From the Tuatara website:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tuatara's Range of Beers:
Helles - Sometimes you just want a cold beer on a hot day. Crisp, dry, with a little citrus but not too showy, something that will slake your thirst and loosen your uptight bits. We know that too, and our classic Munich style lager will scratch your itch most successfully. Tuatara Helles has a soft and lengthy maltiness, balanced with Hallertau hops. It’s smooth and ingratiating, the perfect beer to soothe your fevered brow after a hard day’s forced march from the salt mines. Ideal.
ABV 5%. Serve at 4-6 ° C in a cool but not chilled glass
Bohemian Pilsner - Everyone loves a good Pilsner. It reminds them of all those green bottle lagers they used to drink after they graduated from law school and got a job in media. Only there’s something more. The authentic Czech yeast, selected for its ability to reduce esters by fermenting at low temperatures, has thrown the bitterness forward and enhanced the malt. And then there’s that aromatic sensation that signifies the presence of a decent Saaz hopping regime. Top work Carl.
ABV 5%. Best served at 4-6 ° C in a cool but not chilled glass.
Hefe - Wheat beers have been around for centuries, but you can still startle unsuspecting New Zealanders with a good one. Most beer malts are barley-based, but a portion of wheat in the mash results in a sweeter, cloudier base. In combination with a Weinstephan yeast, this produces distinctive flavours of ripe banana, vanilla and clove. (Don’t be alarmed, they all do that.) Hop additions are used to balance the sweetness, but things never get bitter like the Australians when they lose the cricket.
ABV 5%. Serve at about 5° C in a cool glass. To get the full Hefeweizen flavour, leave some beer in the bottle when pouring and roll it in your hands to loosen any settled yeast, top up your glass.
Indian Pale Ale - You can’t hold your head up in fine brewing circles these days without a decent India Pale Ale in your repertoire, and Tuatara makes this one true to form. Traditionally, IPAs were brewed with prodigious hopping so they’d make the trip to the Raj in one piece, but the brewing itself was actually done in the mother country. Tuatara’s is a proper English-style IPA. That means a full malt body, not too dark in colour, and hopped up for plenty of bitterness with proper corblimey-how’s-your-father English hops. There’s nothing better.
ABV 5%. To let the malt character of IPA show through it is best served warmer than most, at 8-10° C.
American Pale Ale - Spawned by freewheeling Californian hopheads, American Pale Ale is the red-headed stepchild of the classic IPA. Big and extroverted with plenty of bitterness, a great APA shows off some fruit on the nose and the kind of earthy, herbaceous complexity Pinot Noir buffs drone on about when they corner you at a fundraiser. Anyway, we had a thumb through the Tuatara atlas and discovered that kiwis are New World too. So we reckon it’s time a New Zealand APA pulled on its Dockers, flashed its Blackberry and generally talked louder than anyone else in the bar. Here it is.
ABV 5.8 %. Let the Hops shine through by serving in an Ale glass at 7-11 degrees.
Ardennes - Tuatara Ardennes is a strong, Belgian-style ale. There’s no missing the strong bit – 6.5% alc/vol should be fairly self-explanatory – but the Belgian half of the equation is the result of Carl’s obsession with the style. In creating his own version he’s named it after the Ardennes yeast that gives it all those spicy orange notes. He was also fairly obsessed with making it drinkable, so drinkable in fact that we may have to redirect your attention to the 6.5% alc/vol bit. Don’t get carried away now.
ABV 6.5%. Strong Belgian Ales should be served at around 12 - 14 ° C.
Porter - Making a good dark Porter isn’t just about malt. Sure you’ve got your crystal, chocolate and roast malts to provide lots of body and a healthy shade of who-turned-the-lights-out, but balance demands something more than that; specifically, generous additions of hops. What hops, when and how much? That’s a long conversation, but even when we manage to bail Carl up on the subject we can never pump it out of him. Best to just enjoy it and stop worrying.
ABV 5%. Best served at 10-12 ° C