Archive for February 2010

 
 

February 10th, 2010

Renaissance Women

Even though we haven’t done much bike and brew specific things in the past few months, the twig is still with us.   During one of our trips into Blenheim with our WWOOFing hosts at the blueberry farm, we found ourselves wandering around town trying to find one of the local breweries that we’d heard about – Renaissance Brewing Company .  (In New Zealand, that’s pronounced “re-NAY-sonce”.)  Our somewhat random visit turned out to be perfect timing.  We arrived late in the day and asked if we could get a tour of the brewery.  The only person who was still there just happened to be Brian Thiel, co-owner and operations manager at the brewery.  He not only gave us a great tour of the place, he also mentioned that he could use a few extra hands at the Blues, Brews and BBQs festival happening the following weekend – the exact festival that we’d been planning to attend and had been trying to find a way to volunteer at.  The serendipity was astounding.

After a bit of chit chat, we found out that Brian’s usual “keg monkey” – the guy who does things like clean kegs, clean out kettles, help bottle and prepare shipments, pretty much anything they tell him to do, most of it manual labor – was leaving soon to go to university.  We told him that it was pretty much our dream job to be keg monkeys for the next week.  I don’t know if he totally believed us, but he told us if we wanted to come in on Tuesday at 11am, we were welcome.

We had 2 weeks left in New Zealand, we had already seen a great deal of the country and we were running low on cash.  Helping out at a brewery sounded like the perfect way to finish up our trip before heading to Melbourne.  So we signed up to be keg monkeys.

It was AWESOME.  Brian and the brewery co-owner and head brewer Andy Deuchars thought we were a bit nuts, getting excited about cleaning the beer filter and climbing in the kettle to shovel out spent grain, but it really was cool.  After going on around 60 brewery tours in the last few months, it was exciting to actually be making beer.  And bottling.  And cleaning.  Lots and lots of cleaning.  Andy says there are 5 rules of beer making.  Pretty much all of them use some combination of the words cleaning, sanitizing, or sterilizing.  We followed Andy’s rules a T though, because he knows a thing or two about making tasty brews.  While at the farm, we’d tasted as many different New Zealand beers as possible (doing penance for all the Speights and Tui’s we’d imbibed on the backpacker bus) and Renaissance was definitely one of the best.  They make 7 different beers and we liked all of them.  Not surprisingly, we are especially fond of their Discovery American Pale Ale, but we definitely wouldn’t turn down one of their award-winning Stonecutter Scotch Ales or the beer currently voted best beer in New Zealand (on ratebeer.com), their Elemental Porter.

Also, we DID end up helping out at Blues, Brews and BBQs.  We poured beer, chatted up the locals and were given the power of the stamp – they let us give free beer to anyone we thought was cute that would let us stamp them with the Renaissance “R”.  On their nipple.  It was good times.

After a few days, we got the hang of many brewery tasks.  We got to the point where we could operate the bottling line MOSTLY by ourselves and we were able to learn a bit about New Zealand geography while helping with their new website.  Though there is still so much to learn, the world of professional brewing now feels like a world we can be a part of.  It breaks our hearts to leave New Zealand just when we are really getting involved in things, but hopefully something serendipitous will happen in Australia.  And hopefully we can use Brian and Andy as references! Cheers guys!

Renaissance APA, tasty NZ beer

Renaissance APA, tasty NZ beer

Bike and Brew duo make local news!

Bike and Brew duo make local news!

Blues, Brews, and BBQs Blenheim, NZ

Blues, Brews, and BBQs Blenheim, NZ

February 6th, 2010

Blueberries!

After the backpacker bus, our New Zealand travels slowed down a bit.  We did our second WWOOFing job, this time at a blueberry and plum orchard in Renwick, right in the middle of all the Marlborough vineyards.  We spent 8 lovely days with our hosts, Jennie and Bob at Windsong Orchard, picked lots of blueberries, went to the farmers market with them 3 times and had some amazing food from the garden.

Our first night at the orchard, Jennie and Bob invited us over for dinner with the two other WWOOFers from Germany who were just finishing up their week.  It was such a change of pace from being on a bus everyday and staying at different hostels every night, being out all the time.  That night we had a home cooked meal, chatted about politics and then went to bed early in our own little blueberry cottage.  We immediately fell in love with the place.

While we’ve heard a few horror stories about some WWOOFing sites where people get treated like indentured servants, we were very well taken care of at the orchard.  We started our day at 8:30am, walked out of the cottage and about 10 steps right into the blueberry field (best commute ever!).  We picked berries by the kilo into little buckets strapped to our waists for 4 hours (during which we listened to podcasts of Democracy Now, This American Life and All Songs Considered) and then we went in for our lunch prepared by our lovely hosts.  We had things like fresh baked bread and homemade peach chutney and hummus and almost every day we had the option of artichokes.  For breakfast and dinner, unless we all ate together, we got to cook up a storm with greens and herbs from the garden, all the plums and blueberries we could handle and any thing else we needed we just had to ask.  Well worth our 4 hours of work.

We spent our afternoons doing whatever we wanted.  Mostly we spent time reading and hanging out in the sun.  We borrowed their bikes and did a few expeditions, one to a biodynamic winery called Seresin, another to the local swimming hole in the river.  Every ride was nice – flat and grapevines as far as the eye can see.

Besides picking berries, we also helped sell fruit at the two farmer’s markets in town.  It was very interesting learning about the ins and outs of the community from the eyes of the farmers.  In the end, we couldn’t help but think that they had a pretty sweet life, spending their days doing work they love, living a healthy, educated life in a beautiful place.  Makes you wonder why people live in huge cities doing jobs they don’t love…

Much love to Jennie and Bob and thanks for having us!

Sara and Tracy with Bob and Jennie of WIndsong Orchard

Sara and Tracy with Bob and Jennie of WIndsong Orchard

Blueberries at Windsong Orchard

These might be nice in a beer...?

Plums, yum!

Plums, yum!