Catching up with Pizey from Bootleg

Pizey is always great for chat but for those who didn’t get to say ‘hi’ at the South West Craft Beer festival or haven’t yet met him, here’s a chance to get to know the brewer a little better …

The last time I saw “Pizey” aka Ryan Nilsson, brewer at Bootleg Brewery in Margaret River, he was happily drinking their Coconut Hefeweizen at the South West Craft Beer Festival in Busselton.

For many it was the first opportunity to sample Bootleg’s latest limited release and its safe to say it was a hit with the beer taking out both Critics Beer Choice and Peoples Beer Choice of the festival.

South West Craft Beer Festival

The Coconut Hefeweizen does exactly what it says on the box – it still tastes very much like a Hefe and the toasted coconut folds in nicely, as if it had always been there. It has big coconut aromas that had me burying my nose in my glass more often than normal but coconut doesn’t totally dominate the beer, there is still plenty of banana and a hint of vanilla.

The brewery has also been busy pumping out their Speakeasy IPA, an evolution of their Settlers Pale Ale that’s found its way into IPA territory with an emphasis on ‘fresh is best’. Drinking beautifully, it’s a sensational IPA that’s thankfully made it’s way into craft beer loving bottleshops like Mane Liquor (who I am now a dangerous ten minute drive away from my front door!)

Ryan happily sampling Coconut Hefeweizen

Pizey is always great for chat but for those who didn’t get to say ‘hi’ at the South West Craft Beer festival or haven’t yet met him, here’s a chance to get to know the brewer a little better …

Tell us a bit about yourself!

I am a brewer at Bootleg Brewery and have been working there for 6 years now. I learned the craft there after a few years of putting down my own brews at home and hanging around the craft beer scene with a job in the bar and grounds at Cowaramup brewery when they first opened.

My home life revolves around my 11yo son Nick and fiance Kelley and trying to fit in sport while my body still holds up! Also try to fit a bit of fishing in when I can….

What is the best part of living in Margaret River?

I like everything about Margaret River,  Im from a settlement family so I  love the small town community hidden behind it’s tourism front.  Getting down the beach on a sunny summers day to relax and wash all the beer dust away… and going to eat the great food that is produced in the region keeps a nice roundness to my belly.  But what I love the most is that whenever I get the urge to go to a local brewery I can try something different every time, the diversity of Margaret River is what makes it so great. Nature, tourism food and BEER (apparntly wine is made here too)!

What has been your favourite Bootleg beer to brew and why?

My favourite bootleg beers to make are the big and bold ones! But the Speakeasy IPA has been my favourite because it required alot of tinkering to get it right, slowly changing the settlers over a year to balance the malt characters that we wanted before blasting it with added hops and alcohol to create Speakeasy. And it will always be a work in progress to try and make it even better….

Bootleg Brewery

What was the inspiration behind the Coconut Hefeweizen?

The Coconut Hefeweizen was Brookesy’s [Michael Brookes, fellow Bootleg Brewer] inspiration, we wanted to recreate our old hefe as a seasonal but were trying to think up ways to spruce it up a little and give it a unique Bootleg character.

Were there any surprises in the brewing process for this beer?

It was brewed a little different, a little birdy passed on to us that the very original Redback in the 80’s was brewed with 10% rolled oats in the mash so we added that in which gives a slight sourness to flavour and fullness to the palate which will lend itself well to the Hefeweizen style.  We toasted the coconut meat in the brewery kitchen and added it post ferment…  Breakfast in a glass….. Oats, coconut and banana’s.

What was your first reaction on tasting it?

I have to admit to being a little apprehensive about whether or not the coconut would overpower the flavour’s of the hefeweizen which is important to me, I don’t want to brew a novelty beer I wanted to add a new flavor but keep the original characteristics of the style. A bit of research went into the amount and time of the toasted coconut and plenty of tasting to get the right mix of flavors after the coconut addition so the first tasting bought a smile to my face as I realised the fusion of flavors was going to work out perfectly.

The core range of beers has changed a little, in particular the transition from Settlers Pale Ale to the new Speakeasy IPA, what inspired this?

