We are beyond delighted to have the very first two cuvées from Jim and Lauren at Brood Fermentation in store. To say they have been a huge success is an understatement. Although our friendship with these two stretches back a while, putting our biases aside, 'Playflight' and 'Nuka' are two wines we (and you) absolutely cannot get enough of!
We were too excited for their trip up to Wellington, and couldn't wait to catch up, so we headed down to Nelson in early January to see how the vineyard (and brewery!) is coming along. The talented two are not only farming their own fruit organically and making their own wine, they are also brewing their own beer and making some of the most beautiful ceramics we've come across. Triple threat if you ask us.
The usual deal, here's a wee transcript of what we chatted about.
Jim and Lauren will be pouring their beers and wines in store at Everyday Wine Wellington, Friday 12th February from 5pm.
Everyday Wine: Let's take it back, how did you did you both get into the wine/beer industry?
Lauren Yap: I came from a beekeeping background, but I had worked in the hop industry back in America in Yakima Valley, Washington. I then went and did a vintage in Oregon, Portland to say I could 'work in a cellar', and I had a really great brewer take a leap of faith in me. He's still one of my mentors today... anyway he took me on as an absolute rookie, I was 20 years everyone's junior, had worked one vintage and yeah, that's how I really got into brewing.
Jim Brown: I was working in bars in Wellington, and was introduced to low intervention wines. At the time I was more interested in cocktails, but got super excited that there was this notion in wine where things can change, it wasn't as rudimentary and homogenised as I thought it was. I found more and more of these producers who were making wine with personality, and so
me kind of substance behind them... they didn't taste as 'worked' as wines I had originally been exposed to.
So I just jumped into it, left Wellington, moved to Marlborough and studied Viticulture and Winemaking at NMIT. I worked at a wine bar which was owned at that time by Dan Gillett from Wine Diamonds, and through that I was introduced to Commune of Buttons in South Australia, where I then went and worked for. I guess I cut my teeth there, that was awesome, a great team and great community. I loved the fact that pretty much everyone there was first generation, and going out and doing what they loved.
I kept working vintages in Australia, Italy and in the States. I always thought I would just work as an assistant winemaker somewhere, for people that I loved... but when Lauren and I met, things just kind of clicked and this has all happened pretty quickly.
The balance of beer and wine together is awesome, they compliment each other really well and I think there are consistencies between the two of them that I really like. It also creates a really diverse work week between viticulture, winemaking which is this quite narrow timeline when everyone is all on and then brewing which can be year round.
EW: Beautiful. I'm sure the answer is yes but do you think having met, things have been easier or at least it's all kicked off quicker than if you were doing this all as individuals?
LY: Totally, we both got this affirmation that we needed to start our own thing. It helps having someone there by your side getting you out of that imposter syndrome and cheering you on. We feed off of each other and I really don't think there was ever a situation in my head where I could own a brewery on my own.
JB: Oh yeah absolutely, same for me. The likelihood of me having my own wine label was a distant dream if that.
LY: It makes things so much easier when you've got that person cheering you on and also there to help you do it all, you know?
EW: Oh it's a massive undertaking, and huge risk to take on right?!
JB: Yep, and it's amazing to do that all with not only your business partner but your life partner. Having this emotional support system as well as a constant source of motivation and inspiration is invaluable.
EW: Well, put aside 2020 as a whole, it's been a big year for you both! Moving towns, building a brewery, starting your own label...
JB: Yeah, we moved to Nelson just over a year ago! And now we've got this little brewery with our first beers in barrel and we've just released our first wines.
LY: Every single day of 2020 felt like a marathon! And now in 2021, it's like "Oh wow, we did all that". Yeah, it feels really good. A huge accomplishment considering a lockdown happened... in retrospect it was all so much fun.
EW: In retrospect... but at the time?
JB: Tears were shed *laughs*... but honestly there is no point were you 'arrive', we're just trucking along this path. We've only just started, the brewery has just become a working brewery and it's our second season in our vineyard.
EW: What is the division of labour between these two aspects of Brood Fermentation? They are both your projects, but does one of you take the lead on either beer or wine?
JB: We are teaching each other. Lauren has a wealth of knowledge on brewing and winemaking, and I've come from a focus on the vineyard side of things.
LY: Oh yeah, and beer and wine are two different beasts! For one beer is a much lower acid product.
JB: It's just a whole different process! Winemaking is more day to day during vintage, whereas with brewing its minute to minute or second to second... temperature is much more important. With brewing, the whole process is over in eight hours!
LY: Brewing can be a very reactive process.
EW: Can we ask how you guys met in the first place? I mean, what are the odds?!
JB: Haha, in 2019. Not that long ago.
LY: Feels like 50 years ago...
JB: I had just come back to Marlborough from South Australia, and Lauren was doing a vintage there. Then we went to Portland together...
LY: Yeah, I went to work for a brewery called Migration in Portland, and then Jim came over for vintage.
EW: We are stoked you guys decided to both move back to New Zealand! Is there any correlation between organic farming and low intervention winemaking that translates over to your brewing practices? Is there some kind of shared philosophy or intention with both brewing and winemaking?
LY: Oh absolutely. We chose Nelson because its a hop growing region, hours away from a malt growing region which is really important to me. I've worked in both the hop industry and the craft malt industry... so for me, knowing your growers is one of the most important things in brewing and its personally important to me too. With hops, there's pretty much one place it can go to: Beer. There are 5th generation farmers here who have dedicated their entire families lives to growing hops and that's an amazing energy to be around.
