Don Kavanagh: Home, sweet homebrew

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Many successful brewers started off making a few gallons in their back yards, writes Don Kavanagh.

Don Kavanagh looks favourably at brewed beer which hits home. Photo / Thinkstock
Don Kavanagh looks favourably at brewed beer which hits home. Photo / Thinkstock

Homebrewing is big business in New Zealand - it's one that has the potential to break out of the home and become a paying operation.

The number of brewers in this country who started off making a few gallons at home for themselves and their mates is quite interesting and it's good to see people turning a hobby into a job, especially in these straitened times.

I never brewed beer myself, but I was an enthusiastic distiller once my uncle had taken me under his wing. Uncle Willie needed someone to help him in his moonshine business and I was a keen understudy to him.

In fact, distilling was partly to blame for my early departure from formal education. When I was 15, Willie's business was doing so well that he sometimes had to take me out of school to help. After about 10 such sudden absences, I was called to the headmaster's office.

"It's your mother - she's sick again," he said with a weary sigh. "This time I think it might be the condenser that's causing trouble."

We then had a rather involved conversation vis-a-vis my position at the school and my commitment to education and we came to a parting of ways.

Brewers here seem to be more circumspect about mixing their brewing with education, but it hasn't stopped many of them going on to stellar careers as commercial brewers.

It has also been a boon for the beer drinker, as homebrewers kicked off a revolution in brewing, moving away from the sweetish brown beers into more sophisticated styles, something the craft brewing industry has continued.

And every now and again a star is born. Neils Schipper is the latest, after his brew won a competition organised by Moa Brewing. His full-bodied bitter - brewed in his laundry - wowed the judges and he got the chance to brew his beer at Moa's brewery and release the results to the public.

Well done, to all involved - it's always nice to see passion rewarded.

* Don Kavanagh has been involved in the hospitality trade for more than 25 years and is the editor of Hospitality magazine.

- NZ Herald

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