Made for Uncommon Thirsts

ABOUT US

Outlier Cartel started a few years ago at flat warming party in Auckland in 2010. Carlos and his flatmates had invited everyone in the building to come and join their friends. However, only a couple of the neighbours showed up, Mark and Barbara from down the hall. Although they didn’t know it at the time, the seeds of good beer company were planted. Mark and Carlos, both ‘Outliers’ in spirit, thought there was much missing from the established New Zealand beer industry.

After a few years of experimenting and planning, Carlos and Mark took the plunge and created Outlier Cartel. The idea was to create interesting beers that would challenge the idea of what good beers could be. More importantly, it simply had to taste good.

Though there were some trials along the way, on the 4th of December, 2015 Outlier Cartel officially launched, welcoming all on the fringe to enjoy great beverages!

So what’s in the name?

We’ve gotten quite few comments about our name. The name came about from Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, a book that we strongly identified with.  The book demonstrates success as not based on what people are like, but where people are from such as the cultures influenced them, upbringing, and family. Both of us were fortunate enough to immigrated to New Zealand quite a few years ago, fusing our own experiences with a kiwi can-do attitude.

Cartel was decided because want to go beyond just ‘beer’ – we love food and drink, so we to think beyond ‘beer’ and ‘brewery’. Cartel also represents a collaboration with like minded people, we don’t perceive other brewers as a threat; rather we see them as partners in our industry to promote the best products possible to consumers.

So we welcome everyone to be part of the Outlier Cartel!

Our Thousand Year Vision

Our vision is that Outlier Cartel to be a thousand year business. This means not growing big and selling out, but rather grow at a sustainable pace and bringing a bit of good to the world. We believe that John Wesley best stated our core beliefs:

Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”

To be a thousand year business, we actually have a couple of things on our side. First of all, 14% percent of all the companies over a thousand years old have been breweries. If we extend that list to beverage makers (Sake, Wine, Tea and Distilleries), then that list extends to 35% of all thousand year companies.  So even though we are small potatoes at the moment, we are in the right industry!

Our second advantage goes by the name of Alvin (Alvin Soh to be exact).  Alvin is a foodie, devoted husband, proud father of two and happens be newest member of Outlier Cartel.  Alvin not only is our Director and Chief Financial Officer, but also the key to our future.  Alvin has been instrumental with our business planning and making sure we can grow at a sustainable pace.

So here is a hearty toast to you, your children and your ultra great grand children – may you all live a good life and drink well!

Alvin, Mark & Carlos – your friends at Outlier Cartel

Our Beer Styles

Our Approach To Beer

At Outlier Cartel we are agnostic toward beer styles. We believe that every style, whether its popular or obscure has its own merits. We often blur the boundaries with our creations, sometimes making them very difficult to judge by ‘style’.

For example, our Cargo Cult is a hybrid beer. Its a kölsch, but instead of using traditional ingredients for the style, we used rice, because we happen to like Japanese rice lagers. A kölsch itself is cross between an ale and lager!

Yes, this may frustrate some drinkers who are keen to classify what they are drinking. We understand, after all its human nature to make sense of it all. For us, we are driven to create excellence in flavours rather to be true to style. We believe that beer is for everyone: from the seasoned sommelier to that person who just wants to unwind at the end of the day.

This is why we say we are made for uncommon tastes;  we know the range of palates varies significantly from person to person. So instead of being true to style, we ask ourselves an even more basic question: Does this taste good?

If you are still not sure what to try, here is an imperfect list of our offering to get you started:

Dark Beers: Poke the Bear, Apricity
Light Beers: Cargo Cult, From Such Great Heights
Spiced Beers: Apricity, Wunderkammer
Fruited Beers: Kerikeri ‘Round the Corner, From Such Great Heights
Lagers: Cargo Cult, Apricity
Ales: Kekulé’s Dream, Kerikeri ‘Round the Corner, From Such Great Heights, Wunderkammer, Honey Chestnut
Sessionable Beers: Cargo Cult, From Such Great Heights
‘Big’ Beers: Apricity, Wunderkammer

From the Blog

Paul's wallet is somewhere on this ridge.

