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Sun shines on ‘Dark n’ Stormy’

Operations manager Michael Bradford.

‘Dark n’ Stormy’ – sounds like a clichéd opening gambit to a melodrama, or perhaps the TV weather gurus warning of a low pressure system menacing the country.

This ‘Dark n’ Stormy’ system is actually a locally produced cider from a local focused brewery which is advancing down the country after winning national marketing exposure in the New World Beer and Cider Awards.

The Mount Brewing Co Brewery product was chosen as one of the Top 30 from 630 ale and cider products and wins shelf space in New World supermarkets up and down the land. “Massive exposure for us,” says Michael Bradford, the Mount Brewing Co’s operations and tap manager.

“Haven’t been to Invercargill in a long time,” says Michael. “It would be interesting to go to the Deep South and see our brand on the shelves down there.”

They’d probably appreciate ‘Dark n’ Stormy’ cider can be heated it into a toddy, a mulled cider. They do it at The Rising Tide in Mount Maunganui. At home it could be embellished with a shot of rum – almost medicinal.

Since its inception 22 year ago, the brewery with its forty taps – beer, cider and wine - and Johney’s dumplings have become a Tauranga institution – on both sides of the harbour, Newton Street in the Mount and at the container castle in Willow Street. Its products have crept across the Kaimai Range into Hamilton and as far as Auckland. “But now we are in grocery, nationwide and that’s everyone’s sort of dream,” says Michael.

The tap manager’s tasting notes tell us ‘Dark n’ Stormy’ is blessed with Gisborne apples and blended with real ginger, molasses and spices to give dark and stormy overtones to a crisp medium-sweet cider base.

“The tendency with cider is to be on the sweeter side. We went medium dry, the ginger quite strong and then the blast of spices. It feels healthy, even…” Even at 4.5 percent ABV he probably means.

So who is drinking cider?  “You would be surprised,” says Michael. “Cider is another option, there’s quite a lot of diversity in the drinking demographic. It appeals to a wide audience.”

And he believes anywhere there’s sunshine there will be people wanting to slake a thirst. “People talk about lawn mower beers, but ciders are equally applicable I think. They are very, very easy drinking.” And while there are “hard ciders” with a very high percentage, Michael says most are “quite sessionable, about four to four and a half percent”.

And it’s a market that has evolved alongside craft beer.

“You had your more well-known and almost industrial beers that dominated for a long time and then people started playing around and developing new recipes. People got fussy and experimental and demanded their taste requirements be met - something bitter, something fruity, something dark and heavy. Now you have the same with cider.”

There’s more in a glass of cider than just bubbles – in the 14th century, children were baptized in cider because it was cleaner than water, until the 19th century English farm workers’ wages were part paid in cider, cider was advertised as a cure for gout and other illnesses and cider was the tipple of choice for the Pilgrims.

Operations manager Michael Bradford and brewer Tom Ball and salute the success of ‘Dark n’Stormy’. Photo: John Borren/SunLive.

At the New World Beer and Cider Awards, entries were blind judged by a panel of 24 independent judges using a collaborative method based on technical excellence, balance, mouthfeel, and most importantly drinkability.

Around the awards, Mount Brewing Co produced 200 cases of ‘Dark n’ Stormy’. “Within a week and a half they ordered another 220 cases. So this month maybe 600 all told.” They liked ‘Dark n’ Stormy’.

Although, says Michael, there was some criticism. “There was some talk it wasn’t a real cider because of the ginger and spices.” He shrugs. It has taken away from the popularity of Brewing Co’s adventurous take on fermented apple juice or the fact it’s one of New World’s top 30 beers and ciders for 2019.

“Everyone is stoked,” says Michael. “It says a lot about the brewery and the brand. We have won various medals but being Top 30 and getting into New World distribution is huge for us.”

After just 22 years, local is reaching far and wide.

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