Urbanaut Launch Party – Failure is not an option
Thursday, 25 May 2017 11:00

The New Zealand brewing scene is moving at light speed, if not warp speed.

Seemingly every day there are new beers and new breweries that flash up on my scanners. Even then, some get through. For example, I was unaware that Speight’s had made a Gold Rush Honey Lager until a dozen turned up on my doorstep. More worryingly, I only found out yesterday that Urbanaut had opened their brand-new brewery in Auckland. They have been open for five whole days people! [1]

Like virtually everyone, I turned to Michael Donaldson, the only two-time New Zealand Beer Writer of the Year, to fill in the vast gaps in my knowledge. Fortunately, he had written an article about the Urbanaut launch and, unsurprisingly, it was awesome. Here are the paraphrased and often adulterated highlights:

The Urbanaut brewery was founded by brewer Bruce Turner, and his high school friends and former high profile property developers Simon Watson and Thomas Rowe.

Their beer theme is inspired by the great international suburbs of the world. They "wanted the vibe of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, New York, Brixton in London or Vancouver's Gastown." I am sad to see Thorndon, Wellington has been scandalously excluded to date.

In one of the best beer quotes I have read in years, Donaldson writes "Turner, the red-bearded 40-something describes himself as a walking cliché of urban hipster brewer." [2]

That said, he (the brewer – not Donaldson) is about to be married in the brewery. Yes, it is available for event hire and is even on the way to Eden Park. [3]

Donaldson predicts that "a brewery in the heart of hipster-hood is a marriage made in heaven." There is no indication yet if Garage Project is going to sue for gimmick infringement on that particular call. However, there is always the chance that someone else might take extreme offense on behalf of hipsters, urbanites, beards, people over 40, and/or red heads.

I personally welcome the new Urbanaut Overlords because their beers look most interesting. The Wellington launch will be on 2 June 2017 from 4pm at Malthouse. Here is the list of the first five beers, what I have managed to find out, [4] and then my comments on both the beers and (mainly) the international suburbs they were named after:

Urbanaut Kingsland Pilsner (4.4%) – I was initially sceptical that Kingsland counted as an “international suburb” but then I found out it had both Mount Albert Grammar School and its own Wikipedia page. Pretty sure that meets the threshold. Also, when your brewery model places an emphasis on selling beer directly to locals then it is probably wise to name at least one brew after the suburb. The beer has tropical fruit followed by a refreshing bitterness.

Urbanaut Brixton Pale Ale (4.5%) – For me, Brixton is most famous for their riots (1981, 1985, 1995 and 2011 at the time of writing) then providing much comedic material for (Sir) Lenny Henry in the 1980s. [5] I was unaware that Brixton had raised also David Bowie, Adele, Sharon Osbourne, John Major, Red Ken Livingstone and several members of the So Solid Crew.  That is a decidedly mixed record of alumni.

However, Brixton has over the years developed a reputation as one of the hottest London suburbs for food and drink. It is highly multi-cultural and way safer than portrayed in the media. In unrelated news, I am putting “rapping with John Major and the So Solid Crew in Brixton” on my bucket list.

This beer features Taiheke and Amarillo hops – neither of which is from Brixton – but they produce gentle citrus, fruit salad fun, a light spice and long subtle bitterness. I’m looking forward to this one.

Urbanaut Gastown Red IPA (5.8%) – I was initially surprised that Rotorua made the international suburbs of note of list, until I found out Gastown is actually a funky, historic and now hip suburb in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. It helps that was named after the first person to open a saloon in the area – “Gassy” Jack Deighton. The suburb has flourished even though he was originally from Yorkshire.

The brewing result is a deep red IPA with four New Zealand and German malts (producing caramel, toffee and malt biscuit characters) with plenty of American and Kiwi hops (orange, grapefruit and lychee). It is followed by a moderate but noticeable bitterness.

Urbanaut Shimokita Lager (5.5%) – I had previously joked about not knowing where Kingsland was (it was at the end of an eminently predictable traffic jam obviously) but Shimokita was legitimately and completely off my radar. Shimokita (officially Shimokitazawa) is a small and fashionable suburb of Tokyo – which means it is probably far larger than Hamilton. It may be more fashionable and alternative than Hamilton, but it does not have a Rugby Sevens tournament. Wait, neither does my beloved Wellington now. That line of abuse went poorly quickly.

Anyhow, this beer is a mix of our iconic Nelson Sauvin hops with a full malt body and a rounded, almost sweet finish. It is definitely a little bit different to most New Zealand lagers.

Urbanaut Williamsburg IPA (7.2%) – Finally, an international suburb I did not have to look up because I have seen movies about it and – hold the phones – even read books about Williamsburg. It was briefly the capital of Virginia, the scene of several American Civil War battles, and the birthplace of gridiron player Laurence “LT” Taylor who is most famous for beating “The Beast from the East” Bam Bam Bigelow at Wrestlemania XI. [6]

Because this is a strong hoppy IPA, I suspect this will be my favourite of the initial Urbanaut range. It ticks the boxes – Canterbury malt, lots of Kiwi hops and a fair kick of alcohol. [7] It is unashamedly proud with notes of citrus, pine and grass clippings. This is top of my list – but that should surprise absolutely no one.

Next time, we drink to Manchester – On a solemn note, I salute the fallen and wounded, condemn the killer (loser) and salute the amazing response of the local community in the face of a cowardly and vile terrorist attack. [8]

[1] I am not paying my Bothan spies. Their information on the Auckland brewery situation is patchy at best.

[2] That should totally be on his business card.

[3] I am confused by the assumption that people actually go to Eden Park. Apparently there are normally far too many other things on in Auckland at any given time which explains why the stands generally look like the dark side of the moon or, even worse, the Wellington Sevens.

[4] Spoiler Alert – not much yet.

[5] Wait, those (Sir) brackets are redundant for once in this column. Sir Lenworth George Henry is a real thing. Rightly so, if only for the Theophilus P. Wildebeeste sketches alone.

[6] Others may know him as one of the greatest defensive players in the National Football League (NFL) and a member of their Hall of Fame. I remember him as the big football guy who levelled a 350 pound wrestler with a shoulder tackle off the top rope. Not many people saw that coming – including said wrestler who had flames tattooed onto his head.

[7] This is a scientific observation and not an endorsement. I am pointing that out the benefit of our taxpayer funded public health readers at Otago University.

[8] Except Morrissey who was a dick.


Neil Miller

Beer Writer

Beer and Brewer Magazine

Cuisine Magazine

TheShout Magazine


Urbanaut Wellington Launch Facebook Event - https://www.facebook.com/urbanautbrewingco/

Urbanaut Webpage - https://urbanautbrewing.co.nz/

Michael Donaldson on Urbanaut (Herald) - http://www.nzherald.co.nz/lifestyle/news/article.cfm?c_id=6&objectid=11859380

Malthouse Facebook - www.facebook.com/pages/Malthouse/7084276173

Malthouse Twitter – www.twitter.com/#!/malthouse

Malthouse Taps on Twitter – www.twitter.com/#!/MalthouseTaps

Neil Miller on Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/#!/beerlytweeting