JB: Absolutely, we also live in a fruit basket! So for seasonal brewing, we have so much produce to work with: plums, peaches, raspberries, cherries, citrus, nut trees. So we've got so much to work with here.
LY: Yeah for our Apricot beer we've got fermenting now, I rolled up to a fruit stand and the farmer went out and picked more apricots for me! It's so refreshing to be surrounded by so many farmers.
JB: Yep, and we get to work with all these small organic producers and champion what they do!
EW: I can't wait to try these beers. If the wine's are anything to go by, I know they will be delicious! Have you had any prominent mentors so far that have inspired you along this path?
LY: The team I worked with at Yakima Chief, these people taught me all about hops and beer and have been my cheerleaders from day one. Such awesome guys who have dedicated their lives to hops. Also the head brewer Paul Thurston at Base Camp, he gave me my first brewing job... an absolute legend.
JB: For wine... to be honest, I'm very inspired by the entire Broderick Family. Phil and Mary who planted their vineyard are so community focused, which is so important. Louis and Sholto Broderick are awesome, making such beautiful wines, and have been a massive source of inspiration. Not only making great wines, but being really part of the community. Also Brooks where I worked vintage back in Oregon. They are a part of the 1% Group which donates 1% of all their profit and they are also a part of the nonprofit BCorp.
LY: Oh yeah BCorp is amazing. They evaluate for-profit companies to help them with their sustainability. It includes everything from water use to equal workers rights. It's so much more than just being 'organic', it's about working with intention all the way through from product to process to staff.
Side Note: Out of interest we've now applied to get Everyday Wine BCorp certified. Will keep you posted of this progress.
JB: We need these kinds of standards here in the wine industry, which tracks out progress past what goes into the bottle.
EW: That's what can be so hard about the alcohol and hospitality industry right? People go out to do a stage for some famous institution and they get treated like crap. How many wineries, breweries or restaurants have an army of unpaid staff at their fingertips just because they are the best at what they do? We shouldn't be celebrating these products, even if they are incredible, if they are not treating their staff fairly.
LY: Absolutely. Human resources, can and should be sustainable. It's so important.
JB: I've done a vintage where I didn't get paid, and I don't regret it at all. I learnt so much and it created so many avenues for the future, but in retrospect, I'm so lucky to be in a position where I can work for free! I can leave my house, travel to another town and survive off a work exchange. Really, that kind of system only allows a very specific, privileged minority of people to come and work for you.
EW: Oh absolutely, what a privilege to go on an unpaid working holiday.
JB: Yep, and this kind of system really only benefits the privileged and gives those who can afford not to get paid to get an internship.
LY: We've talked about if we ever got to the point where we needed someone else on board here at Brood, we would never ask someone to work for free. I know what it's like working for shit money, below minimum wage. It's hard work, and people should be paid well.
EW: If you have people knocking on your door saying they will work for free, there is an obligation to change how this whole system works. If they are willing to work for free, I think you can afford to pay them! That's the irony...
JB: Totally agree. It's not a sustainable workforce. And making natural wine is not enough to validate free labour. There is no longevity there, or ethics for that matter.
EW: Any monoculture, Organic or Biodynamic just isn't enough anymore right? Have you seen the latest David Attenborough documentary? Kind of made me feel uneasy about any farming... especially on a large scale.
JB: Not yet. Have you heard of Viticole? It's that dude from Somm, he's an absolute Nat-Man, and he had this big chat about a biodynamic wine producer who also made plum and rhubarb wine. It was an interesting point about how we are essentially celebrating these monocultures, and that really needs to change. The idea of a great farm is diversity, not just an organic vineyard. Which really resonated with me. I mean, talk about setting the bar high, but what a thing to aspire to. Having a true biodiverse farm. It's like Blue Hill Farm, we need more of that.
EW: Totally. When I was first studying, I truly thought organic viticulture was the pinnacle. Now i'm realising that's just the first step towards ethical farming, not the final. There isn't really a focus on biodiversity as a whole, both in terms of crop rotation but also diversity in the workforce.
LY: Right?! And how do we create a culture where there is peer pressure for everyone to be organic? We should be questioning why anyone isn't organic.
EW: It's great to hear people ask if the wines we stock are organic. It's a step in the right direction... Alright, to change tune a little bit... Why 'Brood Fermentation'?
LY: When I was in university, I sold my first batch of Honey under 'Brood'. And then when we sat down to think of what to sell our wine and beer under, we went through several iterations of what that should be and what defines us as winemakers and brewers. Brood just made sense. It's a beekeeping term, and a part of the hive where life is sustained and growth happens. This is our very first business, our very first go at making our own products.
JB: We also wanted something to do with fermentation that didn't exclude either brewing or winemaking. A fermentation company doesn't necessarily translate to any one product.
LY: Yeah, in beekeeping, we get super excited about the brood. Not the queen or the honey, but if life is happening and regenerating. A continuation of that is 'Nuka' and 'Playflight'. We started looking at names for our cuvées and wanted something in relation to Manuka and Kanuka, and then found out Nuka also translates to Little Brother. That felt so appropriate since we work closely with Rob and Kate from Unkel, who has absolutely been big brothering us the whole time.
JB: Yeah, and then 'Playflight' as well...
LY: Yep, that is when an older bee takes a younger bee out on a exploration of the hive. It looks like they are fighting, but they are actually getting shown around the hive and surrounding area for the first time.
JB: Which again is like when we first got here, Kate and Rob really showed us around Nelson. Where we could find fruit, vineyards, contacts and stuff like that.
EW: Working like a hive! Beautiful, last question, what wines are you drinking right now and loving?