Garage Project – Tuatara Brewery Revisited

The Thirstyboys have been thirsty. I know we haven’t posted since Dec 2011, but we haven’t been tee totalling. For months now, the Tuesday night new releases at Hashigozake have kept us updated with the latest brews, and two of the lads have brewed ales in the secrecy of their own homes. Its like professional development, I’m sure they will bring a deeper hands-on knowledge of the mash and machinations of small-scale beer making to the table ….as well as some great pints to savour.

To get things officially started for 2012, it was my turn to organise a proper tasting. After a couple of promising false starts, where our potential host had to “see about a girl” (two times)…we shelved one great tasting idea for another – a tour of a new upsized local brewery operation and run through of a selection of beers from the well established Tuatara brewery. A couple of us started with a sneaky home brewed porter around 4.30 but by 6pm, we were off…

The first official outing of the Thirstyboys for 2012 reconnected us with Pete Gillespie, one of the guys behind what is perhaps the local brewing highlight of 2011 – the Garage Project. We have previously blogged about the Garage Projects ambitious goal to brew 24 beers in 24 weeks, which they did admirably with some great tasters and one or two that made your eyes water. Pete graciously agreed at short notice to host a tour of the newly installed Garage Project brewing setup. In the (upsized edition) of the Garage Project we got a glimpse of the engine room behind their plans for 2012.

Pete met seven of us at the garage including Tuatara brewer (big) Carl Vasta. As their name suggests, the Garage Project is actually housed in a former garage of the petrol pumping kind, but minus the oil, grease and other grime. On arrival, Pete presented us with pints of Pernicious Weed – a strong, golden, hoppy brew released by the Garage Project last year. We drank deep and contemplated the newly fitted room around us with its grunty looking 10-barrel brew kit from Premier Stainless in theUnited States.


The gleaming tanks are promising signs of things to come. The setup is impressive, and the place is freakin clean with a freshly painted light grey floor you can siphon beer off with a straw. Everything seems to fit and look fairly flash. Even the gutters are impressive. Pete talked about the process of sourcing the equipment and setting up the joint, how things work and connect to each other. He even showed us the sump. The small space is well organised in its arrangement of tanks, electrics, plumbing, cool store and other beer geek brew guy guff. There is even room for a little outlet to sell beers and t-shirts to the beermeisters of theAroValley. The city council was rigorous getting the brewers to comply with the necessary regulations. No doubt, it was a mission to get the place into shape, but the rigour has probably been a good thing. The Jesuit was compelled to mutter, “I believe we are deep in the nerdscape right now.”

As for future plans, Pete hinted that the successful 24 beers in 24 weeks concept may be revived. That was a prospect worth drinking to and sure enough another round of Pernicious Weed was poured. While some of us drank and geeked out among ourselves for a bit, Pete and Carl talked like brewers…

Set among the little enclave that isAroValley, the Garage Project looks like it will embed itself in the local beerscape in a low key yet exciting way. It will probably be the only garage in the city where you can ask the guy to fill her up and not get petrol… (of course, you get charged more per litre though). After an hour, it was time for a big fa’afetai to Pete for the informative preview, and for sending us on our way a little less thirsty. We wish the Garage Project team success as the year progresses…

The second half of the evening was hosted by Tuatara brewer big Carl Vasta, as he is known is some parts. The Tuatara brewery is based up the coast north ofWellington. The story of Tuatara is accessible by links at the end of this blogpost.

Big Carl met the Thirstyboys early in our history. In 2009, he hosted a tasting for us at The Malthouse inCourtney Place,Wellington. It was a big night. I think it is fair to say that we staggered home with our back teeth floating. Move forward three years and we were to cover similar range of beers on this fine evening, but in more measured quantities. The Malthouse again provided a comfortable spot to hold the tasting and big Carl sat down to give us his commentary on a selection of the Tuatara beers.

Here is what we consumed with notes and a few comments:

Bohemian Pilsner abv 5%

The pilsner has been Tuatara’s biggest seller – in fact the flagship for 12 years. Part of its wide appeal is that it is so drinkable. It is sweet and heavy hopped in a global sense.

“Similar to the Emersons Pilsner except a little bit drier” (mr horse)

Bavarian Heffe abv 5%

This beer has more awards than any other Tuatara beer, but according to Carl, it is the beer half the company don’t like. It is popular with women, who prefer it to the top selling pilsner. The brew utilises a German wheat beer yeast called weinstephan, and is characterised by a complex and underlying fruit character

“Mashed bananas with a bit of clove at the back’ (gingerbeardyman)

India Pale Ale abv 5%

This is a “proper” English style IPA. Of all the Tuatara brews in the last decade, Carl says the IPA has changed the most. It has been refined and they have brought up the caramel to emphasise the beers Englishness – there is way more malt character and it is far more hoppy. It was important to differentiate this beer more from the APA.

Needless to say, Greasylightbulb was happy.

American Pale Ale ABV 5.8%

“I love the slap in your face fruit and hops…” (karorifryup)

What more can we say, this brew was voted the best beer of the tasting… as the man said “slap in your face fruit and hops!” ….sure it is related to the IPA but waaaay more tasty and slightly more alcoholic. Nice brew…

Ardennes ABV 6.5%

This strong Belgian ale comes in at 6.5%. …it’s a bit spicy – citrusy but very drinkable. We were flagging at this point.

“You put your nose to it and can smell the alcohol” (the prospect)

London Porter ABV 5%

A good smooth brown porter – smooth dark and rich it says on the label…it was good to finish with a porter as some of us had started with one….yaaaas!

“A roasty taste, big deep roasted malt” (prospect)

“not a chest beating beer” Carl

And that was the runsheet for the session…I petered out with the note taking toward the end, but it was a quality list with not much to frown at. There was good banter round the table and great service from the Malthouse staff. The APA was unanimously voted the highlight of the night.


It was a pretty good evening all up, we saw the future and shared in the excitement of a local brewing project, we tasted some great beers and enjoyed the commentary of brewer Carl Vasta and… we inhaled some piles of chips and plates of pizza bread.

Once Carl departed, we had one more pint and slightly swaying, we gathered outside the Malthouse contemplating beers and tastings to come – Mr Horse’s schedule of tastings were assigned to the lads, there was the prospect of the Garage Project brewing another 24 beers in 24 weeks…but for now we had taxis and buses to catch and crooked looking streets to navigate. Man, its good being Thirsty…



Tuatara brewing

Garage Project


4 thoughts on “Garage Project – Tuatara Brewery Revisited

  1. A excellent review of an outstanding evening. Looking forward to offering up a great dance card of beers from Southland later this month.

  2. Thirstyboys says:

    thanks Gingerbeardyman…aye, those Southland beers need to be tasted, perhaps from the most southern latitude we will try.

  3. Denise says:

    Congratulations! And will definitely not miss the chance of getting a taste of those beers!

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