WHAT IS ENVIROSPECIFIC BREWING?
Inviting the unpredictable, welcoming uncertainty, embracing inconsistency...
All beer, well made, is good beer. To aim for a beer where the only expectation is good quality, other than that, expect nothing.
Our land is diverse; in its geography, its people, its climate, its cultures, its natural bounty and bounty of knowledge and backyard inventors. It is this diversity that will be our secret ingredient.
The Germans, in their infinite wisdom, revolutionized (or stunted) the brewing industry with their purity law – water, yeast, barley, hops. Well, their rule has been around too long and its gotten a little boring. Its time for a new ingredient – water, yeast, barley, hops …and local diversity (the first four are probably negotiable if we can find a way).
And so… to the road! We pack our brewery onto our backs and hit the state highway, bound for where ever we are unbound. In search for brew inspiration, blindly committing to whimsical ideas plucked from impulsive creativity and chasing them with the enthusiasm of yeast in a fresh wort.
With our mobile brewery we will scour the country side, pasture and town, mountain and lake in search of a beer not yet made. Upon finding we will flocculate, unpack and set about converting that place, essence and character into a beer.
The whimsy, impulse, the path less trodden, the pint less pulled, the elusive mystery. For to make a ground breaking beer, we must find ground that is not yet broken. In real terms, this means long side roads without sign posts, knocking on hermits' doors, throwing this plan and the map out the window.
HOW IT WORKS
Plan it, 'spec' it, refine it, brew it...
First we run out some test brews to develop a loose recipe, then we pack our portable brewery onto our backs and head to the hills or plains, car parks or skate parks. The aim with the recipe is to leave enough unplanned, enough flexibility to absorb the impact of the environment.
This adventure is filmed and edited by our master of cinematography Cam and presented here and on Youtube for you lot to soak up.
While Cam masters the footage, we master the recipe, contemplating what the environment has thrown at us. The herbs we foraged, the techniques we improvised, the nuances forced upon us... maybe even cultivate a strain of yeast. From here we can take it to the big clean kettles and brew something for the shelves.... and you get to taste from the bottle what you’ve seen from the screen.
Every 2 or three months we’ll be on the road again doing another spec. It takes this long to research the area and design the prefect beer to go with it.
PLACE AN ORDER
The Whanganui Harvest Ale has been brewed...
Orders are being taken for the first commercial run of 100 Envirospecific beers. They are currently undergoing bottle conditioning and will be available after approximately three weeks.
The Whanganui Harvest Ale is a classic pale ale... with a twist obviously. Firstly it is brewed with nothing but the wild hops found around Whanganui. Secondly the grain bill is made up of about 10% acorn meal. And lastly the brewing liquor has a hefty addition of gypsum to simulate the high lime concentration of the Whanganui river.
Bottles are $20 plus postage and handling ($10 for one bottle or $15 for three)
Mail us now to secure your order.
Video coming soon.
Whanganui Harvest Ale
Growers and neighbours have been sharing their hop spots for a while, over beers at the River Market and now it’s March! Yes, the hop season is our main reason to pump up the bike tyres. Strap on the bike trailer and pedal off on another brewing mission. This time the Envirospecific crew are on a quest to liquefy any whispers, and brew these wild hop vines, vines very much of times, into a tasty Whanganui Harvest Ale.
We got straight into a few face sweats, turning the pedals into and up through the Kaikokatu Valley. Maybe the bikes needed a motor? It’s here we sniffed out a creak bulging at the seams with Wild Hops! James got his rage on and stripped a bountiful crop to the ground. We poured some pints, got comfortable and got picking. The resinous oils began perfuming the air the aroma of sweet passion fruit gave the promise of a heritage beer. Picking soon lead to licking the of lupulin of these Wild Hops. Our tongues considered the alpha and beta acids were in the dual hop range, meaning these wild cones will be added through all stages of the brew, to attain a hop balance like no other. Oh yes!
Our next pedal had us cycling through Kowahi Park where we noticed the grounds looked incredibly nut heavy, the kind of nuts squirrels would love to crack. It became clear there’s loads of acorns scattered everywhere... hmmm. a little nut addition to the mash? We parked up and got the parks BBQs fired up for a nut roasting session. The inner flesh of an acorn has tasted like caramel when we’ve prepared them in the past. Problem with acorns is the tannins making them unpalatable, but these are easily dissolved out in running water. So the roasted acorns stuffed into a cheese cloth bag ready to be biffed off the side of the bridge later...
