Brewer profile – Christopher Barber, Zeelandt Brewery

By BeertownNZ Thu, 12 May 2016 Central NI

“There’s a world of beer. We want to bring some of that to New Zealand and make it in the way it’s made in its home region.”

Chris Barber says Zeelandt Brewery is old world. It’s handsome copper brew kit was made in Bavaria. It’s core range features traditional German, English and Belgian styles. “Zeelandt is a play on our old world styles. It’s the old world name for the region Abel Tasman sailed from and named New Zealand after.” And it’s pronounced Sayland.

“When you look through style guidelines and see how many styles there are, there’s just loads we could be doing. That’s what gets us excited here. We mainly do German and English styles, and one Belgian Saison. I’m not so keen to rush off and do other Belgian styles – they have some bold flavours and if you’re a little bit off you’re a long way off.”

Zeelandt’s core range has ten beers, including a helles, British IPA, schwarzbier, kölsch and the saison. Until now, every style has been bottle conditioned, but that’s about to change.

“Bottle conditioning allowed us to bottle without investing in a whole lot of capital. We’ve now made that investment and we’re going to move away from bottle conditioning where it’s not ideal – for things like the helles and pilsner. We will keep bottle conditioning for the saison and wheat beer.”

Chris’ brewing experience includes time with St Austell in Cornwall and Hallertau in Auckland. He also has qualifications from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and from Brewlab in the UK. “I’ve done lots of work on the floor but needed some study time, so in 2009 I found Brewlab in Sunderland (UK) and took the diploma in brewing technology. It was a live-in course for six months and it was really valuable.”

The Barber family is from Huapai, west Auckland, where they grew grapes and apples. They bought the Esk Valley site eight years ago, where Chris’ brother makes Petane Station wines. 

“I’d been coming down to Hawke’s Bay to work on the vineyard and fell in love with it, so we decided to open a brewery here. In the three years I’ve been in Hawke’s Bay, restaurant beer lists have really changed to embrace local brewers. A few more freehouses would be good – most of the bars are under contract.”

Over the next year Zeelandt plans to double production by installing three new fermenters. It also plans to release 22 new beers over the year, to broaden that old world range. 

Zeelandt brewed a successful fresh-hopped pale ale this year, and other American styles are planned. When Beertown.NZ visited, Chris was planning this week’s Irish dry stout and looking for bars with nitro taps to serve it. Then there’s the easy access to wine barrels.

“We’ve got two barrels – a pinot gris barrel we’ve filled with Saison with lactobacillus yeast and some grape juice, along with hops we’ve grown at the brewery. The other is an old red wine barrel we’ve filled with porter. They’ve been in there since December and we’ll be taking them to GABS in Auckland next month.”

By BeertownNZ Thu, 12 May 2016 Central NI