When UK pub chain Wetherspoon put together its top-ten international craft brewers, Kiwi Kelly Ryan was on the list.
Wetherspoon gathered ten international brewers for the Festival, describing them as “the best of the best brewers from all over the world who have previously brewed for Wetherspoon”. This was the third time in three years Kelly has attended a Wetherspoon brewing festival.
Other guests came from Norway’s Nøgne Ø, Japan’s Iishi Brewing, Australia’s Two Birds and Young Henry’s, and from Six Point and Fat Head’s in the States.
Kelly was assigned to Shepherd Neame Brewery in Faversham, 85km south east of London. This is England’s oldest brewery, more than 500 years old. Kelly brewed a cask ale version of Low Blow, a 4.7% new world pale ale. It’s usually made in 1000L batches on very new equipment, so adjusting the recipe to a 40,000L batch on traditional kit took some recalculation.
“We were trying to work out bitterness, and they don’t actually make those calculations, because they’ve been using the system that long they know what works. We had to look at their recipes and calculate back to discover what would work. So we sat down and did long hand calculations of hop additions based on their previous brews. I’ve never done it by longhand before – brewers use an online calculator – and I’m happy I learned that. It’s a good mental challenge.”
While Low Blow is a session beer by New Zealand standards, Kelly believes it was the hoppiest beer ever made at Shepherd Neame in 500 long years. Go Kiwi!
“I still had to tone the hops down quite drastically, almost halve the dry hopping, because their equipment can’t deal with it. They were fine with the cost point – we just had to figure out a way to get all the dry hop additions out through their filtering.”
With different hopping and different brewing techniques, Kelly describes this version of Low Blow as a tribute to the local version. “It is a real ale tribute to a beer that does well for us in New Zealand. I always envisaged Low Blow as a cask ale, so it has gone full circle. We had two firkins in casks at Beervana last year and that worked well.”
The beer will be available at every one of Wetherspoon's 920-odd pubs in the UK and Ireland. Although this is the third brew Kelly has made for a Wetherspoon festival, he doesn’t get to taste them, because he’s back in New Zealand when the Festival is held. “It’s all done theoretically, but I do know some wonderfully trained palates throughout the UK who I badger to have a taste, and I get very honest feedback.”
Kelly arrived back in New Zealand last week, in time to collect the a Brewers Guild silver medal for Low Blow, along with 11 other medals and the national trophy for Godzone Beat Pale Ale.