Brewing up international recognition

AMY JACKMAN
Last updated 10:58 26/06/2014
Jos Ruffell
JASON KAPLAN
CHAMPION: Garage Project co-founder Jos Ruffell, left, with Brewers Association president Charlier Papazian.

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Garage Project is bracing itself for a stampede after it won a medal at this year's World Beer Cup.

The Te Aro craft beer brewery won silver for its double-barrelled porter, Cockswain's Courage, in the Wood and Barrel-aged Strong Beer class.

Cockswain's Courage was the champion speciality beer at the New Zealand Beer awards last year.

Co-founder Jos Ruffell said he was expecting a rush of people to visit the brewery when the last of it went on sale.

"It will just get better and better the longer it's left," he said.

"People will be beating the cellar door down for it. We are a little scared to do a launch for it, to be honest.

"Everything we have of it will go in a day. It will be crazy. Already people ask us for it all the time."

The porter, which was aged in Maker's Mark bourbon barrels for 12 months, was up against 110 other beers in the third biggest category at the awards.

Unlike wine awards, the World Beer Cup gives out only one medal of each colour in each category.

"It's not like we won a silver and others in our category did as well," Ruffell said.

"You either get the bronze, silver, gold or nothing. To get a medal is hard."

The Brewers Association started the competition in 1996. This year's competition drew a record number of entries - 4754 beers from 1403 breweries representing 58 countries.

The 2014 awards ceremony was held during the Craft Brewers Conference in Denver, Colorado.

It was live-streamed online and watched all around the world, including in Wellington bars such as Hashigo Zake.

Ruffell said it was amazing when Garage Project's name was called out.

"I was in a ballroom at one of the hotels with about 3000 other people. It's a big deal," he said.

"I was hanging off to one side knocking back beers with one of the Matts from ParrotDog and our name came up.

"I was like, 'Oh s...!'

"I went up and fist-pumped the head of the Brewers Association of America and then got off stage as fast as possible."

It was the first time a New Zealand brewery had won a medal in 14 years.

By the end of the awards ceremony, Garage Project shared that honour with Speight's, which won silver for its Triple Hop Pilsner in the International Lager class.

"We were the only craft brewery in Australia or New Zealand to get a medal this year. Some top brewers will go their whole lives without winning one."

So what makes this beer so special?

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According to Ruffell, winning a medal revolves around luck and the tastebuds of the judges.

The beer also has to fit completely inside the category.

"It's a stunning beer and we are very happy with it, but luck played a part," he said.

"We don't typically brew to style and beer competitions are very strictly judged by style. That particular beer, however, fits strongly in the wooden barrel, strong beer style."

JOURNEY TO THE GLASS

Making beer is a simple process, right? A starch is steeped in water then fermented by the addition of yeast. Here's the process according to Garage Project, from grain to bottle. Mill the malted grains.

Mix the grains with hot water to create a mash. This step is where the starches convert to natural sugars.

The next step is sparging, also called lautering, when the grain is separated from the wort (sugar-rich liquid). Extra water can be added to extract extra sugars.

The wort is put in a kettle and boiled with hops and other ingredients such as chilli, mint, molasses, fruit peels or coffee.

The wort is transferred to a whirlpool vessel that clarifies the liquid.

The wort is poured off and rapidly cooled before going into fermenting tanks.

Yeast is added and the fermenting process begins as the sugars are converted to alcohol.

Once the fermenting process is finished, the beer is transferred to a conditioning tank for ageing.

After weeks or months, the beer is packaged into kegs, bottles or cans, ready for drinking.

- The Wellingtonian

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