Being stuck in one's ways is hardly a unique character trait, but it's fair to say there are varying degrees of stickability.

For the past few years I've been privy to the antics of one Alexander James Mackay whose habits can best be described as not so much stuck in the mud, as buried in cement.

Nothing has illustrated this more clearly than our recent Beer Brewing Project.

By way of background information, Mr Mackay is a massive fan of Emerson's Pilsner; a staple of the Dunedin brewery's award-winning range of craft beers. In fact, he enjoys it so much he barely drinks anything else. If circumstances cruelly conspire to see another amber liquid pass his lips he makes it well known that it doesn't come close to the Emerson's brew.


He's even set up an exclusive club that meets, predictably, at the same time, same place every week called the Pilsner Club; named after the Emerson's variety, of course. The Pilsner Club is by invitation only - I'm yet to see one of these invites but I can only imagine the hilarity and frivolity that the members are privy to. The Pilsner Club has also spawned the LOHAF running club, as too much beer can have a widening effect on most men which needs to be shed, especially if you've got an obsession with the male form like Jamie does. That's one club I have been invited to, but it's usually held in the afternoon and the 'ol Union Whistle's well and truly blown by then!

But the obsession with the Pilsner can also be a costly exercise, as a beer of this class doesn't come cheap. So the question became how does one best mitigate the financial burden of satisfying the urge to consume more and more? The answer lay in making direct contact with the brewer's themselves, in particular the enigmatic founder and Godfather of NZ craft brewing, Richard Emerson. The great man, who's deaf as a door, began brewing beer in his mother's kitchen back in the 80's after he discovered what good beer actually tasted like while he was overseas. His own creations have become the thing of legend, including, of course, the Pilsner.

So after ingratiating himself into the inner Emerson's sanctum, Mackay, along with Emerson, hatched a plan to brew a beer under the joint label of Emerson's and The Country. This is where a certain degree of malleability comes in handy, but is sadly in short supply. Every inquiry and vigorous discussion about what type of beer would be produced was met with a stoic refusal by Mackay to brew anything other than Emerson's Pilsner. When it was pointed out on more than one occasion that the Pilsner already existed, it was met with a look that fell somewhere in between a blank steer and an accusatory glare.

The executive decision was made to bypass Mackay but make it look like he was contributing. When the big decisions were being made at the high-powered meetings, the strategy was to talk about organic malts and hop varieties to the point where he lost interest (about 5 mins) and the real decisions were made. To be fair, Mr Emerson did concede the best of his beers to consume after a hard day's yakka on the farm was indeed his Pilsner. But as had been pointed out ad nauseum there was simply no point in recreating something that already existed. This beer needed a point of difference. Mr Emerson suggested a variation on his pilsner, made with just one type of hop.

So Richard, brewer Mason Pratt and myself stuck our heads into five different bags of hops and all independently settled on the same one; the Nelson Sauvin. First released in 2000 and developed by Plant and Food Research, it smells like fresh crushed gooseberries, a description often given to Sauvignon Blanc, hence the name. It's gained a great reputation around the globe and we're expecting the result to be a good punchy, seasonal drop, perfect for summer and with an ABV of around 5 to 5.3%. It's also brewed with organic New Zealand malt.

The brewing bit was highly enjoyable; top-class facilities and patient, friendly staff. But that was only part of the project. Once we'd decided on a beer it needed a name, a label and a description, all of which are incredibly time consuming and, it turns out, steeped in the democratic process. In other words, committees need to be formed, ideas tabled, sub-committees formed, votes on every aspect of every decision, drafts, re-writes, more drafts... you name it, it was all on.

To be honest, it's been a great project to be involved in and as long my contributions aren't messed with I'm happy!

Stay tuned for more details...