Tuesday, October 1, 2019

There and Back Again: Our New Zealand Road Trip

Hobbiton in Matamata
It’s impossible to write about everything we saw and did. For anyone interested enough to be reading my blog, I thought I’d do an abbreviated rundown of all the beer related stops. We went to New Zealand for a little over two weeks in September. We tried to see as much as we could, but it’s a big country. Our trip made us want to go back and see more; we know where we’d love to go back and which new places would be worth another adventure.

Brewers Co-Op Auckland
New Zealand hops and beer have been having a boom the world over. I learned from brewers there that procuring NZ hops is difficult as big brewers gobble them up before the little guys can order. Despite this, every brewery had many beers with NZ hops, namely NZ Pilsners and Pale Ales. Like authentic brewers the world overs, many use the hop varieties appropriate for style: Old World for English and German styles, American for ours. In general I learned that the NZ beer drinker seems to have a UK sensibility: malt forward and lower ABV. I remarked about this a few times and it didn’t seem to occur to them; it’s just what they drink. The popular breweries in Auckland and Wellington skewed more toward IPAs and higher ABV; I suppose that’s what a city and condensed population demands. I was also shocked and thankful how cheap the country is and beer is specifically. Many breweries had flight options under $15 USD, with single Imperial pints costing $5USD or less.

150 mil New Zealanders
Our Airplane
Our trip wasn’t about beer. I’m a huge Tolkien fan and saw as many of the major locations as time allowed. Our first day we stayed on a farm outside Cambridge, a brief drive from Hobbiton in Matamata. I believe this was my favorite day of the entire trip; it was surreal to be on that real-life set, we had a great tour guide, an some exclusive beers at the end of the tour. In Wellington, we went to “Wellywood” and toured the Weta Workshop, where all the props, makeup, and effects for the films were done. After we visited Te Papa, the national museum of the country and saw the Gallipoli and Natural New Zealand exhibits. My other half is a photographer, so we spent many hours on road pulloffs to get those perfect shots. It’s a great country in which to eat, with warm hearty and extremely flavorful food. I unfortunately had a stomach bug for the first few days of the trip; food and beer just didn’t taste or feel good so I got bottles to go and skipped a bunch of places. I tried to make up for it after I felt better.  Highlights were meeting my Untappd friend John in Wellington, where we went brewery hopping together. We also saw our friend Ritchie who took us all around the Christchurch countryside including an impromptu brewery visit.

Again, I don’t want to make this super long and overly detailed. Below please find the breweries I visited and a few comments about each. Please see my Instagram for more photos and background information. Specific beers I got to try are too numerous to write about, a complete list can be found on my Untappd (although admittedly, some nights I may have gotten a little confused). As always, thank you for reading! It feels great to be back sipping beers in the warmth of the Aloha State again.

Green Dragon Inn
Matamata: Hobbiton – exclusive beers brewed by Good George in Hamilton, 4 are on tap at the Green Dragon Inn and only available for purchase here. Any one pour is included with the tour.

Lakeman Brewing
Lake Taupo: Lakeman Brewing – I had some in Turangi and posted to Instagram, the private family business invited me to drop by, see the farm, and taste some beers.

Rotorua: Croucher Brewing/Brew - this bar is the only taproom for Croucher, which is a private facility outside the town. We had amazing hearty food and too much food; I didn't realize I was starting to get sick here. 

Napier: Zeelandt Brewery – One of my worst health days, I still tried a few samples and bought a variety pack and 3 limited releases, many of which made it home with me.

Havelock North: Giant Brewing – a pre-arranged visit due to being closed the day we were in town, we met the owner and tried all their beer, taking a few for the road.

Wellington Harbour

Wellington: Black Dog Brew Co – another pre-arranged visit, I had a nice long private tour with the manager Adrian who explained the business, beer, and distribution. He was especially generous, taking me through tastes of every beer on tap and a delicious pie on the side (I couldn’t get enough NZ meat pies)!

Black Dog Brew Co

Wellington: HUSK/Choice Bros Brewing – thanks to my friend John, we met here and had a few flights. All beers here are made on their nano system; it was an eclectic and cozy spot, even sitting outside on a freezing evening. 


Wellington: Garage Project - both the OG actual car garage location, and the new taproom facility across the street. The bartenders took the time to let us try every beer on tap for free, before we headed to the taproom where we were met with even more options. I appreciated John’s historical explanation of the area and NZ’s beer culture.

Christchurch: Eruption Brewing - On our long drive around the area with Ritchie, we eventually stopped in Lyttelton for a drink; of course there happened to be a brewery across the street and we went in for a flight. This was a tiny place with a great view of the old port town.
Christchurch: Two Thumb Brewing – After our long day, I quickly headed around the corner from our hotel to check out this brewery. The bartender was super friendly and let me stay as long as I needed. The flight glasses here were huge, so he let me try all the rest on tap free as he explained about the business. One unique thing here is they offered four of their main beers on beer engine, hand pulled to glass giving a faux-nitro profile that paired perfectly with the English styles. This was another evening I appreciated being inside as it was freezing cold.
Eruption Brewing

Dunedin: Speight’s Ale House – After our longest drive, we arrive in Dunedin and met issues as Fleetwood Mac was also in town. It was a mad house. I popped into Speight’s, one of the oldest big breweries in the country and was treated to a flight box that included all their beers for a low price. They even included an information card so you could read about each one. They also have tours and a large gift shop/tasting room, but I didn’t have time to enjoy. Yes, it’s big beer, but I enjoyed them and the experience.

