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By Fork & Brewer Wed 09 Mar 2016
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DRAFT 3.8% Classic NZ Draught

This is Fork Brewing's first Fork Brews release for 2016! And it may boggle the hoppy heads of craft boffins, who may just be getting over the shock of witnessing currently circulating historical images of Kelly Ryan dressed in, and canoodling with, Tui paraphernalia.

For this year's first beer release is a meta, reverse psychology, walk down memory lane called DRAFT, a 3.8% classic NZ Draught Lager.

"By default, this was the very first style of beer that I brewed in my life was when I was at DB Breweries working at Tui," says Kelly.

"I've been brewing now for 15 years, so it is bit of an anniversary - literally to the day - to when I started as a brewer back at the beginning of 2001.

"I was kind of looking at the Speights, the Tuis, DB Draughts, the Double Browns and Waikato Draughts - all of those sorts of beers that we've been weaned on - and wanted to recreate something that's a bit of a throwback in the Niu Zild beer story."

Kelly brewed DRAFT on a small scale to see if he could recreate something in the vein of an old school NZ Draught, and crack this sort of style without resorting to the big brewery processes, and crack the craft beer critics in the process!

"It's that classic Kiwi BBQ beer, where you buy a flagon, crank up the coals, have a yarn with your friends and family, and play a bit of backyard cricket... Or have a jug at the bowling club with your gran and grandpa, sort of thing.

"If we're gonna bandy the word 'craft' about, it's kind of fun to do something a bit anti-craft! Dare I say it, sometimes throwing hops at a beer with a pale malt base, can be less challenging than going, 'I'm gonna take this style and try and nail it.'

"Draught as American people know it - and as most of the world knows it - means to come from a keg, but in a NZ Draught style, is basically a brown lager. There's a few theories how it came about [thanks to the rise of big breweries - ref: Chapter One of Michael Donaldson’s book, Beer Nation], but it was basically made to fit in with the infamous Six O'Clock Swill for people who wanted to drink lots, fast!

"Making Draught beer was a product of Continuous Fermentation Process, where you brew a wort stream of standard wort, which would then become all of these different beers. We'd also do the keg brewing for Monteith's Golden Lager Pilsner, Original and Dark - all these types of beers that were, in their very own way, variations in styles of Draught beer.

"When beer writer, Michael Jackson came over to NZ, he kind of talked about these 'brown lagers' that were completely unique to NZ, that almost had ale-like tendencies in terms of the fruitiness and flavour profile; they had this maltiness to them. It wasn't just a hop-lead beer. Instead, they had that biscuity, malty, almost borderline caramel sweetness.

"What the big breweries do is they use colouring and hop extracts and all sorts of things to make changes in the fermented wort from their Continuous Fermentation Process.

"I built DRAFT from scratch. The recipe was made in such a way that you would get that residual sweetness. I'd never batch brewed this style of beer in my post big brewing career, and it was a cool challenge!

"It's not filtered to within an inch of its life, it's not pasturised, it's lagered properly, hasn't gone through a Continuous Fermentation Process (not saying that that's bad), but I've relied on a single batch process to produce it."

Though the flavour profile of the classic NZ Draught is a product of big breweries’ straight-forward, industrial, blanket approach to brewing, Kel says some may surprised to discover that brewing DRAFT was a bit more complex.

"Obviously, we brew a lot of Pale Ales, IPAs and Sours - they're our biggest sellers. But 'simple' beers like Helles, Hefeweizen, Pilsner and a NZ Draft can be a little bit scary to brew, because there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. You can’t really stuff it up, because you'll be able to taste errors straight away! If your yeast isn't right, if your base recipe isn't right, or if it ferments down too dry….

"This was a pretty basic recipe using flake barley, which adds a bit of richness, body and texture, because with these sorts of beers it's about getting that nice sweetness without being too dry. So I used American Ale Malt to get that nice little biscuitiness that NZ Draught styles tend to have, and used Gladiator Malt, which tends to add a bit of body and mouthfeel to the beer.

"And then I added some German specialty malt: de-husked, de-bittered roasted barley malt to add that little bit of colour.

"I wanted that real simple, low bitterness, aiming for 10 in bitterness units, just using good old Pacific Jade hops, which is a really good NZ bittering hop. Nothing in the late hop - all just in the early hop - to give it just enough bitterness to temper that residual sweetness that comes through from the malt.

"The brew finished at a little over 10-12 in its gravity, so it's got that sweetness, and that was solely down to things like having a higher mash temperature to ensure I had that residual sugar left - so it's not that easy to brew!

"The ABV sits on 3.8%. And [fun fact] pretty much across the board, all those Kiwi Draught Lagers we drink - even though they say 4% on the packaging - sit around 3.85%. So I thought, 'OK, well, I’ll nail it right there.'

"On the nose, you get quite a lot of berry fruit in there; you get caramel; you get that cracker biscuit - almost like a homemade Digestive biscuit character with golden syrup or brown sugar.

"And then you get this nice little fruity ester; I used my house strain and fermented it at quite a low temperature, and it gives this tiny hint of yeast derived sulphur, which I find really helps these sorts of beers from the fermentation process, which comes through from the malt itself.

"It just helps with that crisp cleanness. And then you get that in your mouth and it's nice you get that residual sweetness when you swallow, but you also get that lovely dryness on the palate, and it's quite quenching.

"There's this biscuit, berry, hint of violet flowers just as you swallow, then it goes straight into that classic Draught, biscuity, caramel character without too much sweetness, and that real kind of like tougue-drying finish, which makes you go, 'I want another sip of that!'

"There’s also a tiny bit of citrus in there - like someone has stood at a bit of a distance and squeezed a lemon in the direction of the beer, and one molecule landed in it!"

Did you ever hear anyone wax so poetic over a NZ Draught? (Well, no. Because he is waxing about DRAFT.)

Kel says DRAFT is also an ideal gateway beer for those who haven't crossed the line to craft beer.

"It would be cool to get a few kegs into some venues that aren't necessarily hard core into Pale Ales, IPAs or hoppy Pilsners, and just tell them we can do this style of beer! We haven't scrimped and saved on the process to create it - it's exactly the same craft process. Hops don't necessarily maketh the craft beer. This process can make all sorts of beer. It's not all about the Imperial Stouts and Triple IPAs.

"We have almost 20 beers on tap here at Fork, but we still get patrons who come in that aren't into craft beer. They like a good Lager, something that comes in a brown bottle that they can buy in lots of six or 12.

"If this means we sell a few less brown bottles from our fridge and get them to try this instead, that's cool, because they're actually drinking something that's brewed right here on premise.

"And if we can also deliver something that's gonna appeal to the Tui, Lion Brown and Haagen drinkers, in terms of flavour profile, then they'll come in here, and they might even try a Golden Mile and a Psycho Keller or a Flower Arranger."

A lot has changed since Kelly's days as a trainee brewer - he has since brewed for six other breweries and achieved Brewjesus levels of brewing cleverness. Sadly, Tui is about to close down its brewery in Mangatainoka to move to a smaller brewery, with many of those who brewed with him there about to lose their jobs.

"DRAFT's flavour profile takes me back to when I started brewing. When I taste this beer it takes me back to being a fresh-faced trainee brewer straight out of studies.

"And, seriously, when I sip it it kind of makes me smile because I think of the Tui team I used to work with. They were such good people and it's one of those things - particularly with Tui and DB Breweries - there's a real sort of family thing. Once you've worked for them you're sort of family for life, no matter what.

"I guess this is me raising a metaphorical glass to where it all began."

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