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!

In early 2016, we welcomed the addition of the 3rd Cartelian in Alvin Soh.  Alvin is a foodie, devoted husband and proud father of two.  Alvin as our Director and Chief Financial Officer has been instrumental with our business planning and growth.

So what’s in the name?

We’ve gotten quite a 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 that influenced them, upbringing, and family. Both of us were fortunate enough to migrate to New Zealand quite a few years ago, fusing our own experiences with a kiwi can-do attitude.

Cartel was decided because of the desire to go beyond just ‘beer’ – we love food and drink, so we wanted to think beyond just ‘beer’ or ‘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 bring 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. To us, this means growing sustainably, being true to ourselves 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.”

Did you know that 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 to be a Thousand Year business.

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: Cloudburst, 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

Big Beer and the illusion of choice

What’s so bad about big breweries? Do they not offer consumers a wide range of products, from premium brews to cheapswill? On paper, the consumer wins. So are complaints by independent brewers just much ado about nothing? After all, if the beer tastes good, why should the consumer care at all?

Independent Brewers associations across the USA, Ireland and Australia do think that customers care. Small brewers can now choose to carry new  ‘independent craft‘ badge on labels, meaning they are produced in small volumes, independent with only a small percentage owned by big beer, and doesn’t produce alcopops / flavoured malt beverages.

Outlier Cartel (along with several other independent breweries) have taken a staunch stand in asking that the NZ Brewers Guild *only* include independent brewers on its board. The NZ board currently has 2 chairs led by Mitsubishi-Kirin (via Lion) and Heineken (via DB).

So are we smaller breweries doing this out of envy of big business? Or are there deeper concerns?  As Creature Comforts founder states: watch the hands, not the cards.  Here are the reasons to be weary of big beer’s influence in New Zealand.

Who made who?

First its to important know that there are 20 breweries in New Zealand that are run by 3 international corporations: These include Mitsubishi (who own subsidiaries Kirin and Lion), Heineken (subsidiaries include DB), and Asahi (subsidiaries include Independent Liquor). Note for the purpose of clarity corporate breweries will be listed in their subsidiary hierarchy.

NZ Brewery Ownership

Outline of NZ Brewery Ownership – Graphic by Garth @ the Beer Library

There are over 200 independent breweries in New Zealand, which on the current NZ Beer wikipedia page are described as “numerous additional brands that operate at a semi-professional level and tend to come and go“. Sadly, semi-professional and transient is precisely the view that big beer has been marketing about craft beer upstarts. Its sad to see this on the one website where the world comes to learn about New Zealand beer.

Watching the Hands…

Misdirection is key for big brewers that have either bought or created ‘craft’ beer labels: “They portray these beers as if they come from small companies when in fact they come from very large companies“. In fact, as most marketers know, it benefits big brewers for consumers not knowing that their premium brands are not owned by a behemoth company.  Such is the unique position of craft beer; consumers love them for the fact they are small and independent; and in many cases – craft beer was started as a rebellion against generic, corporate beer.

In some cases, the landgrab on craft beer reputation is almost comical, such as the case of Trouble Brewing – a corporate brainchild of Walmart, North American Breweries and WX Brands. In this case, Walmart was sued by a customer for misrepresenting craft beer – by the fact that Trouble Brewing does not actually exist as an operation!

By contrast – when a craft brewery works with other companies, most will openly declare with whom they working. This transparency is purposely lost on industrial beers. Furthermore, there is a distinct clarity of who brews the beer. It is not unusual for brewers wanting to show the world they have worked together on a the beer, and these can easily be seen by looking up collaborations on Untappd, which show precisely who worked on the beer.

Control the resources!

Why does this matter to consumers if big breweries (often foreign owned) buy the little guys?

In controlling resources – NZ has gone through a couple of hops shortages, and though details are murky, those with the most buying power can leverage these limited resources. Similarly, the common practice good will amongst smaller breweries worldwide in sharing access to hops and malts and other brewing materials will be severely limited. For those, who aren’t in the industry or are new the spirit of collaboration amongst brewers is both refreshing and astonishing; especially if you come from a background in the cut-throat corporate world.

One method of controlling the resources, is buying out craft breweries. Its an intoxicating proposition for craft breweries to be bought as it gives them buying power they would have never had before, but what is the cost for the craft beer industry?

