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Micro brewery’s Pilot Pils a good Kiwi brew

Friday, April 4, 2008

Micro brewery’s Pilot Pils a good Kiwi brew

Hops from Nelson, well-water from the Palmerston North campus and brewing equipment from across the industry have enabled the first microbrewed beer to be produced on a New Zealand University campus.

The micro brewery at the School of Engineering and Advanced Technology was officially opened today, with staff and visitors raising a glass of the pilsner-style beer named Pilot Pils. Professor Richard Archer, who championed development of the brewery, says the brew adheres to the Bavarian brewing laws of 1516, but the end result is quintessentially Kiwi.

“This limits the ingredients to water, malt, hops and yeast. The water is well-drawn, the malt donated by ADM Maltings of Marton, and the three varieties of hops all from Nelson.

“It is not perfect, but not bad for the first time.”

Professor Archer says the brewery will provide a teaching facility for students of process engineering and brewing and beverage technology; a research facility for students and industry; and a social environment where interaction among students and staff will contribute to the life of the campus.

“While brewing in itself is an ancient art – and a social glue for many, it is also a science enabling the maltster and brewer to achieve a consistent product regardless of longitude or latitude and regardless of the variability in the biological raw materials.

“Brewing is also engineering. Our brewery is sited in the process engineering laboratory for a purpose. Students usually learn about pumps, piping systems, heat exchange, refrigeration, mixing, filtration and process control on separate laboratory rigs. This brewery brings all these things into one understandable, operational process plant.”

Professor Robert Anderson, Pro Vice-Chancellor of the College of Sciences, says that micro brewery research now has a place in mainstream science, with a brewing researcher recently featured in New Scientist.

“And with the Food and Beverage Task Force and the FastForward science funding recently announced, the timing is perfect for brewing to contribute further to New Zealand’s economy,” Professor Anderson says.

“It is entirely appropriate then that this micro brewery should be here at Massey, where we have existing expertise in food, nutrition and health, and in the agricultural sector from agribusiness to production. The process design, electrical work, control systems and quality assurance protocols behind the brewery are all Massey endeavour. Our people have brought together all that is required to run a factory, albeit on a small scale. We know we have a can-do approach and this is the core of what Massey contributes: it sets us apart.”

Work on the project started in 2006 after Professor Archer met with John Rutland, of Orica Chemnet. With six years in the brewing industry and a passion for brewing, Mr Rutland shared Professor Archer’s vision. By contributing some of his own equipment and enabling donations from his contacts across the industry, Mr Rutland has been a cornerstone of the project. He says he selected a Pilsner style beer for the first brew realising that the Massey well-water was soft and therefore very suitable.

“Despite a number of commissioning problems and general teething issues the beer has come up trumps. We have a nice smooth-finished Pilsner with a reasonably generous bitterness and a clean finish. One of the most pleasing aspects of the first beer is the very attractive foam head formed and upon finishing, lacing of the glass with residual foam. It’s a beer that encourages you to try another just to confirm it is in fact the inaugural beer!

“The food technology students are probably the ideal brewers with the combination of theory, practical skills and enthusiasm for the craft. This combination has the potential to produce award-winning beers which we will put up for judging against the best in New Zealand.”

Professor Archer says that the micro brewery could also be used to produce wine.

“And what would be rather nice one day is to develop an ale using barley grown on Massey farms on the land around the University, and to also process the malt right here. The University in fact has quite a history of involvement in brewing, right from when the original biotechnology degree was developed during the 1960s. Brewing has also long been part of the food technology curriculum, and a number of our graduates have carved out careers in brewing.

“In future too we may see also such brews as Vet Pond – a dark, brown ale loosely resembling the campus vet pond – and even Palmy Winter – a clear, somewhat bitter lager drunk very cold!”

Professor Archer says the brews will never sell for money, but instead groups can club their funds to buy the steam, malt and excise needed, contributing their labour and sharing the finished product “be it good or bad”.

Although the beer will not be sold for cash, staff had to follow customs and excise procedures including applying for a licence to brew and will pay excise duty on each brew.


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