The thing with looking effortless is that it usually requires a lot of work. At Double Vision Brewing, in the Wellington suburb of Miramar, that includes everything from the artwork on their New World Beer & Cider Award Top 30 hazy pale, Mouth Party, to the underground beer tunnel that connects their brewhouse to the packaging room in a separate building across the road.
Warren Drahota, one of the four founders of DVB, said the Top 30 award comes just as the brewery finished some hard work that allows them to package and distribute more beer.
The brewery and pub has a small footprint and they were “landlocked” by other tenants around them, so when they needed to expand, the best site was across the road. That meant figuring out a way to get beer from one building to another, as well as dealing with two landlords.
The answer was an underground beer pipe.
“We’ve done a big addition over the past year and a half, expanding across the laneway, so we’re piping the beer underground. It’s been a huge mission — from dealing with two landlords, to a lot of education around physics and learning that food-safe welding is not cheap,” Drahota says.
The constraints of the system mean everything “has to run like clockwork”, but the upside is that they can now handle larger orders such as the one that comes with having to supply New World supermarkets around the country.
“It’s cool to get orders like this now because we’ve got the equipment to handle it.”
To make it work they had to dig a trench under the road. Into that went a solid piece of stainless steel tubing containing the conduit for the beer as well as glycol and pneumatics, with ethernet and electronics going over the top. “It was a pretty big project to get across the line,” Drahota says.
It’s part of the Double Vision mantra about working hard to make things happen.
“The reason we’ve grown as quickly as we have over past couple of years is dropping our egos and saying `we don’t know everything, teach us’. A lot of people think they know it all, and we just say how can we get better?”
That thinking applied when the brewery decided to enter the hazy market and came up with what eventually became Mouth Party.
“We hated hazies,” Drahota admits. “That was our Achilles Heel, getting the haze stability right, the chemistry, the shelf life — hazies can oxidise so quickly and go that weird off-brown that looks like homebrew made in a bathtub.
“We were having so many problems with them. But we approached it like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s leg day.”
That analogy references the legendary bodybuilder’s attitude to his legs, which because of his height, had the potential to be his weakest link in bodybuilding competitions. His response: to work harder on his legs than everyone else.
Double Vision’s vision for their core hazy was to be slightly lower ABV, and not quite as thick as many of the hazy IPAs on the market.
“With a lot of hazy IPAs, they are delicious but when I drink one, I get halfway through a can and I wonder ‘am I going to finish it?’. Our question was ‘how do we make a hazy that doesn’t feel like a meal?’. There’s also a host responsibility aspect, to keep it at a lower ABV.
“So we decided to make Mouth Party a hazy pale ale rather than an IPA so it’s sessionable and people can have a few and not feel sick the next morning. If you call something an IPA it has to have grunt, so we said ‘let’s be honest and call it pale ale’.”
At 5.3% and with a relatively light body, the question was how it would be received by an audience that seemed to crave lush and thick.
“The hardest thing in this industry is making a beer that pleases everyone but … it’s been really awesome. We thought Chillax would be our flagship beer but Mouth Party has destroyed it — it’s done so much better than we thought. It surprised us but it was a pleasant surprise because we had put so much damn work into it.”
Part of the Mouth Party appeal is not just the flavour, described by the judges as “apricot, diesel and lime zest” but the promise of the outrageous packaging.
“I’d be lying to you if I didn’t tell you I did research on colours and marketing,” Drahota says, adding that he ignored all the established evidence that said core range beers should be in simple colours.
It helps that Drahota comes from a graphic design background and his business partners Harry Henriksen and Evarn Flaunty have product design backgrounds, even so, there were many iterations of Mouth Party’s design.
“When Harry came up with the design, we did 30 versions of the different colours. And because we were moving to printed cans [as opposed to labels] I knew you could have only 3-4 colours.”
As a result, they went with what Drahota calls “pure CMYK” referencing the colours used in printing: cyan, magenta, yellow and black.
“The colours are as pure yellow, pure magenta, pure cyan and dark black as you can get which makes it the most vivid, striking colours the human eye can handle.
“We wanted people to look at it and say ‘this is fun’.”
If you have the artwork with that promise, you have to fulfil it, of course. That task fell to head brewer and fourth DVB partner Mario Lanz.
“I told Mario, we will sell the first beer on the label, your job is to sell the second. It’s really important what’s inside reflects what’s outside.”
And in this case, the promise made on the label is definitely fulfilled by the beer inside.