Dunedin homebrewer Jamie McQuillan made history last year – it was the first time the same brewer won both Champion Beer and Champion Brewer at the SOBA National Homebrew Competition*.
Jamie’s haul of one gold medal, four silvers and four bronzes gave him the Champion Brewership. His Berliner Weiss with Brettanomyces and Greengage Plums scored 49/50, earning Champion Beer. The 10th annual competition had 711 entries, an impressive 32% increase on last year.
Jamie specialises in farmhouse and sour styles, especially sour beers using fruit. “I still enjoy drinking other styles, but sours and farmhouse seem to be what’s really captured me and I can’t get enough of them. I’m always coming up with new ideas.
“Where do I come up with my ideas? Drinking! Drinking and I’m always looking for new ideas and thinking about flavours. We get a fair amount of farmhouse and sour styles (in Dunedin), especially with the imports coming in from the US. It’s certainly growing in New Zealand and it’s exciting to see them doing well in the NHC. Craftwork are doing great things with sours locally too.
“I do quite a few fruity beers – I grew up on an orchard in Nelson and maybe that had something to do with it. I think nice fresh, bright fruit flavours really complement sours. I remember as a kid the fruity funky smells, and years on I’m doing fruity funky beers.”
“I’m a neuroscientist at Otago Uni working on Parkinson’s disease. It’s not a direct link with the brewing, but I’ve certainly worked in sterile environments culturing cells. I’ve never brewed any unintentional sours, put it that way.”
Jamie describes his brewing set-up as basic. “My brew kit’s pretty funny actually. I still have a 30L stockpot that I bought when I first did kit brews about four years ago. I brew on the kitchen stove and use a mash tun converted from a chilly bin, and my Mum’s old Agee preserver for my hot liquor tank. It has a thermostat, so it’s probably the most controlled part of my brewing. I use my hot water cupboard for fermenting. It holds pretty stable temperatures and I shift stuff around – it might be 14-16⁰ at the bottom and 20-22⁰ at the top, depending on the time of year. It works.
“Maybe it’s time to upgrade a little bit now.”
Just after Jamie’s win last November, he set off on a trip through California and Portland, Oregon. “I focused on the farmhouse and sour brewers. Firestone Walker’s Barrel Works was a major highlight – really incredible blending and subtlety and complexity, so it’s great to be able to get those on the spot in the brewery.”
The National Homebrew Competition prizes are the opportunity to brew with Hallertau (for winning Champ Beer) and Brewaucracy (for winning Champ Brewer). Jamie’s been in touch with both breweries, and is now looking out for a good supply of greengage plums in this year’s immanent harvest, to reproduce his Champ Beer at Hallertau.