The brewery is buzzing, there are lots of big projects underway and in short – watch this space – Zeelandt Brewery is expecting a big year. The winds of change are here and along with it, you can expect to see a new face around the brewery. We waved goodbye to Andy and welcomed Tom Heath to the ranks in February.
It was hard work to pin down this busy man, but we sat down with Tom and got to know this exciting brewer a little better.
Tom grew up in Whanganui in the 90’s where the only choice of beer on tap, was either Tui, or Export Gold, maybe even a Lion Red if you were ‘lucky’. We discuss how the New Zealand brewing industry has changed. With over 160+ breweries in NZ and with 1500 unique beers on the market, times have definitely changed.
Tom was clear that for him craft beer making was not even on the radar back then, so he studied Viticulture and Winemaking in Hawke’s Bay, and following that, did a bit of travel. Essentially chasing vintages around the world.
It was while he was doing a Pinot Noir vintage in Oregon in America, that he discovered the city of Portland. At the time, Portland had the most microbreweries per capita in the world and he was blown away by how good the beer was, and the boundaries that were being pushed, unlike all the hard rules that govern the wine industry.
Portland left a lasting impression on Tom. As a result, he kept the idea of moving into New Zealand brewing as a long term plan of which he has now accomplished. We had to ask if working at the brewery met his expectations and for Tom, in reality, being a brewer is 95% cleaning and sanitising and 5% actual brewing of the beer.
Tom finds deciding on new brews exciting. New beers often depend on what is trending, you go where the market is. All styles are fun to brew and the tweaking of recipes is an integral part of each brew day, to constantly create a better beer. For Tom, if there was a beer that he could brew, with no regards to cost, production or sales he would brew an American barrel aged red beast. If he was going a bit wild on the yeast front, he may inoculate the beer with Brettanomyces, let it age, and see what happens.