Three Fat Pigs, "something we had always talked about, joked about, then got serious".
A winding path lined with huge trees and overhung with branches flaunting their spring finery, leads past wooden and steel kegs and a pile of empty grain bags to a large shed, its door wide open. Inside, set high on a metal scaffold, are two wooden barrels belching steam.
Three Fat Pigs is brewing. The Waikato craft beer company produces a range of pale ales and innovative stouts, including the famous Roasted & Toasted enriched with toasted coconut, coffee and chocolate.
Its four main beers are now supplemented with one-off seasonal varieties, says Damian Houghton who owns the business in partnership with Morgan Coster. "They're what people want to drink at a particular time of year, and because we are small we can do a variety of beers," he says.
Houghton and Coster are long-time friends who met while OE-ing in London, over a few ales and barbecues. They're good mates, they say, hamming it up for the camera.
Back home after their visas ran out and the London idyll was over, they kept in touch, then found themselves neighbours in the Hamilton suburb of Frankton and, over more beers and barbecues, decided to test drive a standard brewing kit.
The results impressed them, and their friends lapped it up. "Then things went from 'that's what a kit can do, let's do better'," says Coster.
"Research involved a lot of lifting the arm. Next we were into all the grain brewing and that changed the experiment – we needed specific equipment."
Using organic grain as the basis for brewing goes back millennia, says Damian. "There are so many different ones we can use, and all the different yeasts to change the flavours, and character of what we are brewing.
"So, a hobby turned into a business, something we had always talked about, joked about, then got serious."
A new home for the brewing and bottling processes was found at Peter McKenzie's Shutters Yard brewery in Matangi.
Their first beer, Roasted & Toasted, was released in October 2015, and the 20 litres they produced in their own backyards grew into 450 litres.
Houghton and Coster have fulltime day jobs with complementary skill sets. Houghton has his own plumbing business and Coster is a mechanical engineer working as a stainless-steel machinist.
"And now we have a part-time business with the brewing, which just keeps growing a bit more with every brew".
Support for Three Fat Pigs beers and stouts throughout Waikato is "good". Restaurants, bars and many liquor outlets are stocking them.
"Craft beers are popular and people love the variety available. Waikato people like supporting local businesses, they like to consume local wherever they go, and that's growing more and more," says Coster. And Three Fat Pigs shares the love, using local ingredients wherever possible in its beers.
Coster is Hamilton born and raised, St John's College educated and took a trade apprenticeship when he left school.
His affinity with beer was developed at his father's knee – "being Dad's beer taster, making sure it wasn't poisonous".
He commutes to work in Hamilton from Raglan where life is bliss. "It's beautiful. Everything I want is in the one space. I do a lot of kitesurfing – I spend a lot of time in the water – also paragliding and paddling wakeboards."
The lifestyle in Raglan and Three Fat Pigs keep Coster happily ensconced in Waikato. "Brewing started as a hobby for social reasons, now it's gone a bit further than most [hobbies] do. And as long as I can kiteboard at the end of the day, the wind is good and the beer is cold, I'm happy. I like to keep things simple."
Houghton hails from Auckland, but shifted home base to Hamilton when he returned from the United Kingdom. His family had moved to the South Island in the meantime, and the friends he made overseas lived in Hamilton.
"Everyone used to give Hamilton so much grief, but it's fine, just another city. I've made good friends here and I'm not driving all over town to see them."
Itchy-feet syndrome out of the system, he's settled in Frankton with wife Nicola, whom he married in February.
"It's a good place to bring up kids and close to rivers and beaches. I've lived in Hamilton for seven years now. I just set up my plumbing business a couple of months ago, and it's grounded me for the next 10 years, getting established and growing a family."
BEST OF THE WAIKATO
Favourite coffee shop? How do you take your coffee?
I get my coffee from Manuka Brothers in Frankton. I do like the one-off, single-origin beans they do. I would normally have a short black.
Favourite brunch spot? What would you order?
Sitting the garden at Cafe Fresca with mushrooms on toast.
Minogue Park is the one. I love taking my dog there, where there are nice big open spaces to throw a ball around and big muddy puddles. My dog loves it.
Best watering hole? What's your poison?
This would have to be Wonder Horse. They have a really good beer selection and with cocktails and whisky, it's a great place for an after-dinner drink.
Best date spot?
You can't beat Gothenburg. This is where I took my wife on our first date.
Watching the kites on the water in Raglan harbour.
Where would you take tourists?
I'd probably head down to Rotorua to the mud pools. Today, there's also lots of good stuff around here as well.
A fond food memory from the region?
All the food at Hamilton Night Market. The dumplings and meat sticks are so good but the barbecued ribs from Texas Pete's hits the spot. They got me into cooking more low and slow barbecues myself.
Favourite weekend/holiday getaway in the Waikato?
Heading up to Cook's Beach to relax with family and friends, a few beers and a barbecue.
What are you drinking?
I'm really liking my sour and farmhouse beer right now, and I'm really into saisons.
What Waikato product/produce can you not do without this season?
All the cheese I can get my hands on from Over the Moon Dairy. Cheese and beer are the perfect mix for a Sunday afternoon.
Favourite day trip with the family?
We head out to Raglan for a swim, walk the dog on the beach and finish at Raglan wharf for fish and chips.
Article sourced by Stuff/Waikato Times