When the Brewers Guild promoted the New Zealand entries in the 2016 World Beer Cup last week, the industry raised its eyebrows.
“Who Are These NZ Breweries Entering The World Beer Cup?” asked Luke’s Beer blog, run by Epic Beer’s Luke Nicholas, a WBC contestant himself.
And it was a bloody good question – of the 11 New Zealand contestants, only seven are familiar to the usually-savvy Beertown.NZ, and one of those makes home brewing gear.
WilliamsWarn makes a rather hi-tech and fancy range of equipment for malt extract brewing. Ian Williams, one of its founders, is a qualified Master Brewer who has worked as “an international brewing consultant and professional beer taster”.
The World Beer Cup rules are simple and strict – no home brew. “All World Beer Cup entries must be commercially available, fermented malt beverages, conforming to the trade understanding of “beer”, brewed by a permitted commercial brewery.”
The WBC pitches itself as the ‘Olympics of beer’, so it’s not surprising commercial brewers are protective about who get's a spot on The Hop Blacks© team.
Ian Williams told Beertown.NZ that WilliamsWarn has entered four beers in the competition, and two other New Zealand contestants use its brewing system.
He says these brews have been made on a new system that has been trialed for some months. “The Brewkeg50 is for bars and pubs and cafes, as a cheaper way to make beer on a commercial level. They can make it for half price, that’s the stunning thing about it. If you’re using good extracts, you can steep specialty malts and add hops and you can make anything.
“We started prototypes a year ago and a couple of bars and a sports club have been using the system for a while. The beer’s about half-price. Most craft beers are about $350 a keg – you can make a craft beer, like we’ve won medals with, for $150 a keg (including excise).”
Ian says WilliamsWarn is registered to pay excise as a commercial brewery, and the four beers it’s entered have been sold through (WBC contestant) the Fox Sporting Bar & Restaurant. “We’ve been in close contact with the WBC (over eligibility). They wanted proof of our excise licence, that we’re paying tax to the Government and all those sort of things. As long as it’s made from malt, water, hops and yeast – which we are, because the extract is made out of those – and as long we are paying excise tax, we are good.”