BREWING UP A WINNERhttps://theflyer.co.nz/wp-content/themes/zuperla/images/empty/thumbnail.jpg150150The Flyer MagazineThe Flyer Magazinehttps://theflyer.co.nz/wp-content/themes/zuperla/images/empty/thumbnail.jpg
A selection of Altitude Brewing beers.
Altitude Brewing founder and brewer Eliott Menzies has always been into all things beer.
It all started at the age of 17, fresh from high school, when he headed to Scotland to climb mountains and ended up absorbed in craft beer.
A degree in architecture from Victoria University in Wellington and more years of Northern Hemisphere skiing and beer knowledge later, and Eliott returned home to Queenstown. He gained even more knowledge first working at Peregrine Wines, then Dux de Lux Brewery and Arrowtown Brewing Company, volunteering when he could.
“Everybody thought wine was the future of this region back then, but beer was on the up and up,” says Eliott, who first began to formulate a plan to start his own brewery while working at Peregrine.
Eliott finally realised his long-held dream in 2013, launching his own craft brewing company, Altitude Brewing, in his hometown of Queenstown.
“Back then there were 52 breweries in New Zealand – I was number 52, and now there are nearly 300,” he says.
In six short years, with a business partner Eddie Gapper joining him in 2016 as the company’s managing director, the small Queenstown company has grown to dizzying heights, now producing 200,000 litres a year from its Frankton brewery. That production now sets Altitude within the top 10 percent of independent breweries in New Zealand. The brewery supplies hundreds of venues and outlets all over the country, with its gold medal-winning Mischievous Kea, an English-style IPA, making up about 40 percent of the volume of Altitude’s production. The 5.5 percent alcohol volume beer is a fully flavoured IPA which took Eliott six months of weekly brews to master.
“Back when that was first released a low ABV (alcohol content) IPA was a very new style,” he says. “I locked myself away on the Kaikoura Coast and brewed that beer once a week for six months over and over, changing it to get what I wanted,” says Eliott. “I was trying to create a beer that was sessionable, yet full of flavour.” That required a special combination of malts and brewing techniques, including everything from the water profile to temperatures and the timing of hop additions.
There’s nothing like a good ‘local’ story over a beer and Eliott has been working with Garston farmer James McNamee, who’s growing selected hop varieties especially for Altitude’s beers, which adds to the local flavour. Local product is in demand with both locals and visitors, he says. It takes three years for hops to mature for a full yield. He also uses hops from Motueka and all over the world.
Renowned New Zealand brewing legend Richard Emerson, of Emerson’s Brewing Company, was one of the first to try Eliott’s beer and gave it a huge seal of approval. “He’s a mentor of mine and told me to keep up the good quality and produce consistency, which I’ve tried to do,” says Eliott.
Atlas Beer Café owner Davey McKenzie has always been a great supporter from day one, selling Eliott’s beer in Atlas Beer Cafe right from the early days.
Altitude’s already sent some export orders overseas to Singapore, with China likely to be the first country from next year to receive regular exports.
Not surprisingly, Eliott and Eddie met over a beer in Queenstown. “He tried my beer one day and got me in to do a talk for the Queenstown Resort College business studies class that he was teaching,” says Eliott. Their skills paired well and Eddie now takes care of the business logistics so that Eliott can focus on brewing.
Altitude now produces up to 60 different beers and every one of the company’s core varieties has won either international or New Zealand Beer Awards with the Mischievous Kea taking out Champion South Island IPA for the last five years in a row now.
However, Altitude’s not about to capitalise on the kea, instead turning its successful product into funding to help preserve the native bird. Initially Altitude donated five percent of its gross company revenue to the Kea Conservation Trust. Now that business has grown the company still donates one percent of its entire gross revenue on beer sales to local charities, including most recently the Bruce Grant Youth Trust and Wakatipu Wildlife Trust amongst others.
“I really like to support the great place that grew me,” says Eliott.