Stu from SOBA offers another beer for your drinking pleasure ...
In my final piece on stealth beers - that is, those beers flying under the mainstream
radar - I quench my insatiable thirst with Tuatara Porter, an old favourite and undeniably one of New Zealand's finest porters (probably the trendiest of dark beer styles, at the moment).
To the average beer geek, Wellington's Tuatara breweries is one of New Zealand's iconic microbreweries. To the unitiated, however, it's just another unknown brewery, one that flies well underneath the popular radar. Like Wellington's new football team, Carl Vasta's
brewery rose from from the ashes - or at least, ex-equipment - of other New Zealand microbreweries. Having plied his trade as a homebrewer, and then commercially at Polar and the more well-known Parrot and Jigger, he hand-built and opened the Tuatara brewery on his Reikiorangi farm - about an hour north of Wellington.
Unlike many of his better known contemporaries, Vasta shuns a "house yeast" in favour of a wide range of characterful, true-to-origin yeasts to produce his range of beers. While adding to the complexities of the brewing process and brewhouse management, it certainly adds an extra
dimension and depth of subtlety to his beers that other breweries don't manage to achieve.
Tuatara Porter - the darkest beer in Vasta's range - has been one of my
long-standing "go to" drinks. If I'm not sure what I want, I'll go to it. If I really do know what I want I might walk across town to go to it (hell, sometimes I feel like I'd walk barefoot over broken glass, hot coals or even both to go to it). It's changed subtley over the years, while
remaining consistently top-class and very much true to its 'Brown Porter' style.
The Porter pours an inky garnet-hued dark brown, with a light tan head (if you're lucky enough to get it from a traditional handpump, it'll be thick and creamy). The nose is a sublime combination of delicate fruit esters, dark chocolate, ashy roasted malt notes and earthy hops. In the mouth it surprisingly light, quenching and moreish - totally in keeping with it's working-class origins - and it delivers all the flavours you're expecting from the nose, with a gentle balancing malt sweetness.
If you like a strong coffee to lift you into the morning, you'll love a pint of Tuatara Porter to ease you into the evening.
At the recent BrewNZ beer awards, Vasta's hard work was rewarded with a silver medal for the Porter, as well as for each of the following beers: Pilsner, IPA, Hefe (a cloudy South German-style wheat beer) and Ardennes (a strong, spicy Belgian-style pale ale). To top it off his IPA was awarded best in class for UK and European-style ales, making Tuatara Porter just one of a number of excellent, under-rated beers from the Tuatara Brewery - possibly the most under-rated brewery in New Zealand. If there were an award for Champion New Zealand Brewery, based on all results, Tuatara may well have scooped this too!
Rumour has it that the Tuatara range is on the move to Auckland. Wherever you are, look out for them.