A few new fresh hop additions to our pint glasses and then we rode up hill to Pete’s place. Somewhere up Bastia Hill on a north facing slope, there lives a man as free as a breeze. Pete’s place, plus the burning heat of the afternoon sun added to the face sweats. Plenty of chats were had walking around his land. Chatting mostly about his art, which is essentially his hand planted sanctuary around us. We got our pluck on and picked some more hops for the road.
On our return pedal back to base camp we crossed over the a city bridge, stopping briefly to biff off, float and tie the bag of Acorns into the free flowing Whanganui River. Hopefully the Awa will wash the acorns tannins free over night, ready for pickup tomorrow.
Day two, required some tide management, a boat that floats and what turned out to be plenty of strokes. Ross Mitchell-Anyon, a local potter who’s an Envirospecific session within himself, kindly lent us his trusty dinghy so we could access Joy and Frank’s wild hops further up the River. Ross piped up about picking the tides. Catching an inward coming tide will ease the pain when rowing up against the river’s current. Valuable advice... we did still manage muck it up, blistering up the palms after our efforts to paddle up the river when the flow and tide were harmoniously against us! Toolish behaviour. We added further to the strain by towing a keg of beer and our mobile brewery up stream. Tagging in and out of stroke sessions was vital. Stokes a plenty and some log dogging and we finally docked up at Frank and Joy’s . That was just like the proverbial!
Wild hops had spread far and wide across Frank and Joy’s land and were beginning to encroach on their Monty Surprise apple trees. They grow these heirloom apples for their cancer preventative qualities. We did knock, but no Joy. So we took the liberty of adding three Monty Surprise apples for a possible late addition to our boat load of hops!
Having blown hard on the tide times on the way up we though it be best to get our paddle on, quick smart before the tide turned. We got the gas on and got our boil on for the row down stream. Stoke, bail, stoke, temperature check. Pint. stroke... With a full enzyme conversion in the Mash we were ready for the nut retrieval. As we paddled sideways under the Kowhai Park bridge we hauled in the floating washed acorns, gelatinised them then added them to the mash.
Downtown we paddled, floating into central city Whanganui .The dinghy was secured as we rolled to Katie Browns Chronicle Glass studio. A glass studio loaded with heat and all sorts of intriguing equipment! First mission, naturally, was to pour a pint and toast some hops in the glory hole... hmmm, crispy, roastyness with sharp bitterness, a very enjoyable tingle on the lips before you feel the beer’s wetness.
A bit of chit chat lead to an onslaught of glass as we unwrapped the mobile Mash Tun. Having noticed the industrial crank, it looked like the perfect link to use to gain height and assist in sparging. Little did we know these acorns were going to reek havoc, nutting up the internal filter! What to do? A little compressed air to flush the system possibly Lewis suggested, as he blasted the wort to some reprieve. Blasting of air didn’t seem to help the flow. So the tap was removed and a sieve sourced from the kitchen. We soon had uncontrollable discharge with blasts of wort firing into the copper kettle.
Not knowing how the glass at 1200 degrees would react in the wort, would it bust into a million marbles?...boom, the wort loved it as the fully lubricated glass artists tagged in, adding hops and blowing red hot magma glass into the sweet wort, helping caramelise and toast the hops floating inside the kettle. There was a massive burst in temperature, we were surrounded by roaring flames! A flame torch blasted the copper kettle raising the temp to boiling point. A vigorous boil. Layers upon layers of hops were being added. James even blew the glass, all hopped up, this Spec session was in full flight.
Handfuls of hops from the beginning till the end; in the mash, throughout the sparging, first wort hops, hops through the boil and in the whirlpool. We literally had a boat load of the stuff so lets share. The Monty Surprise apples found their way into the glory hole, toasted intensely to release their natural sweetness. Then they were floated into the boil at the end and left in the fermenter to interact with the ale yeast through out its fermentation.
Wow, this has been and will be a very interesting beer!
After a massive debrief about the spec we tweeked up the recipe. The wild hops were air-dried now and we added them in several stages through out the boil at the commercial brewery. Bucket loads early into the boil and then another bucket every 15 minutes after. Hopping continued right through to the finish with a stuffed filter bag entering the whirlpool.
We had also gelatinised the acorns in a bucket, A lot less this time, then added then to the mash. It gave a lovely caramel flavour and colour!
This was a first at the brewery, the using of fresh cones so the set up and required a few different filters to help prevent the cones from entering the fermenter. We managed to brew and exclusive 119 litres of the Whanganui Harvest Ale for commercial sale.
MANY THANKS TO:
The Brew Shop [logo]
Katie Brown, Chronicle Glass
Frank & Joy, Bristol Plants & Seeds
Ross Mitchell-Anyon, Potter
Pam & Shelby, Acorn pickers
Cam James Brown, Camera man