I first encountered draught beer from New Zealand during London Beer Week back in February when there was a New Zealand brewers tap take over in Clerkenwell Craft Beer Co. I tried a couple of brews from Yeastie Boys. I can’t remember what they were. I liked the beer, but my lasting memory was, everything was really strong and expensive.
When I saw New Zealand Beer Collective had a bar at Leeds International Beer Festival I thought it might be worth having another look? I’ll confess, I only went in the British beer hall and the New Zealand Beer Collective stand. I could have gone in the American beer hall, I had a quick peek, the cider and perry room or the European hall. If I was going to do justice to everything I reckon you need at least two visits to Leeds International Beer Festival and even then, maintain some sort of focus on regions and styles.
I was quite interested to find out what the New Zealand Beer Collective actually was? Todd Nicolson, Head of Business Development, said they came to the UK in February 2015, promoting five, relatively small, NZ breweries; Tuatara, Yeastie Boys, Three Boys, 8 Wired and Renaissance. Leeds International Beer Festival is their first foray up here and he was really pleased with how it had gone. Their bar was situated under the front portico of Cuthbert Broderick’s masterpiece and he told me the queue on Saturday had stretched back for five of the Town Hall’s impressive Corinthian pillars.
It took Todd a fair bit of linguistic coaching before I could pronounce Tuatara correctly, a combination of the beer consumed and my Northern accent. Apparently a Tuatara is some prehistoric lizard that lives in NZ. If he’d persevered for a week, I doubt whether he could have got me to say Aotearoa correctly? It’s the Maori word for NZ. Anyway, regardless of my pronunciation, the Aotearoa Pale Ale (5.8 %) was a very nice drink. The name is fitting because it’s bang full of tasty NZ hops; Pacific Jade, Nelson Sauvin, Cascade, Motueka.
I asked Todd what the history of brewing in NZ was and why they are only just coming to the party? He said they had traditionally only been able to buy crap beer in NZ so they became a nation of home brewers, which is how a few of the breweries they represent had actually started.
All the New Zealand Beer Collective brands are imported by Instil Drinks and if you look at the web sites for the individual breweries they all refer to themselves as ‘craft brewers’ which might not suit some people. All I will say is the keg beer I had was well worth the eight thousand mile journey it had made and hopefully we will start to see more of their draught ales on our bars.