Little local dragon sent to quench China's thirst

21:36, Jul 04 2010
THAT'S A BEER: Tuatara's master brewer, Carl Vasta developed a passion for brewing after visiting Britain in the 1980s.
THAT'S A BEER: Tuatara's master brewer, Carl Vasta developed a passion for brewing after visiting Britain in the 1980s.

Craft brewer Tuatara is to send its first shipment to China as it seeks to develop an export business.

The Kapiti Coast-based brewer is sending a pallet – around 1700 bottles – to distributor Tradepoint, which operates in Xiamen province.

As well as regular shipments to Australia, Tuatara, which brews its beer in Waikanae, has also shipped to the United States and is investigating other markets in Asia.

General manager Sean Murrie said the company had recently appointed an export sales manager to investigate new opportunities. "There's a monumental amount of business that we can tap into and now we're gearing up to do that," he said. "For most small breweries export is usually a case of waiting for someone to send you an email asking for some product, and sending it away. We're trying to be a bit more structured about it."

International distributors have already shown interest in the products, driven by New Zealand's "fantastic" reputation.

Tuatara was formed because Mr Murrie could not get good-quality craft beer for his bar, the Malthouse.

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The beer is brewed by Carl Vasta, who developed a passion for brewing after a trip to London in the 1980s "where he discovered beer didn't have to be flat or tasteless or come in a flagon". He built the first brewery by hand from modified dairy tanks.

Named as the BrewNZ best brewery 2008/09, Tuatara has expanded considerably since. While it does not disclose its revenue or volumes, it supplies more than 200 bars across New Zealand, including around 70 in the Wellington region.

Mr Murrie said sales had at least doubled in each of the last three years, "and we would expect it to double again this year", placing Tuatara among New Zealand's fastest growing manufacturers.

Tuatara was nominated for a Wellington Gold award last month in the emerging category.

BusinessDay.co.nz