A Short Road to Beeervana

August 13th, 2015

Beervana is only one sleep away. This post was meant to appear a week ago to slowly ease you into this week’s events, a Pacific ale to make you realise how thirsty you really were, but now there is only time to throw an imperial IPA in your face before force-feeding you an iStout ice cream float. Go get a ticket to Beervana now, if you haven’t already. Quick, before I feel the need to break out the sours.

I recommend getting the Beervana app to help you get the most out of the festival. I am a little biased here. My day job is leading the mobile development team at Powershop and we were responsible for putting the app together. In our spare time we knocked off some of the rough edges from last year’s version of the app and even added a cool new feature: Untappd integration, which will save you badge-loving freaks the the drudgery of double-entering your reviews. And, of course, make a wish list of all the beers you want to try so you don’t forget them by the end of the session. Enjoy!

The Beervana 2015 app for iOS and Android.

Now, to get to the point before Beervana 2016 gets here, here are a few of my favourite photos from Beervana last year (if you just want to see even more you can just go straight here).

Pete Gillespie of Garage Project mixes some beer ice cream using liquid nitrogen.

Denise Ratfield (Pink Boots San Diego coordinator), Tracy Banner (head brewer at Sprig & Fern) and Ava Wilson, the brewer behind The Beer Baroness, at the Pink Boots Society Bar.

It was cold at Westpac Stadium for Beervana 2014. Ski gear was a good call.

Cassels & Sons’ bar.

Sean Burke from the Commons Brewery in Portland.

Joe Wood, head brewer at Liberty Brewing.

Kieran Haslett-Moore, head brewer at North End Brewery.

Some very serious drinkers.

A maniacal brewer. Dylan Shearer from Funk Estate.

Dylan Jauslin, of The Bottleneck fame, wearing a great jacket, talking to SOBA president David Wood.

Love is all you need. And beer. And possibly some dumplings.

If you want to see even more here you go. Make sure you say hi if you see me at Beervana. I’ll be the one with a beer in one hand and a camera in the other.

Hawkes Bay Brewers

August 3rd, 2015

Beer and mandarins.

Life at The Beer Project has been pretty intense in the last few months, by my laid-back standards at least. I have been chipping away at something that I have been putting off for a long time. It is something that doesn’t come easily to me but I am determined to get it done. Many beers have been sacrificed along the way to keep me going and my sanity has been preserved by attending few good beery events.

One event I was very disappointed to miss was the Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge. In a highly uncharacteristic bout of organisation, I had booked a family trip to the Hawkes Bay to visit relatives for the last few days of the school holidays. Although I was disappointed when I realised I would miss catching up with friends at Malthouse’s big night, it was OK because I had exciting Beer Project work to do.

Whenever I go on holiday I try to photograph a brewery to add to my collection. I knew there were two or three in Hawkes Bay but when I did a bit more research I was pleasantly surprised to discover seven breweries. After a few emails trying to line up two of them to photograph, I ended up with five visits planned over three days. I’ll cover each brewery here separately over the next few weeks but for now I’ll give you a quick overview.

Zeelandt (pronounced Zay-land)
Big IPAs and extreme beers don’t interest Chris Barber. He brews a solid range of European-inspired beers, all subtle and well-balanced.

John, the assistant brewer, checking the bottling machine.

Chris Barber, owner and head brewer of Zeelandt Brewery.

Hawkes Bay’s original brewery bar. I remember occasionally seeing Roosters Dark at Regional Wines and Spirits in Wellington a few years ago, but 90% of their beer is served at their bar.

Darryl Tong, head brewer at Roosters.

Darryl Tong, head brewer at Roosters.

Brave Brewing
Matt Smith was Champion Brewer at the SOBA National Home Brew Competition in 2013. This was enough to convince him to go commercial. He now has a 300L brewery in his garage and has just quit his day job to commit himself to brewing full-time.

Matt weighs grain for the brew.

Matt mixes the yeast in the fermenter on his trial batch of an oatmeal stout.

Matt Smith, owner and head brewer at Brave Brewing.

Giant Brewing Co.
A very small operation brewing on a 50L Farra system with the odd batch contract-brewed at Roosters. I love their logo and labels.

Chris Ormond caps a bottle of Giant beer.

Chris Ormond labels a beer.

An engineer with a dream. Godfrey was working in Nigeria when the government started blocking beer imports. This led him to start home brewing. Now he and his wife Rachel are close to opening a brewery in Maraekakaho.

Godfrey Quemeneur, co-owner and brewer at Godsown Brewery.

Craft Beer Calendar – July 2015 – LBQ

July 1st, 2015

Today is a new month on your Craft Beer Calendar and you’ve probably flipped over the page and exclaimed “What the…!?”. That is unless you are as big a Bob Dylan fan as Dan Hargeaves, bar manager at LBQ. One of Dan’s early ideas for their calendar shot was an homage to the cover of Dylan’s album, The Basement Tapes. I remembered the excitement in his eye as he suggested it. I nodded pretending to share his enthusiasm before heading home to google the album. What a mad cover. My enthusiasm became real.

It offered great potential for utilising the extended LBQ family. Dan spent six weeks pulling together props and costumes. Getting everyone together for the shoot proved tricky but at last, indeed as the last shoot for the calendar, we gathered in LBQ one Sunday morning in December – not a favourite time for bar staff – just in time to make the printing deadline.

