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Monday, May 13, 2019

Brewing Craft Beer in a Lucky Camper Van While on the Road with our Partners Black Rock Brewing and iKegger, New Zealand

It Should be Simple

We've set ourselves a challenge. Can the Two Cowboys brew craft quality beer while on the road in a campervan? We tried it out this summer in New Zealand with mixed results. We've learned a lot and saved ourselves quite a bit of money not having to buy beer in New Zealand.

We enlisted a group of beer friends to take the beer-show on the road. Brewers Coop provided us with our favourite Black Rock Concentrated Wort, Hops and the right Yeast for a juicy Riwaka IPA. iKegger New Zealand provided the gear to show how simple it is to pressure ferment and serve beer in simple kegs and we travelled with Lucky Camper Vans

We have three installments documenting our journey below.






Some Background

Riwaka Hops (Riwaka™) is a real standout. It has powerful grapefruit “citrussy” characters that are literally breathtaking. If you want to say “New Zealand Hops” in your beer, then this variety says it all. The pure weight of the oil character experienced during selection carries right through to the glass. It is a punchy addition to the new world styles of Pales Ale and  New Zealand Pilseners.

We combined additional Riwaka Hops with Black Rock's specialty crafted Riwaka Pale Ale kit as if it didn't have enough of a hop kick already. Black Rock Crafted Riwaka Pale Ale is already dry-hopped with Riwaka hops. This kit is quite scarce to get because the hop is so in demand all over the world and it means if Black Rock can get their hands on it, then they brew a batch. Usually, all the kits are sold long before it comes out of the brewhouse.

We brewed the recipe with a specialty US ale yeast, Safale US-05. To get closer to the hazy ale style and a creamy finish with more volts, we also added a kit of unhopped concentrated Wheat Wort.

Our strategy was to use two Cornelius kegs with a spundling valve similar to our Beer Cowboys Brewing Kit bundle. Obviously, these are in Canada, so Andrew from iKegger stepped up with the gear, taps, connectors and whatever we needed to get on with the job. He runs a neat business that brings people closer to kegging and transporting their beer, which is in our opinion a much better strategy than bottle maturation. It also means you can drink your beer as soon as it is done fermenting. It stays carbonated.

We knew at the outset that temperature control was going to be a challenge. Lucky for us, it is summer in New Zealand with mild sunny days, and it turned out not to be too hard to get the beer fermented and carbonated under pressure. The fact that it was an Ale that wasn't too sensitive to hotter temperatures also helped to speed up the process. To do the cold-crash we had to borrow a fridge for a few days, which meant we could pay a visit to some good friends in Onemana with a promise of fresh cold beer at the end.


New Zealand is not just the land of milk, honey and sheep. It is also a hotbed for craft beer. We are amazed every time we visit just how passionate kiwis are about their beer and about making their own beer. We would be too if we were charged up to $25/litre for beer. Thanks to astronomical excise and overbearing duties Kiwis stepped up to liberate their beer by finding all kinds of ways of making it themselves.

We see the taxation burden grow in our country (Canada) too and we cannot be happier than to introduce our friends all over the world to making one's own beer. As we've discovered, making your own beer actually also means creating a better beer. We've had misfires. It doesn't always go to plan. Most of the time though it is pure deliciousness.

Thanks to our partners we can continue to push the boundaries of excellent beer brewing and our travel experiences along with it. We thank them for it.

Beer Cowboy

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Hop Shopping

Beer Machines 
Cowboy Growlers


Best Place to Bew!

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Hacking All Grain Brewing with Kiwi Ingenuity and Simple Affordable Tools at Bevie in Auckland, New Zealand

Hacking Our Beer

How do you take the beer brewing process, and make it accessible to the average Joe? Simple, you hack it!

The processes for brewing quality beer have been refined over centuries and continues to evolve even today. From an outsider's perspective, it appears to be safeguarded by an eclectic club of weird scientists set on excluding ordinary folk from the inner circle. They mumble of gravity, sparging, yield, steeping and other incomprehensible nomenclature. They keep their brewing secrets close, their recipes even closer, and their influence as wide as it can go within their brewing circle of friends. 

