The latest from Atlas

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Catching up with Altitude Brewing's Eliott Menzies

Sweet as: Altitude's Eliott Menzies checks out
 the sugar content of a brew
Based in Queenstown, Altitude Brewing Studios is a truly local brewery. As we've had a few of their beers on the lines at Atlas of late we thought we would have a catch up with head brewer and founder, Eliott Menzies, to find out a little bit more about what inspired him to start brewing and what we can expect next from Altitude.

Hi Eliott. Tell us a bit about yourself. Are you from Queenstown originally? If not, what brought you here?

I call Queenstown home. I moved here in 1997 and went through the school system. After that I lived overseas for several years, studied architecture in Wellington and then moved back. I really love being in Queenstown and enjoy the lifestyle that Queenstown provides. In recent years the town has changed beyond recognition and become a lot busier but it's still an awesome place to live. You just have to be patient sometimes!

Have you always been interested in brewing?

Not always, but at least for the last ten years. When I was 18 I was living in Scotland and I visited a brewery called Atlas in Kinlochleven which is in the Scottish Highlands. It fascinated me and I started appreciating a good beer. I still have their T-Shirt!

Can explain a bit about the inspiration behind Altitude Brewing Studios - what made you decide to get started?

The idea of Altitude started about two years ago. I was working for Peregrine Wines and brewing regularly from home and was consistently told that my beers were better than anything being sold in Queenstown. The time was right when both our breweries moved out of town. I knew I could have the market as Queenstown's only local brewery, as that means a lot to the locals here. I started to do some research into setting up a brewery and started to save up some money.

We've had the Mischievous Kea IPA on tap at Atlas and it's proved to be really popular. Is IPA a personal favourite of yours? What inspired you to start with an IPA as a first release?

An IPA is a very expressive beer and also one that really showcase a brewer's style. It is a personal favourite of mince as these are so many styles of it and you can really mess around with recipes creating some unique, interesting and awesome beers. A true all NZ IPA was always going to be the place to start for me and the recipe went through a two year development process to get it where it is now. Needless to say there will be many more versions of IPA in Altitude's future.

The beers you make have names that reflect the Queenstown locality. In terms of taste, is there anything you do to represent the Southern Lakes, flavour-wise, when thinking up recipes?

The most important thing to me when experimenting with a recipe, is to give the finished beer a defined backbone - to create a beer that has obviously been thought about and not mass produced. I designed the Goldpanner's Profit golden ale with a hot, Central Otago summer evening in mind - making it dry and refreshing. Then with The Posturing Professional pale ale, I wanted it to be flavourful and sessionable, so it can be enjoyed after a day on the slopes.

What other styles of beer do you like?

I really enjoy the way the English do their beer. An English special bitter or a Scotch ale are both special to me. The combination of cellar temperature and low carbonation means you can actually taste the beer. Some breweries shouldn't hide their questionable products by serving them fizzy and cold. I'm also a sucker for a girl holding a pint of double IPA.

What other releases are on the horizon for Altitude Brewing Studios? Can you give us a preview?

As I mentioned before there will definitely be more IPAs in the future. Next however, I think will be a double IPA which is a supercharged version of it's parent style. Even more hops and an alcohol level of around 9%. A party in your mouth , as they say. After that? Well, a Baltic Porter for Winter and then a low alcohol beer perhaps. There's so many things I want to do! I think though I want to concentrate on getting the current range the best it can be before expanding to much.

Taking a look at the Atlas menu, what dish would you match with a Mischievous Kea IPA and why?

A Mischievous Kea and an Atlas steak cook rare please. Not many things in Queenstown could beat that for an evening meal. In fact nothing, I reckon. Strong flavours need strong flavours. An epic combo.

And finally, describe your perfect Queenstown day.

A bit of a sleep in; ski pow all morning; a couple of rounds of disc golf in the afternoon; go for a run with the dog and then one of those steak and Kea combos. I guess I should fit some brewing in there somewhere also!

Altitude Brewing Studios | Mischievous Kea IPA | 5.5% | $9 per pint