As the mega breweries buy smaller regional craft breweries, and quickly accelerate their growth through expanded geographic distribution, incremental chain retail placements, and increased marketing support, they are bringing their buying power into the craft beer space, and using that purchasing power to secure large quantities of difficult-to-source varieties of hops and potentially other raw materials. If AB InBev can grow these breweries fast enough, they can impact the overall ability for other craft breweries to grow by limiting access to the raw materials market. That’s happening even from larger craft breweries who want to protect their future resources. Buy now, share later. From that perspective, growing these craft brands may not be about a nice long-term steady growth plan for the brands, but rather a quickly executed defensive play to slow the growth of competitive independent craft breweries in the short-term.

 

Buy out and conquer:

The big boys are ready to spend, and Indepedent Liquor’s parent company said it’s ready to spend billions on acquisitions. For a quick comparison, revenue of Asahi is 18 Billion dollars. An infinitesimal fraction of that can change the entire drinking landscape of New Zealand, if they thought our market was worth pursuing.

In Jim Vorel’s piece, The BS Arguments of Craft Beer Sell-Outs: How Brewery Buyouts Hurt Craft Beer – he gives an an excellent counter-argument to brewery buyouts. These include that expenses reduced competition, cutting support from local communities, and give big breweries the ability to take over more taps and create strangleholds on resources such as hops and malt.

Personally – while Outlier Cartel harbours no ill feelings for people who sell, as people have different reasons to sell; financial reasons are as good as any. However, we live in a transparent world, and if you are planning to leave a legacy, your own reputation will soon be swallowed by the reputation of your buyer.

No distribution for you!

Influencing distrubution: Leverage resources also means distribution: AB InBev introduced an incentive to their distributors, where AB InBev would refund 75% of distributors required marketing spend on AB InBev brands (up to $1.5 million) if AB InBev beers make up 98% of that distributors’ sales. Think about that, they are essentially paying distributors incentives to block competition. While it is unclear if Mitisubishi, Asahi or Heineken are influencing the New Zealand, they certainly do not lack any financial backing to do so.

In short, if you have money to block your competitors you can do this. Let’s hope this is not happening in New Zealand.

Quantity über alles

Volume isn’t everything. In his article Brewing Wars, Shane Colishaw mentioned this about the NZ Brewer’s guild:  “There was no mention of the fact that the Brewers Association may only represent two brewers, but they make more beer than the rest combined.

Although volumes are impressive to investors, boardrooms and press releases – consumers are much more enlightened how beer is made, and demanding quality and sustainability – that’s something that seldom equates to volume. As Jos Ruffell, co-founder of Garage Project states “The bar is higher, people are less tolerant of bad beer, but if you’ve got a unique voice, you’ll be heard.

That unique voice is often muffled by the sound of millions of bottles and cans being processed in a large brewery.

Dirty tricks stay the same, but are just scaled up:

While the size of the brewery doesn’t matter for controversy, corporations can put dirty tricks on a grand scale. It doesn’t take very long to Google to find out Big Beer’s controversies:

Even if honest mistakes where made – they happen on a grander scale, and it requires much more oversight than smaller breweries.

Being Staunchly independent:

Its ongoing battle – its not just just breweries that our being bought out – but also their social channels – RateBeer recently sold a minor stake to a subsidarary of AB Inbev. The renown Dogfishhead Brewing took a hard stand against and removed their beer from RateBeer.  “Once we found out about it we wanted nothing to do with RateBeer anymore even though our beers are very highly rated on there, because we just thought it was a massive conflict of interest.”

Here in New Zealand – there’s a struggle for smaller players getting representation. There are many excellent, making outstanding beer – but what can you do if dirty tactics big money are used to stymie competition? In New Zealand, the NZ Brewers Guild currently tries to represent all brewers, with 2 chairs going to Mitsubishi/Kirin/Lion and Heineken/DB. Many smaller breweries liken to letting the bully on the playground run the show.

Outlier Cartel believes there is room for a completely independent guild, whether it is NZ Brewers Guild or a new entity. In Australia the brewers.org.au represents only Mitsubishi/Kirin/Lion, Coopers and Elders IXL/Carlton & United where as the Independent Brewers Association represent smaller breweries based on output and limited stakeholding from other other representatives.

