For most of my lifetime, real-life purchasers from The Listener classifieds were a myth, they were as real as card-carrying members of the Social Credit Party or people who found David Spade funny. Then I met one.
Steve Nally, head brewer at the Invercargill Brewery, bought a mail-order home-brew kit from The Listener almost 25 years ago. His views on Social Credit and David Spade are unknown but he is expected to be highly sceptical about both. Eagerly, Steve made his first brew and, after sampling, proclaimed that it “tasted like rubbish.”
Fortunately for beer drinkers, he never lost his love for making beer even if his initial focus was producing an annual batch of his crisp, clean, fresh Nally’s Cider. I had always been firmly of the opinion that I did not like cider. After being cajoled into tasting this libation, I realised that I didn’t like the sickly, sweet, fizzy cider-pops we see far too much off. Steve’s stuff is superb. I wanted to wear a cloth cap and grow sheep for days after tasting it.
Serious brewing started for Steve in 1999 when he began the Invercargill Brewing Company. His co-brewer was dad Gerry and the first brewery was in the garage. In time, they needed to grow and so moved to an old cow shed which, for reasons that cannot be understood by those of us north of Christchurch, was painted blue. Finally, a couple of years ago, they found what appears to be a pretty permanent home in an industrial unit in central Invercargill.
Well, Steve’s directions said central Invercargill though I must confess Russ the Canadian and I drove down the main street and past the brewery before realising we had even entered the township. Conversely, we were the motoring duo who spent twenty minutes marooned at a South Canterbury service station because we could not find the lever to open the petrol cap. The local residents were more amused than helpful. Eventually an elderly lady took pity on us and helpfully pointed it out. This incident probably ended any slim chance of I had of hosting the New Zealand version of Top Gear. Never having owned a car probably counted against me too.
Returning to the Invercargill range, they produce five regular beers (Alpine Honey Beer, Stanley Green, Wasp, Pitch Black and Biman), the annual cider and a few specialty releases including a boysenberry ale and their remarkable smoked bock. Demand is booming and Steve is now employing people who are not family members. Hiring people who are not blood relatives is a big step for any new craft brewers and still quite a leap for any business venture in some parts of the Deep South…
One of Invercargill’s best-known brews is Biman. As everyone will know, Biman is Bengali for strong-hearted and was also the name of a local eatery. This was a beer specifically created to go well with spicy food. It has bounced around beer classes and the recipe has evolved over time but the fine-tuning has clearly paid off because Biman was a Gold Medal winner at the 2008 Brew NZ Awards.
Pouring a clear gold, Biman (5.2%) has a juicy nose of lime with a hint of passionfruit. Full in the mouth, it showcases a delicate balance of all-malt sweetness, citrus and cleansing bitterness. Interestingly, it always done very well in the public vote at my beer tastings even though it is usually served first. Evidently no-one told Biman that the first beers never win, they are only supposed to be there to warm up the palate.
In terms of geographical beer trivia, Invercargill Brewery is well-known as New Zealand’s southernmost brewer and the second southernmost brewery in the world. I’ve used that latter fact numerous times knowing, vaguely, that somewhere in South America made beer closer to the South Pole. Recently, I finally found out exactly who holds the title – the Austral brewery in Chile. The fact that I finally found this out in Melbourne from the awesome Chilean distributers of Kross Beers serves to demonstrate what a global world we live and drink in.
Malthouse has been a long-term supporter and fan of Steve Nally and his beers. Steve is a big friendly guy (hence the nickname ‘Huggy Bear’) and in tremendously exciting news he will be appearing in person at Malthouse soon to introduce people to his beer.
Real Beer New Zealand
Beer and Brewer Magazine
The Listener – http://www.listener.co.nz/
Invercargill Brewery – http://www.invercargillbrewery.co.nz/
Kross Brewery – http://www.kross.cl
Real Beer – http://www.realbeer.co.nz/blog/blog.html
Beer and Brewer Magazine – http://www.beerandbrewer.com/