Marooned, Part 1

(Just a heads-up: it’s a long-ish post this week, largely due to the amount of ground it covers. I *promise* it’s a fun ride; but much like Return of the King it nearly-ends about four times before it actually does. Put simply, this post is best reserved for when you’ve got a minute…)

Hot on the heels of my hui with Richard Emerson, I thought it was an opportune time to reveal a wee Ace that I’ve been keeping up my sleeve.

At the end of each ‘Brew Hui Meets:’ interview, I’ve asked the brewer a series of questions – a thought experiment of sorts, based loosely (okay, more-or-less entirely) on Desert Island Beers (which is, after all, a rip-off in its own right). Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been obsessed with contemplating increasingly-ridiculous scenarios of extreme isolation; thus, incorporating a similar thought experiment into the Brew Hui project tickles my nipples in all the right ways.

The Thought Experiment

Here’s the scenario that I put to my guests: they’re marooned on a planet – think: Earth, but uninhabited – with no hope of escape. Fortunately, a large storage container has found its way to the planet – and upon opening the container, the following items are found:

  • our guest’s ideal homebrewing setup;
  • an abundant supply of malted grain, hops and yeast– but only one type of each;
  • an abundant supply of beer for consumption – but only one type;
  • a brewer with whom they will share their eternity.

Regarding the malt, hops and grain, our guest must choose which of each type they will take – and then what SMaSH beer they intend to brew with it. Regarding the abundant supply of consumable beer, our guest must choose which beer they hope it is – as well as which beer they hope it isn’t. Regarding their companion, it can be anyone they like – with the proviso that it has to be a brewer.

So without further ado, let’s crack on with the responses – in reverse chronological order of hui, for absolutely no reason at all.

Richard Emerson (Emerson’s)

Getting Richard to choose his SMaSH ingredients led to a rather exciting discussion about a pet-project that he’d like to pursue – but since that’s his news to share, I’ll leave it at that. Richard is a big fan of Gladfield Pale Ale malt, Kohatu hops and White Labs ale yeast (the vagueness of the latter’s description reflects my poor note-taking – for which I blame the deliciousness of the hand-pulled Bookbinder that I was drinking at the time). As far as what he’d brew, Richard was keen to leave that open – but given the ingredients and his pedigree, I suspect a Bookie-style new world ale would be fermenting-away within eight hours of his arrival.

The selection of just one beer to lubricate his loneliness was too much of a constraint for Richard; after contemplating it for about 10 seconds, he waved-off the question as being “too boring” to answer – which, upon reflection, is a suitable response for a man with a diverse palate and passion for innovation. He did, however, have an easy answer for the beer that he hoped wasn’t in the container: Budweiser.

When it came time to select a brewing companion, Richard’s immediate answer was former Sports Illustrated model Kathy Ireland. Thinking he may have misunderstood the question, I re-phrased it; but he had (of course) understood me perfectly. Richard described a late-80’s issue of Zymurgy magazine – published by the American Homebrewer’s Association – in which Kathy was profiled. The article ‘outed’ her as a homebrewing geek of the highest order, who dreamt of one-day putting Budweiser out of business (which links very nicely with Richard’s least-favourite beer). Twenty-five years later, she’s yet to achieve that goal; but she has managed to build an enormous business empire, and there’s still time on the clock. Fine choice, Richard.

Luke Nicholas (Epic)

Of all my marooned guests, Luke pondered his answers the most carefully. His SMaSH beer ingredients arrived eventually, and weren’t entirely surprising given his One Trick Pony reputation: Golden Promise (a pale ale malt) as the base, hopped with Centennial (a variety from the West Coast of the USA) and fermented with an American ale yeast (Wyeast 1272 American Ale 2). The ingredients scream American Pale Ale – but Luke insisted that he would brew an Imperial IPA, a decision no-doubt swayed by the delicious Hop Zombie we were sipping at the time.

photo 2(1)

Luke found it difficult to narrow-down the consumable beer that he’d hope would be in the container – but he did offer a top three; and given the fact that I was swigging free Hop Zombie, I was obliged to bend the rules ever-so-slightly. Top of the list was Hopsickle, an Imperial IPA from Moylan’s in the US; closely followed by Emerson’s Porter (on the hand-pull, he was quick to add) and Kauri Falls Pale Ale from Hot Water Brewing.

