From the NZ Craft Beer TV journal, 18/2/11:
Croucher Brewing were next on the cards and we were really excited to get there and check out what it was the team had been up to for the last six years. We headed over the Pyes Pa Road with cameraman Scott at the wheel, when we noticed that the camper didn't really want to go anymore. With foot hard to the floor, we were only creeping along at 20 km/h or so. This wasn't cool, we had a deadline, the Croucher team had a meeting to attend and at this rate, we were never gonna make it! We pulled over, panicked at our lack of cellphone signal (Vodafone seems to have a lot of dead spots everywhere we have visited in the country) and then remembered the Telecom phone we had! We got hold of the Maui camper crew and they sent someone out. An hour or so later, he jumped in, the van was sweet, we mocked Scott the cameraman and his boneless jelly foot and we were back on the road.
Paul Croucher and Nigel Gregory met us at Croucher Brewing in Rotorua, grins on their faces and eyes gleaming. No, it wasn't due to them imbibing the fine Croucher brews, it was because these two absolutely love what it is that they're doing. Nigel is in charge of marketing and sales and gave his executive life away to make great beer. Paul comes from a slightly different background. A PhD in Chemistry under his belt, he had been lecturing in Wine Science over in Australia and then in Auckland when his love of home brewing pushed him towards brewing full time. Winning NZ Champion home brewer was proof that he knew how beer should taste, so the next step was a simple one. Maybe simple isn't quite the right word… these guys put successful careers on the line to follow their passion, telling us that some thought they were bonkers in the process.
From small acorns however… The guys tell us of their recent victory in the BrewNZ awards, with their Pilsner taking out Best in Class in the International Lager category. No mean feat in a fiercely contested competition and proof that their beer is exactly where they want it to be. We gave it a taste and were blown away with the body and mouthfeel, the crisp, NZ hop characters on the nose and the persistent bitter finish. This was a great beer. We went on to try the Pale Ale, a nice hoppy number with a solid malt backbone and yet another example of a great bottled NZ Pale Ale.
Nigel went into their refrigerated container and pulled out a couple of really special samples. A Christmas Ale, that yelled spicy complexity with wisps of dried fruit and nutmeg on the nose and a remarkably clean mouth and finish, and the ridiculously impressive Patriot. Patriot is an India Black Ale… this is taking a big, bold, hoppy American style India Pale Ale and playing around with speciality malts to get a dark brown/black colour without an overload of roastiness that you would expect to find in a dark beer. I really like this style of beer because of it's ability to educate. Some people love hoppy beers but don't like porters or stouts. Others are the opposite. A beer such as this provides a gateway for both types of people with often surprising results!
Surprised I definitely was. Huge passionfruit, guava, lime and mango notes dominated the nose and this was balanced well in the mouth with lovely speciality malt sweetness and a clean, but not assertive, bitterness. We all loved this beer and I hope to find it in a bottle one day! It's great to see the Croucher crew playing around with interesting styles, aromas and flavors and pushing the perception of what beer should be… not just bland and tasteless and something you drink as a vehicle for alcohol, but something to make you raise your eyebrows and be amazed and fascinated by. We don't eat the same meal everyday our whole lives, yet so many of us insist on drinking the same type of beer day in and day out.