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GABS beer preview — Yeastie Boys

April 24, 2012
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I have a secret. I started doing these interviews partly so I could ask the Yeastie Boys how they used tea in their beer. I had asked Stu Yeastie in person over a couple of beers but couldn’t really remember. I thought “I should ask them again, and then put something on my blog for homebrewers”. When I tweeted that I was looking for brewers to do some interviews, I was happy that the Yeasties were the first to put their hand up to help out. I’ve been toying with the idea of using chamomile tea in a brown ale, or “Chilli Berry” rooibos tea in a pale ale so to know how theirs was done is great. Hopefully it’ll help a few of you other homebrewers out as well.

Sam and Stu are the Yeastie Boys

For those coming late, you can read the first two interviews in this series here.

A little background on the Yeastie Boys. Two Kiwi guys. One lives in Wellington and one in Auckland. Their beers are brewed at Invercargill Brewery. That’s right down the bottom of New Zealand… it’s cold down there. Unlike many brewers who contract, they are fiercely proud of it and I think they have helped remove some of the trepidation people have about contract brews. Hopefully as time goes on, more brewers who contract will be more honest with the public about where their beers are brewed. It’s a bit of a bugbear of mine to see beers that are clearly contracted, pretending they have history steeped mega brewery. It’s the lies that hurt the most and drinkers don’t care how or where, just what it tastes like. Marketing works for the big players, but honesty is better for the craft market. Anyway, that’s an argument that’s been done to death so I feel like I’m treading old ground for some readers but it seems here in Australia, contract is still somewhat of a dirty word when it doesn’t need to be.

Ok I’m done.

Let’s hear from one half of the Yeastie Boys, Stu McKinley, about their Tea Leaf IPA, titled “Gunnamatta”

Most events such as this are a showcase of a range of beers, usually basic styles with the brewery staff selling their wares behind a small table. What do you think the benefits of an event like GABS are in winning people over to craft beer?

I love the idea of everyone creating a unique beer for the festival. For some this may be a style they have never brewed before, while for others it might be using bizarre ingredients or processes. It creates loads of anticipation for the beer geeks (including ourselves), about what they are going to try at the festival, and helps push some of the boundaries about what we are doing. One great advantage that we have as beer makers, over people who make other drinks, is our ability to do things so differently. I liken brewing more to cooking than wine making… and this, in a sense, is more like a wild foods festival. Brewers are going crazy. There is a sort of friendly rivalry amongst craft brewers that is really raising the level of everyone.

With so many other potentially amazing beers all on the bill do you feel any pressure on you and your beer? or are you just like a punter and are happy to be involved?

Yeh, we feel pressure with every beer we put out. This pressure we put on ourselves to keep up our high standards, to create a beer that we are excited by, and to make something that will sell well for the festival organisers who are taking the risk by buying so much of it! But, in the end, that pressure just excites us to work really hard on the beer.

Are you attending, and if so, what beers are you most looking forward to trying?

We are. Sam and I arrive on Sunday morning, so will be latecomers to the festival. We’re hoping you leave some beers for us!! And have plenty of info on what we can’t miss. So many of the beers on the list excite me that I wish I could try them all. I’ll probably work hard on trying beers from a lot of the breweries I’ve heard a lot about but not yet tried anything from… breweries like Kooinda, Cowarump, The Monk, Lobethal, Seven Sheds. I’m a big fan of smoked beers and anythging Belgian, so will be hunting them out too.

Why Tea Leaf IPA?

I was playing around with coffee and pale ales early last year when all of a sudden everyone in the world seemed to be doing them – The Kernel, Mikkeller, Mountain Goat. It felt like it was about to become the next big thing, and I wasn’t all that excited about my trials, so I put it on the backburner. I love coffee but I come from a long line of tea drinkers and I’d often picked up some tea-like notes from some of my favourite bitters and amber ales. It got me thinking years ago but it was at this point, the dead end with the coffee idea, that I went off on the search for the right tea to use. The tasting I did with the tea leaf company that we worked with got me so excited that I want to do an entire tea-leaf series… that idea became even stronger when I started playing around with “dry leafing” my trial beer. I tried different sorts of teas and fruit/spice infusions. I had a couple that I probably preferred over the final tea we used but I really thought the punch of the Earl Grey Blue Flower would work superbly in a festival setting. I’m not sure if that tea leaf series will happen yet but I’m certainly toying with the idea.

Can you explain the name for us?

Gunnamatta is the evocative opening track of Paul Kelly’s album “Ways and Means”… I wanted to pick an Australian name for this beer, seeing that it was created for an Australian festival, and toyed with a few ideas before coming up with this one. The album has always had a strong emotional connection for me and this track really delivered the beer idea rather than the other way around. It happens like this a lot for me – I have hundreds of half-baked ideas floating around in my head and then a tune, or some other piece of pop culture, kicks that idea into overdrive and a beer comes out the other end. Some may think the final beers are still a bit half-baked!! The Gunnamatta track itself is reminiscent of 70′s surf guitar and what’s better than camping out at a good surf beach, with plenty of cups of tea, good music, great friends and a few beers. It all seemed to hang together nicely and we’ll have everything at Good Beer Week except for the beach.

What process did you use for extracting the tea?

We dry leafed with 4 grams of Earl Grey Blue Flower per litre of beer. We used the same sort of technique we use with dry hopping, adding the leaf to the fermenter just near the end of fermentation. The tea leaves are a bit different from hop pellets so we learnt a few things during the process that might help us in the future. Steve Nally, the owner and head brewer of Invercargill Brewery (who we contract brew through), absolutely loves the beer but doesn’t want to talk about tea leaves for a while!

Anything else you want to add about your beer, GABS or craft brew itself?

Craft beer is one the rise and I think GABS is really going to showcase the reasons why. The diversity of beers will only be matched by the diversity of people attending. I’m really excited by what is happening in Melbourne with the entire Good Beer Week (and in the city for the other 51 weeks fo the year). Melbourne is well on the road to cementing its place as one of the beer capitals of the world. While the old world capitals are based around the style of beer they brewed, the new world ones are based on the fantastic variety of people and venues serving the beers of the world. You have some of the best of both… I can’t wait to get back there!!

Thanks again to Stu for the great answers. It’s one of the most talked about beers of the festival and it’s definitely up there on my list of beers to try first. Next interview will be with Søren from 8 Wired, another brewer based in NZ, about his Double Brown Ale with Coffee. I drank a lot of NZ’s original Double Brown in my youth (we used to call it ‘The Goodness’… it was about $10 a a dozen), so I can’t wait to try a grown up version!

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Beer and Food