On a beer break

BY ANGELA CROMPTON
Last updated 13:15 09/02/2010
Sara Morrison and Tracy Montigny
BEN CURRAN/The Marlborough Express
NEW BREWS: Sara Morrison, left, and Tracy Montigny volunteer their labour at Blenheim's Renaissance brewery.

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Selling Renaissance beer at the Blues Brews and BBQs festival on Saturday completed two American women's "brewery research" in New Zealand.

Tracy Montigny and Sara Morrisson recently visited Renaissance, a Blenheim brewery, as part of a backpacking holiday around the country.

They had been checking the styles and qualities of beers brewed by New Zealanders and occasionally working under the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) scheme, which gives people without work visas a chance to earn free meals and accommodation.

Renaissance owner Brian Thiel agreed to have them work at the Blenheim brewery and to have them help him at Saturday's beer festival.

Earlier tasks included milling the grains used for beer then mashing it into vats with hops to start the brewing process.

And between all the steps there was "tons of cleaning", Ms Morrisson laughed.

"It's just like home-brewing, only bigger."

Her interest in home-brewing had sealed a friendship between her and Ms Montigny.

Both had worked as photographic producers for different firms in New York.

Contact between them was at first business related, then little personal facts started sneaking in.

When Ms Morrisson expressed an interest in long-distance cycling; Ms Montigny told her she had already done it.

When Ms Montigny learned Ms Morrisson made her own beer, a plan was devised they would go cycling together and on a brewery tour.

Joined by two other friends, their pedalled into 15 states, plus Canada, covering 5000 kilometres in 75 days.

Craft breweries were they ones they liked visiting most; some were organic, some were solar-powered, others used only local ingredients," Ms Montigny said.

When the United States cycle tour, ended they decided to continue their journey and flew to Australia. "We visited a few breweries there then decided we'd better go to New Zealand," Ms Morrisson said.

"The beer is better," her friend added.

This week they return to Australia where they do have work permits, but they plan to come back to New Zealand one day. "This is just our research trip," Ms Montigny said.

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- The Marlborough Express

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