As I posted on these pages last year (Mikes Brewery), March brings my annual road-trip to Taranaki to attend the World of Music, Arts and Dance (WOMAD) Festival in New Plymouth. As is tradition, I stopped into Mikes Organic Brewery at Urenui on the way into town. This year was doubly exciting as both the line up of acts at WOMAD, and the line up of beers at Mikes, were amongst the most impressive in years. At Mikes, last year saw the introduction of the Taranaki Pale Ale and Coffee and Imperial porters to complement the seasonal Whisky Porter. Several new beers have been released already this year, including an APA, a pale ale using NZ hops and a hefeweizen.
In what seems to be another happy tradition, a day that stared out overcast and damp in Auckland, had turned magnificently sunny by the time I arrived at Mikes. The brewery is one of the prettiest I've been to: a large building that was previously a function centre converted into a bar, café and brewery shop, with the opportunity to sample a large number of beers from the range on a large deck / beer garden area, surrounded by lush lawns, an avocado orchard, strutting roosters, a dog and more bees than I've seen for a long time.
Soon after ordering my first beer, I spotted Ron Trigg and introduced myself to him. The Trigg family have owned Mikes Organic Brewery for several years now, with Ron being responsible for sales and marketing (and a lot more besides, judging from the short time I spent with him!). I shamelessly mentioned that I was quite keen to try two of the new beers, the OMPA, One More Pale Ale and, especially, the AIPA, American Indian Pale Ale; but that those weren't available at the shop. Ron kindly invited me into the brewery to have a look around and to try some of the OMPA, which he had on keg in the brewery. The brewery itself was much bigger than I expected, with a larger number of beers in various stages of the brewing process. It was very much a working brewery, with Ron's dad Mike (the head brewer – great that the family located a brewery named after the head brewer!) attending to several brews and a trio of young men bottling Mikes Organic Ale, as we wandered through. The OMPA was an aromatic, fruity delight. Made exclusively with NZ hops, it is an attempt by Mikes to produce a lower alcohol version of the popular IIPA. The beer has the unmistakable aroma and taste of Nelson hops. While at the brewery, I also tried the latest version of Mikes Lager. Ron explained that the recipe had been changed slightly to create a more balanced, full flavoured lager and the desired result seemed to have been achieved.
After my chat with Ron, I returned to the beers that I had actually ordered. The first was of these had been another of the new beers, Mike's Taranaki Hefeweizen Cloudy (THC). Acronyms abound at Mikes! Hefeweizen are German wheat beers. They typically display distinct clove and banana aromas and flavours. Mike's THC poured cloudy, orange-gold. The head was tinner and smaller than would usually be expected. The aroma was rather lovely. The clove note was definitely there, along with bubble-gum and orange flavours and just a hint of banana. The taste followed the aroma well. Initially sweet and fruity, with bubble-gum, vanilla and sweet citrus being the primary flavours. The beer displayed quite a good length, with the sweet and spicy notes continuing. Mikes THC is good example of the hefeweizen style and a very pleasant first beer to signal (nearly) the end of the drive and the start of the weekend!
The next beer I tried was Mike's Taranaki Pale Ale. The TPA had been one of my favourite beers at Beervana 2011, so I was very happy to have a taste at the brewery and to grab a flagon to enjoy over the weekend. Ron explained that this was another recipe that had been altered slightly. In this case, the malt profile had changed, with Canterbury malt being added, and slightly different hops used. This version was quite a departure from the earlier versions I had enjoyed at Beervana and subsequently. The change to the malt profile was very evident. Earlier iterations were gold in colour, and though well-balanced, the hops contributed considerably to the aroma and palette. The newest version was a much darker, bronze colour. It displayed a full, off-white, creamy-textured head, that lasted well. The aroma and palate were quite different as well. The malt was very much to the fore. The aroma was quite marvellous – jammy, chewy toffee and orange marmalade, with some citrus / grapefruit notes from the hops. The taste was simply delicious, full, rich and malty. Chewy toffee and marmalade notes initially, hints of biscuit and cake, then spicy and citrus hop notes. Mikes TPA displayed a very good length, with the spicy and bitter hops notes lingering moreishly on the palate for a good long while. This was a very good version of Mike's TPA.
I was glad that I grabbed a flagon of the TPA, as it was a perfect pre-show drink over the weekend. Mikes Organic Brewery and WOMAD, a double-header that I'd love to check out more frequently than once a year!
I'd certainly encourage you to make a trip to the ‘Naki to spend some time at Mikes. If you can't, the standard range of beers and bottles of the seasonal porter and IIPA are widely available. The seasonal beers are also available on tap. In Auckland, the Mikes range will also be available on fill-your-own at the new Hopscotch Beer Company, Eden Terrace, with the One More Pale Ale and Pilsner currently pouring.
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