Wow April really flew by at here at Pomeroy’s… yikes May is almost gone, time for another beer tasting! All April we enjoyed some of Southlands finest offerings. And we’re not just talking about the Bluff Oysters. Invercargill Brewery had several great beers come through the taps last month. To top it off Invercargill Brewery owners Steve and Amanda Nally made the trip north for April’s brewery tasting night!
Steve started the night off just like he started the brewery, with cider. They take fresh apple juice from Dunsandel Farms on the road to Queenstown where Steve first got the idea to make cider and ferment it into what is known as Nally’s Cider. It’s a fruity, light and on the dryer side. It was a very refreshing way to start the evening. Now on to the beers!
Invercargill has long brewed beers for other breweries. The idea was originally spurred by Amanda, who takes care of financials and marketing, to fill capacity at the brewery. They simply advertised “Become A Brewer” on their website and “Within a couple of weeks we had several calls!”, exclaimed Steve. One of these batches was a honey beer for a client in Japan. When the client’s brewery went defunked they did what any self-respecting brewer would do with thousands of litres of delicious beer, drink it, and sell it locally at their bottle shop of course! Wasp continues to be made to this day, a golden ale made with New Zealand hops and honey. It pours a nice golden yellow and as expected has hints of honey on the nose. It was one of lighter selections of the evening and while the honey is present it’s not overpowering and is very drinkable.
Taste three and beer number two had a bit more flavour. Stanley Green Pale Ale which is named in honor of Steve’s grandfather, who died in England serving during WWII. Inspired by his Yorkshire roots, is an English style Pale Ale. This beer is a copper coloured and has just enough hops for some aroma and bitterness but is rounded out from a balanced maltiness which really floods the palate with caramel, biscuit and toffee notes before finishing dry. A great session beer at 4.7%, it also nabbed a Bronze Medal at BrewNZ 2006.
The crowd had heaps of questions for Steve and he joyfully answered all he could with humorous stories and anecdotes of craft beer growing pains. Regulation of alcohol and access to market for small brewers touched a nerve with the craftbeer thirsty patrons that night and Steve fielded several questions on the topic. After NZ Southland Prohibition ended the government formed a panel controlling alcohol distribution and permitting. The environment makes it difficult to get Invercargill Brewery’s beers on tap at local pubs, which at this time number just three pubs in Southland! It’s not something Steve worries too much about, “It’s just the environment we work in”, he says and they just do business within the current system. For this reason over twenty percent of their sales go through their bottle shop at the brewery. They also have plans to add a restaurant on site soon. All this talk was making us thirsty and Craig from BeerNZ pushed us along into more tastings.
B.man Pils, named for the father of the Indian restaurateur it was designed for, was next up. Made to pair with spicy food, this was another recipe showcasing New Zealand hops that won The BrewNZ 2008 Gold Medal in the newly created NZ Pils catergory (and the Bronze in 2006). The beer pours a rich gold and has a nice fruity nose from the NZ hops. It drinks light and clocks in at 5.2% ABV, but more bitter than your run of the mill pilsner, again due to the generous hopping. Having changed the hops bill due to certain varieties being sold out (Riwaka and NZ Cascade had to be substituted with Motueka and NZ Saaz) this beer also showcased of the struggle to get certain hops small craft breweries have to deal with. This was another topic that ignited the crowd into a flurry of questions and opinions. Again Steve just rolled through it setting an example that if you’re going to make it in this business you have to be able to adapt.
The third beer of the night was also the third beer Invercargill ever released. Pitch Black Stout was born out of the classic food-beer pairing of oysters and stout. Made especially for Invercargill’s Bluff Oyster Festival, it seemed the perfect place to showcase Steve’s new beer, however due to a sponsorship conflict they could only sell cider at the fest. You had to take your oysters home with you and stop by the bottle shop for a rigger to enjoy this delicious pairing. And the food pairings don’t stop there, as an ice cream made with Pitch Black also took home a Silver Medal at the NZ ice cream awards. Full of flavour and just 4.5% you can normally have a couple of these tan foamed capped, roasted, chocolaty black beers. I know it’s one of my favorites at Pom’s and a staple on draft. Someone in the crowd asked Steve if he brewed to what he thought the public wanted to drink or what he liked to drink. He quickly responded to the later, prompting a huge applause from the crowd! The plan is working because Steve’s favorite beer is also the number one seller at the brewery. Steve also leaked out that the Pitch Black brand will soon release a series of seasonal beers starting with a malt forward Imperial Stout. Keep your eyes out for that beauty!
