Reveille in Hawke’s Bay
Brave Brewing puts a bugle on its beers. Michael Donaldson’s senses are awoken by its call.
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: