Craft Beer Rising

The ‘Craft Beer Rising’ festival held last month in East London was aptly named, as the United Kingdom’s fledgling craft beer scene is beginning to surge. Brits are well prepared to pay £4 for a ham sandwich if the packaging claims the bread was baked in the home oven of a small artisan baker, and the British beer drinking community is also following this trend towards supporting small ‘artisan’ producers. According to a dubious source there are now 7.8 million craft beer drinkers in the UK, who are shunning the villainous Big Beer producers whose beers have a long history of being chugged at the pub on a Friday night.

The more sophisticated breed of beer consumers emerging in the UK are likely very familiar with New Zealand hops, as our hops are used in brews by the multitude of new wave British craft breweries as well as the United States breweries which are beginning to make a name for themselves there. New Zealand craft beer however is scarce on the scene so we decided we would take our wares across the Indian Ocean to the Motherland to show them what New Zealand craft breweries are doing with our local hops.20140223_200508

We chose to send Roger, a British born member of the Renaissance team, over to London to represent us at Craft Beer Rising, as we are well aware of how notoriously badly behaved Kiwis can be when let loose in London. The three day festival of beer, music and street food held at the Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane was the first time we had shown our beers in the UK. Despite being British Roger still managed to cause a scene, creating a traffic jam as he pushed shopping trolleys of Renaissance beer down Brick Lane on Thursday evening, shouting “craft beer has right of way in East London!” while fist pumping the air[1].

Despite the great voyage by ship to the other side of the globe and over cobblestones by trolley our beers showed pleasingly well at Craft Beer Rising, stacking up impressively against the British icons such as Brew Dog and Thornbridge Brewery. The punters loved our beers and we sold six kegs and forty cases worth during the festival, mostly to posh hipsters called Rupert wearing red trousers, according to Roger. As expected in an emerging craft beer scene the pale ales proved the most popular, with our Voyager IPA, Discovery APA and MPA Double Indian Pale Ale getting a good workout. Our UK ambassadors (a.k.a. Roger’s mates) pouring behind the bar loved our MPA and constantly recommended it, with only two cases left by the end of the weekend. Those who dared were impressed with Black the RIPA from our Enlightenment range, which was looking really smooth as the hops had mellowed out with age.

At 2pm each day Roger and the lads also poured what were likely the last ten bottles in existence of ‘Ø for Awesome’[2], a collaboration brew between Renaissance, 8 Wired and Nønge Ø, a Norwegian craft brewery. It was great to see plenty of familiar Kiwi faces at the festival to get the reference[3], as well as a few old faces from the Marlborough wine industry. It was the new faces however that we were there for, introducing ourselves to the British consumers (“No, Marlborough New Zealand, not Marlborough Wiltshire”, whilst pointing at the New Zealand flag) and meeting people who will help make Renaissance available to the UK’s niche market of consumers wanting to drink interesting and quality beers.

UntitledRoger made some promising contacts for distribution of Renaissance into the UK, so British craft beer drinkers will hopefully be able to quench their new found desire for Kiwi craft brews in the very near future. In the meantime we left a limited supply of bottled beers and key kegs with Brew Dog Shoreditch and Cave Direct. We will certainly be back at Craft Beer Rising next year for its third festival and look forward to seeing how the British craft beer scene has evolved. We hope that Renaissance will be less obscure to the hip young craft beer lovers by then and we can introduce them to some of our more experimental brews.

[1] Some creative licence taken in depiction of this event.

[2] Thanks to Soren and Jason at 8 Wired for these.

[3] New Zealand sporting legend David Tua selecting “O for awesome” when choosing a letter on the Wheel of Fortune game show.

Fresh Hop Grandmaster MPA

Living in Marlborough you can’t escape the fact that it is harvest time. Our winemaker mates are noticeably absent from after work pints at the local, replaced by a motley crew of foreign harvest workers, and conversation invariably revolves around ‘how the grapes are looking’.  But it’s not only the winemaking community that gets to experience the excitement of harvest. We are fortunate in Marlborough to have arguably some of the world’s best hops grown right in our back yard and the annual hop harvest is upon us.

20140311_124950On the morning of March the 11th we sent Jim over the hill to Motueka to get a trailer load of gorgeous green Wai-iti hops freshly harvested from the bine at Hinetai Hops hop farm. In just over two hours Jim and 300 kilos of pungent fresh hops were back at our brewery in Blenheim, where the Renaissance boys brewed a double batch ‘Fresh Hop Grandmaster Marlborough Pale Ale’, with Matt finishing the brew at midnight.

Fresh Hop LabelRenaissance is one of only a few breweries in New Zealand to use 100% local New Zealand hops in our beers (ironic given that Brian and Andy are American natives) but as we brew all year round these are mostly in dried pellet form. There’s nothing quite like the magic of adding fresh hops to the kettle, with the volatile oils at their most pungent,  bursting with vibrant fresh green hop aromas. Our Fresh Hop Grandmaster MPA beautifully showcases Motueka Wai-iti hops, allowing their grassy, mandarin and lime zest characters to shine.

Grandmaster will be released soon and in Wellington during Craft Beer Capital’s event Hopstock held from the 23rd to 26th of April. This year’s Hopstock will be the second annual celebration of Nelson’s fresh hop harvest, and Renaissance will team up The Tap Haus who will have exclusive pouring rights of Renaissance Grandmaster over the three days. If you’re one of those winemakers held hostage in the stainless steel tank farms in April, you will be able to get your hands on our Fresh Hop Grandmaster MPA at bars and bottle shops all over New Zealand, as well as Australia, Malaysia and the USA. Enjoy our tribute to Nelson’s annual hop harvest.


New Zealand Champion Brewery

Although New Zealand now has a multitude of craft breweries producing some excellent and interesting brews, we at Renaissance Brewing Company have on occasion quietly fancied ourselves as one of the top dogs (what brewer hasn’t upon first taste of a successful new brew?). And we are pleased to announce that we are now the proud holders of a shiny new trophy to support our fantasy. Yours truly were named New Zealand Champion Brewery at the 2013 Brewers Guild of New Zealand / Craftology Awards held in Wellington late last year.

bgnz-2013-gold-gradientv2The BrewerGuild of New Zealand is the brewing industry’s representative body, and the Brewers Guild Awards is a highly esteemed competition, so we are stoked. The 2013 awards had over 540 entries from 60 New Zealand breweries and several international breweries, which provided a great opportunity to benchmark our beers against those of other national and international craft brewers.  We not only picked up the Champion Brewery trophy, sponsored by Dish Magazine, but the Leading Label British Ale Styles trophy for our Tribute Barley Wine and the Beer & Brewer Wheat & Other Grain Styles trophy for our Enlightenment Black the RIPA. Plus gold, silver and bronze medals for Enlightenment Age of Raisin, Stonecutter and Elemental respectively – good shit!

The awards dinner was a glitzy affair hosted by Te Radar, requiring us Renaissance boys to swap our usual attire of steel caps and grubby t-shirts for shirts and ties (and a kilt in Andy’s case). The awards were held during the Beervana festival in Wellington, so it was a huge weekend in the Big Smoke for us small town boys. Needless to say we were all on a high after the awards dinner and hit the town to celebrate (in)appropriately. We may not have multi-millions in offshore bank accounts but with a trophy under each arm and medals around our necks we felt qualified to party Wolf of Wall Street style.

2013 was a fantastic year for us, also winning two trophies at the Australian International Beer Awards including Champion Small International Brewery. Having bling on our bottles is not only great kudos for us, but gives consumers the confidence to try our new styles. We are especially pleased with the success of our Enlightenment range, which allows us to put on our mad scientist or artist hats and do some creative experimentation. Our assistant brewer Matt’s idea of using rye in a black hoppy IPA paid off with the trophy for Enlightenment Black the RIPA and we are committed to continuing the revolution (look out for a Funky Pale Ale and a Fresh Hop IPA in the first few months of 2014) and helping push New Zealand craft beer and hops to the forefront of the brewing world. We’re looking forward to what 2014 will bring.