IT WAS ALWAYS GOING TO HAPPEN
We’re not sure what the optimum number of breweries in a country of four million should be, but we’re pretty sure that the correct answer is not “two”. Yet for more years than our uncles can count that’s exactly how many there were in New Zealand. It took ‘til the late 1990s for the beer revolution memo to get circulated, but soon enough new breweries were popping up like mushrooms. Not the kind of outfits that make green bottle happy juice for the 19th hole, but a community of real brewers recognised for bringing flavour and individuality to the world’s pre-eminent refreshment.
KNOCK US UP A BEER WOULD YOU CARL?
One of those breweries began as a backyard operation in the hills above Waikanae. It was founded by Carl Vasta, an engineer with the tastebuds of a wine critic. There’s a degree of loose talk in New Zealand about “kiwi ingenuity”, most of it from people who’d struggle to change a tyre, but Carl is the living, breathing epitome of that noble philosophy. If he needed a shed or a bottler or a tank, he’d just go ahead and build one. Before too long, he’d managed to brew a superb range of ales, porters and pilsners for his friends under the name Tuatara.
IT’S PRONOUNCED TOO-AH-TAR-RAH
The tuatara is unique to New Zealand. Aotearoa is still a bit wet behind the ears nation-state wise, but not the tuatara. It’s a bona fide living fossil, a creature that changes its underpants once every 200 years and only ever watches TV One. Known formally as Sphenodon punctatus, this reptile is so old it’s officially not even a lizard. It’s the last of its order, with ancestors that used to smoke behind the bike sheds with stegosaurus 200 million years ago. In gratitude for the loan of the little guy’s name, we sponsor him at Wellington’s Zealandia conservation centre.
LEVERAGING DELIVERABLES AND SO FORTH
To say that Tuatara Brewery has taken off in the last few years is an understatement. Heck, we’ve been propelled into orbit. The local demand for good beer is insatiable, and with volumes running at about a million litres a year we’ve become one of the leading lights in the craft industry. It probably helps that we’re based in Wellington where beer appreciation is not so much a cult as a full-blown religion. (The legendary Malthouse in Courtenay Place functions as the high altar.) Today you’ll find Tuatara all over the country, even in the local supermarket, as well as at selected spots around the world.
A BREWING PHILOSOPHY SIMPLE ENOUGH TO WORK.
The Tuatara brewing scheme is not difficult for the uninitiated to grasp. We brew true to style, so wherever possible we go direct to the source and use the ingredients that have made that style famous. It says Bohemian Pilsner on the bottle not because it reads poetry and plays the bongos but because that’s where the yeast is from. Likewise our 6.5% Ardennes Belgian ale. And of course everything is created using nothing but yeast, malt, hops and water, the regime the Bavarians call Rheinheisgebot and have been enforcing since 1516 in the way Bavarian regimes tend to be enforced.