Christmas eh? I love it. I love it for the same reasons PC loves it. People are nice to each other because they want to be. Commercialism is embraced instead of vilified. And possibly best of all, ’tis the season to be jolly! Yep, that means beer for me, although I also tend to raid the whisky cabinet. Anyway, in any form, ’tis the juice of the barley for me!
Christmas for me is also a time for reflection and giving thanks. As an atheist, I don’t thank any fictional beardy-weirdy in the sky, but I certainly believe in thanking all those who make my life better every day, simply by being true to themselves, and by dint of what they produce.
On that note, there are three pillars of NZ brewing I think deserve a bit of thanks this Christmas season. I’m about to shamelessly flatter some of my heroes. If you’re embarassed by reading that sort of thing, I hear Kate has a cool article with a beer cave in it for you to read instead.
First up, Richard Emerson. Where would brewing in New Zealand be without this man? Deaf as a post, sharp as a tack, and thirsty as a horse, Richard is the godfather of New Zealand brewing. I was going to use the word “arguably”, but the hell with it. This is my blog, and on this matter, I’ll brook no argument. Richard was here in Hamilton this week for a “meet the brewer” night at the Ruakura Campus Club, and I managed a few beers with him beforehand (and indeed, afterwards), and he reminded me just why he is so beloved amongst the beer community in New Zealand. It’s not just about his raw talent for brewing, and the way he “feels” the right combination of malts and hops for his brews, he’s also just a hell of a nice guy. Richard always has the time to share what he’s been doing on his pilot plant, and is always equally interested in what others are brewing, why, and what they taste like. Emerson’s beers have lit the path down which many a kiwi craft brewer has followed, and for that I am extremely appreciative. Thanks King One, for setting a benchmark.
The next King on the list is Carl Vasta of Tuatara. Now, I’m not going to debate the quality of Tuatara beers here. I’ve had stunners and shockers, but that’s to be expected when a brewery grows as quickly as Tuatara have. Carl is every bit the nice guy that Richard is, and though I don’t get to have a pint with him anywhere near often enough, his quiet and understated sense of achievement always inspires me. Having said that, most brewers in New Zealand are pretty nice people, so what gets Carl on this list? Pretty simple really. I doubt many people would argue that Wellington is the hub of craft beer appreciation in New Zealand. It’s hard to find a bar, café, or restaurant where at least one variety of decent beer can’t be found. The punters are knowledgeable, and the bars provide for the demand in ever increasing numbers. All of this sprung from the groundbreaking work of Tuatara shareholders and associates, past and present, and all of that was made possible by the beer brewed by Carl Vasta. Hail to King Two for planting a seed which grew to a mighty oak!
And now we come to the Imperial Imp himself, Luke Nicholas of Epic. Many find Luke’s style fairly in-your-face, and not everyone appreciates that in a country well known for Tall Poppy Syndrome. Well, as I said, this is where I unashamedly praise my heroes, and brash, get-shit-done, take-no-prisoners Luke certainly deserves the position of King Three. As an individual, I think Luke has single handedly opened more eyes to craft beer in New Zealand than any other brewer I can think of. While many brewers are content to let the product speak for itself, and would rather be in the brewery making magic than out the front making sales, Luke genuinely loves watching people get that “wow” look when they drink his beer and realise that beer for them has changed forever. Long live King Three for promoting beer with flavour where others fear to drink.
I’m thankful to the Royal Personages above, and for all they have wrought, I hope you will all join me in thanking them also.
Happy Christmas, and Cheers!