From the NZ Craft Beer TV journal entry, 31/1/11:
It wasn’t quite over for the breweries of Nelson and the following morning we packed up and headed to Founders Brewery. Situated in Founders Heritage Park, a small village showing what the Nelson of yesteryear would have looked like, it is a picturesque little building and brewery tap offering great coffee, food and pizza from a wood-fired oven. We are met by owner and head brewer, John Duncan who eagerly tells us of the history of his family, the brewery and his beers.
Founders Brewery is the first in Australasia to be certified organic and is also vegan and kosher, making it unique in its offering. John, a fifth generation brewer and his sons, Matt and Callum, head up the brewing and manage to tease a plethora of flavours and aromas from the slightly more limited variety of organic ingredients available to New Zealand Brewers. With the sixth generation working hard and constantly bouncing ideas off each other, it’s easy to see why the Duncans have such a loyal following. Their year-round brews and seasonal specials are all perfectly executed by a talented team.
It was 1854 when John Dodson first arrived in NZ and began brewing. For the next 115 years, the family owned and operated not only the brewery but also maltings and hop farms. It’s great to see such a dedicated family provide so much to NZ brewing history.
We were joined by son Matt and went through the beers. John recommended we try the Long Black first. Usually we had gone from light beers through to dark when tasting, but John didn’t want the hop characters from his lighter brews to mask the malty notes from the others. Long Black was a German style Schwarzbier filled with subtle roasted characters with some mild coffee in the back of the mouth. It hinted at milk chocolate in the nose and was clean and faultless.
We tried the Generation Ale next. This was the first brew that John and the boys had done together and was a nice, malty brown ale with subtle hints of hop. The Red Head, named after how the beer looks, was a great example of a Vienna lager. Amber in colour this had a lovely light biscuit malt character which filled out the mouth with subtle sweetness and was followed by a wonderful hoppy bitterness. Tall Blonde was a malt-rich golden lager with wonderful NZ hop notes and great drinkability. My favourite brew was the Fair Maiden which Matt described as a New Zealand Pale Ale. This was his take on an American Pale Ale and the hop nose showed wafts of pine resin and tangerine, reminiscent of the Cascade hop variety. A big malt sweetness fills the mouth as well as a bunch of hop fruit notes and then the frisky bitterness follows through and balances the beer out. Wonderfully crafted, this is drinkability and flavour at its best.
Founders is definitely worth a visit. The history of the brewery and the surrounding buildings is great, from pieces of old brewing equipment outside, through to having their own Cooper (wooden-barrel maker) on site, this is both a step back in time and a step into the future of NZ brewing.