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Brewing On Stewart Island

Brewing On Stewart Island

We asked Mike Douglass, a regular Brewshop customer, about his brewing and how different it is while living on Stewart Island.

What type of brewing set up do you have, how often do you brew, and what size batches?

I have slowly built up an all grain brewing system over a couple of years. I use SS Brewtech pots and mash tun and a Blichmann Therminator to cool it all down. I chose gas for heating as the price of power is almost double that of the mainland. I mounted two high pressure burners into a brew trolley that I built as well as a couple of pumps. It was a really fun little project figuring out how I wanted everything set up then going through the process of getting timber, the custom bench top and all the hardware freighted to the island. This all took a while as I couldn't afford everything straight away so I haven't been brewing as much as I would like. I have a SS Brewtech fermenter which limits my batch size to 50L which isn't too bad as I keg into 50s. At a squeeze I could probably brew 100L batches but until funds allow a bigger fermenter, 50's where it's at for me.


Does your brewing vary compared with if you are on the mainland?

I guess my brewing has changed quite a lot since I moved to Stewart Island. More for the fact that I moved in with a home brewer who was doing partial extract brews. Until that point, I had just been using cans but I had got about as far as I could go with that. The move to all grain was a bit daunting so it was a relief to team up with someone who was partway there and already had some knowledge -  it certainly made things a lot easier. I guess if I was to move back to the mainland the change I would make would be using electricity for the heating side of brewing. It looks to be a lot more precise and convenient then gas.


Is temperature control of your fermentation an issue where you are?

At the moment, temperature control is an issue. Over summer it actually gets quite warm here so my fermenter is exposed to some fairly big fluctuations. The SS Brewtech fermenter has the stainless cooling coil in it but I don't have a glycol chiller yet. My work takes me away from home for up to 10 days at a time so I'm not around to keep adding ice to the cooling water and use the pump system supplied with the fermenter. This limits my brewing to the cooler months when I only have to worry about keeping it warm. Solution, stockpile.


How do you dispose of the cleaning chemicals/spent grain?

All the spent grain and hops goes to my mate's chickens. Bit of a treat from them on a cold winter day to have a warm pile of food. I use cleaners only periodically on the gear and instead rely on washing everything down the moment I have finished using it. Having everything stainless makes cleaning pretty easy as it's all fairly non-stick if you don't leave it to dry and I only use cloths to reduce the chance of scratching. Star San's the go to for sanitizing and that is something I'm very particular about. Good beer comes from clean gear. 

Is there much of a brewing community on Stewart Island?

There are a few brewers about, ranging from kits to all grain. One of the guys is actually looking into setting up a brewery and there are also plans for a commercial gin distillery. Stewart Island is packed with outdoor activities so its nice to have something productive, like brewing, to do on a rainy day off. 

Can you buy craft beer on Stewart Island?

Yes you can. The South Sea Hotel has a number on tap and bottled. Harrington's and Emerson's are the two breweries on tap. My go to is always the 1812, excellent drop. The local Four Square is also stocking a range of brews which they change fairly regularly to keep you interested. When you're next down, keep on eye out, there might even be a local offering.