A Wallet, Some Snappage, and the Northern Lights

The wallet held a single dollar bill from USA, and in it’s photo compartment it had a five leaf clover that that I had discovered in Auckland Domain. There were no further contents, it was stationed in my desk drawer along other personal items, ranging from a little red address book from the University of Georgia to the first usb drive I owned (a whopping 128MB). I would occasionally take it out of its drawer and contemplate using it again, only to place it neatly back in the melange of memories that the drawer held. It was the most precious object I owned, far outweighing the mere 1USD inside the folds.  So it remained there in my desk not long after that day in mid January 2011.

A few weeks ago, my wife and I stood on a little knoll under a gray and drizzly Icelandic sky. Although sparsely populated, I kept a lookout for an passing cars. After all, the building of cairns wasn’t exactly encouraged in the country. But I had a promise to keep, and would rather ask for forgiveness than ask for permission. We found an ideal spot on the little hill. Around the area there were some impressive rock piles built, but we decided not to make ours that conspicuous.  We collected an assortment of small and large volanic rocks. Before we assembled our cairn, I reached inside my coat and placed the wallet in its final resting place.

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I first met Paul in May 2005. Little did we both know, that both of our lives would be dramatically transformed not long after that meeting. In the back section of Cafe Melba on Durham Lane, Paul and his brother Mike interviewed me for their startup. I wasn’t expecting much, as I had been burned by my last 2 employers in New Zealand. However, this interview actually went on for over 3 hours – they actually listened to my ideas. I typically brought my portfolio of work projects to work interviews. Never in the past had anyone given my portfolio more than precursory glance, but Paul went through my entire portfolio with gusto, and couldn’t remember be so thrilled and validated at the same.

Soon after, I was hired and my life took a projectory that I could never have imagined. Within a month, I was made a partner. We started in a small office which was less that 10 square meters. My first desk was a stack of yellow pages directories with a board across it. We had 4 people in that office with no air conditioning. Fast forward that same business 13 years later, and it grew to a floorplan that had space for 200 people. Our operations expanded into Australia, China, the UK, and the Philippines.

What’s left out from the above paragraph is the heart of this story. Paul was always there for me. As mentor and a friend, he genuinely cared about me. We put in long, long hours into the business. He helped shaped my view of what it meant to be business leader. While he had no technical background, he connected the information world which I operated in with great vision and knack of knowing where the money was going. On the flipside, though my background was in programming and databases, Paul encouraged my to use my creative skills within the business inside of just typing code and crunching numbers. As a team, we spent hours working on design and user experience long before terms such ‘UI Design’ and ‘onboarding’ became popular to tech firms. Paul would get pen and paper scribbling down elaborate designs which became known as ‘Snappage‘* in our company vernacular. I often helped him with such designs.

Paul gave me the wallet I talked about above. That wallet was my favourite gift he gave me – it was a simple Fossil leather wallet, grey and brown. But it represented the growth I was experiencing in both business and for a lack of a better word, in spirit.

In 2010, Paul’s brother Mike recieved a phone call. Since we shared offices, I felt a heaviness descend on the room as Mike silently listened to the call. Paul had just been diagnosed with cancer, and it was not looking good. We all flew out to Melbourne to visit him. It was a rollercoaster, after a successfull removal of a tumour, the cancer had spread in other vital organs. I remember creating a ‘Shit we gotta do‘ list full of crazy adventures we had to go on when he recovered. The ranged from travelling to Vietnam to going on a dog sled race in Alaska. I remembered one of his favourites was seeing the aurora borealis.

6 months later, in the 10th of January, 2011 Paul passed away.  Such was his spark of life, I thought he could live forever.

