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20140723_165144Every year Beer­vana organ­ises a Media Brew where they part­ner journ­al­ists with brew­ers to make a themed beer. This year I was paired with Par­rot­Dog and we made some­thing rather odd.

I met Matt Warner, ParrotDog’s head brew­er, at 8am as he was set­ting up what would be our brew kit: the kit that first brewed Bit­ter­Bitch and Blood­hound and many of what are now ParrotDog’s staple line-up. This piece of New Zea­l­and brew­ing his­tory, this… chilly bin with wash­ing machine hose in it. But I’m not lying when I say I was super-excited to brew in it.

It’s so much easi­er to home brew in a brew­ery,” says Matt, using the hot-water hose to clean imple­ments. Later, we use an amaz­ing $3,000 piece of equip­ment to check the grav­ity of our brew. Around us, as we mashed in the second batch, the brew­ery is a hive of activ­ity as two massive pal­lets are picked up to be shipped to Aus­tralia. Busi­ness is boom­ing for Par­rot­Dog on a huge scale while we try to make some­thing close to 100 litres.

Beervana’s theme for the 2014 Media Brew was ‘spring’, and noth­ing says spring like lambs! So that’s what we put into the beer. With extens­ive help from my part­ner, Narelle, who is amaz­ing with food, we con­cocted a plan. At first we roas­ted a bunch of sliced-up lamb leg bones to see if mar­row was the taste we were after. The fla­vour turned out to be too muted, and Matt was con­cerned that the fat would clog up the equip­ment, so in the end we went with uncut leg bones and a couple of full shanks.

To bal­ance the meat­i­ness, Matt sug­ges­ted a big 7 per­cent brown ale, some­thing he hadn’t brewed before. This meant a bunch of tasty car­a­mel malts that smelled deli­cious as we mashed in, espe­cially as I hadn’t had break­fast. Unseasoned and roas­ted, the meat went into the boil with just a smat­ter­ing of bit­ter­ing hops.

For con­text, there is a pre­ced­ent for put­ting meat into beer. Bey­ond the mul­ti­tude of oyster and clam stouts, there is also a his­tor­ic­al beer called ‘cock ale’ that was an 18th-cen­tury Brit­ish inven­tion wherein a boiled roost­er was added to a nut­meg and mace ale and ‘aged’ for a month. Ver­sions of cock ale have been brewed more recently as keen brew­ers began scour­ing the Inter­net for ideas.

As the mix­ture bubbled away in the kettle, bones floated to the sur­face like grot­esque mon­sters, break­ing the green foam that covered the sur­face. The sur­face itself became slick with oil and small bits of fat. We skimmed as much as we could, but as we ran off the brew into the fer­menters we saw the occa­sion­al clog of fat work its way down the tube.

Of course we tried the leftover meat. It was tough, but tasty and oddly sweet. Due to the odd tim­ing of writ­ing versus pub­lic­a­tion for Fish­Head, I haven’t actu­ally tried the final product yet. Nor seen the res­ults of the judging. This is to say that Matt and I were over the moon with how the beer turned out, unless it was ter­rible, in which case we weren’t too sur­prised that the exper­i­ment failed.

Over­all though, brew­ing with guys like Matt and just being part of the brew­ery for the day is an amaz­ing exper­i­ence. Get­ting the chance to brew, even in a lim­ited fash­ion, is one I would recom­mend that any­one grabs with both hands.

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