Quench­ing thirst for ‘proper beer’

Nelson Mail - - LEISURE - NEIL HODGSON Taste Of Nel­son

We are now into the mid­dle of Nel­son Beer Week and with the ex­cit­ing flavours of MarchFest beck­on­ing, or­gan­is­ers are start­ing to get a lit­tle ner­vous as the big­gest day on the Nel­son beer cal­en­dar ap­proaches.

One of them is Mic Dover, who has been at the fore­front of the craft beer rev­o­lu­tion in Nel­son for the past 16 years.

Dover, with busi­ness part­ner Eelco Boswijk of Dead Good Beer Events, has now stepped up the craft ex­pe­ri­ence even fur­ther with the ad­di­tion of Nel­son Beer Week lead­ing up to Satur­day’s Marchfest at Founders Park.

The pair also set up the Free House on Colling­wood St, a pi­o­neer­ing pub sell­ing qual­ity craft beers not tied to any brew­ery. Dover sold his shares in the Free House last year to con­cen­trate on events.

I al­ways like to find out how peo­ple from other coun­tries end up in Nel­son cre­at­ing very cool stuff while adding to the in­cred­i­ble di­ver­sity that makes Nel­son a great place to live, and I must say Mic Dover has done a lot in his life­time.

He is orig­i­nally from an English place called Hilling­don in a county that no longer ex­ists — Mid­dle­sex has been sub­sumed into greater Lon­don — which was a sur­prise to me. Mid­dle­sex was so well known as a county I find it hard to be­lieve it is now a sub­urb of Lon­don.

Dover says ‘‘that left me state­less and county­less liv­ing in New Zealand un­til I be­came a New Zealand cit­i­zen last year, now I have a place to call home again.’’

He also lived in Read­ing for 25 years do­ing lots of dif­fer­ent things from teach­ing to work­ing as a lock keeper (look­ing after canal locks) and even run­ning the IT de­part­ment for the Berk­shire County Coun­cil in pre-in­ter­net days.

One ma­jor de­vel­op­ment in Read­ing made him re­assess his life there. The Courage Brew­ery in the cen­tre of town was knocked down and re­placed with a mas­sive shop­ping cen­tre.

‘‘It didn’t have a sin­gle lo­cal­ly­owned busi­ness in the whole thing and I re­alised Read­ing was in dan­ger of turn­ing into a soul­less shop­ping cen­tre so it was time to look at other op­tions.’’

With his part­ner and their two chil­dren, he went on a hol­i­day around the world for a year. While his part­ner had Aus­tralian cit­i­zen­ship she had made Eng­land her home so wasn’t keen on mov­ing. But the kids loved New Zealand and he needed a change so they moved here in 2001 (a de­ci­sion which their sons’ cast­ing votes se­cured).

‘‘Even the lack of what I call drink­able beer didn’t stop us mov­ing here and the lack of choice in beer had a lot to do with what hap­pened in the next 15 years. For­tu­nately my wife loves it here too, we even got mar­ried at Rab­bit Is­land.’’

They started their New Zealand life in Christchurch but didn’t re­ally like it. ‘‘I knew a Kiwi builder in Eng­land called Neville and he had told me the only place he would live in the South Is­land was Nel­son and after vis­it­ing we agreed.’’

Dover told me when they ar­rived in Nel­son they got to know a few ex­pats first and he found him­self go­ing around town with a bunch of English­men and Scots ‘‘try­ing all the pubs fail­ing to find The Nel­son Mail has two tick­ets to MarchFest to give away, you must be over 18 to en­ter, email news­desk@nel­son­mail.co.nz be­fore 5pm Thurs­day and we will put you in the draw. what I would call a de­cent pub and a de­cent pint.

‘‘Founders and The Mus­sel Inn were a cou­ple of the places you could drink de­cent craft beer on tap but Founders was closed in the evening and The Mus­sel Inn was a long way to go for a pint.’’

Their wed­ding re­cep­tion in Ap­pleby was a fate­ful day in many ways. He got chat­ting to Martin Town­shend, who was think­ing about start­ing a brew­ery ‘‘while I was des­per­ate for what I call a proper beer. Rather than just moan­ing about beer we de­cided to or­gan­ise a beer tast­ing at The Boat House, get some beers brought in and en­cour­age oth­ers to try craft beers, these tast­ings were hugely suc­cess­ful with peo­ple queu­ing 50 me­tres down the road.

‘‘Martin de­cided to be a brewer and I met Eelco at one of these nights. He ex­pressed in­ter­est in do­ing beer events to­gether so we moved to a big­ger venue at Founders Park and formed the com­pany called Dead Good Beer Events to run quar­terly beer fetes.’’

They served craft beers from around the coun­try at tast­ing nights that again proved suc­cess­ful.

Dover says they had both had bad ex­pe­ri­ences at beer fes­ti­vals but there was de­mand for some­thing more than a beer fete four times a year ‘‘so we de­cided to cre­ate a beer fes­ti­val that was fam­ily-friendly sup­port­ing lo­cal brew­eries only and we were keen for brew­eries to cre­ate spe­cial brews.’’

This year’s MarchFest is the 10th and at­ten­dance has grown from 500 peo­ple in 2008 to 3700 last year and is much more than just a place to drink in­ter­est­ing beers.

This year’s line-up fea­tures 15 re­gional brew­eries who have signed up to pro­duce a new beer for the event. There are also four col­lab­o­ra­tions be­tween a lo­cal brew­ery and oth­ers out­side the top of the south. This year’s guest brew­ers are Con­cept, Be­he­moth, McLeod’s and Funk Es­tate.

‘‘One real treat for fes­ti­val- go­ers this year is the avail­abil­ity of the Town­shend’s/McLeods col­lab­o­ra­tion ‘‘Hey Blondie’’ that will be served from both kegs and casks so drinkers can taste the dif­fer­ence be­tween a caskcon­di­tioned beer (nat­u­ral­ly­car­bon­ated) and a kegged (ar­ti­fi­cially-car­bon­ated) ver­sion.’’

An­other fes­ti­val high­light is the op­por­tu­nity to taste the win­ning brew from a home brew­ing com­pe­ti­tion. This year Karl Sum­mer­field gets to tempt the Marchfest pun­ters with his Farm­house Sai­son Ale.

At thet Brew Zone area you can learn how to make beer or to make bet­ter beer. It fea­tures live brew­ing demon­stra­tions from some in­ter­na­tional ex­perts, along­side some of the lo­cal home­brew­ing tal­ent.

Add mu­sic and a kid’s zone, plenty of won­der­ful food, cider from Peck­ham’s and wine from Black­en­brook for those un­for­tu­nate non-beer drinkers and Marchfest is a won­der­ful day out for the whole fam­ily where the fo­cus is on in­ter­est­ing and un­usual rather than drink­ing as much as you can.

In the lead-up this week there are a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties to en­gage with Nel­son Beer Week. ‘‘It will bring to­gether brew­eries, bars, restau­rants, re­tail­ers and other busi­nesses to pro­mote Nel­son/ Tas­man as a cool des­ti­na­tion for an an­nual week-long craft beer pil­grim­age.’’

Dover says he is still lov­ing Nel­son and now he is semi-re­tired is lov­ing it even more, ‘‘but it is a bit weird go­ing to the Free House as a drinker. I want them to in­tro­duce a com­ments book so I can still have a say and a dis­count for gold card hold­ers’’ he says with a smile.

PHOTO: MARION VAN DIJK/FAIRFAX NZ

Mic Dover has gone from or­gan­is­ing beer fetes to the Marchfest ex­trav­a­ganza and for the first year, Nel­son Beer Week.

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