His death hit me a like me like a sledgehammer. I remember pouring myself into work. Luckily Mike and the other core members of our business ensured its on going success, despite the void that Paul left behind. Not long afterwards, I talked to some of my friends who travelled to Iceland and saw the northern lights. They said you could build a cairn there for good luck. I immediately knew that I one day I would have to travel there and build a cairn in his memory which was under the aurora borealis.

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2 years ago I was on east coast Canada, I was walking downtown Halifax and decide to drop by an art store. I picked up a sketch pad and some pencils, something that I hadn’t done for years. It was still early days for Outlier Cartel and we still defining our place in the world. After buying the sketch book, I came up with the concept for Sophicated Yeti and Apricity. Later that same year some further scribblings eventually became Cargo Cult and From Such Great Heights.

However, it wasn’t until I returned back to New Zealand when I realised something.  After I had reluctantly shown some of the sketches to Mike, he smiled and said I was carrying on Paul’s tradition in Outlier Cartel. At that point, I felt the same way when I showed Paul my little portfolio many years before. I also had a strange sensation that Paul was there as well.

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I did my best to keep the dollar bill dry as cold drops of rain pelted me from over head. My hands were muddy from the rocks I had gather and the pen was running out of ink. Though a bit hasty, I put some snappage on the one dollar bill, and placed back into the wallet. Afterwards we placed the final stones on the Cairn, I apologised to Paul that it took me over 7 bloody years to bring him to this spot beneath the Northern Lights.

My wife took my hand and smiled, and we walked back down the hill.

* Snappage was sort of shorthand for ‘Snappy’ drawings – quick sketches, notes or business plans usually done on copier paper.

 

A creative process

When Carlos and Alvin (who may or may not exist, but we are not telling) and myself got together to create our beer for the Great Australasian Beer Spectacular, we had no problem problem coming up with the recipe and the type of beer we should create. However, when our packaging came up, we just couldn’t come up with an agreement. I felt strongly about a certain design, however Carlo’s and (the alleged) Alvin had a cooler reception to it. While I believed it was a strong design, I trusted their instincts and tried to come up with an alternative.

The more I tried, the more I felt my original design was better than anything new I could come up with – and since the design stuff is my little corner of the business, I felt a lot of pressure to make something happen, but nothing was happening. I had scribbled a few things in my notebook, but nothing seem to take hold.

About a week later, I happened to catch my Polish friend Anja online. Because of our time zones, we don’t often catch each other often, but we had a quick chat on skype. One thing of the reasons I love talking to Anja is that our conversions can turn very random, very quickly. Sadly, I no longer have our dialogue, I do remember we talked about her birthday, which fell on the same day as the Chernobyl disaster. Afterwards, I looked up information about the event, and learned something about cloud seeding.

As a matter of course, it didn’t hit me until later that I take that same cloud seeding attempt and apply to something more positive – like beer!  Read more about our next new beer Cloudburst, sparked by a random conservation halfway around the world!

And thanks, Anja – we’ll send some beer your way 🙂

 

 

Steal Our Beer: The Art of Recipe Hacking

Do you want to steal our beer? No need for subterfuge, we publish all our recipes online. We believe that open recipes will only inspire growth and collaboration in the brewing community.

Though the sharing of recipes is hardly a new thing, much of the modern collaboration process was shaped by the Open Source Software movement, particularly the GNU Project. The GNU manifesto articulates how all users will benefits from sharing programming source code, some examples of this are:

  • Clearing time taken to duplicate tasks; use energy to improving code instead of reinventing the wheel.
  • Bottlenecks on resources: a single person or company can no longer control changes to code
  • Outsourcing system improvements: anyone can be invited to improve and modify source code to benefit of the community or project

Replace the word ‘code’ with ‘food’, and you can see that it has tremendous parallels in the food and drink industry. Interestingly enough, the GNU philosophy uses beer as an example in the definition of what free software is:

“Free software” means software that respects users’ freedom and community. Roughly, it means that the users have the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. Thus, “free software” is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of “free” as in “free speech,” not as in “free beer”. We sometimes call it “libre software,” borrowing the French or Spanish word for “free” as in freedom, to show we do not mean the software is gratis.

