Beer writer Neil Miller borrows a headline to pump a local favourite.
Wikipedia, the much maligned website so beloved of students writing last-minute essays and bar staff trying to settle pointless arguments between their customers, has this to say about the humble Tuatara:
“The tuatara is a reptile endemic to New Zealand which, though it resembles most lizards, is actually part of a distinct lineage, order Sphenodontia. The two species of tuatara are the only surviving members of its order which flourished around 200 million years ago… Tuatara have been referred to as living fossils. This means that they have remained mostly unchanged throughout their entire history, which is approximately 220 million years.”
This means that, theoretically speaking, a mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex (if they still existed, which they don’t) could today go to a Police line-up and easily recognise a humble Tuatara (if the Tuatara had done something illegal, which seems unlikely). The Tuatara is, in many ways, an eloquent rebuttal to the old adage “evolve or die” having seen many of its proudly evolutionary colleagues completely disappear (The Moa, The Dodo, Georgie Pie and Jim Anderton’s Progressive Coalition to name but four).
Fortunately, the Tuatara brewery is both evolutionary and very much still here. It is indeed exciting times for the Tuatara team with a new beer (Helles), an expanded brewery (four times more power), the prospect of exporting (to Auckland and Melbourne), a website (finally) and a funky new outlet (the Wellington City Market).
Helles, by the way, was brilliantly covered in an earlier blog post. Head Brewer Carl Vasta has also indicated that he is looking at doing some “big, special beers” in the coming months including possibly a stout, a nice American Pale Ale and even a bottle-conditioned Belgian triple.
He can afford to contemplate these new brews because recent extensions and upgrades have seen Tuatara Brewery’s capacity increase four fold. Carl said that made them the same size as Mac’s Wellington. With their new toys, Carl and Dion can produce 4,000 litre batches using multi-step infusion mashes. Carl explains to me (in very small words) that the multi-step rests help the protein profile, get the best out of the malt and make the beers consistent.
Availability around town is improving also though the best place to enjoy a Tuatara around Wellington is still Malthouse, the Official and Spiritual Home of Tuatara, and around Auckland it’s either Galbraith’s or Hallertau (the unofficial while still quite spiritual pied-à-terres). New Tuatara Global Distribution Manager Louise Matheson (Global including Levin, but not Auckland or Christchurch!), reports that stores and restaurants are really keen to give Tuatara a try. She says that people love the fact that Tuatara is a local beer and Champion Brewery 2008 which means the beer really sells itself. For the first time Tuatara is going national and, in a couple of months, should even be in select Melbourne bars.
Someone needs to ring Al Gore. The internet is now complete - Tuatara has a website. It’s not easy for a writer who has had broadband for exactly three weeks to get on his technological high-horse though. The official site is a bit of a holding page but readers of this blog can get exclusive behind-the-scenes access and can have a sneak peak at the real deal.
Finally, Tuatara has a regular stall at the new Wellington City Market which has been set up by Chef Martin Bosley. Every Sunday, some of the region’s best food and beverages are on sale at the market. I went there on the first day and had Tuatara Helles and Duck Rillettes. Sunday mornings will never be the same.
Now, before alert readers flood Neil or myself with angry letters, emails and tweets, I am fully aware that later in the Wikipedia article on Tuatara it clearly states:
“However, taxonomic work on Sphenodontia [Tuatara] has shown that this group has undergone a variety of changes throughout the Mesozoic [period] and a recent molecular study showed that their rate of molecular evolution is faster than of any other animal so far examined.”
It just didn’t fit in with my introduction.
This post is cross-posted from The Malthouse Blog
NB: Special prize to the first one to note from where and from whom Neil borrowed the heading.