He started at Mash Brewing in Western Australia and spent time at Stone and Wood.

Dale’s got a long history in the industry with his dad being a General Manager at Dominion Breweries (DB), and then owning the rights to supply and distribute beer – in beer tankers – at Eden Park. He remembers climbing into them to scrub them out as a skinny little tacker at the time. So, he certainly knows the old sayings about brewing being more cleaning than anything else!

Cleaning skills, qualifications in brewing from Edith Cowan University and in  engineering, and considerable creative flare has seen Dale create quite the range of beers; some of which have been missed by the beer community. This is, in part, because beer people are not the sole focus. Dale comments that it could actually limit their potential reach in an increasingly crowded market. He notes the long list of beers that compete for taps in beer bars and how long it takes to work to the top.

So, when Whistling Sisters launched, it was with a core range, all under 5%, designed at building brand loyalty in restaurants and bars, not necessarily beer bars. That said, as a beer person, I thought their original Golden Ale was a treat and it’s a shame that they’re not making it anymore. It wasn’t all that well named. Those who like a traditional Golden Ale were likely surprised by the beer’s dry, spicy finish from the Belgian Ale yeast. Those that like a Belgian Ale yeast, and who should have liked the approachable ABV over a warm Wellington summer, never would have known it was a feature of the beer.

The Golden Ale was an interesting reflection on the impact of marketing. Something the team continues to think about in the description and sale of their beer. Bede’s really keen on using “balanced” and “structured”. When questioned to clarify what he means by this, his point is beer without rough edges and without a particular focus on a single ingredient.

Bede doesn’t want Whistling Sisters to be making big, bitter hop bombs, seeing that there’s enough of these in the market. He’s got nothing against them – neither does Dale – but they don’t want to try to compete with the likes of Epic and Garage Project. (They have, however, succumbed to producing an IPA as so many people ask for the style over the bar. We’re still IPA obsessed in Wellington, and New Zealand generally).

As a brewer, Dale has a real bent for brewing with herbs and spices; often with a South East Asian or East Asian flare. His Rooty Toot Toot has ginger, galangal and turmeric, and this year carrot thrown into the mix. It’s a gose, with a gorgeous hue and just a subtle saltiness. For me, the real surprise with this beer is not the flavours – they work and they do what they say on the label – but, the mouthfeel. It is rounded and slightly oily, and gives the beer more oomph than you might expect at 3.8%. It is delicious.

The inspiration for all the spiced beer comes from Dale’s love of Ballast Point’s Indra Kunindra – a stout brewed with Madras Curry, Cumin, Cayenne, Coconut, and Kaffir Lime Leaf – once available at Hashigo Zake but now no longer in production. Dale’s treasuring his last few bottles.

Herbal notes also come through in the Whistling Sister’s Italian Pilsner – Prima Dana – but are purely driven out of the use of the Dana hop. A strain of Styrian Goldings, the notes about Dana talk of citrus characters. But, I didn’t find them in this beer. It had an aroma and flavour profile I’d not experienced before. It was beguiling. I find it fascinating and think it well worth trying next time it comes on tap. I can totally see it match with some of the cured meats served up in the restaurant; the carbonation will cut through some of the fat, and the herbal, bitter characters of the beer should balance the meat’s sweetness and compliment the spices they’ve been cured in.

We finished our chat talking about what the team is looking forward to in the new year - year two. Dale jokes about brewing a million litres, but on a serious note reflects on the great opportunities for growth into the future.

Bede is keen on the brand getting out into the market and to beer events, and both talk about constantly refining techniques in the brewery. So many brewers talk about each and every brew being an opportunity for improvement, and Dale’s no different here. They’re keen on setting up a little lab, to do more detailed testing and grow a more detailed understanding of their beers.

They’re also looking forward to bottling. A new bottling machine has been purchased, along with 1,200 unique bottes that they’ll be looking to fill in coming months. At two bottles at a time, it’s going to be a labour intensive, labour of love. But, if there’s one thing that really stands out in this interview, it’s that Bede does love it! Just look at his recommendations for the beers you must try before you die. They’re all Whistling Sisters’ own! It’s clear he’s ever the salesperson.

