Amateur brewing sorts the men from the boys

ABBIE NAPIER
Last updated 05:00 21/03/2014
oliver drake
DANIEL TOBIN/Fairfax NZ
FINGERS CROSSED: Oliver Drake has entered beers in the homebrew competition.

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The Great Kiwi Beer Fest homebrew competition weeds the men from the boys when it comes to backyard brewing.

Knowing your IPAs from your lagers is a given. Creating a unique recipe is an absolute must.

Software engineer Oliver Drake has a very understanding girlfriend. He spends about 20 hours a week in his garage thinking up new recipes and testing the latest batch.

It all started about two years ago when he began dabbling in the drinking of craft beer. Determined to make his own, Drake began brewing from kit recipes and eventually graduated to the real deal. He has entered 10 brews in the competition tomorrow.

The Great Kiwi Beer Fest homebrew competition encourages amateur brewers to gradually get involved in the scene. This year, more than 80 backyard brewers have entered, many with multiple brews.

Categories include hybrids, lagers, dark beers and the coveted Kiwi As. The Kiwi As category is competitive because the winning brew will be reproduced. The Twisted Hop will brew 600 litres for sale in local bars and will rebrew the beer for next year's beer festival.

The exposure, and the opportunity to order your own beer over the bar, is too good to miss.

The Kiwi As category requires the hops and malt to be grown in New Zealand, which also encourages the use of locally made products. Drake has entered an NZ IPA and NZ Red Ale.

Competition judge James Hay, from Hop Baron, says the Kiwi As category is the one to win for exposure.

He is looking for a strong New Zealand influence, ideally with Kiwi ingredients in addition to hops and malt.

"If you can manage to get a pavlova in there I'd be pretty impressed," he says.

Hop Baron is a first-time brewery at the festival itself this year, giving punters a taste of their Poolside Ale.

The Great Kiwi Beer Fest is at Hagley Park on Saturday, March 29.

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