The Tuatara is indigenous to New Zealand. But is it an endangered species?Far from it – the Reikorangi-based brewer marches onwards in its own deliberate style!
The European-style Tuatara beers so expertly crafted by Carl Vasta since 2000 have now become a regular feature around the bars, cafes and supermarket shelves throughout the region. The success of these products has led to further expansion and production is now in full swing at the new purpose-built brewhouse, located in the picturesque Reikorangi valley below the peaks of the Tararuas.
The challenge of seamlessly transferring output, particularly the preservation of Carl’s precious yeast strains, have been successfully overcome to allow for greater flexibility in brewing plus increased capacity.
Assistant head brewer Dion Page has recently teamed up with Carl after plying his craft at the award winning Franciscan Well Microbrewery in Cork, Ireland. Dion’s perfectionist attitude, combined with Carl’s ingenuity and expertise, make for a formidable combination.
Add to the grist the backing provided by a couple of Wellington-based business partners that guarantee continuous tap beer outlets and you can begin to see why the latest expansion holds no fears for the team at Tuatara.
The impressive new array of conical fermentors – three with 30 barrel capacity and three with 60 barrel capacity – have enabled an increase in production from 1,100 litres per day to 3,500 litres per day. This will enable consistent and regular production of the six beers in the current range. Fans, such as myself, of the delicious Ardennes Strong Golden Ale, would have noticed its disappearance during the long hot summer months, as previously the brewery was forced to concentrate on satisfying the heavy demand for their refreshing Pilsner.
“We have basically tripled in size. It’s a whole new brewery, really. We only had three fermenters, initially. The beers would come through a bit slowly and the brewery was under a bit of pressure. Every now and then, we had a few beers run out at the same time”, says Carl. “Expansion brings flexibility”, he adds and hopes to try a few limited release beers in the near future alongside the regular Pilsner, Hefe, Porter, IPA and Ardennes.
All kit, save for a single fermenting vessel, has now been onsold. The old brewery previously located in the ‘Red Shed’ will now be utilised solely for the bottling and packaging part of the operation, a vital element of the business, with a high percentage of production ending up in the local cafes or boxed in the distinctive six-packs for the supermarkets and specialist bottle shops.
The dedicated New Zealand drinker is now fortunate to be able to experience the emergence of a crop of true commercial boutique brewers, such as Tuatara, that have evolved out of the hobbyist level of earlier years. The Tuatara reptile is a long-living, New Zealand icon – may the brewery prove to be truly likewise.