A couple of Californian brothers-in-law living in the South Island have helped resurrect a forgotten British-style beer popular among the working class in early 18th century London.
Andy Deuchars and Brian Thiel, who both hail from San Diego and have been living in New Zealand for around 20 years, founded Renaissance Brewing in Blenheim in 2005 and quickly earned a reputation for producing award-winning beers.
Their latest success, a rich-bodied tipple called Elemental Porter (which had its origins in London in the 1700s) has been named in the Top 30 in the 2020 New World Beer & Cider Awards (NWBCA).
It is one of two beers from the Nelson-Marlborough region to make the Top 30. The other is a Scotch Ale produced by Nelson-based brewery Sprig & Fern, a drink which comes in a unique 888ml bottle and is in the Top 30 for the second year running.
This is the sixth annual NWBCA awards, this year run throughout June in conjunction with New World's Buy NZ which celebrates and champions local New Zealand businesses and producers.
Deuchars, brewery overseer at Renaissance, moved to New Zealand a couple of years before Thiel ("I met him when he married my sister") who also decided on a Kiwi life after spending his honeymoon here.
Elemental Porter was a sought-after thirst quencher for porters who carried goods on and off ships to London's produce market when they clocked-off at dawn each day. "It was pretty much extinct by the mid-20th century," Deuchars says (the last batch was brewed in 1941) as its popularity declined.
The rise of craft and micro-brewers like Renaissance in recent decades has given the beer a second life and is part of the brewery's efforts to "be authentic by getting back to (beer-making) roots," says Deuchars.
What roots does a Californian-born man have in British-style beers? "My family is British," he says. "My Mum and Dad moved to the US after the (Second World War) war before I was born and I've always been passionate about British beer."
Deuchars describes Elemental Porter as a mellow darker beer a notch below a stout: "It has dark chocolate and roasty malt flavours and goes well with coffee or berry-based desserts, blue cheese and barbecued meats like beef and venison."
He says making the New World Top 30 will help Renaissance "get into the public mind" especially in the North Island.
Although Elemental Porter is one of a number of top-end premium ales produced by Renaissance, their products are not just in the British style; the brewery also crafts ales in American and European styles.
Meanwhile husband and wife team Tracy and Ken Banner own and operate Sprig & Fern Brewery in Nelson. Head brewer Tracy says it is tremendous their Scotch Ale has made it to the Top 30 for the second successive year and shows "we are doing things well."
She says the Scotch Ale is a robust, full-bodied British-style beer perfect to drink in front of the fire in winter. "It has coffee, chocolate and caramel flavours and goes well with darker meats like beef and venison."
Tracy has one tip: "I wouldn't drink it straight out of the fridge, leave it for a few minutes first after taking it out."
She says the 888ml screw-top bottle the Scotch Ale comes in is "very classy" and, because it is roughly equivalent to two beer handles, can easily be shared with another person.
Tracy has been involved in beer making for 37 years, getting her start when she landed a job as a laboratory technician in a corporate brewery in Britain after leaving school: "I learnt all about malt, hops and the technical aspects of beer, I love it."
It was here she met Ken and in the early 1990s the couple decided to move to New Zealand. She worked for more than 10 years for two iconic South Island breweries, Speights and Macs.
As well as the brewery, there are 13 owner-operator taverns under the Sprig & Fern banner (seven in Nelson, five in Wellington and one in Christchurch) where all of their beers and cider are on tap.
"We live and breathe quality and consistency," Tracy says. "People will always be able to get a quality product and find a beer they like - British, German, US-styles, lagers and dark beers, we do it all."
Tracy says Nelson is a prime tourist destination and says since the country moved to Level 1 she has noticed the numbers of visitors to the area picking up.
If you can get there, pop in and visit these brewers and their award-winning beers on offer. If you can't get there, pop into your local New World and taste the full
NWBCA Top 30 range.