Marooned, Part 2

Every story has an end; and for the Brew Hui project, this is it. Rather than summing-up with my own usual wankery, we’re returning to the amazing brewers who helped me along the way – and finishing with the second instalment of the ‘Marooned’ series. You may want to check out the first Marooned post for a quick recap before reading on – or else none of this will make any sense at all (y’know, as opposed to your usual experience of this poxy blog).

So without further ado – but not without a pang of sadness at the closing of this particular chapter – here’s what the final four brewers had to say.  It’s a bloody-long post, for which I apologise now; but then again, it’s summer holidays – and you’ve got nothing but time…

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Sam Williamson

In a moment of surrealism – bordering on soft-core porn, at least from my perspective – Sam admitted during our hui that he’d been pondering his answers to the Marooned series of questions all morning. As such, his answers to the questions came thick, fast and well-thought-through.

Just that morning – as he’d pondered his responses – Sam had been carbonating-up a brand new beer: namely, Galbraith’s Vienna Lager. The beer was partially named after his daughter – whose name is neither Galbraith, nor Lager – and Sam was generous enough to pour me a pint and then walk me through the process he used to create it. Maybe it was just the timing of it all – or the fact that Vienna was, quite genuinely, a perfect example of the style – but Sam’s choice of SMaSH ingredients for the Marooned scenario were explicitly designed to recreate Vienna as best as he could.  He’d start – rather obviously – with Vienna malt for his base, which he’d then hop with either Tetnang or Hersbrucker, and finally pitch a bog-standard lager yeast from WhiteLabs. Simple, clean, and beautiful; ‘nuff said.


Next came Sam’s choice for sanity beer; and for the brewer at New Zealand’s most famous cask-conditioned ale house, Sam’s choice was slightly odd – if not gorgeously sentimental. He spun a yarn about an epiphany he’d had on the banks of the river Main; where, sitting with his wife at the tail-end of a long O.E., he’d had an über-fresh glass of Radeberger Pilsner. He said that the experience was, in all respects, perfect: the bready, yeasty, zippily-hopped beer – plus a setting German sun – jammed the cap on an outstanding holiday. Sam reckons a container-load of the stuff would relieve the awful loneliness of his marooned plight – with a  single sip transporting him back to a better place, at a better time.

Sam earnestly hoped that the container wasn’t filled with Yeastie Boys Rex Attitude – since he couldn’t fathom anything worse than spending the rest of his days with perpetually-ripped-to-shreds taste-buds!

(…Which shows how entirely-personal one’s palate really is: I can’t fathom anything better than wandering around purgatory with a peat-soaked tongue…)

As a brewing companion, he chose Shane Morley from Steam Brewing Company – a.k.a. the good folk who produce a slightly-awkward proportion of the country’s best beer out of their brewery in Otahuhu, South Auckland. Sam reckons Shane is one of the cleverest blokes he knows, and would probably discover some alien plant that the two could use to breathe new life into their Vienna lager (should they ever grow tired of it).

Sam reckons that he and Shane spent so much time together during his apprenticeship at Steam that they’d slip pretty quickly into a nice routine – an important factor when sharing eternity with your friends (particularly if bloodshed is to be avoided).


Ben Middlemiss

In contrast to Sam, Ben’s answers came slowly – as if he was accessing a memory bank so cavernous that he needed a golf cart just to get around. But that’s to be expected; the man has been there, done that to an extent largely unrivalled in New Zealand’s brewing scene. So it’s not surprising that he needed to pull-open a few metaphorical filing cabinets before locking-in his answers.


As far as SMaSH ingredients are concerned, Ben reckons he could mock-up a pretty good approximation of his own delicious Sawn Off Pale Ale – starting with either Maris Otter or Gladfield Pale Ale malt (both being interchangeably-excellent, according the Ben – with the latter seriously impressing him of late). He was in two minds regarding hops, with NZ Styrian Golding a perennial favourite – but settled on Motueka for its sheer outstanding diversity. To bring it all together, Ben chose West Yorkshire Ale yeast from Wyeast – with the result being a hoppy, fruity Pale Ale with enough character to prevent Ben growing bored of it too quickly.

On the subject of Pale Ale, Ben hoped that a container-load of the stuff from either Lagunitas or Sierra Navada found its way to the planet – but would equally be happy if it was Fullers London Pride, with the latter being an exceptional session beer in his eyes. He hoped – upon hope – that the container wasn’t full of Corona; and felt absolutely no need to explain why.

The question that Ben found most difficult to answer – for obvious reasons – was which brewer he’d like to share his plight. He gave a shout-out to several favourites – including Yeastie Boy Stu McKinlay, with whom he collaborated this year at Invercargill Brewery; veteran Australian brewer Graham Howard; and Mark White, chief brewer at Harrington’s and all-round lovely chap, by all accounts. But sitting at the top of his list was the father of continuous fermentation himself: Morton Coutts.  Since the Marooned scenario was already patently ridiculous, I didn’t have the heart to exclude Morton due to his long-standing absence from this particular mortal coil.


