The SOBA National Home Brew Competition is New Zealand’s biggest.
Last Saturday a record 539 beers were rated by 27 erudite and handsome judges*. SOBA’s Champion Ale award went to Oli Drake’s Flanders Red Ale with an emphatic 48/50. The Champion Brewer award was won by Aucklander John Golics, following on his Champion Ale award last year.
John entered six beers and took home one Gold (Baltic Porter), two Silvers (English Barleywine, Foreign Extra Stout) and a Bronze (Foreign Extra Stout). His prize is a brewing scholarship sponsored by wholesalers BeerNZ.
John started brewing in the UK about thirty years ago, but didn’t get serious until he moved to New Zealand in the early 1990s. “When I came over to New Zealand there really wasn’t anything to drink so I started to dabble into home brewing. I joined a club and went on from there.”
As John’s medal-winners show, he likes to make higher alcohol styles that improve with age.
“People outside the home brewing scene just assume if you’re a home brewer you’re drinking all the time, but obviously it doesn’t work like that. Over the years I’ve just thrown out so much beer because it’s gone off, gone past its use-by date and got stale. I find the high gravity beers keep longer and improve a lot better as well.
“I find the malt side of the flavour profile will last a lot longer (than hop flavours). On some styles I increasing the hopping, if I know it’s something I’ll be keeping for a while, to compensate for any loss of hop profile.”
John brews on a 50L set-up he has built and fine-tuned himself.
“It’s made from beer kegs and it’s all on gravity feed. I haven’t got a lot of floor space but I’ve got a lot of height so I’ve got the hot liquor tank quite high up. That goes into the mash tun and I’ve got my kettle on my workbench with a fermenter and fridge underneath. It all works from gravity so there’s no need to pump or move stuff around.
“It’s about 12 years old and I’ve made a few little alterations here and there over the years. I get about 80% efficiency, so it works pretty well.”
John's prize includes the opportunity to brew a recipe of his choice at Pomeroy's in Christchurch, which BeerNZ will distribute. With two national prizes in his CV, John is keen on brewing commercially.
“I’d definitely be interested. When I brewed at Hallertau (as part of last year’s prize) that was an interesting experience. I’m not too sure what I’ve won but I’ll have the opportunity to work with a couple of different breweries and it should be a good introduction to contract brewing. That would be worth looking into.”