Sunday, 12 July 2020


Mercury Bay Home Brew Club - 40 years old and in good health

The Mercury Bay Home Brew Cub is this year celebrating their 40th anniversary. Among the club’s get-togethers are two annual competitions (one in autumn and one in spring).

The first of the club’s two 40th anniversary competitions took place on Saturday last week at the Mercury Bay Bowling Club in Whitianga. “Despite some of our members being away or in bed with the flu, we’ve still had a total of 40 beer entries in the light and dark beer categories, and eight entries in the spirits and wine and liqueur categories,” says club president, Neil Reynolds. “It was once again a fantastic competition. We have members from 18 to more than 80 years old, but age isn’t an issue. Home brewing is a common interest that allows everyone enjoy and appreciate each other’s company.”

With more than 60 members, the club is in good health. “Neil Reynolds should take the credit for the way the club is tracking at the moment,” says former club president, John McQuillan. “I was getting older and our club members were getting older. I was clueless when it came to what to do to grow the club. Then I bumped into Neil in The Warehouse in Whitianga a few years ago. That was only three years or so after he has joined the club and I asked him to take over. He was happy to put his hand up and since then the club hasn’t looked back.”

Neil joined the club after he saw an advertisement for one of the club’s annual competitions in The Informer. “I’ve been home brewing for some time and thought why not give the competition a go,” says Neil. “I remember one of the beers I entered was in an old Pepsi bottle and was over-carbonated. So, when the bottle was opened, there was beer spraying everywhere. Everyone had a good laugh. Fortunately, all competition entries were, and still are, judged blind, so no one knew it was me.

“Home brewing is a fascinating hobby. It’s all about science and can easily be described as an artform. I set out to show the younger adults in our community how pleasant the hobby can be and, as result, the Mercury Bay Home Brew Club now has a large contingent of younger members.”

Neil is what can be described as a “sophisticated” home brewer. Not only is his beer both kegged and bottled, he also grows his own hops in his backyard. “People think that the Nelson area is the only part of New Zealand where hops can be grown,” says Neil. “That’s not true. Someone gave me a few priceless tips some time ago and I have no problem growing good quality hops right here in Whitianga.”

Neil is happy to pass his hops growing tips on to anyone who’s interested. He’s proud that there are other people in Whitianga who are growing hops now as well.

Neil’s wife, Judith, says he becomes sometimes too excited about his home brewing. “Neil would come home on a Friday after a week of hard work and immediately pour himself a glass of one of his newer brews,” she says. “He would often exclaim, ‘This one is good, this one is going to be a great beer!’ and then just have to try the brew again the following week. The only problem is he pretty much ends up finishing the brew off before it has fully matured.”

Despite stepping down as president, John McQuillan is still a judge at the Mercury Bay Home Brew Club’s annual competitions, a position he has held for many years. “Home brewing has come a long way,” says John. “Home brewing kits didn’t exist when I started brewing my own beer as a young man in my 20s. At that time, we all brew our beer in our washing machine tubs and sometimes the results were awful, pretty much undrinkable. These days some genuinely brilliant beers are being brewed. I’m totally honest in saying that some of the beers that are entered in the club’s competitions are better than some of the commercial and craft beer brands on the market.”

In addition to the two annual competitions, the club has a yearly barbecue at Wharekaho/Simpsons Beach farmer, John Simpson’s farm next to the Ake Ake River and club members also enjoy each other’s company during gatherings at several of the the club’s sponsors, including Hot Water Brewing Company in Whenuakite and Frankies Sport Bar & Grill in Whitianga “We enjoy great community support and it’s important for us to support those who support us,” says Neil.

As well as a raft of spot prizes having been handed out on Saturday - many of which were donated by Neil’s mother-in-law, Joan Moulton, all the way from Wales - the club’s longest-serving members were presented with boxes of chocolates and polo shirts proudly sporting the club’s logo. Among those who were recognised for their decades of dedication to the club were John McQuillan (who has joined the club more than 35 years ago) and Boyd and Claudia Rogers, and Bernie and Monica Spangenberg (who have all joined the club more than 30 years ago).

“It’s such a joy to belong to the Mercury Bay Home Brewing Club,” says John. “It’s wonderful to see young and old getting along so well and having so much fun. I have no doubt that the club will still be going strong in another 40 years. And I can only imagine how good the beer will taste by then…”

The following home brewers won prizes at the Mercury Bay Home Brew Club’s competition on Saturday last week - Brian Sexton (winner light beer category), Kent McIntyre (runner-up light beer category), Jacob Campbell (winner dark beer category), Carl Gubb (runner-up dark beer category), Tom Adamson (winner spirits category) and Judith Reynolds (winner wine and liqueur category).

The competition was sponsored by Countdown Whitianga, Hot Water Brewing Co, PlaceMakers Whitianga, HAMR Homes, Mainly Casual, Frankies Sports Bar & Grill, Mercury Bay Butchery, Mercury Bay Pharmacy, The Glass House Emporium, PC Electrical, Bay Carving, Santos de Santos Satellite TV Systems, Mercury Bay Bowling Club, Neil Rose Painters, Mowers Plus, Drainage Systems Whitianga and Whiti City Cabs.

Pictured: Some of the Mercury Bay Home Brew Club’s stalwarts who attended the first of the club’s two 40th anniversary competitions on Saturday last week. Back, from the left - Bruce White (club member for more than 20 years), John Simpson (Wharekaho/Simpsons Beach farmer), Judith Reynolds (competition organiser), Monica Spangenberg (club member for more than 30 years), John McQuillan (former president and club member for more than 35 years), Claudia and Boyd Rogers (club members for more than 30 years), and Bernie Spangenberg (club member for more than 30 years), Front, from the left - Andy Santos (competition administrator), Neil Reynolds (club president) and Charlotte Rose Davies (Facebook page administrator).


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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.