From the NZ Craft Beer TV journal entry, 22/1/11:
From Three Boys we headed to one of Christchurch's newest breweries, Cassels & Sons. These guys are doing something really unique and pretty special. Their goal is to be as sustainable and environmentally friendly as they can. They use refillable swing-neck bottles which are sold locally in handmade wooden crates and the team there are firm believers in local produce. Their 600 litre plant has been specifically made with the Eastern suburbs of Christchurch in mind, providing beer for local people. Owner and director, Alasdair Cassels has some awesome plans for the brewery and surrounding buildings. The beautiful red-brick building next to the brewery, a former tannery dating from back at the turn of the 20th century is in the process of becoming a brewpub and series of bars and is a really exciting prospect for the area. Head Brewer is ex-Wanaka Beerworks and Twisted Hop Brewery's Nigel Mahoney. Nigel is really keen on sustainability and tries to use as much local organic Canterbury malt as possible in his brews.
One of the coolest things about this brewery is that the brewing kettle is wood-fired. This is unique to New Zealand and only a couple of breweries around the world in places such as Belgium and Germany still use wood-fired coppers. Nigel only uses sustainable Pinus Radiata grown here in NZ and due to the fact that it is grown this way, means that the boiling process is carbon neutral. Nigel loves the chaos that the wood-fired process brings to the boil and upon firing it up, we saw what a challenge it was to balance the heat from the fire to get a rolling boil. This definitely brings another element of craft to the art of brewing and the beers we tasted were testament to the care that Nigel takes.
We started on the easy-drinking Lager and then moved on to the Pilsner which was another brilliant example of the NZ style that is dominated by the citrusy, fruity New Zealand hops. The finish was remarkably clean and the top palate bitterness was pleasantly cleaning and pushed you towards another sip. We then tried the Elder Ale, which is produced with locally picked Canterbury Elderflowers. Nigel did a lot of research into the flowers and found that the best time to pick them was early in the morning, before the heat of the sun had pushed out their perfume and attracted insects. The unique floral aroma wafted from the nose of the beer and followed through into the mouth. A great example of this style and an ideal summer refresher. The 5.5% ESB was an impressive example of the style and stood up to and surpassed many an ESB that I have tasted in the UK. The nose showed some nice spicy and slightly earthy hop characters. Juicy, toffee and light milk chocolatey malt blended seamlessly with a great bitterness and made this beer incredibly quaffable. I really wanted to reach for more. I did :)
Last up was their Medicinal which uses local Elderberry juice. Alasdaid and Nigel are both firm believers in the antiviral and antioxidant properties of those little black berry and told us of its use in fighting the flu virus. The dark ale showed us its complexity and pushed out fruitcake and chocolate notes, making it a great warming beer.
While there, it was great to see the comings and goings of locals, returning their re-usable bottles (which they give a $1 refund on) and buying new bottles. It's so exciting and invigorating to try such good beers from a new brewery and see the plans that they have for the future. Christchurch is a pretty cool place to live if you're a beer lover. If you're not, then now there's no excuse!