In the first of a new series, Joshua Lee aka Hazzy Hunter goes head-to-head with John Morawski from Laughing Bones.

Hazzy Hunter: John tell me how Laughing Bones came to be?

John: Gosh first of all welcome it’s good to have you here! As we put right on our can, it came from a lifelong love affair with beer — I’ve just always been into it. I did a master’s degree in food chemistry and part of that was studying saccharomyces [yeast], the whole process of brewing, in which case I had to brew beer which at that time was illegal in the United States but under the umbrella of university research I was able to get the ingredients and do it. That batch actually came out better than anything I’d been drinking at the time, so I just kept on brewing. We moved to New Zealand 15 to 16 years ago and ran into the global financial crisis and just decided to really change what I was doing and we opened a brewery [Brewery Britomart] in the Auckland CBD and started brewing.

Hazzy Hunter: What is your favourite kind of beer to brew and why?

John: I’m a little bit of a stylist if you will, I really like to go after what the style is supposed to be. We call our pilsner “Quest” because I’m always in a constant quest of the perfect pilsner — the same with a pale ale — there’s no places to hide in those beers, there is always latitude to do things to them, but you want to keep them clean as possible. To me they present the challenge of the perfect beer and the kind of style I’d like to brew.

Hazzy Hunter: What makes Laughing Bones unique?

John: We’ve been pioneering the Mountain IPA concept — a style that came out of the mountain area in the United States. I guess Colorado, as a big brewing state, felt left out between the East Coast hazies and the West Coast IPAs so they came up with this hybrid style and ever since I heard about it, I started brewing it. We’re on #15 in that series now each one of them is different. For me I love it because it’s a playground I can lean it to the West I can lean into the East I can make it more hazy, I can make it less hazy, I can make it more hoppy on the finish or less hoppy on the finish, so it’s a fun place to be from a brewing point of view.

Hazzy Hunter: Tell me something that most people don’t know about Laughing Bones?

John: What most people don’t know about Laughing Bones is the name — people always ask us about that. It’s a southern United States euphemism for gaming dice they used to be made out of bone. And as you know, if you’ve ever rolled the dice, they are always laughing at you, I got it out of the line of a Grateful Dead song because yes I am a Deadhead and yeah, I picked it out of the song and applied it to our brewery.

Hazzy Hunter: What are your thoughts on the current state of the NZ craft beer industry?

John: Any industry is always evolving but we’re going through some really challenging times right now, I’d like to use the expression death by 1000 cuts. We are facing challenges left, right and centre with price rises in just about everything we do and there’s a large number of breweries for our population so that also presents a challenge. How many of them can stick around over the next year or two remains to be seen and that probably depends on what the economy does. But one of the biggest challenges is excise [tax] which is the most expensive “ingredient” that goes into our beer, and everybody else’s beer. We need a spokesperson to go in and lobby for our industry. Among the countries with good craft beer markets — like the UK, Australia, America and New Zealand — we’re the only one of those that doesn’t get a tax break one way or another on volume or alcohol percentage or whatever, so we’re really punished. And the other issue is 90% of the taps in this country are still tied to the big breweries — there’s a there’s a liquor duopoly in this country and somebody needs to address that because it’s just not a level playing field and it won’t be until it’s addressed, to me those are the biggest challenges.

Hazzy Hunter: Apart from Laughing Bones, what is your favourite New Zealand brewery?

John: Liberty Brewing — and the reason for that is I’ve known [founder] Joe Wood for as long as I’ve been brewing in New Zealand and he’s stayed true to what he likes to do and that is clean beers. Joe was even reluctant to get in on the haze craze, it took him a while before he finally brewed a hazy, but he sticks to his roots and he’s always in pursuit of making really clean beers.

Hazzy Hunter: Are hazy beers here to stay?

John: Yeah, definitely hazies are here to stay. You know, anything that has IPA at the end of its name is probably always going to have some relevance but if you look at red IPAs, white IPAs, black IPAs, you could probably say you don’t see many of them, but hazies, they have a cult following. I do think they have hit their pinnacle and are maybe on the decline a little bit from what I am seeing out there but there’s always going to be people looking for them, there’s always going to be brewers brewing them because they’re challenging to brew, they’re fun to brew. Like the Mountains IPAs they’re quite a playground for a brewer to do different things with — so yeah, they’re here to stay without a doubt.

To see the full interview check out