Yeastie Boys brewing up for UK festival

BEST ALE: Yeastie Boys creative director and brewer Stu McKinlay with its award-winning Gunnamatta brew, of which 50,000 litres will be made for one million UK drinkers at the end of February.
BEST ALE: Yeastie Boys creative director and brewer Stu McKinlay with its award-winning Gunnamatta brew, of which 50,000 litres will be made for one million UK drinkers at the end of February.

A 50,000 litre batch of beer brewed especially for one million United Kingdom punters has local craft beer brewery Yeastie Boys fizzing at the prospect of tapping into more offshore markets.

But the Wellington-based "virtual" company is conscious of exporting too much beer and losing touch with the local scene, as it looks to establish a physical venue soon.

Last week Yeastie Boys announced it had received one of only 10 worldwide invitations to brew at the JD Wetherspoon's International Real Ale Festival in England, the largest of its kind in the world.

The brewery's Gunnamatta earl grey India Pale Ale, made with Earl Grey tea, would be served in 850 pubs across England during two weeks in April.

These pubs are expected to serve about one million UK beer fans, giving the company which launched its first beer in 2008 its widest European exposure to date.

Brewer and creative director Stu McKinlay said he was "totally stoked" to receive the invitation, which at first he thought was a joke.

"It was quite oddly worded, the email, so it made me think it was a sort of spam.

"I was waiting for them to ask for my bank account number."

The Gunnamatta beer was originally brewed for a festival in Australia in 2012, where it was crowned Champion Beer.

McKinlay said beers brewed for the festival were usually one-offs, but given the feedback it received, he and co-founder Sam Possenniskie decided to include it in Yeastie Boys' stable.

"It's our biggest selling beer now.

"New countries, when they approach us, are kind of looking for that beer and then finding out about our other stuff."

But for the upcoming festival Yeastie Boys would brew about 50,000 litres of its now "flagship" beer, which is more than it had brewed in the past 18 months combined.

At the end of February they will travel to Adnams Brewery in Suffolk to brew the beer, though McKinlay was not daunted by the prospect.

"There's 170 kilograms of tea in the beer so you can't really ship it across or take it in our backpacks.

"It's exciting, they're an awesome brewery and we've got total faith that we'll nail it."

More importantly for Yeastie Boys, however, was the timing of the invitation.

McKinlay said they had been mulling on entering European markets for nearly two years but were now in a position to actively pursue contract brewing opportunities during the trip.

An Italian fan had imported a container of Yeastie Boys beer a couple of years ago, but despite approaches from Norway, Sweden, the UK and France, the company had held off until it found the right model.

He said the Canadian and Southeast Asian markets were high-growth craft beer markets.

Yeastie Boys was expanding its productions at the three New Zealand sites it brews at, particularly in Invercargill.

"We brew just under 100,000 litres through them a year, we're looking to close to double that this year."

But McKinlay, who works three days a week at Z Energy to help pay the "family bills" for his wife and three boys, said Yeastie Boys would now also look at establishing a physical venue, most likely in Wellington.

"We've always been a really virtual company; we do all the brewing at other people's breweries.

"Now we're looking at a venue, whether it's a brew pub or some sort of warehousing facility where we actually have ‘fill your own taps' or something like that."

He said as the company grew it was conscious of exporting more and more beer while becoming less and less involved with the local scene. "That's where we've come from and it's where we want to remain. And my three boys are starting to get to the age where they'll be looking for jobs."

Fairfax Media