Searchlight Brewing
Queenstown: Searchlight Brewing – Queenstown is very touristy and beautiful. It’s filled with bars in town, but the two breweries in the area required an Uber. I was thankful for the tranquility of Searchlight, with a knowledgeable bartender and view of the mountains. I tried every beer they had and had a few pretzels along the way.

Dr Rudi's
Auckland: Dr Rudi’s Rooftop Brewing – We saved Auckland for the end and were met with two days of rain. It didn’t spoil the fun. Auckland’s breweries are almost all outside of the city in industrial suburbs so we didn’t make it to the famous ones. I did go to a few micros in town, as well as some amazing bars. Dr Rudi’s was a gorgeous rooftop space overlooking the marina and waterfront. They had 4 beers on tap, so I tried them all.

Shakespeare Hotel
Auckland: The Shakespeare Hotel & Brewery – Our final brewery visit was the oldest micro brewery in the country. This old hotel opened a small brewery almost 40 years ago and rotates a few selections, as well as a handful of bottles. It was the perfect final place to enjoy a few $3 happy hour beers made right there, listen to the anguish of the Rugby World Cup waters, and listen to the rain.

Cheers, thanks for reading!

A Very Tired Author

Monday, September 2, 2019

Hawaii Craft Beer Awards 2019


The first ever Hawaii Craft Beer Awards were held this weekend. It was a two-day celebration of 100% locally made craft beer. I was thankful to be invited. Steve Haumschild of Lanikai Brewing Company came up with the idea and hosted the event at Tap & Barrel in Kailua. The event benefited the Hawaiian Craft Brewers Guild, with ticket sales and scrip going to help the guild further promote local beer.

Friday an independent judging panel was invited to Tap & Barrel to sample and enjoy the beer. Certified Cicerones Tim Golden, Bill Carl, and Pablo Scurto were joined by BJCP Judges Shawn Crawford, Vince Gallo, Eddie Kowal, Bob Hillier, and I. Cindy Goldstein, the executive director of the guild, planned and organized the judging. We received over 100 beer entries from guild members all over the islands; it was a tough job! Categories included popular styles like IPAs,  Stouts/Porters, Sours, and others. Unique for this competition, we also judged the best collaboration beer, best beer using Hawaiian sourced ingredients, and best label art.  Two categories were voted on by the brewery-members themselves: best new brewery, and brewery of the year (the company that contributes most to the advocacy of local beer). After the hard work was done, we enjoyed Lanikai’s celebration of two years of Tap & Barrel, as well as the leftovers from the competition!

Saturday was the real party. That evening was the Awards Ceremony in their outdoor parking lot. For a first year, it was a great event with lots of happy beer enthusiasts. The last category was presented here: Peoples Choice. A dozen kegs were marked with style only, the entry ticket got everyone a 1oz pour to sample and choose the favorite. Full pours were also available. A DJ supplied the tunes and the guild had a swag table. The indoor bar was also very busy with a few food trucks along the street providing much-need grub. 
The real entertainment was the presentation of awards: MC’d by Cindy and Steve, they presented third through first of each category with the sponsored prizes they received. Each group got pictures taken with their awards. We took a rain break halfway through, which just added to the fun. Attendees seemed happy throughout, drinking beer while celebrating those who make it. Join us next year!


Brewery of the Year
Gold: Lanikai Brewing Co Prize Sysco $500 Credit
Silver: Kohola Brewery
Bronze: BeerLab HI
New Brewery of the Year
Olomana Brewing Company Prize White Labs 10 BBL Yeast Pitch

Best Design
Gold: Inu Island Ales - Coconut Hazy w/ Village Bottle Shop Prize Likos $50 Gift Certificate
Silver: Waikiki Brewing Co - Skinny Jeans
Bronze: Kohola Brewery - Lahaina Haze

Best Collaboration
Gold: Kohola Brewery Owyhee NEIPA Prize Village Bottle Shop $100 GC + Secret Prize
Silver: Lanikai Brewing Co Everybodys HI Sour Farmhouse Kveik
Bronze: Inu Island Ales - Haole Brownie Stout

Best Locally Sourced
Gold: Inu Island Ales - Island Punch w/ Mango & Guava Prize Off the Wall $50 & VIP Membership
Silver: Honolulu Beerworks - Pia Mahi'ai
Bronze: Lanikai Brewing - Jaboticaba Cuvee Hawaiian Wild Ale