Costumes were donned, furniture moved, camera positioned, people arranged, camera repositioned, album cover referenced repeatedly, poses tweaked until at last, the shot. And what a stunning array of characters. All the LBQ crew make great musos and assorted weirdos, and Matt’s years of keg lifting come in handy as the strongman. A well-trained pig instead of a dog. To make up numbers, a few regulars were enlisted. Shiggy from Funk Estate as an Inuit wearing a Funk Estate cap. Ciaran, from the Malthouse, lurks in the shadows as a sad clown. Wellington beer scene royalty, Ted and Frances, jointly occupy the throne, happy to be sitting as the photographer insisted on taking shot after shot to get the one that was needed. Hungover, Stacey would have loved a seat but was forced to pose gracefully as a ballerina over and over. Bar regular Sam dared to eat fire. Halena put her hair to good use as a beard. And Dan, where the hell did Dan find such a great cardy to match Dylan’s jacket?

It’s not perfect – I would have loved more space out to the right so the composition was balanced better, were we not constrained by calendar format and camera lens – but the wonderful people from LBQ make it shine.

I wish to hear this band play.

Revenge of the Fifth

May 6th, 2015

Beer is love, even for those fighting for the Empire.

May the fourth be with you

May 1st, 2015

Today is first of May and that means you all will have been excited to flipp over to a new month on your NZ Craft Beer Calendar and see the Golding’s crew in all their Star Wars-loving glory, right?

An alternative version of the calendar shot.

If you don’t know about the craft beer calendar, I’ll bring you up to speed. Vague thoughts of producing a calendar of my photos has crossed my mind in past years, usually at the time of the year when you are thinking about buying a new calendar, which is always too late to actually produce one. September would be the latest I would consider starting to organise a calendar for the following year, and that would be using photos I already have rather than taking new ones. Last year on October 25th, the night after the first day of the Pacific Beer Expo, I received an email from friend and fellow beer-lover, Megan.

“So, at PBE today, a couple of us had the idea of a craft beer calendar, with the proceeds to go to a charity, probably Sexual Abuse Prevention Network. (They do work with Wgtn bars to identify and limit sexual assault.)

How would you feel about shooting it? We want to get it done so people can buy it for xmas. Thoughts?”

A wild idea for a good cause. I respond, “That’s a great idea. My only concern would be the short timeframe.”

Of course I had underestimated the production skills of Megan and Jess. Wrangling brewers, bar people, and photographers for photos shoots, handling the PledgeMe campaign, rustling sponsors, organising printers, and keeping Golding’s in business all at once is no easy task. I am in awe of their commitment and perseverance.

Originally I was hoping to use some of my existing photos to ease the load of making 12 photos in a month. But then bars and brewers started jumping on board with great crazy ideas. Photographers in other cities offered to help out. English photographer Nicci Peet, who had been travelling around New Zealand photographing women brewers for her Caught on the Hop project, volunteered to help out while she was here in Wellington. This all meant we could have thirteen new photos just for the calendar. People are awesome.

The shoots ranged from the stressful (most of them), the hilarious (again, most of them), heart-breaking (the loss of some beer from a barrel that fell from a fork lift while arranging a pleasant backdrop at Panhead), to the downright terrifying (photographing Taika Waititi, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, and Stuart Rutherford from What We Do in the Shadows at Tuatara). The ideas seemed to grow more and more outlandish as the month went on as people heard what other bars and breweries had done for their. I expect they will be even more outlandish this year (and I hope they’re all making plans already, hint, hint).

May – Golding’s Free Dive

Each month that one of my photos appeared in the calendar I had intended to write a bit about the story behind the shoot. Obviously we are now into the fifth month of the year and I have missed two of my photos, January and February. I’ll tell you about those in my next installment. This month we’ll look at the shoot for May at Golding’s Free Dive.

In one way the shoot was a doddle. Sean Golding, bar owner, manager, and creator of the bar’s whole aesthetic, is also a great art director, drawing on his experience as a minion in Peter Jackson’s movie empire. Sean had pitched me the concept as Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper with a Star Wars theme. Sounded good. When I arrived on the morning of November 25th it seemed even better. Trestle tables were set up, laden with beer, food (Massimo, the owner of Pizza Pomodoro, was taking part and supplying pizza), and beer. Sean had organised costumes for everyone and had printed out several copies of The Last Supper to use as reference. We tweaked the position of the tables to get the Beer is Love mural in the background and get the perspective right (one of the key features of the original painting is that all of the lines of perspective converge on Jesus’ head, drawing your eyes to him). I found the perfect shooting position. The Golding’s crew perfected their gestures and looks. Steve supplied incredible Chewbacca impersonations.

Then little things started going wrong. The light took some tweaking. Curtains and blinds were closed, flash power adjusted. I pushed the ISO a bit too high to compensate for the low light. In some shots the light sabre had turned itself off. The background could have been a bit darker than the foreground so the people would be more defined. Tom wore the storm trooper helmet in some shots, hiding his beautiful face.

This led lot of things being fixed in post. I removed a shadow from Owen’s face by grafting on a nose from another photo. The Millennium Falcon was also transferred from another photo. The most obvious problem were very uneven tablecloths. Somehow I missed this during the shoot but it was immediately obvious once the photos were on my computer screen. Praise be for Photoshop’s content-aware fill. I spent longer working on this photo than all of the other photos I took for the calendar put together, learning a lot about the capabilities of Photoshop along the way. The end result was worth it and I’ve learnt a few lessons. Next year I’ll use the force and get it right in-camera.

Spot the difference:

From this Sunday, Golding’s celebrate Star Wars Week (including May the Fourth). I hear seven beers with a Star Wars theme have been created especially. Get along there. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.

Thanks from Golding’s and the NZ Beer Calendar crew, Megan and Jess, to everyone who bought or supported the calendar.