How has the GNU licensed been implied to the Food and Beverage Industry?  In 2001, OpenCola released their open source version of the Coca Cola recipe under the GNU license. Many others have since released other open source recipes from gummy bears, medicine and entire food systems. Open Source Beer first made a splash in 2004 by university students at Copenhagen, and their efforts have been continued to this day at FreeBeer.org.

Going beyond the actual GNU license, just do a simple search on recipe clones, and you’ll find 1000’s of recipes from wine, junk food, specialised variations of popular food brands that are gluten free, vegan or made without artificial ingredients. Beersmith, a popular beer recipe sharing site, lists over 4000 submitted recipes as ‘clones’.

But what do corporations do about recipe hacking?

Shhh, Trade Secrets…

Coca Cola, KFC, Krispy Creme, Hersey’s, Heinz 57 – all big name food corporations that are seriously hush-hush on their secret recipes. Turns out, these trade secrets are little more than clever marketing strategy.

What’s important to differentiate here is that Trade Secrets and Recipes are not the same. Recipes are notoriously hard to patent; patents must be “novel” and “non-obvious”. That means that recipe most not have existed before or an obvious improvement or alteration of a previous invention. Advice From the US Patent and Trademark Office states the following:

Consider that people have been mixing together ingredients to produce different food products since the dawn of humanity-in fact, some of the earliest known examples of written language are food recipes. These days, most “new” recipes are merely combinations of known ingredients in varying amounts, separate discoveries of preexisting recipes, or variations on known recipes. Even if a previous version of a recipe cannot be found, a “new” recipe could still be considered obvious.

For instance, Cola Cola does not have a patent on its recipe. However, it does have trade secrets. A trade secret is a type of intellectual property which protects confidential business information that give the company a competitive edge.  With trade secrets, inventors do not disclose their formulas, practices or processes; employees and contractors have to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement to prevent sharing of the recipe. Because of the classified nature of the trade secret, the company can use it as a marketing ploy. In short, if you worked for the company with a trade secret and released a similar product, or shared their ‘secret herbs and spices’ with someone else, the corporate overlords will get you.

However, if you are not associated with the company, and independently reversed engineered the recipe, chances are it would be very difficult to prosecute.

On the other hand, while ‘hackers’ may look to recipes to emulate a products taste, there might be a more sinister reason that some corporations hide their ‘herbs and spices’ . In 2004, a study was performed on consumer goods and found more than 50% of products tested had unlisted toxic chemicals. Some hid behind seemingly innocuous terms such as ‘natural’ or even ‘inert’.

A Brief Aside: The Curious Case of Gloria Pitzer

Pitzers Original KFC recipe (source: Mother Jones)

Twinkies, Oreo Cookies, Kentucky Fried Chicken – these corporate recipes were all hacked well before the dawn of the internet and even the open source revolution!  During the 1970’s, homemaker and columnist Gloria Pitzer was known as the Recipe Detective. According to her book, she was tired about writing ‘monotonous meatloaf’ but her editors warned her not to upset their advertisers. In a bold move, she decided to pursue her own recipe publishing career that broke down recipes for famous foods in the USA. Her own husband quit his executive role so he could help with her cook books, of which more than 26 have been published.

She has her own thoughts on trade secrets:

It isn’t, of course, that I don’t think such secrets exist. I’m sure they do. I just don’t think they have all that much influence on anyone’s decision to buy Kentucky Fried Chicken. This may be why, when Pitzer and Colonel Sanders chatted together once on a radio program, he genially hinted that she look around the grocery store for a packaged mix that might contain eleven secret herbs and spices. Pitzer diligently did just that-to discover that the secret behind that finger lickin’ flavor was Good Seasons brand Italian salad dressing mix.

