Editorial – Tuatara’s historic win (and its mystery brews)

By BeertownNZ Mon, 10 Oct 2016 National

Congratulations Tuatara!

Tuatara Brewing made history on Saturday when it became Champion New Zealand Brewery. The award has been awarded nine times and Tuatara is the first and only brewery to win twice.

The win is a timely endorsement of Tuatara’s quality and range. Champion Brewery is entirely decided by blind judging at the New Zealand Beer Awards and winners must be producing faultless beer.

Tuatara’s win was based on its five gold medals, five silvers and three bronzes. Tuatara collected medals in 9 of the 11 beer categories – this pony knows a few tricks. It also picked up three trophies, more than any other brewer, but not counting towards the Champ status.

Tuatara previously won Champion Brewer back in 2008. Its wide range is now well established, easy to find, and recognised by all New Zealand beer fans.

But I admit it – I’m baffled by some of Tuatara’s medal winners. The gold medal beers are:

  • Mot Eureka lager
  • Weiz Guy wheat
  • Sauvinova pale ale
  • American pale ale
  • Wilder Brew (for packaging)

I’ve had three of those, but Mot Eureka or Weiz Guy? Bad beer puns that mean nothing to any Kiwi beer fan. Untappd doesn’t register them as of this morning. Even Tuatara’s website doesn’t acknowledge these beers.

One of the entry criteria is that all beers and ciders must be available commercially. The competition organisers go to some lengths to confirm commercial availability, including checking Untappd and asking brewers to supply label artwork. Did organisers drop the ball big time here?

No. Beertown.NZ understands Tuatara is about to rebrand its range, and the mystery medallists are new names for established beers.

Mot Eureka, I’m picking, is The-Pilsner-Formerly-Known-As-Bohemian (TPFKAB). You may have known Weiz Guy when he was called Bavarian Hefe. Silver medal winner Helluva Lager will be Helles Lager in a new frock. Don’t know what Tuatara Kapai is – it won a silver, but the only Kapai I can find refers to three seasonals produced by Mata.

So while Tuatara is basking in the well-deserved glow of an historical win, drinkers (and retailers) cannot find four of its medal winners.

I believe Tuatara is planning to formally rebrand soon, and it had the organisers’ permission to enter old beers under new names. But that all seems a bit barse-ackwards to me. A rebranding should improve recognition of your beers, not create confusion and disappoint drinkers who want to enjoy a trophy winner. I can’t help wonder of the mis-timing is a result of Tuatara’s lack of a serving chief executive, and I hope it doesn’t reduce the impact of this unprecedented win.

The win itself is good timing for Tuatara. In June Townshend Brewery withdrew from its contract-brewing and distribution deal with Tuatara: “Unfortunately it has not gone to plan, as we (i.e., Townshend) all wished, resulting in a drop of quality in some beer by the time it reached your fridge. Consequently we are bringing production and distribution back to Nelson to restore the level of quality that we expect you to receive.”

It’s extremely unusual for that kind of ruction to be aired in public in the New Zealand beer community, and the other brewers contracting to Tuatara will have been watching closely. Anecdotal evidence (i.e., gossip) questioned Tuatara’s own quality control.

Many of the New Zealand Beer Awards judges are commercial brewers, including both contractor and contractee brewers. The fact they blind-judged Tuatara so highly suggests Tuatara’s quality control is at least as good as any of it’s competitors’. Tuatara must be extremely happy with the judges’ decisions and reclaiming Champion Brewer status.

Congratulations from Beertown.NZ, Tuatara – well done! Three-atara next year Carl?


Martin Craig

Go here for the Brewers Guild 10th Anniversary New Zealand Beer Awards Catalogue of Results

By BeertownNZ Mon, 10 Oct 2016 National