Godzone Beat a nod to Kiwi pop culture
With a range of craft beer-savvy bars and restaurants serving their comparatively large populations, in recent years Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, and Nelson have all developed a strong beer culture, each with its own calendar of festivals, tutored tastings, beer and food matching, and other events. Meanwhile those of us who live in other parts of the country aren't so lucky. This is especially the case when it comes to brewpubs.
Although several Kiwi brewpubs concentrate on selling their beers exclusively onsite, some - like The Mussel Inn (near Takaka), Sawmill (Leigh), Good George (Hamilton), Galbraith's and Hallertau (both Auckland) - distribute packaged versions of at least a few of their beers. The good news is their ranks have recently swollen.
Beavering away in what must rank as one of the country's most cramped brewhouses, upstairs in Wellington's Bond St, Kiwi brewer Kelly Ryan creates some delightful beers at The Fork & Brewer brewpub.
Having studied microbiology at Otago University, Kelly's passion for beer was ignited while he was working for an honours degree in Food Science under Belgian brewing professor, Jean-Pierre Dufour, who he describes as "one of the most enthusiastic, passionate people regarding beer that I had ever met". I'd use the same words to describe Kelly.
After university Kelly joined a trainee brewer programme at DB Breweries and, in 2006, following a stint teaching English in Korea, he travelled on to the United Kingdom where he worked for a couple of months at Fyne Ales in Scotland before heading south to take on a brewing role at Thornbridge in Derbyshire. Over the next four years he rose to the rank of brewery manager at Thornbridge.
At the end of 2010, Kelly returned to New Zealand to team up with Auckland brewer Luke Nicholas at Epic Brewing Company. In March 2012, Kelly left Epic to take on the role of head brewer at the newly established Good George brewpub in Hamilton. Then, in October 2013, he left Good George and shifted back to Taranaki, his family home, to spend time with his ailing father.
But Kelly was never likely to be able to withdraw from the brewing scene for long. In June 2014, he took on the role of brewer at the Fork & Brewer and has since been developing a range of interesting and flavoursome beers in a host of styles for the Wellington brewpub.
The good news for those of us living outside the capital is that last month the first of a new range of bottled beers was launched under the Fork Brewing brand.
And what a beer it is. At the 2015 Brewers Guild of New Zealand Awards the draught version of Fork Brewing's Godzone Beat headed more than 50 entries to take out the Champion Pale Ale Trophy.
With a nod to Kiwi pop culture, Kelly describes Godzone Beat (5.9 per cent) as "a Crowded House of Nelson Sauvin hops, DD Smashed with some NZ Cascade, and sprinkled with Herbs in the form of Pacific Jade"; an orangey, grassy En-Zed Pale Ale with hints of lychee, pine and lime marmalade."
Announcing its release in 500ml bottles, Kelly said it is always exciting to see something "that's come from your brain, getting further out there to more people who like beer".
"Getting Godzone Beat into bottles means those further afield who wish to try it can do so without having to wait until they make the journey to Wellington."
I'll drink to that.