Though she is now retired, she’s left an impressive legacy for modern food hackers!

Our Brewer talks

In this section Carlos discusses his own experiences with the food industry, hacking recipes and why he is fine with posting Outlier Cartel recipes online:

You’ve worked over 15 years in the Food and Beverage industry, have you ever seen any controversy around recipes, or the distribution of recipes?

There’s been some interesting stories around the make up of wines in NZ, where a producer was caught doctoring their entries for an award. Rather than recipes, this would involve the blending or make up from different vineyards of a wine. In this case the whole story didn’t kill the brand, but it did affect sales for a little bit. The winemaker responsible for this actually sold his brand Wither Hills to Lion Nathan for a good amount of money, and despite having a mark on his reputation is now successfully leading with The Ned/Marisco vineyards. Coincidentally, I ended up making his bulk Sauvignon Blanc for The Ned brand during my last vintage with Pernod Ricard. There’s some saucy stories involving wine scandals in NZ, but many more worldwide – like this particular story involving fraudulent wine made by Chateau Giscours. Under new ownership this winemaker completely turned around and started making world-class wines. I was fortunate enough to start my winemaking career with a job at this Chateau straight out of uni.

You get a secret delivery of the best beer you ever had in your life – but they took the labels off. How would you figure out how to brew it?

You would taste the beers first. Carefully, repeatedly focusing your attention on how the distinct characters develop and where they might come from. Which ingredients may be underlying these aromas, flavors, textures. Are they coming from the malt? The hops or the yeast? What’s the water used like? Are there any adjuncts involved, any special fermentation or processing techniques? Often it seems like detective work, but understanding different products and how to get there has helped me bring life to some of our more complex and challenging concoctions, such as our Wunderkammer.

What are some of the tools of the trade for reverse engineering a recipe?

Generally tasting and trying to reconstruct the components of a beverage with your knowledge is a good start. If you want to understand any given product further, HPLC [High Performance Liquid Chromatography] will reveal what its make up is, and gas chromatography will reveal compounds imperceptible to your senses.

Are there any styles more difficult than others to reverse engineer?

If talking about beers, I guess experimental styles, and historic styles you might not have much experience with. The most important tool here is imbibing many litres of the product in question 😉

Are there any ingredients you wouldn’t work with? If not, how would you substitute them?

Generally, rather than putting a certain ingredient into a beer, what you want to do is recreate a certain impression of flavors, aromas or textures in a beer. This doesn’t always involve adding the ingredient as such, but something that will give you the impression of that ingredient. You can’t add bacon to a beer, not only because it would make the beer non-vegan, but also the oils from the bacon would absolutely kill the head/foam of the beer. Thus, adding smoked malts or a tincture made to capture the flavor would give you the impression of bacon without having to add bacon!

You’ve put your recipes online, what if Carlsberg or another industrial brewer takes the recipe to take a new beer to the market? Would it make any difference if another small brewery in New Zealand did the same?

Not at all. I don’t think that recipes represent anything really. Bigger companies like to add a bit of mystery around what they do, but only because there isn’t much to it really! They give customers a false idea that only they are capable of doing something. This is false, and sharing knowledge is one way to decentralizing know how but also empowers everyone to make things. On the other hand, the essence and soul of what and who we are, and what we will come up with next, is impossible to share in a recipe.

 

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About Carlos: With a background in food science and 15 years of international winemaking, Carlos brings knowledge and passion for all things related to flavor, food and booze. Carlos thinks that by relying on the knowledge of manufacturers for their food and beverage, people’s choices around what they eat and drink are a political act. He co-founded Outlier Cartel 2 years ago, and is now making beverages for uncommon thirsts. Drink indie!

 

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