My homebrew story started with an earthquake. On September 4, 2010 at 4:35 a.m. Canterbury, New Zealand, awoke to a 7.1 magnitude earthquake. Thankfully there were no fatalities and damage was minimal, however the ongoing aftershocks for the weeks and months that followed made it difficult to get a full night's sleep. So, my wife and I escaped for a weekend to a small town called Oamaru. In Oamaru the hostel we were staying at was right next door to the local homebrew shop. I had heard about this hobby from some of my cricketing mates, and as Christmas was coming I managed to convince my wife to get me the starter kit.
My first brew was an English bitter kit. It turned out OK, but there was something missing (I would later learn that this beer was thin due to the sugar involved) but it was certainly drinkable. A few kits later and I really wanted to start learning more so I bought a partial mash kit from a shop in Dunedin. That kit opened my brewing up to grains and hops. By this point, there was no looking back. However, it was also around this time that I began getting frustrated. The homebrew scene was underground in Christchurch, and I didn't know anyone doing all-grain. To help me find these people I started a facebook group called Christchurch Homebrew Group (I'm not that creative with naming stuff!). That was in July 2012. At the time of writing this the group has more than 450 members and we meet every month (thankfully not everyone turns up!) to talk brewing and of course drink our brews. Competitions are held quarterly and the standard is very high, everyone wants to win the Golden Tankard!
During the time since I started the group there was a growing sense of "this is getting bigger" and I could see the homebrew scene in Christchurch was missing something . . . a dedicated all-grain brewshop, someplace where those new to brewing could go and get information and set on the right track towards all-grain brewing. What was I to do? Quit my job as a business analyst and start a brewshop of course! So Finney's Homebrew Emporium was started and we opened the doors on August 12, 2013. Initially we started in a dentist office as renovations were done to our current building, but now we are settled in a larger shop with a brewing room and courses for new brewers and those wanting to learn more about the hobby.
Part of the fun of owning your own brewshop is making beer during the day. Very early on I started making 1-imperial gallon (4.5-L) batches. It was mainly to try new hops, malt combinations, styles, etc. But one day I asked our facebook followers what ingredient they wanted me to use. Since then it has sort of taken a mind of its own. The first Monday of each month is the special ingredient brew day. The preceding week our facebook followers put forward ideas, and the one with the most likes wins. So far I have brewed a chocolate and beetroot porter (very drinkable), bacon brown ale (drinkable in its own way), Cadbury Crème Egg wheat beer (crème eggs should never be used to brew!), KFC ale (affectionately known as the Cock Ale of which you can see my drinking on my YouTube channel FinneyHB) and many more. The recipe for our Chili & Curry Leaf American Wheat follows (a variation of it was done with mint instead of Curry leaf and won a Silver at a local competition).
American Wheat Rye with Curry Leaves
(5 quart/5 L, all-grain)
OG = 1.043 FG = 1.011
IBU = 38 SRM = ABV = 5.1%
0.66 lb. (0.3 kg) Gladfield ale malt
0.66 lb. (0.3 kg) Gladfield lager light malt
0.66 lb. (0.3 kg) Gladfield wheat malt
0.66 lb. (0.3 kg) rye malt
0.7 oz. (20 g) acidulated malt
2.1 AAU New Zealand Fuggle hops (60 min.) (0.3 oz./9 g at 7% alpha acids)
1.25 AAU Riwaka hops (10 min.) (0.18 oz./5 g at 7% alpha acids)
0.18 oz. (5 g) Riwaka hops (0 min.)
0.35 oz. (10 g) chili peppers (5 min.)
1 cup fresh or frozen curry leaves (0 min.)
½ cup fresh or frozen curry leaves (secondary)
¼ tsp Irish moss (15 min.)
½ package (5 g) Mangrove Jack's M10 (Workhorse) yeast
Step by Step
Be sure to avoid dried curry leaves as they have little to no flavor or aroma. Mash at 152 °F (67 °C). Batch sparge in two steps (3 qts./3 L and 5 qts./5 L) in 168 °F (76 °C). Add water to achieve boil volume of 2.7 gallons (10.2 L). Cool and transfer wort and add water up to 5 quart (5 L) and pitch yeast at a target gravity of 1.043. Ferment at 67 °F (20 °C) and add the second addition of curry leaves for the final two days. Approximate fermentation time in primary and secondary is two weeks.