After 50 plus years of spinning spanners, owning a retail shop and brewing beer Dick Tout has decided it is time to make a last brew and retire; and that means only one thing – it is party time at Lighthouse Brewery next week.
I have known Dick since the mid 1970’s when he owned and ran the family service station and workshop on Collingwood St and he has always had a story to tell, some are a little cringe-worthy but make you smile anyway, others have a slightly off colour edge but are never vulgar, he has always been quick with a smile and I think it is fair to say he enjoys a great party.
With that in mind I thought I would catch up with him again to talk about this party he is planning.
Why is he retiring? “The body tells you eventually that you have to start listening to the creaks and groans, and I can assure you the creakiness isn’t through lack of lubrication, but when lifting a 25kg bag feels like lifting 50kgs you know it is time to wind down.”
“It isn’t like I am retiring to enjoy the good life because I have always enjoyed it, maybe it is time to relax a bit, I am starting to feel that at 3pm it is time to go home and I haven’t felt that before.”
The brewery is also a pretty cold place to work in the winter months “I had minus two in the brewery one year, it was warmer in the cool room at zero degrees and my body has had enough of that.”
Tout told me the last 21 years brewing beer have been great and he has loved making and selling a product that puts a smile on people’s faces, “when I was working in the motor industry I specialised in tuning vehicles and when I did a great job people just paid their bills most of the time and that was it but when you make a great beer and people like it they tell you and that is really rewarding.”
When he started brewing there were four breweries in the region and it was easier to make money, but with his business being a one-man band it was always hard to find time to get out and sell the product, people had to find him so the quality of the beer had to be top drawer for his reputation as a quality brewer to spread by word of mouth.
Tout says the part he has enjoyed most, besides making beer, is the tour groups that have been through the brewery, “I have met some amazing people from all around the world. I have been really surprised at the knowledge of some of these people, they weren’t just there to buy a drink but to learn about beer.”
Anyone who has met him will know he loves a laugh and he has seen many funny things in the brewery over the years, “some I can’t put into print, I don’t want to go to jail yet.”
“I always explain to groups that as we only have an off licence so I can only serve tastings, we aren’t a bar. I tell them they have to have a tour of the brewery first so I wave my arm around the brewery and say ‘there you are you have had the tour lets taste some beer and talk’. I can do that because the brewery is so small we can sit in one place and talk about the equipment around us.”
Several years ago Tout came to an arrangement with a local tour driver who works for a company in Auckland that only deals with American tour groups of about 15 people, “one day all these elderly dears with their walking sticks and a couple of blokes climbed out of the bus and I thought ‘this is going to be interesting’ but I had asked the tour driver to warn them I tell some risqué jokes,
“One of the little old ladies sidled up to me and said ‘I understand you tell dirty jokes’, I said ‘who the #%*@ said that’, everyone burst out laughing and that was it, we had a great time, it was the most fun half hour I have had, they were really knowledgeable about beer and wanted to smuggle me on to the bus and spend the rest of the day with them.”
Rose from the Gentle Cycling Company has also been wonderful, they organise cycle tours around three breweries and Lighthouse Brewery was either the first or last stop, “that was a lot of fun, I even made a label specially for those people, a lower alcohol beer called it the Cycle Trail Ale.”
When we talked about the various beers he has made over the years a couple really stand out “the most challenging beer I made was a red onion beer, Mr Google said you can’t make a beer with onions but I did it. One guy who tried it at Marchfest said I had done what I set out to achieve, a beer that tasted like onion and was drinkable.”
Tout says with all the experimental beers he made he knew if they didn’t sell he would have to drink them himself so always made flavours he liked, “hence my peach larger and a mint lager made with fresh mint out of the garden, by the time I had brewed it I wasn’t sure it was minty enough so went home, picked every leaf of mint I could find in the garden washed it, put it in a muslin bag and dropped it into the brew just like a tea bag, it was certainly minty.”
Hi proudest major achievement was winning gold for his stout at the New Zealand International Beer Awards in 2000, “I was over the moon that night, I tore up onto the stage and grabbed the trophy from them before they could change their mind.
Something else I loved was a dinner we did at Morrison Street Café where we did a beer and food matching dinner, the chef did a fantastic job of preparing food to go with my beers. Everyone is familiar with wine and food dinners but this night proved to many people beer and food is wonderful together too.”
Then there is his long-suffering, very tolerant wife Pauline, “she has been a huge support for me and supporter of what I was trying to do, she is more than happy to be honest about what she thinks of my brews, I need someone to tell me the truth occasionally.”
And those retirement plans? The brewery is for sale but “if it doesn’t sell I will probably brew one or two days a week to supply restaurants otherwise all I will be doing is pottering around home. I have put in a small 20 litre brewery at home that is just a very small version of what I am doing now so will still be able to play with beer flavours for my own enjoyment.
“I love the smell of fresh hops going into a brew, some people hate the smell, in fact when I started my small brewery in Hardy St neighbours would come in and tell me it was time to change my socks. Brewing is in my blood and I can’t imagine not making beer.”
So next week is the beginning of the final week for Lighthouse Brewery, the 23rd of July is its 21st birthday so the party starts on Monday 24th with Saturday 29th the last day Lighthouse Brewery will be open to the public.
To celebrate he has made a couple of his favourite brews and will be having a sale on riggers all week, he can’t sell you beer to drink at the brewery but that isn’t a reasonable, let alone good, excuse for you not to drop in to Lighthouse Brewery in Echodale Place and have a laugh with Dick.
So let’s raise a glass and say cheers to you Dick, you have had a huge influence on the home brewing and craft beer industries in Nelson and your smiling face will be missed at the brewery door as will your wonderful fresh, unpasteurised beers.