The final questions, for a bit of fun

What’s in the fridge and what are you drinking at home?

Bede

Bede has been drinking a lot of their Riveting Rose. I know this as he’s commented on having the odd sore head over summer thanks to it. It’s a dry, blackberry wheat beer and super easy to drink.

Dale

Dale’s got some Sassy Red from Mac’s in the fridge for a visiting friend. He says it’s not as good as it used to be, but is still pretty good! He’s got his last bottles of Indra Kunindra, and some Rhyme and Reason Pale Ale for summer drinking. The rest are big, wintery type drops like vintages of the Garage Project Mutiny on the Bounty.

What are your “beers you must try before you die”?

Bede

Ever the salesperson, Bede chose exclusively Whistling Sisters’ beers to answer this question – Riveting Rose, the Coconut Milk Stout and the Rooty Toot Toot. He’s very brand loyal, and will always choose Lion Nathan over DB! And, I know he likes a Steinlager.

Dale

No surprises here – Dale’s first pick is the Indra Kunindra, and then, what must be a polar opposite – the Mahr’s Kellerbier drunk fresh from the source in Germany. Another favourite for the same reason was the San Gabriel La Rossa Di Verona, or Red Beer of Verona drunk by the Colosseum.

The team from Fork and Brewer might have been the only ones in Wellington surprised about being awarded Champion Small New Zealand Brewery at the 2018 Brewers’ Guild Awards. Head Brewer Kelly Ryan is known and loved in the brewing community and has 18 years’ worth of experience under his belt. The brew pub was a top pick by many. It’s one of the great places we visit on our Craft Beer College beer tours.

We spoke with Kelly and part-owner Colin Mallon about the background to Fork and Brewer / Fork Brewing / Fork Brew Corp; winning their champion brewery award; their new branding; and the things they were most looking forward to into the future. Where do I begin? Both Kelly and Colin are always up for chat…

When asked about the background to Fork and Brewer, Colin reflected on the changes to the Wellington (and New Zealand beer scene) since he arrived in town in 2004. In the early days, the old Malthouse on Willis St, Bar Bodega and Bar Edward in Newtown were about the only places you could buy a beer that wasn’t a premium lager or New Zealand draft. Colin spent his beer time at the Malthouse. Convenient, as he worked there. He didn’t frequent Bodega as he was often propositioned to buy or sell drugs. And, he wasn’t all that keen on Newtown at the time! (As a long-term resident, I can assure you that I upsold its general excellence).

When the Malthouse moved to Courtney Place in 2008, it established itself as a destination beer bar. It made the move at a time when the craft and independent beer scene in Wellington and New Zealand started growing. Colin and his business partners – all with interests in Tuatara Brewing at the time - saw an opportunity to further invest in Tuatara’s growth and in the growth of the beer scene. They started planning to build a new brew bar and brewery.

At the time planning started on the Fork and Brewer, there were no breweries in Wellington. Mac’s Brewery on the waterfront had been shipped out by Lion Nathan. This happened long before Lion changed the signage. Little did Colin and the team know how long it would take to turn their plans into a reality and how much would change over that time.

Fork and Brewer opened for the Rugby World Cup 2011 but didn’t start brewing until a year later. The location, considered perfect due to its proximity to the old Malthouse, proved a challenge in the wake of the Christchurch earthquakes. No one wanted to sign-off on the engineering specifications for a brewery built upstairs.

Colin laughs, “if I have one piece of advice for anybody starting a brewery – don’t do it upstairs - ever”. There are stories abound about the team’s sizable and strong mates helping haul the brew kit up over the balcony and wheel it through the bar on skateboards! One consequence of the building challenges is that Fork and Brewer is one of the safest (and best) places to be in an earthquake. Let this be a point of note to all in Wellington during our next big series of quakes.

From the first brew in 2012 until now, a goal has been to have a broad range of beers on offer – to cater for a diverse clientele and a range of tastes. In response to a question about the number of “suits” often seen in the brew pub (and ok, I also said “sausages”), Colin comments that with their new banking partner, they get detailed statistics about who’s buying their beer. The gender balance is pretty much equal. Forty-five percent of the payments over the bar are made by women. That’s something they should be happy with as there is a real need for beer and the beer scene to become more inclusive (not just because of women’s purchasing power).

