Dale Holland has had a pretty good week. A commercial version of his award-winning homebrew debuted last Friday at local Sprig and Fern Taverns. There were the promotional appearances, the strangers wanting information and providing feedback, and of course the posters on the wall promoting his beer. It is a hobbyist’s dream come true. “The generosity that Tracy, the whole team, has shown me is mind blowing, really. So that I could see my beer in its true form, sold commercially.””
Dale remembers clearly when the seed was planted. Mac’s brewery had released its Copperhop. The 5 hop varieties made it a cutting edge beer at the time. “Never before in my life had I had a beer with so much malt and so… hoppy. This was the first time I knew what a beer could be like.”
Dale had been making kit beers which were turning out “horrible” by his own admission. He soon gave up brewing as his life became too busy.
After a decade of inactivity, Dale restarted brewing at the encouragement of his brother-in-law. After five kit-based batches, he stumbled on all-grain brewing. Two years and 48 batches later, he has found his stride, and found the styles he enjoys. “I have my half-dozen recipes that I cycle through now.”
He credits the brewing community with providing advice and speeding his mastery of the craft. “I found local guys who were amazing at critiques, who knew where the flaws were coming from.” One of those mentors was S&F’s Tracy Banner, who as an experienced judge and brewer was key resource.
Dale’s Belgian Pale Ale was one of several beers he entered the SOBA National Homebrew Competition. It wasn’t his favourite, but it did catch the attention of the judges, winning Champion Beer and a shot at having it brewed at Hallertau Brewery in Auckland.
Dale wanted to have the beer available in Nelson, and found that the S&F team was interested in brewing it as a special release. Dale and Tracy worked a bit on the recipe, increasing the hop character and securing the special yeast Dale had used. “There was nothing that was standard to what they normally do.”
Of all the possible beers, Dale finds American Pale Ales to be his favourites to brew and to drink. “They are real malt driven, yet hoppy too, which probably, in the Belgian, came through as well.” He admits his beers may not cling close to the style, but figures his Kiwi versions make the best use of available ingredients.
Dale is active in the Nelson homebrewing community, and regularly helps others improve their craft. He has a 60L brewing system in his garage, complete with all the mod cons. His best advice: “I tell the new guys now, before you spend the extra money on most other things, get temperature control. Get a fridge. The temperature control was the biggest increase in quality I had, hands down.”
When asked about going commercial, Dale reveals his future plans: Contract brew two more batches this year under his own label. He hasn’t finalised any details, but figures that this is the best time to try. “I’ll brew one batch and if I like it, I’ll brew another one.”
The success of smaller contract brewers like Liberty Brewing, Yeasty Boys, 8 Wired, and Dale’s friend Fraser Kennedy’s Ad Lib Brewing all serve as encouraging role models. “These guys have shown how the market can handle one-offs, and people will happily try something new.”
Dale admits that this week will probably be unbeatable, but he is looking forward to the rest of the year. You might even find him pouring Dale’s Belgian Pale Ale at Beervana in August.
Originally published in the Nelson Mail.