JASON BATHGATE OF McLEOD’S BREWERY INTRODUCES US TO HIS CURRENT TOP PICKS.
A couple of hours north of the big smoke, just over the Brynderwyn Hills, is a little place called Waipu. Located on the bottom of the Northland coast, this small town rich in Scottish history and boasting world-class surfing, is also home to our little brewery, McLeod’s. A relatively new part of the community, we brew small batches of unique beers with a focus on quality. We also have been building one of New Zealand’s largest collections of barrel-aged beers.
Lucky me! As the head brewer of a small brewery, I get the chance to travel around this amazing little country for events and brewery-related shenanigans. This has allowed me to meet and try beers from some new and exciting producers. I have picked for this article two very new brewers, both of whom are making homebrew-size batches of really special and wellcrafted beers, with a distinct focus on sours and mixed fermentation. The other two are flagship beers from two of my favorite breweries; not just because I worked for them both, but because they are unique and were some of the first new generation NZ beers that made an incredible impact on the small independent beer market and helped establish New Zealand as producing world-class beers. In support of #FlagshipFebruary, that’s two iconic NZ breweries and their flagship beers.
I’m also enjoying Peckham’s Heritage Blend Cider and Townshend’s Old House ESB, both of which are only available by the cask.
A new nano-producer, Cell Division is based in Dunedin. We were given a bottle of Pulp from a friend and it was outstanding, almost viscous with the amount of peaches in the beer. Ripe peach fruit on the nose follows through in the flavour and finish. It is pure peach wrapped up with rustic farmhouse ale characters and just enough acidity to keep it refreshing and balanced; it makes you yearn for another sip. The pulp literally coats the glass, like a probiotic farmhouse ale. Amazing little beer.
Wilderness, aka Oliver Drake, is one of the newest nano-breweries filling in the landscape of New Zealand brewing. He is producing a wide array of small-batch, mixed-ferment beers in Christchurch, making brilliant beers on such a small scale. Cerise is a barrel-aged ale with cherries and raspberries, reminiscent of a Flanders Redstyle from Belgium. What’s unique is that the acidity is mainly derived from the Otago sour cherries. It has bright cherries, allspice and nutmeg on the nose, hints of oak and smoke. A bit of funk.
HOPWIRED NZ IPA
This beer was a game changer for New Zealand brewing when it came out in 2011, the first true ‘New Zealand’ IPA. I recall the first time we drank this beer, it lovingly reminded us of the beers from the States. Big tropicalderived hop character, with a bread- and caramel-like maltiness and assertive piney bitterness. Think West Coast IPA meets New Zealand hops. Funny enough I also ended up working for this brewery for several years and I still love this beer. 8 Wired has continued to make innovative, big, boldflavoured beers and a wide selection of barrel-aged beers too. A truly quintessential benchmark NZ IPA.
BLACK RYE SOUR
This beer is one of the limited barrel-aged beers we released this year at McLeod’s. A blend of several different barrels, the base beer was a dark, mixedferment saison aged in former Dog Point and Saint Clair pinot barrels. This was blended with some aged porter, saison and a special Four Roses bourbon barrel-aged Scotch ale. It has a rich myriad of aromas and flavours. Distinct rye, oriental spice and chocolate with dried figs on the nose, even a hint of vanilla-laced bourbon… It drinks smooth with a balanced lemon-like acidity and long, malty, dry finish. Each sip reveals something new as it evolves in the glass. A wonderful beer to share with friends or to tuck away for a few years and enjoy later.
This was a life-changing beer for me. When my wife and I first moved to NZ we tried this beer in Nelson, buying it from a bottle store. The next day we drove over the hill to the brewery in Blenheim, just to see what else they were making and to tell them how great their beer was. Years later I would end up working for Renaissance as their assistant brewer. It is an amazing beer with enormous complexity. Big aromas of layered malts rich in toffee and hints of chocolate, coffee, rich caramels, with a hint of peat smoke to tie it all together. With a little age it takes on almost a Stiltonlike aroma – awesome. A unique flagship beer.