Celebrate fermented honey's return to the mainstream with your very own Love Buzz neon.
It's not everyday you come across someone drinking a glass of mead. The 'drink of the gods' is more likely to pop-up in a conversation around ancient Greece or the rise of the vikings than your weekly bevy run down at the bottle-o. Brewer and beer ambassador Kurt Gross is hell-bent on bringing fermented honey back to the mainstream, starting with the limited release of Mac's Love Buzz. We caught up with the man himself to learn more about the drop and his dream gig as a beer expert.
Being a beer ambassador has to be the dream job of most over 18s in NZ. How did you score that? And what does a day in the life look like?
Yes, it actually is a dream job, I travel the country talking about my passion. It's been a long road to get here but in a nutshell I started at Lion as a brewer 14 years ago at a small brewery in Wellington called Shed 22. During my years there I gained qualifications through the IBD (International Brewers and Distillers Association) and had an amazing experience with a small team. An unfortunate injury to my hip meant I had to take time off at the brewery during which I spent some years in sales and then took an opportunity with the craft beer team in Aussie for a couple of years. When I returned to the brewery I was fortunate to secure the role of Beer Ambassador in NZ. I think that one of the best parts of this job is that every day is different. My responsibilites vary daily from running educational platforms for hospitality staff, internal training, one on one consultations, working in trade with the sales team, working with new product development, brewery tours, beer and food matching events, beer and whiskey matching events, working across our various brands, judging competitions and festivals. When I get the chance I still like to put my gumboots on and spend time in our breweries. Needless to say my days are pretty busy but so is the world of beer.
When Mac's and Lion brew at such a large scale how do you ensure you keep the quality high and what are the challenges?
Scale isn't necessarily the barrier that people might presume. We use the exact same process and ingredients, basically we just have to up scale everything to accomodate. There is a great deal of science involved in brewing , however we have some of the best brewers and breweries in the business so quality comes hand in hand with that.
What is your favourite style of beer? And which is your pick out of the Mac's range right now?
At the moment I am right into my pale ales, as many New Zealanders are. This style of beer is one of the sexy kids on the block right now. Needless to say you will always find a few Three Wolves in my fridge.
Love Buzz is a very interesting drop. What is mead and what inspired the Mac's version?
Firstly to avoid confusion it is important to say that mead is not beer, it is an alcoholic beverage made from fermenting honey. There are no grains or hops in mead which sets it in its own category. With mead our source of fermentable sugar comes from honey which is diluted and yeast added to produce something quite different. One of the great things about mead is that it is grain free and there for gluten free which offers something to gluten intolerant people.
Can you please give us a run down of the ingredients?
Our New Product Development Brewer Mark Goldman trialed a lot of different variations of honey before settling on our final three. Love Buzz is made from a blend of kamahi, clover and manuka. These are diluted with water to the optimum level before being fermented with a French white wine yeast. It is quite dry and therefore very low in sugar.
Why did you choose honey mead for this limited edition brew? What do you like about it?
We release several limited release brews throughout the year and we are always trying to think of something new and experimental for our consumers. Mead is uniquely flavored drink which is not widely available and for many is a new experience. I like the fact that mead is quite different from any beverage I have experienced in the past, but at the same time it still provides the refreshment of beer.
If someone chose to pair Love Buzz with food, what would you recommend?
Love Buzz is reasonably light and delicate but has beautiful honey and floral flavours that should not be dominated by foods that are overpowering. I would suggest pairing Love Buzz with pan fried blue cod and a side salad dressed with citrus or a lighter style cheese such as brie or even cheddar, followed with your favourite fruit dessert.
What is the next style you'd like to dabble in? Are Mac's going to release a sour brew anytime soon?
We have a decent list of beers on the back burner which will feature in the future. Personally I'm a big fan of sour beer which are popular at the moment so I would love explore this style more. Let's wait and see.