Kelly comments that he “wants everyone to be able to walk into the bar and find something they like to drink”. He’s asked around – both here and overseas - and has yet to find a fellow brewer or a brewery with as many of their own beers on tap. When I visited, there were 39 Fork Brewing beers being poured, from a peak of 43 beers a few weeks earlier. It’s an impressive effort from a 1,000 litre brew kit and a 50 litre test kit in a tiny space. Kelly is brewing like he’s in a big production brewery.

The pressure on Kelly, and on the kit, seems only likely to increase in light of the decision to establish the new “Fork Brewcorp” brand and as a result of winning the champion’s award. I asked about both, starting with Fork Brewcorp. Colin reflected that when Fork and Brewer first began, it was hard to market their beers; one reason was the small size of their batches which could sell out over their own bar. This led some around town to question the need for buying a Fork and Brewer beer that could just as well be drunk at the Fork and Brewer itself.

The small batch size is being addressed by the Fork Brewcorp contract brewing their core range (of four beers). They are working with different brewers and breweries that they admire and that have particular expertise and experience in the style they are looking to brew. Their Tainted Love – a passionfruit and juniper kettle sour – is brewed at Hallertau, long known for being one of the first to deliberately brew and condition sour beers in New Zealand. The Hallertau Funkonnay is legendary and the Tainted Love is also capturing hearts. It won a bronze at this year’s awards and was in the Capital Times Beer Necessities six pack being described as elegant by the judges.

Tainted Love was first brewed in collaboration with Ben from Gigantic Brewing in Portland, Oregon. Collaborative brewing and great collaborative kettle sours seem to be a core skill of Kelly’s. While we’re talking, I drink more than one Barbed Wire. It is a rhubarb kettle sour brewed with 8 Wired’s Søren Erkison. It is on my “beers of the year” list. Pouring a rose pink in colour, and with spritz, Barbed Wired has an earthy and slightly funky character referencing both the rhubarb and the bacteria used in the kettle. It. Is. Delicious.

The team have chosen Liberty Brewing Company to make their Golden Handshake Pilsner. Another bronze medal winner. Liberty also brewed the first few batches of the Hyperlocal and Alpha Geek. These last two beers have since moved production to BoneFace Brewing in Upper Hutt’s Brewtown. This gives Kelly the advantage of easily being able to join the brew day and brew with the Fork house yeast.

The Hyperlocal is a must-try from the newly branded range. It won a gold medal as Godzone Beat in 2015 and was the Champion New Zealand Pale Ale that year. This year it took another gold so can truly be regarded as a representative example of the NZ Pale Ale style (although I’d note the hop profile has changed over that time). The beer is well-balanced, making it highly drinkable. It showcases both the citrus and mineral character of Riwaka hops and fruity punch of Nelson Sauvin.

The four Fork Brewcorp beers are just the start of what Colin hopes is a cohesive brand to take to the market. When I asked about the brand’s inspiration, the 70s style, Colin chuckles and compliments their designers who have quite the background in beer, having worked with Tuatara and Panhead Custom Ales. The designers pitched an American muscle car theme which Colin thought would be too macho for the brand (and I’d say would also have been too Panhead) along with the brown, orange and beige retro theme.

Colin comments, that he “grew up in the 70s and in hand-me downs”. He wore them “through the 70s and far too far into the 80s, having three older brothers”. He comments that he can “play the brand as straight or as serious as we want…without detracting from the quality beer”. At this point, Kelly pipes in and notes that his Fork Brewcorp suit is tailor made from his days playing rugby in Korea! He might be modern-day modelling for the brand, but the rest of the images are originals.

The idea behind the new branding is to appeal to the youngsters, who find the brand fun, as well as the crowd who lived through the 70s and can reminisce. During this bit of the conversation, Kelly notes that when he “got into brewing, brand was the number one thing, and we’re now in a place again where brand is the number one thing”. He comments that “you can put an average beer into a glass and if it’s got a great brand people will buy it. That’s something I don’t agree with”.

