Have you ever tried brewing your own beer? Many people give it a go, but mastering the art takes skill and knowledge, many trials over time and considerable effort, (as friends and family will attest).
Liam Blunden and Kehan Murray, original founders of Salt District Brewing in Whangamatā travelled in different directions overseas, surfing, working, playing music and enjoying a few local beers. Their palates were expanded by fruity hops and dark malts, lagers and pilsners and as they discovered the pleasure of trying new beers they started to get interested in how to make them.
Eventually, they both returned to Whangamatā, Liam by way of one of New Zealand's excellent and growing small breweries out of the Hawkes Bay, ready to start their own micro-brewing business. The seaside town is super sunny and laid back, busy in summer and quiet in winter, with world-beating surfing and diving. What better than to create brews that reflect their beloved backyard and the surf culture of ocean-orientated and welcoming locals?
In the meantime, the craft beer scene in New Zealand had started to take off, and local growers stepped in to provide ingredients. According to Liam and Kehan, the quality of hops is determined by the quality of sunlight, and Nelson grows some of the best hops in the world. Add to this excellent malt from Gladfield out of Canterbury and the boys had what they needed to create flavourful brews to be savoured rather than necked.
A fair bit of mahi and experimentation followed before Salt District opened their micro-brewery doors earlier this year. Head brewer Liam is now brewing solo as Kehan heads off on other adventures, and he'd probably describe Salt District as a nano-brewery at this stage. Liam has just finished up at his previous full-time day job, so his immediate focus is the day-to-day operations of Salt District. With names like Big Moocher IPA, Sea Legs Hazy Pale Ale, Party Wave Pale Ale and Tsunami Summer Ale, you get the drift of their initial style choices, but watch out for Japanese rice lager, Coromandel Chocolate Porter and other bold creations in the future. Still, there is time to go surfing some days, and the buzz he gets from the positive feedback from those who enjoy their beers and grab flagons at the cellar door keeps the passion alive and growing. And Liam’s dreams of a cool cosy brewpub, with maybe 4-5 tables in Whangamatā, one day.
In the meantime, you can check out Salt District cellar door hours on their Facebook page or website (www.saltdistrictbrewing.co.nz) for off-licence sales and taste their regular brews on tap in restaurants and cafes throughout Whangamatā. Liam teams up now and again with good mate Thomas from Coromandel Chocolate, so keep an eye out for their Porter collab and more beer and chocolate events over the summer. What a pairing! But in the end, it's all about the beer.