Reveille in Hawke’s Bay

Brave Brew­ing puts a bu­gle on its beers. Michael Donald­son’s senses are awo­ken by its call.

The Dominion Post - Your Weekend (Dominion Post) - - Drinks -

The last time I hol­i­dayed in Hawke’s Bay, back in 2011, I left con­vinced there was a for­tune to be made by set­ting up a craft brew­ery in wine cen­tral.

There was an abun­dance of stun­ning lo­cal wine, but beer brewed in the bay was as rare as rain that dry sum­mer.

Six years on… well, that good idea turned out to be ev­ery­one’s good idea. The area, once the proud home of Leop­ard Brew­ery, is no longer a craft beer desert. Yes, there’s al­ways been the re­li­ably good Hawke’s Bay In­de­pen­dent and the more ex­otic Roost­ers, but now you can find a ver­i­ta­ble A-Z, from Abbey to Zee­landt, and a few in be­tween such as Brave, God­sown and Napier Brew­ing.

Sit­ting by the Clive River on a warm spring evening, I took great de­light in dis­cov­er­ing a cou­ple of beers from Brave Brew­ing.

The la­bels are unas­sum­ingly con­fi­dent. Sim­ple, clear and with­out any­thing too shouty; a sub­dued colour pal­ette – in that way they re­mind me of Par­rot­dog. The bu­gle sym­bol tells an open-ended story – there’s a mil­i­tary an­gle, as in a call to bat­tle for brave lads, or a jazz­ier an­gle, as in the Boo­gie Woo­gie Bu­gle Boy. I might be get­ting a lit­tle too es­o­teric on this but, in short, the la­bel is in­trigu­ingly re­strained.

In­side the bot­tle, the beer dis­plays that magic char­ac­ter of be­ing in tune. At 4.7 per cent, the New Zealand Pale Ale feels lov­ingly put to­gether to cre­ate a just-right hop note on a del­i­cate base, and I loved the Ex­tra Pale Ale (5.7 per cent) which has a bright, jump blues feel to the hop kick but is still re­fined enough to be re­peat­edly en­joyed with­out the risk of be­com­ing one-di­men­sional.

I haven’t been so im­pressed by a new brew­ery ex­pe­ri­ence for a long time – I’ve al­ready put the Ex­tra Pale Ale on the list for the best of 2017.

Only days af­ter I was wax­ing lyri­cal, as the sun waned on our lit­tle piece of par­adise, Brave stood tall at the na­tional brew­ing awards, pick­ing up a swag of medals, in­clud­ing a tro­phy for its Red IPA. Just as I was not alone in my idea for a Hawke’s Bay brew­ery, nor was I alone in my as­sess­ment of a brew­ery which de­serves wider recog­ni­tion.

I think more peo­ple should be drink­ing beer this good and I’d love to see Brave beers more widely dis­trib­uted. Maybe that will hap­pen on the back of the awards won. But I also love the fact that they’re lo­cal to Hast­ings, that the brew­ery’s story is based on the tagline “Fresh and Lo­cal” and that non-lo­cals only get to re­ally “dis­cover” them when trav­el­ling. Brave beers are avail­able at a num­ber of Hawke’s Bay restau­rants and brewer Matt Smith, a former home brew na­tional cham­pion, has a tap-room in Hast­ings with his wife Gemma.

Whether the brew­ery stays lo­cal or gets due recog­ni­tion and moves into the na­tional con­scious­ness, when that bu­gle sig­nals “Mess Call” I’ll be sit­ting down with a bot­tle of Brave beer.

EG­MONT STREET EATERY

11 Eg­mont St Ph: (04) 801 6891 Fully li­censed Open: Tues-fri: 7am-11pm, Sat: 8am-11pm Sun: 9am-3pm, Mon: 7am-3pm Price range of mains: $26-$46 Cost: $137 for two (ex­clud­ing wine) Food: Ser­vice: Am­bi­ence: Beer list:

Matt and Gemma Smith have put Brave Brew­ing on the map with some ex­cel­lent beers.

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