The Pioneers Collaborate On A New Brew

December 16, 2019
Tuatara pioneers whip up a treat.
Tuatara pioneers whip up a treat.


While the stereotype of craft beer is bearded hipsters, these are the followers, not the originators.


Every revolution has the rebels that kicked it off. The pioneers and visionaries who felt change happening in the world, who blazed the trails that others would follow, who pushed boundaries and made it through.

Early in November, a group of New Zealand’s brewing legends gathered at The Third Eye – Tuatara’s CBD micro-brewery – to make a beer: Tracy Banner (Sprig and Fern Brewery, Nelson), Ralph Bungard (Three Boys Brewery, Christchurch), Brian Watson (Good George Brewing, Hamilton), Dave Nichols (Moa Beer, Blenheim) and Tuatara’s Carl Vasta.

Tuatara pioneers whip up a treat.

The team was brought together by Chris Dickson of Smiths Craft Beer House. “We wouldn’t be where we are without these original brewers. I know I owe my position and passion for craft to their support over the years. I was keen to get them together to make a beer [that] we could use as a reason to celebrate their legacy and influence.”

It’s important to note how far each brewer has come. At Three Boys, Ralph has racked up dozens of awards for his beers, survived the 2011 earthquake and became an icon of Christchurch. Tracey and Brian have seen their modest breweries become vast empires, with franchise bars popping up all over the country. Dave has quietly steered the brewing part of Moa onward with quality brews. And Carl grew Tuatara to a brewery that is on supermarket shelves up and down New Zealand, and now has two popular venues.

Tuatara pioneers whip up a treat.

Boasting an impressive 144 years of collective experience, each brewer not only brought their talent, but they also brought their favourite hops.

  • Comet: Rather aptly for this brew, this hop is considered an “old favourite”. It has a citrus zest and fragrant grassy character.
  • Mosaic: A high-alpha hop, it has notes of mango, pine, citrus and herbs and aromas of tropical and stone fruit. Where Comet is “Citra’s little sister”, Mosaic is “Citra on steroids”
  • Ekuanot: Brings an array of aromatics flavours from lime, apple, melon, berry, and papaya to bay leaves, cedar, eucalyptus, clove, sage, and tobacco. For those following along at home, this was in the form of lupulin powder.
  • Centennial: Another older hop variety, though only from the 90s (which isn’t that old!). A high-alpha hop with earthy and floral notes with a hint of citrus.
  • El Dorado: Lastly a big oily, resiny hop that punches you in the senses with tropical fruit flavours and stone fruits on the nose.
Tuatara pioneers whip up a treat.

What’re you gonna make from a line-up of hops like that? How about an immense American pale ale, that befits the gravity of the brewers behind it? And thus, The Pioneers American IPA was born, sitting at 6.5%.

It’s a great beer and if you’re lucky you might still be able to try it at Smiths Craft Beer House (Queenstown), Ombrellos Kitchen and Bar (Dunedin) and the brewery taprooms.


Hadyn has been writing about beer for well over a decade.

While he can’t nail down what the best he’s ever had was, there’s no doubt in his mind about the worst: a paua stout.

He’s often asked, “Why don’t you brew beer?” And the answer is still the same, “Because I can buy beer from people who are very good at making it.”

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