For Kelly, it is all about the beers. He wants to give them some personality and sees the Brewcorp beers as the start of small family. It is all about “putting a quality beer in your glass”. Colin thinks there’s only so long you can get away with an average brand but agrees that the quality of the beer is important. Happily, Kelly has never had to dump a batch of poor quality beer of his own (touch wood) but would be happy to do so. Colin agreed – he doesn’t want anyone to have a pint of their beer and say, “that’s terrible”. Both agree it would damage the reputation they’ve built.

Continuing to build that reputation and to leverage from their championship win is something Colin is looking forward to in the new year. They’ve just hired a new General Manger for Fork and Brewer and the Malthouse which will give Colin some much needed time to focus.

As the sole brewer at Fork, Kelly doesn’t have time but he is keen to get some basic lab equipment into the brewery (and put some of his brewing, and microbiology and food science skills to the test). This is part of his constant focus on improving his beers and will support his creative desire to try new things.

So, it sounds like we can expect to see more Fork Brewcorp popping up in good bottle stores and bars around the country, and possibly beyond...And, we can expect Fork Brewing to continue to produce a huge range of beers. Get in there and try some. Ask the staff what’s new and what’s tasting great to help narrow down the decision making. And, never shy away from a tasting tray.

The final questions, for a bit of fun

Colin: What’s in the fridge and what are you drinking at home?

Colin has a range of tonic in the fridge. I failed to ask why, but presume it is to go with gin! There’s definitely an emerging scene in New Zealand (and a great collection at the Malthouse). He also had a case of Epic Rhonda delivered as wife, Lou, is a fan. Along with that, there’s some Quartz Reef Pinot Gris from Central Otago.

Kelly: What’s in the fridge and what are you drinking at home?

Kelly had the great luck of a fine wine and dining experience the weekend before our chat where the Delinquente 2018 Pink Pet Nat. He bought a case which is lucky as it has now sold out.

Colin: What are your “beers you must try before you die”?

This is a seriously challenging question for just about everyone! Colin starts with two classics – the Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus and Rodenbach Grand Cru. Epic Lager is also favourite and a must try that Colin puts on the list.

Kelly: What are your “beers you must try before you die”?

Kelly is a fan of the gloriously sour (in the true sense) of 3 Fonteinen Oude Geuze. His story of the creation of the Les Amis Du Brassage Saison also puts it on the “must try” list. There’re just a few bottles left at the bar so get in quick. Kelly also rates the wonderful Timothy Taylor’s Landlord which has been a gateway beer for more than one fan.

Friday, 07 December 2018 17:20

Kegs for Christmas - Charity Beer Tour

Join us on our annual Kegs for Christmas - Charity Beer Tour.

Each year Garage Project donates kegs to great bars around town. The profits from the sales go to Kaibosh Food Rescue, an amazing charity in Wellington's beer community. Check them out on their website.

On this tour, we work for free. You pay, but your $$ goes to charity. Yay.

We start at the Garage Project Tap Room and work our way around the central city bars, drinking beer with all the proceeds going to Kaibosh. Included in the tour is: 
- your Craft Beer College host 
- a 330ml beer at six great bars 
- snacks at two stops.

Let us tour you around, telling tales about beer, water you and feed you, so you can help feed others. 

Tickets available on Eventfinda at: https://www.eventfinda.co.nz/2018/kegs-for-kaibosh-charity-beer-tour/wellington

On 24 November, Heyday Beer Co on Upper Cuba St turned one. Craft Beer College took some time to chat with founding owners, Hannah Blackwood, and brewer, Sam Whitney, about opening the brew pub and all things beer.

A few years ago, Hannah and her business partner Hamish spent three months in United States. They were soul searching about “where to next” in life. They wanted to do something different but just weren’t sure what. Visiting around 80 breweries and brewpubs during that time became market research. They loved the beer and the communities that were built around it.

That US trip lead Hannah and Hamish to decide to build a brew pub in Wellington. And, build it they did...it was a two-year project that included an intense three-month build. Hannah’s background is in design, Hamish is a project manager and actual builder (yup, actual) and their friend Andy, who came on board as a business partner, is an electrical engineer.

The ownership team met brewer Sam early on, in a typical Wellington way. Hannah and Hamish were chatting to Martin, the editor of Beertown, who they met at the pub. They mentioned they were looking for a brewer and a chef. Martin responded, “I know someone who’s both!”

