There are officially 4.8 million of us but that does not count the other more or less one million living elsewhere. It is not that we don’t like living in our country, it is simply that the world is a big place and let’s face it, New Zealand is as far as you can go. We travel more than any other nationality and to put it bluntly, we are rather ubiquitous so it is no surprise that one Kiwi living in a town in the Empordà should hear about another Kiwi living about 20 kilometres away. Its not the first time. The surprise though is that the second Kiwi is a top-flight fashion hairdresser who has teamed up with his Catalan model partner to make beer. And to start their own brewery. And as the model has been dubbed an honorary Kiwi, well, they call it Doskiwis.
Tauranga, Wellington, Sydney, New York, London, Monells. From panel beating to fashion hairdressing to brewing. That’s some journey, Michael.
(M) When I left school in Tauranga there weren’t a lot of options open to me but I quickly discovered panel beating wasn’t me. I got into hairdressing in Wellington, moved to Sydney and H&M contracted me for a month on an Australian tour. When that was over, one of the hair crew suggested I move to New York which I did and from there to London, where I worked as a runway hair stylist in shows, London Fashion Week and so on. But there is only so much of that you can take. I met Judit there, and when we came here to see her family, well, that was that.
Judit, you have given up a lifestyle many would die for to become a brewer. Why?
It’s strange. When I went to London and started as a model I couldn’t see myself coming back here but Michael made me see things almost through different eyes. I’m happy that I’m back. I haven’t given up modelling completely, even overseas, and I also do some modelling here with up-and-coming local designers, but we have this project and that’s what we’re working on.
(J) We both have friends in the world of craft brewing, in Australia, Britain, France and we also had experience. We met in the fashion world but discovered that we had something else in common and the project was born from that.
Exactly what is craft beer?
(M) Good question, and with the market at present it needs an answer. The idea of craft brewing has become so popular that the commercial breweries are advertising what they call “craft” beer which usually isn’t. It’s really a whole process. First of all concentrating on one product, creating an individual brew. It’s care about ingredients and control and maintaining quality and uniformity. And the taste is something that the brewer develops themselves. It also means we control everything from beginning to end.
Does that mean limited production?
(M) Yes and no, but the quantity is not so important. At present we produce 6,000 litres in Cassà de la Selva. We are aiming at 100,000. That’s why we are building our own brewery, which we will open in July.
(J) Craft beer is also a philosophy. Our business will be part of the community. We want to involve the community, provide jobs here. Michael was very surprised that young people here leave to look for work elsewhere. We want this to be an example for young people setting up a business here. As well, using local ingredients and that is not all that easy. Hops, no problem, but we need malt and farmers no longer grow barley here; we are going to give them a reason to do just that.
Tell me about Doskiwis, the brew.
(M) Most commercial beers here are pilsners, light beers. Doskiwis is an IPA, an India Pale Ale. It’s a beer that was first made in Britain in the late 19th century. It’s a flavoursome beer, a little fruity, yeasty, it has body and colour and you know you are drinking beer. Obviously it’s a darker colour and the aroma is also important. So far we have had a good reception at events, fairs and so forth and we are already selling in bars and restaurants here in the Empordà and Girona, and a few in Barcelona. We are not in liquor stores yet or supermarkets but that isn’t the plan either. We like to think of it as an experience.
(J) The brewery in itself will be an experience. The building was once a a general store and then some Americans had a furniture shop here. It’s big, 150 sq m, and we will almost double that with the mezzanine floor. There’s a garden. We want people to come here, see what we do, how we do it, stay and spend time with us, eat, enjoy the surroundings, the Empordà. Bring their friends, and of course, come back. It’s going to be open to everyone, something different, unique.
Interview business startup
Why we call ourselves Kiwis
Tanemahuta, the god of the forest and birds had a problem. In Aotearoa there were no animals, just forests filled with birds and insects. But the insects were eating the roots of the trees putting all life in danger, especially as it was he, the tallest of all the trees, with his roots firmly in the ground and his branches reaching high up into the heavens, who had to keep mother earth, Papa and father sky, Rangi, apart, so that life could exist between them. He asked for at least one of the birds to live far below and keep the forest clean, and of course, to give up flying. One after the other each bird found some excuse and refused except for the Kiwi. Tane’s brother Tanehokahoka punished the other birds but rewarded the now flightless Kiwi with the promise that he would become the most honoured and loved bird of all. / (JH)