Meet the organic and kosher brewery
Tuesday, 05 April 2011 17:22

Few can claim to be a certified organic brewer in New Zealand.  Fewer still can claim to be a certified kosher brewer.   By my count, only precisely three men can claim to be both – John Duncan, Matt Duncan and Callum Duncan, all from Founder’s Organic Brewery.  Matt will be at Malthouse between 5pm and 7pm on Thursday 7 April as the star of the next “Meet the Brewer” session.

There are just four certified organic breweries in New Zealand.  The first was Founders in Nelson, followed by Mike’s [1] in Urenui, Green Man in Dunedin and finally Peak Brewery in Masterton.  Gaining and keeping official accreditation is a difficult and expensive process but each brewery has chosen to make the commitment.  Founders is certified by Bio-Grow New Zealand.  Unsurprisingly, all four share a low-impact environmental philosophy. 

Other breweries may use organic ingredients and make various claims on their labels, but only certified organic breweries always conform to the highest organic standards, both in terms of ingredients and processes.  The use of the term “organic” by uncertified brewers can be an issue for the certified providers though the disagreements are usually polite and private – very Kiwi.

Founders also has the rather funky “Kosher Kiwi” logo which is the “mark of the Kashrut wing of the Auckland Hebrew Congregation, New Zealand's largest Orthodox community.”  Essentially, it is the New Zealand group which certifies that food and drink conforms to Sheilot (Jewish Law). 

Although, Founders appears to be the only brewery in this country to hold this certification, the Kosher Kiwi website does note that most standard beers can be “assumed to be Kosher.”  The certification applies for their Long Black, Tall Blonde, Red Head and Generation Ale.

The two certification processes are surprisingly similar.  There are regular inspections and strict records must be kept about ingredients and processes.  To top it all off, Founders beers are GE-Free and both vegetarian and vegan friendly.  I’ve previously described their products as “guilt-free beers even Al Gore could enjoy.” [2]

Matt will be accompanied by Kieran Haslett-Moore, beer specialist at Regional Wines.  There will also be some special Founders beers available including their Marchfest creation and a limited edition pilsner.

The official name of their festival beer is apparently “Founders Surprise Me AKA Marchfest AK4.7 Autumn Ale.”  I’d personally be surprised if most people would get that name right every time in a busy bar so “Surprise Me” or “AK4.7” might work too.  Here is the official description:

“Founders Surprise Me AKA AK 4.7 is a hoppy Autumn Ale that packs plenty of punch.  This well-balanced beer is heavily armed with 6 different varieties of hops, and a strong malt palate with a small arsenal of dark roasted malt to give added depth.  A bitter revolutionary Ale that leaves your taste buds nowhere to hide.  Pours a deep mahogany, with a good head on its shoulders (like every true revolutionary should have).  This ale is sure to hit the target. 4.7% ABV.”

That is quite a war-like description from one of the least combative companies in the country.  AK4.7 was brewed for the annual Marchfest which was held at Founders Park on 26 March.  There were fourteen new beers and ciders with a revolutionary theme created especially for the event.  As well as the Founders brew, I particularly like the sound of Uber Pils from 8Wired (“a rebellious pilsner”) [3] and Fugnose II (“a subversive sequel ale”) from the wonderful Lighthouse brewery.

There will also be limited quantities of the limited edition J R Duncan & Sons Nelson Pilsner at Malthouse.  The name is most apt as the Duncan family is now into its sixth generation of brewers.  That is unprecedented in the modern New Zealand brewery fraternity.  Founders were recently visited by NZ Craft Beer TV who wrote: [4]

“Situated in Founders Heritage Park, a small village showing what the Nelson of yesteryear would have looked like, it is a picturesque little building and brewery tap offering great coffee, food and pizza from a wood-fired oven.  We are met by owner and head brewer, John Duncan who eagerly tells us of the history of his family, the brewery and his beers.

Founders Brewery is the first in Australasia to be certified organic and is also vegan and kosher, making it unique in its offering.  John, a fifth generation brewer and his sons, Matt and Callum, head up the brewing and manage to tease a plethora of flavours and aromas from the slightly more limited variety of organic ingredients available to New Zealand Brewers.  With the sixth generation working hard and constantly bouncing ideas off each other, it’s easy to see why the Duncans have such a loyal following.  Their year-round brews and seasonal specials are all perfectly executed by a talented team.

It was 1854 when John Dodson first arrived in NZ and began brewing.  For the next 115 years, the family owned and operated not only the brewery but also maltings and hop farms.  It’s great to see such a dedicated family provide so much to New Zealand brewing history.”

Matt is equally eager to talk.  There is no charge for the tasting and no need to book.  It will be a ‘casual chat’ kind of event.

[1] For much of its twenty-one years, Mike’s was officially called White Cliffs brewery.  In recent years, it tended to alter between the two names before settling definitively on Mike’s.  To be completely accurate, it is actually “mike’s Organic Brewery” complete with lower case m.
[2] I for one would not want to have a beer with him though.  I suspect he would pull out a laptop and show the bar a three-hour PowerPoint Presentation on Climate Change.  I would also be distracted by his outrageous toupee.
[3] Despite the bold name, I’m sure it shows Soren’s usual subtle brewing style.
[4] They are bound to be aware of the irony, thank you.

Cheers


Beer Writer
Real Beer New Zealand
Beer and Brewer Magazine

Links

Founder’s Brewery: http://www.foundersbrewery.co.nz
Bio-Grow NZ: http://www.biogrow.co.nz
Kosher Kiwi: http://www.kosher.co.nz/
NZ Craft Beer TV: http://nzcraftbeer.tv/founders-brewery/
Malthouse on Twitter - http://twitter.com/malthouse
Malthouse Facebook Group - http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wellington/Malthouse/7084276173
Real Beer – http://www.realbeer.co.nz 
Beer and Brewer Magazine - http://www.beerandbrewer.com/