Saturday, October 19, 2013

With regret, we lost a brew...

On Wednesday I had a brewers worst nightmare - we were forced to dump a brew down the drain.

It would have been around 3 years since I'd last done this, and as I'm sure you can imagine it wasn't an easy thing to do. The day had started brilliantly and I was enthusiastic about brewing our 2014 release of the AIBA Gold medal winning Hedgerow Barrel Aged Sour Ale. I'd again sourced some terrific Maris Otter malt from the UK, a portion of German Rye malt, an obscure Slovenian Bobek hop, the great UK Brambling Cross hop and a carefully selected yeast strain from the USA.

The mash performed very well, sparging resulted in a great wort capture and I was pushing the limits of our 12hL system by cramming 15hL of wort into the kettle. Being a limited release brew, and a once a year occasion, I try to brew at the limit of what we can so we have more quality beer to go around. As the boil started, I maintained a close eye on the boiling wort, conscious of avoiding a boil over with the increased volume. The bittering hops were added and at around 30 minutes into a 90 min boil disaster struck.

Strong winds that had been building throughout the day eventually reached their destructive worst and somewhere in the power supply a weakness was found (a tree over the lines, a pole down etc we're still not sure of the cause) and supply was devastatingly cut. A few curse words flew out of my mouth, and for a brief instant, power was restored and I thought we'd dodged a bullet. Unfortunately it didn't last. 

Being that deep into a brew, I knew that there was no turning back, no holding the wort in situ for the power to be turned back on. I checked out fuse box, hoping that it'd simply be a fuse, alas. I immediately reported the problem to Aurora Energy, and threw out an offer to them on social media that "if they could get it fixed inside the next 15 mins that there'd be a heap of craft beer in it for them". 15 mins passed, then 30, which turned into 45 and after an agonising 60mins, I made the gut wrenching decision that DMS production in the wort would be too great in the final beer, no addition of the late aroma hops critical for this beer and with no ability to transfer or cool the partially boiled wort, opening the valve at the bottom of the kettle was our only option.

If it had been one of our core range of beers, the pill would have been far easier to swallow. I'd have simply weighed out some new malt, refilled the hot liquor tank and set myself to brew again the next day. This ability to brew again almost immediately is a huge asset to have as brewers, as opposed to the hectic vintage demands of a annual grape harvest in viticulture. But because it was a limited release beer, comprising primary ingredients that we simply don't have excess of, and the fact that the beer has pedigree, any compromise on quality is out of the question. Partially boiled beer sitting in the kettle for an extended period of time with no time frame for recommencement presented a compromise on quality.

As heartbreaking as it was, I'm now happy with the decision I made. The last thing we ever want to do is compromise on quality or consistency with any of our beers, even if that means dumping a brew down the drain. Thankfully it happens very rarely, and in this case due to events outside of our control, but I won't hesitate to do it again all in the aim of producing he best craft beer possible - period. I've lodged a incident report request with Aurora Energy, which will hopefully lead to compensation for the lost brew, failing that we'll explore our own insurance claim.

Rest assured we'll brew Hedgerow for 2014 again shortly, and I've no doubt it'll match up to the 2013 versions lofty heights, of which a portion has been aging I barrels for 2.5 years now. Release is set for April/May 2014. We'll keep you posted. Cheers, Will.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

No Apologies

We will never compromise on the quality of ingredients that we make our beer from – period.

At Van Dieman we don’t strive to produce a beer based solely on a huge positive figure at the bottom of the Gross Margin column on our accounting spreadsheets. In fact, we nearly always head in the other direction (try explaining this to both the bank manager and accountant).  95% of the breweries in the world do operate with this modus operandi, were some Hugo Boss wearing yuppy sipping on a cocktail in the Maldives dicates what is produced based solely on the profit margins that can be generated by the business. Here in lies the difference between multi-national BUSINESSES and craft BREWERIES.

Let me state that Van Dieman Brewing is also a business. To continue in operation a business needs to maintain positive cash flow. We are a small business working our arses off for below minimal wage pay so that the company can keep its head above water. I know almost every other craft brewery in the country is, or has been, in a similar situation, and it’s a position that most small business operators will be familiar with.

These businesses, particularly craft breweries, are run on passion, love for the industry and pure enjoyment. We don’t go to work everyday like most people, we come to a brewery to hand craft beer from the best possible primary products and we freaking love it. And yes – there’s also a beer at the end of the day waiting for us, or at morning tea, or lunch, or both.

Some have asked why our limited releases are so expensive? That we're simply grabbing easy money on a premium product? That because we don't have a large business our overheads should be lower hence equal lower beer prices? 