Most Creative Beer
Gold: Waikiki Brewing Co - Jalapeno Mouth Prize Crosby Hops 11 lbs Estate Grown Amarillo
Silver: Olomana Brewing - Pele's Reign IRA
Bronze: Inu Island Ales - Island Punch w/ Pomegranate, Peach, & Coconut

Best Farmhouse/Belgian
Gold: Maui Brewing Co - La Perouse Prize 44# Wakatau Hops
Silver: Lanikai Brewing - Alai'a Quad
Bronze: Honolulu Beerworks - Pia Mahi'ai

Best IPA
Gold: Kohola Brewery - Lahaina Haze Prize YCH Hops $200 Credit
Silver: Inu Island Ales - Imperial Hazy
Bronze: BeerLab HI - Ko'olauloa Hazy

Best Lager/Pilsner
Gold: Big Island Brewhaus - Graham's Pilsner Prize Country Malt $400 Credit
Silver: Kohola Brewery - Lokahi Pilsner
Bronze: Maui Brewing - Pau Hana Pilsner

Best Non-Category
Gold: Honolulu Beerworks - Cocoweizen Prize Nico's Upstairs Breakfast for 6 & Fish Auction Tour
Silver: Kauai Island Brewing - Cane Fire Red Amber
Bronze: Waikiki Brewing - 4th Anniversary Barleywine

Best Porter/Stout
Gold: Maui Brewing - Imperial Coconut Porter Prize Square Barrels Secret Prize
Silver: Kohola Brewery - Molokai Stout
Bronze: Ola Brew - Ola Kiawe Porter

Best Sour
Gold: Lanikai Brewing - Pua Aloalo Hibiscus Sour Prize Grace in Growlers $50, Freaker, Shirt, Hat
Silver: Maui Brewing - Land of Rainbows
Bronze: Inu Island Ales - Island Punch w/ Peaches & Vanilla

Peoples Choice Award
Gold: Lanikai Brewing - 2 Shakes & a Howzit Prize ChemStation 44# Brewery Wash
Silver: BeerLab HI - Ko'olauloa
Bronze: Ola Brew - Lilikoi Lime Milkshake IPA

Thursday, July 25, 2019

New Breweries and Beers Land in the Aloha State

Odom Corporation Launches New Beer Portfolio in Hawaii

For over 80 years, the Odom Corporation has been a beverage distributor and wholesaler for Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Hawaii. In the Aloha State, they are expanding their beer portfolio and bringing breweries never before offered. Officially hitting store shelves and bar taps on August 1, 2019, some can be sampled at places as of this writing. The new portfolio of breweries includes: Alaskan Brewing Company, Bale Breaker Brewing Company, Big Sky Brewing Co., Black Raven, Everybody's Brewing, Mac & Jack's Brewing Company, Ninkasi, Reuben's Brews, Vailima, and the most famous of the bunch, Founders Brewing, which is marking the 50th state as their 50th state for distribution. In addition, they're also bringing offerings from Incline Cider Company, Tieton Cider Works, and San Juan Seltzer; beverages that are all finding an expanded footprint due to low calories and sugar.

On Tuesday, July 23rd, Real Gastropub hosted the first tapping with a takeover event with beer reps. On Thursday, July 25th, Village Bottle Shop hosted a Founders-specific tapping party with special kegs and plenty of canned offerings to go. Draft, cans, and bottles from all the new breweries can be found at both Real and Village, with the selection expected to expand. Always fun chatting with you Tim!

With huge thanks to Andy Baker of the Odom Corporation and Doug Lamerson, local beer-guru and homebrewer, I was extended an invitation to the inaugural Odom Corporation Hawai'i Product Show at the Honolulu Country Club on Wednesday, July 24th. The reception had selections to sample from each of the new beverage makers, plus heavy pupus. 

Accompanied by my supportive better half Kristine, we arrived at the beginning of the event and were immediately greeted and welcomed in. The evening had the air of small beer festival, where everyone was interested in the products they were selling or potentially buying. Each brewery had a table with two to four beverage offerings, as well as swag and sale sheets for the initial beers launching in Hawaii. Each was excited to be there and share their product. Almost all of the new breweries displayed the BA Independent Craft Seal, which I was happy to see. Employees of the distributor Odom were also on hand to talk about the company itself.

I had a genuinely fun time talking story with the representatives and brewers in attendance. In no way an exhaustive list, thanks for telling me about your products and sharing beer: John Ioane, Executive VP of Sales, Joe Carter, VP of Soft Drink Division, Lauren Payne, Sales Rep, and Jack Tullis all from Odom Corporation; Ryan Connell Sales Rep for Founders; Ron Lloyd, CEO of San Juan Seltzer; Doug Ellenberger, Owner & Brewmaster of Everybody’s Brewing; Kevin Nolton, Director of Sales for Black Raven; Mike Jaskari, National Sales Manger for Alaskan Brewing, and Mac Rankin owner and original brewer of Mac & Jack’s Brewing.

Keep an eye out for new cans and releases throughout the year, seasonals and special releases will be coming along with the rest of each company’s core offerings.

UPDATE: the new distribution area is only the island of Oahu for the first year.