From the NZ Craft Beer TV journal entry, 29/1/11:
Opened in 1996 by Andrew Dixon, I think this is a destination to not be missed. Pretty much everything you see at the Inn is made with Andrew’s own two hands. From the corrugated iron building that the bar and kitchen are situated in, through to his amazing log house and even the brewery itself, Andrew is never a man to sit still. Sustainability is really important to the brewery with all of his bottled beers filled into glass that is constantly re-used and recycled. Even the toilets are used a source of sustainable compost in the humanure approach.
The menu shows off great local fare. From the classic mussel chowder and steamed mussels, through to the scallops in a creamy white wine source, the homemade food is simple yet tasty. Andrew’s beers are a revelation. His Captain Cooker, made with locally grown Manuka leaves has a deserved cult following. Already it has been made under contract in Belgium and Utah in the US. Even my good friend, Matt Clarke, originally from Wanganui and head brewer at Hawkshead Brewery in Cumbria, England has converted the Captain Cooker into a cask ale with Manuka tips imported by Andrew.
The beer itself is incredibly fragrant. Wafts of rosewater and rich essential oil reminiscent of lavender and juniper are evident in the aroma and a slight resinous, almost sweetly medicinal quality fills the mouth. The bitterness from both the leaves and the hops is elegant and perfectly balanced. This is the beer equivalent of Turkish Delight. Luke and I were lucky enough to taste this beer matched with a rosewater Panna Cotta , rhubarb, caramelised almonds and small pieces of homemade Turkish Delight at the famous Logan Brown restaurant in Wellington last year. It was the perfect match.
Andrew also experiments with barrel-ageing and sour beers and I was lucky enough to try his interpretation of the spontaneously fermented Belgian Gueuze/Lambic style. His Lambagreeny, a Feijoa Gueuze was delightfully tart with big coconut characters showing in the nose (from the oak), the perfume of the fruit and in particular the greenness of the Feijoa skins present in the mouth and the slightly mouth-puckering sourness helping to round the beer out. It was awesome to try a New Zealand interpretation of this beer style and it fit in well with Andrew’s inventive, alchemical approach to making great beer. He also does Weka, a 6% barrel –aged sour brown ale. This is more like the Belgian Oud Bruin style, with a rich, tart, fruity character. I love sour beers!
Finally I tried the Bitter Ass. This had been aged in the bottle for around two years and weighed in at 8.5%. This big, bitter brown ale was incredibly complex. It had big hop character in the mouth, a mouth-puckering bitterness in the finish and the most intriguing liquorice note I’ve ever encountered in a beer coming through after the swallow. This was like chewing on a piece of liquorice root and coupled with the bold, bitter zing, made this unique beer something to remember. I had to have two!
We talked with Andrew into the night. A great guy on a constant voyage of discovery and creation and a passion for making phenomenal beer. I personally think Captain Cooker is reason alone to leave in the Tasman region. Andrew is such an approachable, calm nice guy. It was tough for us to finish the great conversation that beer can bring to a table and hit the hay. T