Friday, November 20, 2009
Ale Stars Epic adventure
Another month, another Ale Stars. Although, to be fair, this was no ordinary Ale Stars.
For a start, for the first time ever, the “SOLD OUT” sign went up on the morning of the event, the theme was Brewery-based rather than style based and we had our first international guest in New Zealand brewer, Luke Nicholas from Epic Brewing.
It was also memorable because, for the first time ever, I had TWO offers of a lift home (and couldn’t get a spot for either of them initially!) and a huge thanks to JJ for finding them a seat.
Luke Nicholas has been brewing for thirteen years and the last four have seen him running Epic Brewing. And when he says “I run the company” he means ”I am the SOLE employee of the company.” That’s a one man operation. The bottling and labelling, packaging and distribution is all out-sourced, and while this may mean relying on everyone else to get their bit right, it sure keeps payroll costs down. The brewing side of things is, however, is very hands-on with Luke tasting the brew at every stage from mashing-in to conditioning and all points in between. “Basically, I drink a lot of beer” was his own appraisal of his job description.
Luke was able to tell the crowd a few stories about his various ventures, including his novel approach to recreating the conditions of a trip taken by the original India Pale Ales. A wooden cask of his own Armageddon IPA was loaded on to the ferry that travels between New Zealand’s North and South islands and sent back and forth 126 times. The temperature changes on an equator crossing voyage were replicated by storing the barrel in the back of the engine room behind the kid’s playground, which almost brought about a ‘critical structure failure’ when the cask expanded in the heat and beer leaked out and solidified like varnish – a fortunate stroke of chemistry and physics which combined to re-seal the keg.
The consensus was that this experiment would not work in Australia as the ticket inspectors would not be able to cope with such an unresponsive passenger who couldn’t swipe his Myki ticket. 126 times.
Steve from the Local provided the highlight of the night – which really doesn’t translate well if you weren’t there to hear it all – but which I believe I can sum up in a few selected words and phrases and a series of pictures. Here goes;
“Free tool marketing” (I’m Tweeting in my pants), “Facebook, Twitter and Red Tube”, “whole mouth experience”.
Anyway, we were treated to Epic Lager and Pale Ale and finished with the very first Australian visit of the Armageddon IPA on tap. These beers came with some industry credibility as Luke informed us that, at a recent NZ Beer Awards where three of his beers were entered, he picked up 2 Bronze, 1 Gold and a best in class honour.
Our first SOLD OUT Ale Stars came to a close with plenty of banter and beer flowing freely in equal parts and it was pleasing to see (as well as a few new faces) that the size of the crowd did not affect the whole Ale Stars Feel.
And finally, for those wondering, despite not winning the trivia quiz (again) (by a single point) (again) I have done some research and the common name of the native flavouring herb from New Zealand is, in fact, The Maori Arse-Thistle. So there.