I'll answer this by saying that EVERY SINGLE limited release we've ever brewed and released has been created purely out of curiosity, a measure to test as brewers our skill set and are 100% brewed for fun, NOT PROFIT. In fact if we break even on the limited releases its seen as a miracle. And are our limted releases really that expensive??? I mean, look at any bottle of good wine and your paying upwards of $50 for 750ml. At $12 - 18 for a 500ml bottle of our limited releases I'd argue until the cows come home that value for money is on our side.

We’d love to be cheaper on the retailers shelves, but that’d require us to go against all our business ethics we’ve built our brand on over the past 5 years. We’re unapologetic for crafting beers from the best possible ingredients, most grown and sourced within Tasmania.

We want to provide choice in the market place, rather than expecting you to drink the same old crap lager you father and his father have always drunk. There will always be a place in the market for these beers, unfortunately it’ll always be majority of sales. But through better beers and providing you with a choice and education on different styles, the craft beer industry, and Van Dieman will continue to endeavor to provide better alternatives.

Sure it’ll probably cost you more, but do you value those dollars that you have dollar more? 
To quote beer writer and sommelier William Wilson ;

"Simple economics drive beer prices and as more and as more and more people drink craft beer we are likely to see prices rise, especially for the rare stuff..... Input costs are huge for small brewers. Paying more for ingredients, investment in equipment and a massive whack to the taxman before they actually sell their beer means that their profit is far smaller than the big boys. This continues into bars where owners can buy faux craft beers for less and sell them for same as independent beers."

Read more on Super Beeronomics here.

With an increasing trend towards people valuing their hard earned, providing an alternative choice to the bigger breweries is incredibly important in such a cut throat industry.  We don't dictate to a retailer what price has to be set on our beers, we can certainly recommend and adjust our prices so that we can fall into a suitable price bracket, but at the end of the day they too run a business, most of them small businesses, and we respect their avenue to growth and operation.

We certainly don’t apologise for being of a greater price than your regular 6-pack, because we’ll almost guarantee you’ll get more flavor, enjoyment, value and fun out of it. Will it hurt you back pocket more? Sure, but you’ll end up in front for the reasons mentioned in the previous sentence.

We operate in an industry that is driven by passion, creativity, dedication and hard work. 

And at Van Dieman we are no different. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Faux Craft Beer

L-R: Brewer, Director, HR

As the owner/brewer/delivery driver/sales rep and barman at Van Dieman Brewing, I can proudly say that Van Dieman Brewing is 100% independently family owned and operated.

Every beer we produce is made from 100% grain malt (85% from Tassie), 100% Tassie grown hops, 100% Tassie water and that we are proud of our rural roots in the Northern Midlands of Tasmania.

We do not try and hide who we are or what we do.

We make our beers how we want to, not how we’re told to by some suit on level 37.

If anything we are far too transparent with how we operate and how we craft our beers daily. I’d far prefer to let all our happy drinking friends know what we’re up to, how things are going, what we’ve got in the pipeline and where we’re heading.

As a small producer in the Australian Craft Beer industry, we live in a highly competitive market that is going through unprecedented growth nationally, but also a conflict of identity. 

Craft breweries, whilst technically all competitors in an open market, have an affinity with each other that make our industry without doubt one of the most enjoyable and amicable professions on the planet. Most operate on passion, hard work and producing amazing craft beer.

Its when faux “craft” breweries like Byron Bay Brewing Company and Steamrail Brewing Company pop their head up, the identity of Australian craft beer really gets confusing. If it’s hard for the industry to gets their head around, tough luck for Joe Average the consumer, standing in front of the fridge making the purchasing decision.

I wont repeat either article (please read them for yourself and make your own conclusions) but suffice to say they are eroding the all the hard work, passion and endeavor that small craft brewers like us toil away at day in, day out.

Its becoming clear that the “big boys” are muscling in on us smaller peeps. Bring it on I say, because there’s only so long you can hide behind misleading packaging, seriously weird marketing campaigns and so called “independent craft breweries”.

Eventually quality will rise to the top.

Next time your buying a Australian craft beer, make sure its not faux craft.

This is NOT craft beer

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

GERONIMO Strawberry Blonde

Van Dieman Brewing is excited to launch a new beer this weekend, Geronimo Strawberry Blonde, available at 2 events only this summer. 

The beer, a Belgian wheat style flavoured with over 200kg of fresh strawberries, will be served on tap at the Tamar Valley Beer Festival (18th ,19th  Jan) and Festivale (8th,9th,10th Feb). 