Søren Eriksen

Like Ben, Søren based his list of desired SMaSH ingredients on a recipe close to home – choosing to take the principal components of his Brettanomyces-inspired Wireless IPA. He’d go with a nice clean UK malt for starters – Golden Promise would do nicely – and then bomb it with a stonking-great swag of Amarillo hops. Then the crucial ingredient: a hefty pitch of the wild stuff – Brettanomyces, from supplier BSI out of Colorado. The result: a big-hitting West Coast IPA with a groovy funk.  Lovely!


Søren bucked the trend in terms of the beer he’d want to drown in – choosing Speedway Stout from Alesmith. His rationale: if he’s going to be stuck on a dark and desolate planet, he may as well have a pile of 12% Imperial Stout to keep him company – an air-tight line of reasoning, if ever there was one.

And the beer that he hoped wasn’t in the container? Anything ‘craft’ that is obviously flawed – particularly Unamed Beer From An Unamed Producer. Whoever that is; Søren wouldn’t say, and I didn’t want to press…

As far as life-long companionship is concerned, Søren would be supremely happy to share his solitude with either Vinny Cilurzo from Russian River or Chad Yakobson from Crooked Stave – two ultra-scientific and über-insightful brewers, with whom he could sup Speedway and talk shop. With their combined intellects, I think they’ll probably invent a mode of instantaneous interstellar travel before the beer runs out.


Kelly Ryan

In a typically-countertrend move, Kelly decided he’d like to spend his eternity brewing Saison – he bloody loves it, and reckons most brewers feel the same. He said that a brewer’s palate can get a bit hopped-out from continually feeding the beer market’s addiction to hop-heavy drops; and a nice slightly-funky Saison (or simple, clean Pilsner) makes for a pretty sturdy antidote.

He’d start with Pilsner malt from Gladfield – another brewer who believes that the Canterbury maltsters are in fighting-fit form at the moment – which he’d hop with something clean and simple, like Pacific Jade. He was also tempted to hop with Sorachi – for it’s I’m-Like-Nothing-Else character, which includes a hint of wild mushroom – but felt that the hop might drown-out the character of the yeast; which, after all, should be the star of the show in a Saison. He’d use Belle Saison yeast from Lallemand to fit that particular bill – a yeast that Kelly rates very highly (and which comes in dry form, making it a great option for a homebrewer wanting to head down the Saison path). To finish-off the brew, Kelly would go scavenging for sage, chamomile or some similar alien plant – and I wouldn’t bet against the Taranaki coaster finding precisely what he was after.

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Kelly’s answer regarding a sanity beer came quick and unequivocal: Mussel Inn Captain Cooker, a drop that Kelly reckons is quintessentially New Zealand-ish. He also reckons the Manuka-tips would make a great antioxidant (not to mention an antiscorbutic). He’d hope-to-hell that the container wasn’t full of super-strength bus-shelter Lager, like Carlsberg Elephant or Special Brew – calling them headaches-in-a-can that don’t really resemble ‘beer’ at all.

Unsurprisingly – since he’s the embodiment of the term GC – Kelly has plenty of good mates with whom he’d happily pass the lonely marooned days; but one name did rise to the top: his good bro Mark Tranter from Burning Sky Brewery in Sussex, UK. He reckons that he and Mark share a short-hand that’s hard to find; they just think the same, and have a lot of fun brewing together when they get the chance. They’re always talking about joining forces at some stage, and actually have a collaborative beer sitting in a cask at the moment, which Mark will eventually blend with a Lambic (the practice of blending being one of his particular fortes). Kelly says that Mark is one of the brewers he genuinely looks up to – an excellent brewer, with a second-to-none understanding of balance and approachability. Kelly reckons that Mark lives, breathes, eats and drinks beer – all with a sly grin on his face.

No wonder the two get on famously; they’re basically the same person.


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So that’s it – the Brew Hui project in the can (so to speak). It’s one of life’s cold-and-cruel realities that new and exciting eventually fades to old and samey; and this blog is no different. The blinkered enthusiast who sat down and planned this project just one short year ago is long-gone, replaced by a slightly-jaded realist with a new appreciation for just how f**king hard it is to brew great beer.

But at the end of it all, the Brew Hui project was never really about beer, or brewing, or taking a bath at a Homebrew Competition; it was about people. From the brewers who generously opened their arms – and schedules – to the incredibly-important time shared with my friends and whānau around the mash tun, this project truly lived up to its tagline: good beer brings people together.

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My earnest thanks to those brewers, friends and whānau who propelled this project beyond self-flagulating masturbation – and also to the rest of you, for your exclusively-kind comments and general readership. All your love makes my tummy feel wibbly.

I’d like to leave you all with a final piece of advice, if you’ll indulge me: namely, that you should all do something special next year. Something you’ve been putting off for ages: perhaps a project that you’ve yet to make a start on, for fear that you’d be shit at it. If I’ve learnt anything from the Brew Hui project – beyond how to make “problematic beer” – then it’s this:

Inertia and incompetence the two key barriers to any project are quite simple to overcome; just close your eyes, let go of your accumulated self-restrictions, and say f**k lots.

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