While brewing good quality beer used to be a regular kitchen affair, a couple of hundred years ago, it slowly evolved into dark science, out of reach for ordinary people, like the Two Cowboys. Now, with the help of some simple equipment like a kettle, a pump, some tubes, and good ingredients like grains, yeast, hops and water, a company called Bevie, in New Zealand, managed to apply modern-day control-flow systems, and a mobile app, to unlock the highly complex all-grain brewing processes for ordinary people.



They call it the Grainfather. It takes the best brewing practices from craft breweries and puts them into a simple to use, all in one system, to ensure anyone can brew a professionally produced craft beer, no matter their brewing experience.

You can also turn the Grainfather into a microdistillery by changing the top parts and adding the Still Spirits Alembic Pot Still Attachments. It is highly illegal to distill liqueur without a license in Canada, while pot smoking is now allowed (...go figure!). We are just saying that you can make fuel for your car or truck from your Grainfather brewing activities if you should ever need it. If you store the fuel in an oak barrel lying around, to keep it safe, it is between you and the RCMP to work out who gets what share when they come knocking.

There are many all-grain brewing equipment manufacturers and lots of equipment for brewing beer on the market. If you buy quality, it is expensive. People are spoiled for choice if they know what they are doing. Herein lies the problem - you need to know what you are doing! Short of learning from an expert or enrolling in beer school, it takes time, trial and error, and lots of learning to work out the best way for brewing beer from grains.

The innovation of the Grainfather is that it is a highly affordable, all-in-one system, for producing an excellent quality wort that you can ferment in the ways you prefer. It also drastically reduces your learning time and eliminates many costly brewing mistakes.

The one-pot brew system may not even be the most innovative around because there's been many that copied the approach and tried to improve on it. Some may also claim that not even Grainfather can be credited for coming up with the approach, although Kiwi's have been known for their innovation in all kinds of industries.

What struck us about the Grainfather is the innovation that Bevie put into the control of the brewing process. The smarts are in the software, not the pot! It offers the ability to a brewer to dial in an exact recipe and then execute it flawlessly, with a built-in controller, and the help of a mobile app on their phone or iPad.

Good brewing's foundation is precision and repeatability. Couple this with good ingredients, great water, and perfect fermentation, and you are on your way to consistently delicious craft-style beer and the envy of the neighbourhood. Not only do you get to execute the brewing tasks flawlessly, but you can also collaborate with other users, all over the world, on recipes and outcomes so that you have a massive database of brewing information on hand for your perfect beer. It gives new meaning to brewing with your mates!

Apparently, Bevie also has an answer for fermenting and serving your beer and provides you with another shortcut by having portion perfect fresh ingredient packs ready for a variety of standard brews. That is a story for another time.  


The brewing process is getting hacked. People are now liberated to brew their own craft quality beer consistently from grains with simple equipment and software that not only dramatically reduces the learning curve but assist in controlling the quality of the execution.

I don't want my beer to be made for me. If I did, I will just go and buy it from the next brewery or liquor store. I want to make my own beer, simply, affordably, consistently, and deliciously from available ingredients. That is what true beer liberation is about.

There are no gimmicks with the Grainfather offering a "one-push button dark magic beer brewing box". It is old-fashion grain brewing done right. They should have called it the "BigBrother" of beer. The whole solution comes in under $1,000 with free support and an ever growing database of brewing/distilling knowledge and beer recipes. It allows you to make a batch of 23 litres of beer with the ingredients of your choice.

Herein lies the problem. We want to brew more during the few weekly hours we can dedicate to this delicious hobby. Apparently, Bevie is working on a system that can do three times the volume of the existing Grainfather, and it will likely still be an electric system you can use in your shed. Yeehaaa!

The Two Cowboys has been on a journey for the last three years to liberate our beer. Bevie is giving us another option with the Grainfather to get closer to drinking what we make ourselves. We cannot wait to tell you what more they have installed for average people like us, on our beer and do-it-yourself journey.

Brewing Cowboy

We earn our livelihood by producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities. Please book us here so we can tell your story too.


Smart Pot! 

