I don't know if it's all the inclement weather we've been experiencing but I seem to have spent a lot of time thinking about our southernmost city of late.
Mind you, it's not just Invercargill's reputation for chilly winters that's been on my mind; I've been thinking about the number of great beers and ciders that have emerged from the city's brewery.
Invercargill Brewery's owner and senior brewer Steve Nally began brewing 25 years ago when he answered a home-brewing ad in The Listener magazine. "I asked Dad if we could give it a crack, which we did, and it tasted like rubbish," he recalls candidly. "This didn't deter me. While in a supermarket I discovered a box of hops and found recipes for beer on the back; bought a large tin of Maltexo, went home, brewed up some beer and this time it tasted great!"
Since firing his first brewkettle in 1999, Steve's business has gone from strength to strength and today Invercargill Brewery is one of the most respected names in New Zealand craft brewing.
But aside from developing his own range of beers, in recent years Steve and his brewing team have developed a reputation for producing high-quality beers and ciders for other people, often aspiring home brewers.
An example of this contract brewing prowess would be the Yeastie Boys beers.
In my last two columns I've written about several award-winning beers from the Wellington-based duo, and it should be pointed out that since starting the business in 2008 the Yeasties have had all their beers brewed by Invercargill Brewery.
Other contract customers have included The Mussel Inn (Golden Bay), Pink Elephant (Marlborough), Fiordland Vineyards (Southland), Valley Brewing Company (Geraldine), Green Man (Dunedin), Berrimans Cider (Queenstown), Golden Ticket Brewing (Christchurch) and the recently released Dr Hops (also from Christchurch).
Invercargill Brewery has also brewed for Matutu Brewing Company of the Cook Islands and created "house" beers for bars such as The Malthouse (Wellington), Atlas (Queenstown) and Albar and The Craic (both Dunedin). Last month alone the brewery produced 20 different products!
But it's not all about brewing for other people: over the years Invercargill Brewery has developed a solid portfolio of ales, lagers and ciders under its own brand.
Perhaps with a nod to Southland's cooler climate the brewery's biggest selling product is Pitch Black, an award-winning stout whose pronounced mocha flavours and edge of sweetness prove that the style doesn't begin and end with a certain famous Irish brand.
Some lucky drinkers down south have recently experienced an especially warming version of Pitch Black that was spiced with chillies, but another incarnation, flavoured with boysenberries, should be available nationwide in the next few weeks.
Also set to appear in early July is Invercargill Brewery's flagship winter brew, Smokin' Bishop. Made with manuka smoked malt and kamahi honey, this robust (7 per cent), reddish-amber coloured lager has an aroma that's reminiscent of smoked bacon cooking on a bonfire. The palate is at first sweet with suggestions of caramel and liquorice soon joined by a spicy, lingering smokiness that reminds me of Lapsang Souchong tea. I reckon it's a wonderful drop.
Finally, with this year's Beervana rapidly approaching, tickets are now on sale for the Wellington-based event. Beervana returns to Westpac Stadium on August 17 and 18 and, as in previous years, there will be separate afternoon and evening sessions.
This year's Beervana also sees the return of a home brew competition. Sponsored by Black Rock brew kits, a subsidiary of Lion, aspiring brewers are invited to "have their brews judged by Black Rock Master Brewer Kirsten Taylor, Taranaki brewing guru Joseph Wood from Liberty Brewing, and beer aficionados and home-brew advocates Simon Morton and Richard Scott from Radio New Zealand's This Way Up programme". Ten finalists will be chosen. The winners will be announced at 9pm on Friday, August 17, during Beervana).
For more information about how to enter the home brew competition and for tickets to Beervana go to .beervana.co.nz.
- The Marlborough Express