There was no pondering when it came to the beer that he hoped wasn’t in the container: namely, anything gluten-free. As a judge at this year’s Australian International Beer Awards, he spent the majority of the week trying to swap his place at the gluten-free judging table with someone from the barleywine section. Strangely, no-one took him up on his offer.

As far as companionship is concerned, Luke settled on a three-headed monster: namely, Dave Kurth (from the aforementioned Hot Water Brewing), Martin Townshend (from the eponymous Townshend’s) and Kelly Ryan (now brewing at the Fork and Brewer in Wellington). Luke said that these three brewers continually challenge him to be better, and that between them they represent the most potential in New Zealand brewing. He did add one small caveat: due to similar personally types, it’s likely that Luke, Dave and Martin would all kill each other within 30 seconds of being marooned – leaving Kelly in solitude with all that Hopsickle.

Jono Galuszka (Manawatu Evening Standard)

Jono’s answers came as quick-as-a-flash, as if he’d seen the questions ahead of time; I sensed a kindred spirit, for whom thought experiments were more than just pithy time-killers. As far as SMaSH ingredients, he went for Maris Otter – his all-time favourite base malt – hopped wth Nelson Sauvin, the latter providing the double-whammy of outstanding aroma and high Alpha Acids (which loosely translates to high bitterness availability). For fermentation, he settled on Saf-05 US Ale yeast – a ‘clean’ fermenting yeast, ideal for ensuring that the malt and hops are the stars of the show. He said he’d be equally-happy brewing golden ale as he would a barleywine – and reckons his choice of ingredients would do the job nicely.

As far as his beer of choice is concerned, he selected Epic Pale Ale – saying that without it, he simply wouldn’t be the beer geek that we all know and love today. Epic’s flagship ale was the beer that opened his mind to flavour – so much so that after his first encounter, he called his girlfriend to tell her about it. Now that’s love – on both counts.

Jono hoped – upon hope – that the container wasn’t filled with Garage Project Straight Edgethe 0% festival beer brewed for Beervana in 2013. At the time, Jono said he wouldn’t wish Straight Edge upon his Primary School bully; so it’s little surprise that he doesn’t want to be stranded in near-purgatory with a container load of the stuff.

His choice of brewing companion was Yeastie Boy Stu McKinlay – which isn’t all that surprising, since the two have already successfully collaborated on multiple brews for media-brewer events. Jono reckons – rightly, in my book – that Stu is the antonym of snob – and is also the kind of bloke who would forage for weird and wonderful local ingredients to add to their marooned brews. Jono also reckons that Stu grows a really good beard – an important accessory to wilderness and isolation.

Stu McKinlay (Yeastie Boys)

Following-on nicely from Jono’s choices, Stu’s responses were typically sharp: for his three beer ingredients, he’d take heavily-peated distilling malt, NZ Willamette hops and Saf-05 US Ale yeast – the sole three components that make up Rex Attitude. No prizes for guessing what he’d brew with his eternity.

He’d hope that an abundant supply of the Trappist ale Orval had found its way to the planet – since not only is it one of his perennial favourites, Stu reckons he could use the Brettanomyces (used to ferment Orval) to make a ‘Bretted’ version of Rex. I could tell that a metaphorical light bulb had blinked into life as soon he’d finished his answer – so don’t be surprised if there’s a Bretted Rex somewhere on the horizon…

Stu earnestly hoped that the container wasn’t full of anything low-alcohol – a point we didn’t really expand on, but I think Amstel Light would be a safe exemplar of what he was referring to.

When it came time to choose a brewing companion, Stu observed the husbandly etiquette of first checking if he could break the rules and bring his wife Fritha; etiquette observed and congratulated, I said sorry, but no and forced an answer.  After a brief pause, the answer came: Sprig and Fern head brewer Tracey Banner. Stu reckons Tracey taught him a good lesson: that brewers from big breweries – she was the brewer at Mac’s at the time – could actually be lovely people (which led to a delightfully tangential discussion about the value of positivity and reciprocal danger of ‘craft’ beer snobbery). Choice one, Stu.

*             *             *             *

So there it is – the first in the Marooned series of posts. Expect another one later in the year; but until then, I’ve got some brewing to do – and given my track record, my groin is already glistening with sweat.

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