Sam has a background as a chef, both in the US and in Wellington (having once worked at the institution that is Logan Brown). He was working as a production brewer at Panhead Custom Ales where he’d brewed over 750 batches of Supercharger – The Orange One – so was definitely looking for a change.

Sam always had a vision of himself in a brew pub. He admired (and still does) what Kelly Ryan was doing at Fork and Brewer (another place we visit on our beer tours). So, he met up with Hamish for a chat/interview at The Hop Garden and it went from there.

The skill set of the Heyday crew saved them tens of thousands of dollars in that design and build phase, and it gave them all a personal connection to the space and the business. As friends of Sam’s, we can tell you his enthusiasm might shift and re-shape itself but it hasn’t diminished since Heyday’s inception. But now, both Hannah and Sam are starting to work on their long days. Both comment on how challenging it is to separate work and life when you’re immersed in the success of a business. Hannah’s trying to learn to balance the challenges of being a new business owner with enjoying being new business owner! Sam is trying to better separate work and home life. Both talk about needing to put their phones down in the evening and not stress over that work email that pops up after hours.

Hannah’s vision for Heyday was that it was light, airy and colourful, and that the brewery not “shoved in a corner”. She wanted people to see the brewery (and Sam) working. What this means is that Sam is often seen by visitors - resplendent in his brewing overalls – and he has to keep the brewery sparkling clean. Heyday has the cleanest “on-display” brewery in Wellington and given that, in brewing, cleanliness is next to godliness (of whatever denomination), that is a good thing!

Hannah’s vision has been achieved. The brewpub space has lots of natural light, something that is often missing in Wellington, and lots of colour. It was strange to her and the Heyday team that a local magazine photoshopped out the royal blue patterned wallpaper behind the bar for a feature photograph – they replaced it with a beige background!

Everyone can enjoy the Heyday look and fabulous (and very on-trend) flamingo wallpaper in the toilet foyer. Patrons have enjoyed the flamingo salt and pepper shakers well enough for many of them to be pinched since the doors opened! The place is best described as welcoming and fun; there’s corn hole out the front and ping pong at the back of the bar space, with lots of other games in between.

Being a welcoming space was another part of the vision Heyday was going for, and brought on Lewis Culshaw as the Marketing and Events Manager. Both Hannah and Sam reflect on how they are keen to have a range of different events happening – and, their love for dogs. Yup, it’s probably no real surprise to Wellingtonians, but you can bring your woofers down to the bar. They’ll be shouted a treat or two and get lots of pats from staff and patrons alike.

Having an appealing range of beer is also high on the agenda, although Sam isn’t keen on a “core range”. Nor does he want to be rushed into packaging; his view is that it results in selling beer to the big supermarkets with next-to-no profit. All of that means the brew pub is one of the few places you can buy their fresh off tap, making a visit to Heyday high on the agenda (as if you haven’t already been convinced!).

Sam wants, and loves, to be creative and brew lots of things. He comments, “it’s what I’ve always done”. For Hannah, this “lined up perfectly with what we wanted to do”. He’s brewed over 57 different beers since Heyday opened about 12 months ago, and has only brewed a couple of those twice.

The Heyday range has been fault-free from the start, but Sam does not want to get overconfident. He sees each brew through both a chef and brewer’s eyes; as an opportunity to refine his brewing technique and to constantly improve. He’s hyper-critical about all of his beers which, to be fair, is not a bad thing for a brewer.

Sam’s approach makes a tasting tray a great way to start your Heyday experience. Even as regulars, we often find it the best way to try the new beers on tap. Sam comments that the experience starts with your eyes, and the tasting tray comes served with well-designed information cards that tell you a bit about each beer and its background. It’s one of the little details that Hannah can bring with her design background. Sam appreciates that there’s always a neat design to match a new beer.

The tasting tray also sits with Sam’s approach to brewing in series. He’s often thinking about his recipes and beers in flights. Sometimes they come one after the other, like the amaretto inspired Saronno Stout, followed by the Octopus’ Garden – a Gold Medal winning Salted Caramel Espresso Stout – collaboration with Emporio Coffee. Next up was the S’Mores Stout. These are “pastry beers” which draw their inspirations from, surprise, pastries and other tasty treats you don’t necessary associate with beer (and might create some debate).

