When a Taupō beer connoisseur gets together with a Taupo coffee connoisseur, gold medals happen.
Lakeman Brewing has just won a gold medal in the specialty beer category at the Australian International Beer Awards (AIBA) with their chocolate imperial stout The Hairy Wonka, created in collaboration with local coffee roaster Volcanic Coffee.
The Hairy Wonka was up against more than 268 other specialty beers at the Australian International Beer Awards. The AIBAs are the world's largest annual beer awards with entries from over 320 breweries from 36 countries. All together, Lakeman Brewing entered seven beers and six won medals.
Co-owner and brewer James Cooper says they brewed The Hairy Wonka just once and had kept 13 bottles to enter the awards.
"We kept 13 bottles, one to try to make sure it was up to scratch. Me, [brewers] Rory and Kenny went "wow this is amazing!" and then we sent 12 bottles over to Australia."
The Hairy Wonka was well received at the 2018 GABs Beer, Cider and Food Fest in Auckland. James says since then the beer had matured really well and they might brew it again this year and cellar it.
"It's a big beer, it's a colab with Volcanic Coffee, we added coffee, cacao and cardamom."
Volcanic Coffee owner Jimmy Baker is old mates with James and so he was pretty happy to enter into a collaboration to supply the coffee, chocolate and cardamom to create The Hairy Wonka.
Jimmy bought Volcanic Coffee two years ago and has moved the roaster to a workshop at his dad's house in Tūrangi. He has also taken over The Volcano roaster in Ohakune and says his process of making coffee is truly volcanic. The Taupō Caldera is in the Pacific Ring of Fire and, keen to stick with the volcanic theme, Jimmy sources his beans from ring of fire countries Papua New Guinea, Central and South America. He says something a little different was required for The Hairy Wonka and he wanted a coffee bean with a stronger flavour so as to not affect James' stout recipe.
"We used beans from Indonesia because they are denser and bigger. They can be roasted a bit darker and still hold their flavour."
Following roasting, the beans were cold pressed so they stayed in the sweet range and for a smoother outcome.
Jimmy says there is a trend in the United States for unprocessed techniques when making coffee and chocolate. To extract the chocolate flavour from the cacao beans he used a Mayan method with a technical twist, and brewed the cacao beans through the coffee filter machine. Cardamon pods were roasted and turned into powder, and then vanilla was added for balance.
Jimmy says getting the correct amount of each ingredient was "the artisan input".
"No-one wrote anything down. I'm not sure how much coffee went in. They relied on flavour and tastebuds to get where they wanted to."
Lakeman Brewing co-owner Elissa Cooper says a cool part of brewing beer is that it's seasonal.
"Autumn and winter is the time for brainstorming ideas with brewers Rory Donovan and Kenny Rivers."
James says at this time of year they do a lot of dreaming and says he wants to make a saison beer, a type of farm-house ale.
"At the moment we have the time to brew some specialised beers to be put away."
Elissa says there are some exciting new releases planned for spring, in time for GABS and Beervana. "We have just come out with the 440ml cans, for our seasonal and one-off beers."
James and Elissa aim to do more colabs with New Zealand-made food and intend to promote Taupo at the same time.
"Promoting the Lakeman Brewing brand is about promoting Taupō," says James.
Recently they brought down some bar managers from Auckland and took them out on the lake and jet boating on the river.
"They were blown away, they said they had never seen this side of Taupō.
"They only ever thought of Taupō as a hangover town."
Lakeman Brewing and Volcanic Coffee will be at The Merchant Wine & Food Expo in August.