[1] It might be the spring weather or yet another phone call from Colin the Handsome yet Softly Spoken Scottish Proprietor, but it seems timely (some might say overdue) to reacquaint myself with a local brewery favourite.

This brewery greatly aided my transformation into a craft beer drinker then subsequently into a craft beer writer.  I’ve enjoyed their beers tremendously over many years.  I’m speaking, of course, about the inaugural Champion Brewery of New Zealand – the Tuatara Brewing Company from Paraparaumu. [2] Malthouse is currently stocking a number of exclusive or limited release Tuatara beers.

I’m excited (and a little terrified) of the collaboration brew between Tuatara and Commons. The highly innovative Commons Brewery [3] is based in Portland and, like Tuatara, it started life as one guy brewing beer on a tiny kit in his shed.  Equally, both brewers are more at home in hoodies, gumboots and facial hair rather than polo shirts, ties and smooth chins.

Commons came over as part of the Taste of Portland exchange around Beervana. They were one of three Portland brewers to come over, along with a chef and a beer writer.  While here, the brewers worked with local breweries to produce collaboration beers. New Zealand brewers then returned the favour in Portland, which coincidentally has the nickname Beervana. [4] 

I have only tried one Commons beer – the Urban Farmhouse Saison – which was Commons’ first beer and remains their most decorated beer. It is quite a traditional Saison – pleasantly spritzy, softly spicy and quenching. The main reason I did not drink more is that less than one foot away was Gigantic IPA which is also from Portland and is seventeen shades of awesome hop on hop action.  However, that brief sample did demonstrate that Commons know how to make the potentially tricky Saison style, a style Tuatara has little experience in.

Together they produced the Tuatara Commons Collaboration Nova Pacifica. It is a light and fruity Saison making full use of Nelson Sauvin and Meridian hops.  Nova Pacifica has just gone on tap.

The next couple of beers could not really be more different from a Saison.  Forget spritzy and subtle, it is time to go big and bold.  For the first of these beers, a better description might be big, bold, black and Belgian. Tuatara Portly Abbot 9% (20 IBUs) is an Oak Aged Belgian Ale which many drinkers are already calling to become part of the regular range. 

The brewers who have carefully nurtured it for months in the barrels say “it may have looked holier than thou but this opulently rich barrel-aged Belgian beer proved a jolly fellow with its aging process giving a sharp, definitive yeast character and playful spicy apricot and toasted nut notes.”  All I can say is “be careful.”

Now pouring is Tuatara Black Stout MOJO Espresso Edition (6.5%) which is on handpull. This style of serving should really help to open up the deep chocolate, coffee and fruit notes in the beer and make it even silkier.  Tuatara says “Mojo Coffee has been keeping Wellingtonians on high alert for almost as long as Tuatara has been chilling them out, so a collaboration seemed well overdue. Tuatara’s new BLACK series provided the perfect excuse.”  However, that is the short version. 

Here is the longer (but still edited) story:
“True yarn [5] – this collaboration of Wellington brewers had its origins in a little whiskey bar in Japan.  Steve Gianoutsos, founder of Mojo Coffee was already a long-time fan of Tuatara, and been selling our brew in Mojo cafes for a number of years.  “A few months ago I was sitting in my little local whiskey bar in Tokyo, just around the corner from our first Mojo in Japan, when I saw a few bottles of Tuatara in the fridge.  I was really excited and snapped a photo of the Japanese staff posing with the bottles. I sent it to [Tuatara Head Boy] Richard and that kick-started the project.”
As a strong believer in brand collaboration, there was no arm-twisting involved for Richard.  What with winter coming and wanting to recreate Tuatara’s 2013 stout story, he knew Mojo would be the consummate crony to recreate the “perfect fireside stout”.
“Coffee works perfectly with stout, so it really was a no brainer to include Mojo in on our Holy Trinity of stouts this winter,” said Richard.  After a pow-wow with the Tuatara brew team, Steve and the Mojo crew selected a single origin Tanzania coffee for the BLACK Espresso Stout, with its wine-like characteristics and acidity levels complementing the dark malts instead of competing with the pallet.”
Many consider coffee and stout to be perfect mix.  After much sampling, the Tuatara brewers said “introducing coffee into our toasted malt stout has given it a delicious burnt fruit tartness and gateaux texture with a building bitterness more than reminiscent of a good espresso.”  Surely then coffee, stout and gateaux would be even better.

Malthouse, as always, stocks members of the standard range fresh off the tap including Tuatara Pilsner [6] (smooth, crisp, hint of lime), Tuatara APA (firm bodied, fruit salad, bitter) and Tuatara Hefe (banana, chewing gum and clove, oh my!)  There are a few good looking bottled products lurking in the fridges too.  My picks would be Tuatara Triple (citrus, spice, Belgian sports socks), Tuatara X1 (chocolate, liquorice, danger) and Tuatara Double Trouble (pungent, grapefruit, mouth puckering bitterness).  Actually, I’d stay away from Double Trouble, leave it for me.
Next time, we drink to Future Beer Writer of the Year Jonathan Galuszka. He has written a blog updating an article I once wrote so I have just written an article about his blog.  Now I’m blogging about which just complicates the issue even further… [7] 

Anyway, it is a cracking good read about how most of our taxpayer funded overseas diplomatic missions go to great lengths to secure quality New Zealand wines but serve their guests mainstream Kiwi lagers or buy cheap local beers. The best line is the claim from the NZ mission in Brussels is that beer is not very popular in Belgium. [8] The link is provided below.
[1] I like to say “Malthouse Blog HQ” because it implies I have a big office building, lots of hard working staff and an executive office drinks fridge.  The reality of a home office, just me and a kitchen fridge is full of food seems somehow less glamorous.
[2] Paraparaumu Town Motto: “The Gateway to Otaihanga.”
[3] Commons Company Motto: “Gather Around Beer”.  For the record, this one is actually true.
[4] Again, this is also true.
[5] Excellent.  Any tale that starts with “true story”, “this really happened” or “Dear Penthouse Forum” is almost always completely accurate.
[6] Sometime abbreviated to “T Pils” but almost never to “TP” for fairly obvious reasons.
[7] Ah, the beer writing circle of life. He is the Simba to my Scar…
[8] It would be funnier if we taxpayers were not paying his salary…

Neil Miller
Beer Writer of the Year 2014
Beer and Brewer Magazine
Cuisine Magazine
TheShout Magazine
New Zealand Liquor News Magazine
Jono’s Blog: Serving up our best? – http://tinyurl.com/pk5pxjc
Tuatara Brewery – http://tuatarabrewing.co.nz/  
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