Other beers in Sam’s series hit the bar at the same time, like the line-up for their Oktoberfest. It included Otto, a Helles, and Wolfgang, a Vienna Lager. These German styles aren’t seen much around Wellington, or indeed, the New Zealand beer scene. He’s also brewed Doxie, an Altbier. There’s a bonus to Sam’s ongoing experimentation – we get to try some lesser-seen styles.

The Heyday Otto is an approachable drop. It’s an easy starter beer – a slightly sweeter-style German lager that’s not too high in ABV but still manages an excellent mouthfeel. The flavour is light with a subtle maltiness. The Horizon APA is a classic that will hopefully be brewed again; it seems necessary for the obsessed Pale Ale drinkers. It got a thumbs ups in the Capital Times, described as a “well-constructed and balanced beer, with some fruity sweet malt balancing out a light, herbal hop aroma”.

We also need to make mention of the Gnome’s Grove Belgian IPA. It was a collaboration with North End Brewing up in Waikanae and is probably one of our favourites of the Heyday beers to date. It used a Belgian abbey yeast and American hops. Happily, the yeast won. It was a pale and spicy ale with lemony notes and incredibly moreish. It was another award-winner. And, we’re excited to hear Sam’s going to explore more Belgian styles. He’s also looking at a barrel programme.

We asked Hannah and Sam what they were excited about in the beer scene and in the upcoming year. Hannah’s looking forward to the birthday celebrations and getting things more organised, taking a breath and getting ahead. And, to extending the outside area.

The distillery is also something that she’s looking forward to. Watch the brewery space in late January or early February for its arrival. That barrel programme Sam was talking about might see a vodka or rum-barrel beer. Sam’s already got a gin-barrel inspired Saison recipe forming. And, there’s potential for whisky in the future…

They’re both excited about beer festivals happening outside of Wellington as a way to get some brand reach further afield. That means they might actually need to brew some beers more than once! And, Sam’s keen to continue the collaborations.

When asked for any final thoughts, neither Hannah or Sam had a tagline in mind. Sam proposed, “drink my beer, it’s delicious!” That seems a suitable endpoint. Get in there. Drink Sam’s beer. It’s delicious.

The final questions, for a bit of fun

What’s in the fridge and what are you drinking at home?

This was a fail as a question, as both Hannah and Sam laughed. Both confessed to taking flagons home from Heyday. One advantage of owning and working in a brewery!

Hannah: “I’ve only just started drinking red wine, Pinot Noir. Home’s gin and now red, pinot”, Hannah comments. She’s working her way through the range of great New Zealand gins that are on offer, seeing a link between their New Zealand made philosophy and that of Heyday.

Sam: Sam said, “I drink a lot of ParrotDog Susan – I’ve bought more than one can which is saying a lot”. He doesn’t drink a huge amount at home, but likes to get out and try the beers on offer from his mates in the Wellington brew pub scene (and from others).

What are your “beers you must try before you die”?

Hannah: Tropic Thunder, by Back Pedal Brewing in Portland, Oregon.

Sam: Anything from Cantillon – Rose de Gambrinus, Saison Dupont and Bear Republic Racer 5

On 24 November, Heyday Beer Co on Upper Cuba St turned one. Craft Beer College took some time to chat with founding owners, Hannah Blackwood, and brewer, Sam Whitney, about opening the brew pub and all things beer.

A few years ago, Hannah and her business partner Hamish spent three months in United States. They were soul searching about “where to next” in life. They wanted to do something different but just weren’t sure what. Visiting around 80 breweries and brewpubs during that time became market research. They loved the beer and the communities that were built around it.

That US trip lead Hannah and Hamish to decide to build a brew pub in Wellington. And, build it they did...it was a two-year project that included an intense three-month build. Hannah’s background is in design, Hamish is a project manager and actual builder (yup, actual) and their friend Andy, who came on board as a business partner, is an electrical engineer.

