Bravely brew­ing in wine coun­try

The Hastings Mail - - WHAT’S ON - MICHAEL DON­ALD­SON beer­na­tion.co.nz

The last time I hol­i­dayed in Hawke’s Bay in 2011 I left con­vinced there was a for­tune to be made 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 Zealandt, 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 Hast­ings’ 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 ope­nended 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 oned­i­men­sional.

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.

I think more peo­ple should be drink­ing beer this good and would love to see Brave beers dis­trib­uted more widely. Maybe that will hap­pen on the back of the awards won.

But I also love the fact 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 ‘‘dis­cover’’ them when trav­el­ling.

I’m a big fan of re­gional brew­eries that cater for their lo­cal au­di­ence first and of­fer some­thing unique for the tourist; a beer that comes with the ter­ri­tory and is part of the dis­cov­ery ex­pe­ri­ence.

Brave beers are avail­able in a num­ber of Hawke’s Bay restau­rants, and brewer Matt Smith, a for­mer home brew na­tional cham­pion, and part­ner Gemma have a tap-room in Hast­ings.

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

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