Next to my work station is a quotation which has hung there for ten years.  It simply reads “when I wake up in the morning I read the Forbes list of the 500 richest people in the world.  If my name is not there, I go to work.” [1] Three Boys brewer the learned Dr Ralph Bungard has a slightly more philosophical take on his job saying “I do this work, because at the end of the day I have something tangible that I have produced and that is a good product that I can enjoy.”
I interviewed the good doctor yesterday for this post though that particular quote is from his profile on the Local Vanguard website which interviews prominent Cantabrians.  My first question was obviously about how his brewery is doing after it was badly hit by the 22 February quake.  He acknowledges they had “a shit of a time” in the first three weeks with “serious damage inside, a lot of things broken, liquefaction through the place, a serious lack of power and a serious lack of water.” 

However, with the help of some “amazing” people they came right a lot better and a lot quicker than he had expected.  “When it happened, I would have thought three months to get back up and running.  Within three weeks we were getting by.  We were lucky our building is basically a big tin shed and the huge steel beams were structurally fine.” 

Three Boys is currently running at about three-quarter capacity – “enough for this time of the year” he says – and while they run out of beer from time to time, Ralph believes that “is the just the nature of things.”  He hopes to be back at full capacity within a month which is really quite miraculous if you have seen photos of the brewery immediately after the big shake.

Malthouse is currently pouring Three Boys IPA, Three Boys Golden Ale and the always anticipated Three Boys Oyster Stout.  It is rare to see the Golden and Stout on tap at the same time but the Golden’s ‘season’ has been somewhat extended by demand.  The Oyster Stout remains “set in stone” limited edition, totally seasonal and, despite some odd rumours doing the rounds, full of Bluff oysters which Ralph said are “big, fat and plump” this year. [2] He has been pottering round with the recipe, as he always does, but is confident in the final result.  It is certainly my favourite New Zealand stout.

Here is what Ralph said about his beer over on Local Vanguard:

“On a wintry day, I enjoy having the Oyster Stout, which is a seasonal brew.  In fact, the Oyster Stout is one of our most popular beers and an interesting style.  It is one of the three traditional kinds of stouts – milk, oatmeal, or oyster.  In the olden days, stouts were thought to contain a lot of iron and nutritional properties, and thereby considered a “health drink”.  Adding in oysters to stout became a common practice because of their high nutritional properties.  While we now know a bit more about the true science and nutrition behind beer, the traditional tastes have stuck.  In our case, we add bluff oysters to the boil, which gives the beer a hint of briny ‘seaside-iness’ that gets the taste buds working and goes really well with food.”

Most readers will have caught up with the news that the Canterbury Brewery has closed down and Lion’s brewing operations from there have been shifted permanently to Dunedin.  This actually means that Harrington’s is now the biggest brewery in Christchurch with Three Boys the second biggest.  Ralph said he would have preferred second place came through growth rather than attrition!

He is also hinting strongly that there will be some 2011 Three Boys Wild Plum Ale heading into kegs and possibly up to Wellington.  There was a surplus of this 8% speciality brew because they had more plums than they expected and fewer bottles than they thought.

The Canterbury contingent on the taps will be boosted by a rare but welcome appearance of Brew Moon’s Hophead IPA.  It is no secret I love this fragrant, hoppy, drinkable 5% pale ale.  It has appeared on most of my annual Top Ten Beer lists, dropping off only when I have had trouble locating supplies.  Distribution seems massively improved and I’m delighted to see it pouring again.

I can now say I have been to the brewery too.  Last year, before the first quake, I was heading down to Christchurch with two of my best friends.  As we entered the township of Amberley, one of them unkindly remarked there would be nothing there of interest.  I said “the only place I have heard of in Amberley is Brew Moon” [3] to which my other companion immediately said “you mean that place right there?”  So we pulled in for a pint and a pizza.  Both were delicious. 

Finally, the title of this post is of course inspired by one of Homer Jay Simpson’s most quoted catechisms: “mmmmmm… beer, my one weakness, my Achilles Heel, if you will.” [4]

[1] That quotation is likely to be relevant for the foreseeable future.
[2] Fortunately for drinkers Ralph is a not himself a fan of eating oysters so most of them reach the kettle.   
[3] The official Brew Moon website stresses they are actually “two minutes south of Amberley” proper.
[4] My claims of having a singular weakness are routinely mocked on social media.


Beer Writer
Real Beer New Zealand
Beer and Brewer Magazine


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