Sister Gina is named after… you guessed it Steve’s sister Gina, who actually does the lion’s share of the brewing these days as Steve is focused on managing their full time staff of seven and growing into a larger facility to keep up with demand! This Belgian Golden is 7% and has a great fruity complexity from the Belgian yeast. It’s a cloudy golden colour and is full bodied.
Not far from Belgium, Saison beers of France are a traditional farmhouse style that were hearty and sustaining and frequently had lots of hops and spices added to them to help preserve them through the summer when they would be distributed to farm workers throughout the harvest season. Invercargill Saison pours a clear, deep orange hue, with tropical fruit on the nose. Brewed with wheat and Saison yeast it’s a semi sweet and spicy mix of flavour. It also packs a bit of a punch at 6.8%... especially near the end of a tasting session! Enjoy it now as it’s their current seasonal.
Speaking of fruit and wheat the brewery’s summer seasonal is a Boysenberry Wit which was thought to be out for the season… but Steve promised it would be back when warmer weather returns. (uh oh someone just found a rogue keg… currently on at Pom’s… lucky us!) This very berry wheat beer pours a dark pinkish red. It is very fruity but has enough tartness to be refreshing, especially on a hot day.
Bowenbrau a.k.a. Cosmos is an APA, which usually stands for American Pale Ale or Aoteroa Pale Ale, depending where the hops are from, but this beer is made with hops from 4 countries. Steve, making a beer especially for Craig from BeerNZ, used hops from the Czech Republic, USA, England and NZ. This was the second release in Craig’s Bowenbrau series, which features one off creations. Already featured at Pomeroy’s in months past, one more keg of this beer just went through the taps last week. Hopefully you were lucky enough to grab a pint before it kicked, as it’s anyone’s guess if this beer will be brewed again.
Time for a smoko. No were not taking a break… the tasting must go on! We are talking about Smoking Bishop and we tasted not one but two versions, ’08 and ’09! Steve had to smoke his own malt over Manuka at the local butchers when he started making this beer. There are several breweries now making smoked beers, all with varying amounts of smoke in them ranging from 100% to just a hint of peat. However, smoke is beers is nothing new. Before indirect fired kilns were invented all beers had some smoke in them from the malting and kilning process. This beer pours a reddish brown and has just a hint of smoke on the nose. That changes when you take a sip as you immediately taste the dry charred smoky flavour that is prominent throughout. There is still some maltiness to balance out the beer and while it might be an acquired taste it would pair nicely with a burger or venison. The 2008 version was just a bit more rounded out as time wears down and muddles the flavours in a beer.
It was getting late and it was time to wind things down. I believe this night set the record for longest beer tasting night at Pom’s. We finished the evening where we started it, tasting a three year aged version of Invercargill’s Heritage Cider. This cider brings us all the way back to 1999 when Steve and his dad Gerry first leased an unused dairy on the outskirts of town. The figured it was time to turn the serious hobby into a business, making cider and exciting beers to share with a thirsty public. The cider is a clear pale yellow with some tartness and body from “the tannins of by-gone apples”. It really hides the 7% well, so be careful when tipping back a few of these.
The jolly crowd was one of the more participatory ones Steve had presented to and he was grateful for the lively conversation. He even stuck around to answer extra questions from happy craft beer fans as they headed out the door after a long evening. Be sure to join us for the next tasting night which is now just a few days away. Two of Christchurch’s emerging breweries come together for another great night at Pomeroy’s. Tickets for the Raindogs/Golden Eagle tasting are $30 per person and can be reserved by calling or stopping in at the pub. See you soon, Cheers!