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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.

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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!

 

Bakin’ with the Bear: Poke the Bear Brownies

Back in the kitchen! This time to make bear brownies with an epic amount of flavour and calories. Here’s a blow-by-blow guide. I’ve borrowed the recipe idea from the site TheSpruce and have taken liberty with a few unrighteous aberrations. Just so you know, I have no idea what I’m doing!

The ingredient list:

  • Coconut Oil
  • 1 Cup of multi-purpose flour
  • 3/4 Cup o’ Cocoa Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 100 grams of butter
  • 500 grams of dark chocolate
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 cup of Molasses Sugar
  • 2 cans Poke the Bear
  • 2 mixing bowls
  • 1 large cooking pot
  • 1 baking pan
  • An eclectic beater
  • A radio station or random playlist
  • A significant other.

Let’s get started!

Clean your kitchen. Why? Because your kitchen will be a blank canvass for the unholy, chaotic mess we will make.

Preheat the oven to 190 C (~375 F) get a baking pan and grease it with coconut oil.

Create the dry ingredient mixture: In a mixing bowl, mix the flour, cocoa powder and salt like the madmen (or women) you are. It’s finished when you are thoroughly tired or when its evenly mixed (whichever comes first)

Chocolate Mix: Get that large cooking pot, place it on the burner on medium-low heat. Break off 500 grams of  dark chocolate. Break it into small chunks. Chuck 100 grams of butter in the pot. Stir slowly. Be sure to inhale the intoxicating chocolate fumes from time to time.

Egg Mix: Grab that other mixing bowl, crack open 5 eggs, chuck the eggs in (shells optional). Chuck in the molasses sugar. Put in the egg beater, put it on high until its big and fluffy.

Once your chocolate mix is all nice and melty, give it a good stir and add the egg mix. Stir until its nicely integrated:

Now add the dry mix. Get that egg beater, and put in on turbo. If your kitchen doesn’t remind you of this scene from Trainspotting, you are not doing it right. At this point, your significant other may be glaring at you for your artwork. That’s perfectly normal, no need to panic.

Finally the best part. Add one cup of o’ Pokébear (that’s what we call it at the Cartel). Pour about 150mls  into a glass. Smell that wonderful aroma, and take a big sip. Now your ready mate! Take your can and slowly pour the rest of the can in. Stir until it is fully blended in.

Once its blended in, pour it into your baking tray and put it into the oven for 27 minutes.

Remove from oven, and let rest for 10-15 minutes, unless you have a penchant for scalding your mouth with hot, chocolatey goodness. Enjoy with gusto, and pour that can of Poke the Bear to slake your thirst, you deserve it!