The ownership team met brewer Sam early on, in a typical Wellington way. Hannah and Hamish were chatting to Martin, the editor of Beertown, who they met at the pub. They mentioned they were looking for a brewer and a chef. Martin responded, “I know someone who’s both!”

Sam has a background as a chef, both in the US and in Wellington (having once worked at the institution that is Logan Brown). He was working as a production brewer at Panhead Custom Ales where he’d brewed over 750 batches of Supercharger – The Orange One – so was definitely looking for a change.

Sam always had a vision of himself in a brew pub. He admired (and still does) what Kelly Ryan was doing at Fork and Brewer (another place we visit on our beer tours). So, he met up with Hamish for a chat/interview at The Hop Garden and it went from there.

The skill set of the Heyday crew saved them tens of thousands of dollars in that design and build phase, and it gave them all a personal connection to the space and the business. As friends of Sam’s, we can tell you his enthusiasm might shift and re-shape itself but it hasn’t diminished since Heyday’s inception. But now, both Hannah and Sam are starting to work on their long days. Both comment on how challenging it is to separate work and life when you’re immersed in the success of a business. Hannah’s trying to learn to balance the challenges of being a new business owner with enjoying being new business owner! Sam is trying to better separate work and home life. Both talk about needing to put their phones down in the evening and not stress over that work email that pops up after hours.

Hannah’s vision for Heyday was that it was light, airy and colourful, and that the brewery not “shoved in a corner”. She wanted people to see the brewery (and Sam) working. What this means is that Sam is often seen by visitors - resplendent in his brewing overalls – and he has to keep the brewery sparkling clean. Heyday has the cleanest “on-display” brewery in Wellington and given that, in brewing, cleanliness is next to godliness (of whatever denomination), that is a good thing!

Hannah’s vision has been achieved. The brewpub space has lots of natural light, something that is often missing in Wellington, and lots of colour. It was strange to her and the Heyday team that a local magazine photoshopped out the royal blue patterned wallpaper behind the bar for a feature photograph – they replaced it with a beige background!

Everyone can enjoy the Heyday look and fabulous (and very on-trend) flamingo wallpaper in the toilet foyer. Patrons have enjoyed the flamingo salt and pepper shakers well enough for many of them to be pinched since the doors opened! The place is best described as welcoming and fun; there’s corn hole out the front and ping pong at the back of the bar space, with lots of other games in between.

Being a welcoming space was another part of the vision Heyday was going for, and brought on Lewis Culshaw as the Marketing and Events Manager. Both Hannah and Sam reflect on how they are keen to have a range of different events happening – and, their love for dogs. Yup, it’s probably no real surprise to Wellingtonians, but you can bring your woofers down to the bar. They’ll be shouted a treat or two and get lots of pats from staff and patrons alike.

Having an appealing range of beer is also high on the agenda, although Sam isn’t keen on a “core range”. Nor does he want to be rushed into packaging; his view is that it results in selling beer to the big supermarkets with next-to-no profit. All of that means the brew pub is one of the few places you can buy their fresh off tap, making a visit to Heyday high on the agenda (as if you haven’t already been convinced!).

Sam wants, and loves, to be creative and brew lots of things. He comments, “it’s what I’ve always done”. For Hannah, this “lined up perfectly with what we wanted to do”. He’s brewed over 57 different beers since Heyday opened about 12 months ago, and has only brewed a couple of those twice.

The Heyday range has been fault-free from the start, but Sam does not want to get overconfident. He sees each brew through both a chef and brewer’s eyes; as an opportunity to refine his brewing technique and to constantly improve. He’s hyper-critical about all of his beers which, to be fair, is not a bad thing for a brewer.

Sam’s approach makes a tasting tray a great way to start your Heyday experience. Even as regulars, we often find it the best way to try the new beers on tap. Sam comments that the experience starts with your eyes, and the tasting tray comes served with well-designed information cards that tell you a bit about each beer and its background. It’s one of the little details that Hannah can bring with her design background. Sam appreciates that there’s always a neat design to match a new beer.

The tasting tray also sits with Sam’s approach to brewing in series. He’s often thinking about his recipes and beers in flights. Sometimes they come one after the other, like the amaretto inspired Saronno Stout, followed by the Octopus’ Garden – a Gold Medal winning Salted Caramel Espresso Stout – collaboration with Emporio Coffee. Next up was the S’Mores Stout. These are “pastry beers” which draw their inspirations from, surprise, pastries and other tasty treats you don’t necessary associate with beer (and might create some debate).