The concept for the beer was in the increasing demand for the freshly picked field strawberries from Meander Valley Berries, who regularly sell over a 1000kg of strawberries within 2 hours at the local Harvest market in Launceston. Seeing the demand for the superb fruit, brewer Will Tatchell approached Meander Valley Berries about the concept for a strawberry beer for limited release this summer.  Simon Dornauf, from Meander Valley Berries, jumped at the idea and fruit was made available for the development of the beer. 

As craft brewers, we really try and test the boundaries of what we perceive beer to be, using different ingredients and varying production methods. We’d love drinkers to join in, and test their palates on some beer styles and flavours that they may have not tried before, and this beer hopefully provides that opportunity to do so. The beer itself was based upon a Belgian Wheat beer style, not only to match the warmer drinking weather at this time of year, but also too showcase as much of the strawberry flavor as possible that darker/heavier styles of beer may have subdued. The beer when through primary fermentation and then 120kg of freshly picked strawberries were added to a secondary vessel along with the beer and allowed to develop for 14 days. The aroma of the strawberries really started to show through after 7 days in the vessel, and after 14 days the beer was again transferred to another vessel along with a further 80kgs of strawberries.  This second addition increased the flavor component of the beer and enhanced the aroma element to provide a superb balance in the final beer of strawberries and the wheat beer.

Geronimo serves as a beautiful shade of rose pink with an authentic opaqueness and exhibits that classically warm summer aroma of field fresh strawberries. The taste promotes the prominent strawberry characteristics, without the cloying sweetness often exhibited in strawberry ciders, whilst still allowing the yeast and light malt component of the wheat beer to show through. It develops a dry texture across the palate, perfect for thirst quenching in warmer weather, and at 4.3% Alv/Vol is lends itself to having a session on it at one of the two festivals it will be on tap. Served with a slice of fresh strawberry to further ingrain the fresh characteristics of the beer, you’ll have to get along to either of the two events in the next 4 weeks to try it as there are no plans to bottle it for release. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Christmas Orders 2012 - Now Taking

This Christmas give those beer lovers in your family the best gift of all, a gift pack from Van Dieman Brewing. And we've got 3 of them for you to choose the order form at the bottom of this page.

1: THE SURVIVAL KIT includes 
- 1 x mixed 4 pack
- the Beer Lovers Guide to Australia book 
 - as well as the limited edition Van Dieman bumper sticker 

$25 (rrp $45)

2: LAST MINUTE includes 
- 1 x mixed 4 pack
- Van Dieman Brewing T-Shirt
- a limited edition Van Dieman bumper sticker 

$30 (rrp $50)

3: CYCLING SANTA includes 
- 1 x mixed 4 pack
- a limited edition Van Dieman Brewing Cycling Jersey
- a Van Dieman bumper sticker 

$85 (rrp $125)

You can also order all your favourite local craft beer for the festive season by the bottle, 4 pack or carton. 
There's even a couple of little goodies tacked onto the end just for good measure. 

There are 3 simple steps for you to complete so you somewhat organised this Christmas.
  1. Download and print the order form at the bottom of this page
  2. Complete your Contact Details, Items for order and VERY IMPORTANTLY your nominated date of collection.
  3. Post, Email or Fax your form to us REMEMBERING YOUR COLLECTION DATE. You can also drop in your order form at Harvest Launceston on Saturday 8th or 15th December.

Download and print this order form.

Post: Van Dieman Brewing, 537 White Hills Rd, White Hills, 7258
Fax: (03) 6391 9038

Monday, September 10, 2012

Big boys and their marketing toys

The new Carlton Draught tv ad is ridiculous.

If you’re a petty criminal lugging round a decent haul of cash in an American metropolis and drinking CD do you get away with it? Obviously shot in the states replicating some of the movie car chase scenes, I wouldn’t be surprised if XXXX follow up with something like this, extreme stormwater kayaking?

The Pub? I'd challenge you to find a CD branded bar like that anywhere in the continental USA. Bring it a little closer to home at least fellas.

Whats more, is the average CD drinker that dumb or amused by such an ad? Clearly the marketing boffins think so, which if I were a CD drinker (I am not), I'd take offence at.

Could you argue that the ad glorifies drink driving?
Yes I know they aren’t actually driving cars, nor do they ever take a sip, but the implication is apparent and even brewers don't drive around the place with a full glass in hand (unless it's a really hot day and you're on the forklift).

We've got some ads coming out shortly and they're so close to home that brewery employees not only star in the ads (well their hands and lips anyway) but also hold camera, get to yell “action” and sit in the directors chair. Stay tuned.

If you find the Carlton Draught ad humorous or effective, good for you. But for me it's simply the same old formula of:

    Marketing Bullshit
Shit beer =       --------------------------         X      lowest common denominator
                       Huge budget +(no sense)2