One of the newest breweries to bring the buzz to the San Diego craft beer community is the New Zealand-inspired Kairoa in University Heights. Channeling the energy and flavors of the country it gets its hybrid name from (the cities Kaikoura and Akaroa), Kairoa features a range of beers utilizing both popular and experimental New Zealand hops along with classic Kiwi dishes.
PACIFIC caught up with head brewer Joe Peach between fermentations to find out more about the hops, his favorite style to brew, and a must-try beer for any newbie to Kairoa.
PACIFIC: Where are you from originally?
JOE PEACH: I’m originally from Christchurch, New Zealand, but moved to America at 10 years old, and I’ve been living here for 16 years.
How long have you been brewing?
I’ve been in the beer industry for 12 years, since 2006. I started at Lightning Brewery, cleaning and doing low level things, and slowly over time I was given more responsibility. By 2012, I was in charge of the brewery as lead brewer and brewery manager. I worked for Bitter Brothers for two years, until Kairoa got up and running.
How did you get into brewing beer?
I always liked beer and was looking for a job and my dad’s coworker was the wife of the owner of Lightning. I started reading every book I could about beer, and I turned my garage into a small brewery, experimenting with grain varieties, hop varieties, and yeast strains and that grew over time.
First beer you ever brewed?
At Lightning, it would have been a pilsner. I was actually brewing professionally before I started home brewing. I started homebrewing to experiment with ingredients we weren’t using in the production brewery. I like the experimental side of brewing and developing and tweaking new recipes.
For newbies and aficionados alike, what are the New Zealand hops you are using at Kairoa?
Motueka, Nelson, Southern Cross, and experimenting with newer varieties like Mouture. I’ve been down to the hop institute in New Zealand, and my cousin is a hop grower. In the future, we will be able to get newer varieties and experimental ones.
What are some of the flavor profiles customers will get from the hops?
There’s a range of flavors, like citrus-forward lemon and lime, gooseberry, tropical fruit like papaya and mango. A lot of the hops are better blended as some can be aggressive and grassy on their own.
For someone new to Kairoa, what a must try?
Cheeky Buggah, a Belgian blonde ale at 4.8%. It’s crisp, clean and easy to drink.
Favorite style of beer to brew?
New Zealand-style pilsner. It’s similar to a German pilsner, but instead of German hops its 100% New Zealand hops.
Hardest style to get right?
A pilsner or a Helles; definitely lighter lagers, where any mistakes are brought to the forefront. If you are making a hoppy or malty beer, those hide the rough edges, but with lagers, there’s not a lot of room to hide any mistakes.
If you could collaborate with any brewery in the world, who would it be?
A brewery in New Zealand named Behemoth, they do a lot of experimental, cool beers. They push the envelope, like the hoppy pilsner that’s called Hopped up on Pils. They do great IPAs, too, with different New Zealand hops.
Favorite three beers outside of your own?
Firestone Pivo Pilsner, Epic Brewing (in New Zealand) Hop Zombie, and Cantillon Lou Pepe.
Favorite dish and beer pairing on the menu?
Green lip mussels made with pilsner broth and pork belly, paired with the Back Paddock Pilsner.
Kairoa Brewing, 4601 Park Blvd., University Heights, 619.295.1355, kairoa.com