Other beers in Sam’s series hit the bar at the same time, like the line-up for their Oktoberfest. It included Otto, a Helles, and Wolfgang, a Vienna Lager. These German styles aren’t seen much around Wellington, or indeed, the New Zealand beer scene. He’s also brewed Doxie, an Altbier. There’s a bonus to Sam’s ongoing experimentation – we get to try some lesser-seen styles.

The Heyday Otto is an approachable drop. It’s an easy starter beer – a slightly sweeter-style German lager that’s not too high in ABV but still manages an excellent mouthfeel. The flavour is light with a subtle maltiness. The Horizon APA is a classic that will hopefully be brewed again; it seems necessary for the obsessed Pale Ale drinkers. It got a thumbs ups in the Capital Times, described as a “well-constructed and balanced beer, with some fruity sweet malt balancing out a light, herbal hop aroma”.

We also need to make mention of the Gnome’s Grove Belgian IPA. It was a collaboration with North End Brewing up in Waikanae and is probably one of our favourites of the Heyday beers to date. It used a Belgian abbey yeast and American hops. Happily, the yeast won. It was a pale and spicy ale with lemony notes and incredibly moreish. It was another award-winner. And, we’re excited to hear Sam’s going to explore more Belgian styles. He’s also looking at a barrel programme.

We asked Hannah and Sam what they were excited about in the beer scene and in the upcoming year. Hannah’s looking forward to the birthday celebrations and getting things more organised, taking a breath and getting ahead. And, to extending the outside area.

The distillery is also something that she’s looking forward to. Watch the brewery space in late January or early February for its arrival. That barrel programme Sam was talking about might see a vodka or rum-barrel beer. Sam’s already got a gin-barrel inspired Saison recipe forming. And, there’s potential for whisky in the future…

They’re both excited about beer festivals happening outside of Wellington as a way to get some brand reach further afield. That means they might actually need to brew some beers more than once! And, Sam’s keen to continue the collaborations.

When asked for any final thoughts, neither Hannah or Sam had a tagline in mind. Sam proposed, “drink my beer, it’s delicious!” That seems a suitable endpoint. Get in there. Drink Sam’s beer. It’s delicious.

The final questions, for a bit of fun

What’s in the fridge and what are you drinking at home?

This was a fail as a question, as both Hannah and Sam laughed. Both confessed to taking flagons home from Heyday. One advantage of owning and working in a brewery!

Hannah: “I’ve only just started drinking red wine, Pinot Noir. Home’s gin and now red, pinot”, Hannah comments. She’s working her way through the range of great New Zealand gins that are on offer, seeing a link between their New Zealand made philosophy and that of Heyday.

Sam: Sam said, “I drink a lot of ParrotDog Susan – I’ve bought more than one can which is saying a lot”. He doesn’t drink a huge amount at home, but likes to get out and try the beers on offer from his mates in the Wellington brew pub scene (and from others).

What are your “beers you must try before you die”?

Hannah: Tropic Thunder, by Back Pedal Brewing in Portland, Oregon.

Sam: Anything from Cantillon – Rose de Gambrinus, Saison Dupont and Bear Republic Racer 5

Tuesday, 02 January 2018 15:59

Wellington Craft Beer Tour

Come join us for a tour of some of Wellington's best brew pubs and bars. Over the afternoon, we'll visit three breweries, two bars and a beer loving burger joint for a late lunch - definitely don't eat too much beforehand!

All tastings and lunch are included in your tour, along with a knowledgeable host who will tell you about beer and its history, and the history of the Wellington beer scene.

We'll meet at the Tuatara Third Eye, and finish at the wonderful Little Beer Quarter. It's a short walk, but a colourful and delicious one.

 

Date:

Tuesday 23 January 2018

Time:

1:00 - 4:30 pm

Place:

The Third Eye30 Arthur Street, Te Aro, Wellington

Tickets:

https://www.eventfinda.co.nz/2018/wellington-craft-beer-tour/wellington

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