5Tapped owner Haydn Mearns is the inaugural winner of a national cider brewing competition. Photo: Matt Brown.

‘Cider the road’ takes top spot

A Marlborough publican and hobbyist cider maker has taken the top award in the inaugural NZ Cider Festival amateur competition.

Owner of 5Tapped Haydn Mearns walked away with the 2020 Amateur Cider Maker trophy – ‘Cider the Road’, beating eight other competitors from the cider capital, Nelson.

“The judges reckon the top three were close but judging by their reactions they were pretty impressed,” Haydn says.

“When you think of Nelson, and all the fruit over there, I thought there would be some tough competition.

Haydn, with his partner and brewing sidekick Nikky, made the mad dash to the Nelson cider festival earlier this month after completing a half marathon in the Marlborough Sounds.

“Nikky had run a half marathon, the Lochmara half, that morning,” he says.

“We water-taxi’d back to Picton then rushed over to Nelson.

“The festival was cool; they had a big range of cider, top notch food stalls and entertainment.”

His winning cider, which he made about 50 litres of, is made using foraged and donated fruit.

“It’s gone from surplus fruit on my property to foraging fruit from all over Marlborough.”

He says fruit is still abundant in Marlborough, and he just uses what’s available.

“There are no rules as far as I’m concerned.

“It’s a creative way of using surplus fruit.”

The wild-fermented apple-based cider took about four months of “tweaking” before Haydn was happy with the result.

“I don’t even know what type of apples I’m using,” he laughs.

“I just chuck anything in there – it is what it is.

“Often, I’m tweaking and adjusting as I go – adding sugar or back-sweetening.

“It had a few faults that I was able to fix.

“Because we’re getting good results, and now this award, I’m considering doing 100 or 200 litres a year.”

He says there are hundred of breweries making amazing beers, but New Zealand brewers aren’t putting the same effort into cider.

“If you look at cider in the supermarket, there’s only half a dozen brands and a whole aisle of beer.

Haydn says he was “quietly confident” about doing well at the festival.

“I had no idea how I would do – although I had a feeling we had a pretty good brew this year.

“I was quietly confident.

“I’m very much still learning.”

Guest judges, from left, Saulo Camillo Nunes, Jesse Mulligan, Fiona Fenwick and Summa MacDonald. Photo: Anthony Phelps.

Perfect pie pair

The pies have been tasted, the wines sipped, and a winner found.

After weeks of searching, the winner of the 2020 Ultimate Burleigh Pie Pairing has been announced.

Jamaican lamb pie and Spätlese Riesling 2017 took out the top spot, beating a record 47 entries from around the region.

Judge and challenge co-founder says the level of interest shows just how much the annual competitions means to people.

“We knew that The Burleigh is the go – to for most folks to satisfy their pie cravings, but this level of involvement has blown us away yet again.

“What started as a few friends getting together over a pie and deciding it was about time the perfect tipple was picked to pair alongside has grown to something really special.”

All $2350 raised through entry fees will be donated to the Marlborough Foodbank.

The winning entry will receive bragging rights, a boxed French brie and their name on the prestigious Burleigh Pairing Trophy.

The four judges – television personality Jesse Mulligan , Marlborough Media co-owner Summa MacDonald, along with Saulo Camillo Nunes, owner of Gramado’s Restaurant, and Fiona Fenwick, – carried out a blind taste test, with official adjudication to ensure fairness all round.

Summa, from Marlborough Media, who sponsored the event, says it was a tough job, but she was happy to help.

“So many delicious pies and wines didn’t make it easy for the judges, but we are a committed crew and somehow pushed through.

“I was genuinely very impressed with the high quality of the entries but not surprised as, living in Marlborough myself, I know that we consistently punch above our weight when it comes to food and wine.”

The winners:

Chicken, Leek & Mushroom – Misty Cove: Landmark Chardonnay 2019

Jerk Chicken – Churton: Natural State Field Blend 2020                        

Vegetarian – Brancott Estate: Fumé Blanc 2011

Mince and Cheddar – Lake Chalice: Lake Chalice Vineyard Selection Merlot 2015

Steak and Blue Cheese – Saint Clair: Saint Clair Rapaura Merlot 2019

Steak, Mushroom and Truffle – Rockferry: The Corners Nebbiolo 2016

Steak and Mushroom – Wither Hills: ‘The Honourable’ Pinot Noir 2016

Steak and Bacon – Novum: Pinot Noir 2019       

Pork Belly – Greywacke: Chardonnay 2013

Jamaican Lamb – Astrolabe: Astrolabe Spätlese Riesling 2017

Wildcard Beverage award:  Devon’s Lemon, Honey & Ginger cordial

The final category in the competition was the public entry, where a new Burleigh Pie flavour could be designed from local ingredients.

The winner was Myal King, 8, with a Tuscan Beef pie with rich parmesan pastry.

The Burleigh’s Jane Dickenson, left, and Pie Challenge organiser Fiona Fenwick closely examine a Burleigh pie in the buildup to this year’s challenge. Photo: Anthony Phelps/Phelps Photography.

Pie pairing challenge launched

The chefs behind some of Marlborough’s most famous pies are looking for a perfect partner for their crusty creations.

For the fourth year, the Great Burleigh Pie Pairing Challenge is back, and teams are set to compete the find the best wine match for their popular pies.

As well as a trophy and bragging rights, winners also get the chance take a coveted place on the judging panel.

Co-founder of the Great Burleigh Pie Pairing Challenge Fiona Fenwick says this year’s competition includes an additional challenge.

“While Marlborough is known widely for its wine, there are also people producing other beverages – alcoholic and non-alcoholic.

This year, there is a wildcard entry these Marlborough non-wine beverage producers can do – match a Burleigh pie to any non-wine beverage from Marlborough.”

But, she says, this one is for the glory and bragging rights only – entries in the “wildcard” category are not eligible for the Supreme Award.

All fees from the winery team entries go to charity, with Marlborough Food Bank set to benefit this year.

Fiona says they are also looking for entries for the most original savoury pie recipe.

The main criteria here is that three of the ingredients need to be from Marlborough – whether it’s Lake Grassmere sea salt, a lemon from the tree next door, or greenshell mussels from the Marlborough Sounds,” she says.

As the Burleigh Pie pair, Jane Dickenson and Rod Burdis, say “We love the unexpected and we love quality so we can’t wait to see what Marlborough people come up with”.

The Marlborough Weekly has teamed up with the Great Burleigh Pie Pairing Challenge this year and is a collection point for pie enthusiasts.

Entry forms are available from The Burleigh on New Renwick Road in Blenheim or at Marlborough Weekly at 52 Scott Street.

Completed forms to be returned to The Burleigh, Marlborough Weekly, or emailed to [email protected]

All entries are to be received by 5pm on 4 September 2020.