Bravely brewing in wine country
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
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.