Me and Brookesy both enjoy drinking a fuller, hoppier beer than the Settlers was and being huge fans of American Style IPA’s such as HopHog we wanted to make one for ourselves.  Sick of all the imported IPA’s having old hop character due to the travel time it was time to step up a notch with the Pale Ale so we could fill our fridges with fresh IPA. With both of us being big craft beer fans surely if that’s what we want to drink then others will too!

How has the Speakeasy been received?

The Speakeasy is doing really well and has quickly became one of our fastest moving products, doing smaller batches and keeping it super fresh has worked wonders for the beer and customers. It is doing particularly well in craft beer bottleshops in Perth, particularly at Mane Liquor and Cellarbration’s Carlisle.

Are you working on a beer for this years GABS and if so, can you give any clues?

We are and all I can tell you is it will be something very different and may involve working very closely with a NSW brewery…..

Thanks heaps to Pizey for his time and, more importantly, such great beer! See you at GABS!

girl + SWCBF

A new venue at Busselton’s Old Broadwater Farm, tucked in behind Fairway Drive, gave the festival a bit of a make over for its third year (if my beer soaked brain recalls the years correctly)

Let’s just get it out the way early shall we? 2013 was not a good year for the South West Craft Beer Festival. From the moment those ticketing machines failed and the queue of people got progressively longer festival organisers were facing an uphill battle. I felt for them; sometimes shit goes up and there’s a fan waiting to spread it all over the place.

2014 was much brighter. Luminescent in fact.

A new venue at Busselton’s Old Broadwater Farm, tucked in behind Fairway Drive, gave the festival a bit of a make over for its third year (if my beer soaked brain recalls the years correctly). More space, more trees to relax under and a much improved layout with food and beer stalls scattered amongst each other rather than being separated like troublesome kids. I had a brief chat with organisers on the day, very happy with Saturday’s turn out, and they say next year there will be even more shade for relief from February heat. Of course having said that it rained the first year of the festival so who knows.

I walked in just after 1pm on Saturday, traditionally the busier day of the weekend long festival, and wasn’t greeted by queues, only friendly security and festival staff. Happy days!

Immediately I set about my mission, to taste the eight beers submitted for judging for the Critic’s Choice Award since the organisers were nice enough to ask me to be one of aforementioned critics. I was in fine company too – joined by fellow beer writer and award winning home brewer Jeremy Sambrooks, WA Brewers Association President Brian Fitzgerald and the Busselton-Dunsborough Mail rounding out the judging panel.

Here are the beers that were up for judging …

SW Craft Beer Festival Critic Choice

The Cheeky Monkey Hagenbeck Belgian IPA has always been a favourite of mine. When Jared “Red” Proudfoot was head brewer my tasting notes on my first pint was all praises for it’s strong bitterness, orange and piney hops. Now it’s Alex Poulsen at the brewing wheel, so to speak, and the Hagenbeck is still amazingly tasty. It’s fresher and crisper than ever with a little spice and great stone fruit flavours to whisk you into a happy IPA place.

Cheeky Monkey taps - aren't they pretty?!

Buck Shack’s Milk Stout was full of milky, chocolately, vanilla goodness but perhaps suffered from the almost overwhelming heat of the day. In fact this silly judge wore jeans so I was extra uncomfortable. It was a beer rated highly by all judges on the day.

On the other end of the weather-to-beer chart was Eagle Bay’s Summer Ale, another highly rated beer with all judges. Summer in a glass … that’s all I will say. Summer in a freaking glass.

Eagle Bay tent decked out nicely as always!

The stand out beer of the festival for all four judges was Bootleg’s Coconut Hefeweizen, taking out the Critic’s Choice best of the festival.

“Freaking awesome” I wrote on my piece of paper on the day. Bootleg brewers Michael Brookes and Ryan Nilsson-Linne have created a little tropical monster with this one. The beer is so good that it almost makes me forget about the girl with the coconut boobs on the logo, sorry boys not my cuppa tea. The Coconut Hefeweizen still tastes very much like a hefeweizen should with banana and slight vanilla flavours. The toasted coconut folds in nicely, slipping into the style as if it’s meant to be there the whole time, it’s like an uninvited guest who turns out to be the life of the party. I could barely keep my nose out of the glass long enough to drink it.

And it turns out the drinkers agreed with us with Coconut Hefeweizen, taking out the People’s Choice award for best beer of the festival too! Nice work Bootleg!

Ryan happily sampling Coconut Hefeweizen