One Pot

Learning Fast!

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Hot Chefs, Cool Beats, and a Good Cause with Alberta Pork in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Ode to The Chef

"My happiest place is when I am "in-the-moment". The world can go by when I am in the kitchen. Cooking makes me whole. It is my passion and purpose. It is what I am and what I do.

I am amazed by the chemistry and the intricate processes that take place when food ingredients are combined with energy. My knowledge and skill transform it into culinary perfection. I have no care in the world other than to watch steak grilling, sauce thickening, cake rising, and pork crackling transform into golden crispy bits of sunshine. 

My moments are complete when I witness precise olfactory, taste and visual symphonies of well-plated food. It becomes a magnum opus of culinary glee to see it, an experience that is only topped by the primal moans of pleasure coming from a loyal patron as they bite into a course I carefully prepared. 

This is what I am dedicating my life to. It is my vocation."



Hot Chefs Cool bEats

We recently attended the "Hot Chefs Cool bEats" event in Edmonton, courtesy of our partner Alberta Pork. It featured interactive food stations from Edmonton's top culinary talent. Attendees could also sample wine, beer, & spirits from Canadian wineries, local craft breweries and distilleries. If that wasn't enough, it included performances from DJs, dancers, street performers, and live musicians.

The initiative began in 2011 as a fundraiser for The High School Culinary Challenge's Canadian Culinary Fund, and after a short break, it was back with a new home at Edmonton's Mosaic Centre and a restricted guest list of 200 privileged patrons. It meant that not only was the food top-class, there was also enough so that you didn't go home hungry or thirsty. Most importantly, it introduced you to some of Edmonton's more innovative chefs and their talents. You could sample a variety of the best creations like litchi moose, mini ice cream cone tacos, pork on a bun, and more.

Some of the highlights for the Cowboys were the Pork Coppa and Prosciutto made by the young chefs Peter Keith (himself an alumni beneficiary of the scholarship) and Will Kotowicz of Meuwly's Charcuterie, Sausage and Preserves. They promised us it was only BertaPork! Then there was Scott Downey from the ButternutTree's deep-fried Canadian moss. If we knew that these vegetables were so delectable, we would forage our forests until they are empty! Apparently, the moss was from Back East.

However, the start performance of the evening was Paul Shufelt's (The Workshop Eatery, Edmonton) collaboration on a Wagyu Holstein Beefetta. It wasn't pork. However, it was BertaBeef, and so they were forgiven for rekindling our love for meat on a stick. You just needed a large stick for this one and a massive appetite! They did promise us a suckling pig for next year, to honour their loyal sponsor, Alberta Pork.

All proceeds from ticket sales and silent/live auctions benefitted the Canadian Culinary Fund and its main program, The High School Culinary Challenge, so it was all for a good cause.


Being a chef is not an easy job, and to venture into the culinary industry requires guts and you to be a little bit crazy. It is a lifestyle and a vocation that continues to draw attention for its opportunity, but also for the harshness, low wages, and extreme physical and mental demands on the individual.

Contrary to the glitz and glee of television programs like MasterChef, it is far from glamorous. Most of what chefs do is monotonously droned behind the scenes, in hot holes, spending long hours with equally weird and crazy people feeding the masses with basic fair. Only a few become "rock star chefs". Even less survive as small businesses and entrepreneurs.

However, the culinary industry provides endless opportunity for creativity, learning and mastery. These are the opportunities that the Canadian Culinary Fund attempts to unlock for young people when they introduce and lure them into the possibilities in preparing food.

We salute them for it and congratulate them on a Hot Chefs Cool bEats event that set the bar high. We look forward to the next one. We travel the world for food, and we are entitled to our opinions. Edmonton's chefs should get more attention. They surprised us. It will get more from the Two Cowboys for sure if this is the standard we can expect.

Now, if only there were more pork...

Alberta Pork's Cowboy

P.S. We thank our partner Alberta Pork for making this work possible. Now, go eat more pork!

We earn our livelihood by producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities. Please book us here so we can tell your story too.


On a Plate

Moss Discovered

Canadian Ceviche

Double Trouble