12 September 2013

Et tuatara?

Beer from New Zealand today, a country I visited back in 2006, narrowly missing the craft beer boom it has experienced in more recent years. These three are from Tuatara, a brewery not far from Wellington, named after New Zealand's indigenous, and rather fascinating, throwback reptile species.

First up is Aotearoa Pale Ale and yes I see what they've done there -- the same way our local brewers put "Irish Pale Ale" on labels because of the initials. Mind you, the description makes it clear that Aotearoa is where it's at with hops these days so there's no reason to suppose this is second rate. It's a bright Lucozade orange with a gorgeous grass and candy nose. The flavour is a little muted, suggesting it may be past its best, but what's there is good: a satisfyingly astringent bitterness, unfolding into grapefruit, pine and lemon pith set against just the right amount of light toffee. I'd like a bit more at 5.8% ABV, but this still works.

Tuatara London Porter proudly proclaims it is "brewed locally" which is a bit daft. What beer isn't? Lots of foam on pouring, and a stiff ice cream float head. CO2 is the main feature, bouncing about the palate with its dry metallic edge. Looking closer there's some lovely complexities: turkish delight and milk chocolate, but also a saccharine tang that spoils it a little. Even with the fizz mostly let out the finish is still dry, though mostly from the dark roasted grain this time. This hits a lot of the fruit and chocolate points of first rate porter but the fizz is unforgivable. You have to make an effort to like it.

And it's once more unto the hops for Tuatara IPA, dark orange and brewed apparently in the English style. Quite a bit of toffee on the nose, suggesting points significantly west of GB. A touch of orange sherbet and more of that bitter metal. I can sort of see how they're approaching English IPA, but it's nothing like one, lacking the lightness of touch and overdoing the sharp bitterness. The toffee actually saves this, turning it into something resembling a half decent American-style amber ale.

A fairly solid set, overall, though no surprises that the kiwis work best when they work with hops in quantity.


  1. where did you pick these up, I need to up my NZ drinking quota and I enjoyed their pilsner when there at the start of the year. By all accounts its their large format bottles which are the ones to watch out for.

  2. They came from Redmond's in Dublin.

  3. Hi there! I'm an expat Canadian living in Wellington, NZ. Tuatara is one of my favourite breweries here (among many new craft ones now!) I think perhaps the bottles you tried hadn't travelled well? I mostly drink it on tap here but I do pick up some in bottles for home use, and I have never come across the bummer aspects you found (except of course it's a bit more carbonated than the draft stuff!)

    The solution of course is to come back for another visit, and try the many, many new crafty brewers' wares around town – in the many new craft beer bars!


  4. Travel could well be an issue, Steve. Bear it in mind if you ever find any Irish craft beer down there. Cheers!