After Hallertau Brewery, we headed to Otahuhu in South Auckland to check out Steam Brewing Company. Steam brew the beer for the Cock and Bull pubs that can be found in the Auckland suburbs of Lynfield, Ellerslie, Botany Downs, Newmarket and at the airport as well as Hamilton and also contract brew for a few NZ microbreweries, including Epic.
We caught up with Master Brewer, Shane Morley and had a look around the brewery. I'll put in a bit of a disclaimer here and say that we didn't really need to see much of the brewery as both Luke and myself have spent a bit of time in it! Luke was previously head brewer of the Cock and Bull brewery when it was in East Tamaki and went on to become General Manager of Steam before starting Epic, so we there is definitely a close relationship!
We sat down and chatted to Shane about the beers, brewing and the brewery. Shane is one of the few Diploma Master Brewers in New Zealand and possibly the only one in Kiwi craft brewing, so he definitely knows his stuff! With a large trophy cabinet as the backdrop to our interview, we chatted about the ridiculous amount of medals that Steam have won over the years in brewing awards. Testament to the skill and precision that Shane and his team bring, with Monk's Habit (an American Double Red style ale) one of the most awarded beers in NZ history!
But it's not just big, bold, hoppy brews that Steam contribute to our fantastic brewing landscape. The Cock and Bull pubs stock Buxom Blonde, an American Wheat Ale, Dirty Blonde, a seasonal Witbier, Fuggles, a hopalicious English Bitter served on handpull, Classic Draught, a lightly hopped Pale Ale, Blue Goose, a Pilsner-style Lager, Dark Star, a solid porter-like dark ale and a number of Brewer's Choice seasonals that see the crew flexing their brewing muscles.
Nigel Shaw heads up the brewery and with only 5 full time staff, they definitely punch above their weight. The team are all on their way to completing Institute of Brewing and Distilling qualifications, no mean feat when working full time and with around 900 hL of fermenter capacity, they can definitely brew a lot of beer! The brewhouse is a four vessel system, with a jacketed mash tun, lauter tun, kettle and whirlpool, giving good flexibility for the various brewing practices and beer styles that Shane and other contract brewers may need to utilise. The brewery is set up for hop pellets, though they have used flowers in the past. Don't know who gets the fun job of cleaning out the vessels when this is the case, but I'm glad it's not me! A 10 000 litre brewhouse would mean a lot of hop cones for an Epic brew.
We head to the vessels to try a few of Shane's creations. We have a sip of the Blue Goose, only a few days into conditioning, but clean, crisp and citrusy with the lightest hint of sulphur, something that is associated with the yeast and will condition out, leaving a great session brew. We moved on to Monk's Habit next, a bold, hoppy nose, rich, fruity alcohol and toffee and warmth in the mouth. To clean the palate, we then tasted Buxom Blonde, another clean offering with the faintest hints of estery banana. Another to try after an extended conditioning period and something to sup on my next Cock and Bull visit!
Shane also had an experimental version of Monk's Habit on the go, fermenting it with a Belgian Ale yeast strain. We had a taste and were impressed by the combination of big clove-like ester, rich toffee from the malt, resinous hops and rich mouthfeel. It's always great to see brewer's experimenting and I seriously hope these guys do a lot more of it!
The day over, we realised that there wasn't really much time to film the Epic section of Craft Beer TV... maybe next week...