Is Big Beer inherently bad?

I’d like to think not, in fact its easy to forget that there people just like you and me who work there. While its easy to point negatives, big beer can offer some creative solutions to local communities. One of my favourite’s is SABMiller’s promotion Cassava production for local African farmers to create a local and sustainable economies. Sadly, it doesn’t take long to dig through and find found that SABMiller was using African and Indian as tax havens.

Like anything – ‘craft’ is hard to define, some might even say that gypsy brewers like us are not independent as we are dependent on other peoples brewing equipment. Others have pointed out that the Brewers Association of craft leaves some loopholes for big breweries to labelled as craft.

So where does that leave us?

In short, it gives us choice.

Beer goes to our bodies, those bodies are our living temples.  As modern consumers, we can go beyond just taste, we can make informed decisions about who to support and who not. Unfortunately, big beer has a lousy track record track record of behaving in line with anything other than self interest. Currently New Zealand has a lot of choice, but that choice hangs in the balance if big beer exerts continues to operate in accordance to their historical precedence.

Renegade German Beers: Part 1 – The Gose

What's in a name? Gose is named after the Goslar, which was named after Gosa, wife of mythic Germanic Hunter Ramm.

What’s in a name? Gose is named after the Goslar, which was named after Gosa, wife of mythic German Knight Ramm.

When thinking of German beer, most people think of clean crisp beer, stringently made and perfected – and boring. The Reinheitsgebot is a major region for this thinking, but did you know there were several regional varieties exempt of the German Purity law? Not only are these beers exempted, but they are also exceptional and should be tasted to as part of any craft beer lovers repetoire!

We’ll start the with one of the most divisive styles, the Gose (sounds kind of like Goes-uh). The style is sour beer – which is described as lemony and a distinct salty taste which is from either natural mineral water or added salts. Along with salt, it typically adds coriander and both are no-no’s for the Reinheitsgebot. It was made exempt from the law as it was regionally important beer.

This beer originates in Goslar, in the foot of the Harz Mountains in central North Germany, well back into the 16th Century.

This style was originally brewed by spontaneous fermentation; it was brewed in a source that where wild yeast was present: this means no yeast was added. In addition, Goslar is an internationally recognised region for mineral mineral water, with at least 10 springs that are recognised by the European Commission. In this case, the saltiness of the water came from the natural springs around Goslar. In addition to alkaline water, it is brewed with at least 50% malted wheat, instead of malted barley. Lastly, the sourness comes from the lactobacillus after the boil.

The beer style nearly died several times since the Second World War, but after the craft beer renaissance the style was revived. Because of its unusual taste, the style has been railed upon, some saying tthat that style is so bad that will end the golden era of craft beer, while others say it helped usher in the ‘sour beer‘ revolution . So what can you expect from Gose? Here are some common characteristics:

  • Low ABV (4-5%)
  • Moderate Sourness (although this depends on the tastes of the brewer!)
  • Spiceyness (from coriander)
  • Mild fruity tones (from Wheat)
  • Mild haze (from wheat proteins)
  • Saltiness/Mineralyness

Food Pairing

The most common pairing with Gose is fish and seafood. Examples are white fish such as Halibut, mussels, and the coriander of the beer will complement Cevich beautifully.

The tartness will help cut throught rich sauces – while the saltiness complements eggs and butter. Quiche, Omelets or a simple slice of buttered bread will make a lovely match.

In Germany, the city of Leipzig has become the new home to Gose, and as such the recommended pairing with Gose is Matjesfilets (Pickled herring, onions, apples and cream sauce.)

Finally – to add some authenticity, here is some Plattdüütsch (lower Saxony Dialect) to go with your meal:

Have a nice meal – Laat jo dat lecker smecken!
Cheers – Hold di fuchtig!

Some Final Thoughts

To find good goses is through untappd and ratebeer, here are reviews for the best Gose in world, in Germany and locally in New Zealand. One side effect of having a name like Gose, is that its a ripe target for puns. So its not surprising to see some real groaners like the ones below:

  • Anything Gose
  • The Gose the neighbourhood
  • Here Gose Nothin’
  • No way, Gose
  • Ready, Set, Gose!
  • Gose gone Wild!

Alvin has claimed naming rights should Outlier ever do a Gose, prepare thyself!

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.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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.

 

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