Hobbit brew goes down a treat with tourists

CHRIS GARDNER
Last updated 05:00 23/01/2014

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Thousands of tourists a day are drinking to the success of Hobbiton, making the film set near Matamata's Green Dragon Inn probably the busiest bar in the country.

Hobbiton chief executive Russell Alexander said the predicted influx of tourists a year after the first of Sir Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy, An Unexpected Journey, had hit over the Christmas and New Year holidays. The second Hobbit movie, The Desolation of Smaug, is now on general release with a third to come.

"It's happened all right," Alexander, who is in partnership with Jackson, said. "We are 100 per cent up on last year."

On the busiest day, Alexander said, Hobbiton staff conducted 60 tours of the film set.

"That's one every 10 minutes," Alexander said.

Each tour could take up to 41 tourists, meaning a maximum of 2460 tourists visited that day.

If all had paid the full adult entry fee of $75 that's a turnover of $184,500 from ticket sales alone.

That should help pay for the 150 staff and contractors on site during the summer period, compared to 17 just 18 months ago, and the 4 new coaches, almost doubling the Hobbiton fleet to seven.

Tourists have guzzled their way through 50,000 litres of Hobbit label Southfarthing Girdley Fine Grain Amber Ale since the Green Dragon Inn was opened on November 29, 2012, by Prime Minister John Key and the actors who played the dwarfs in the trilogy.

They've also knocked back similar quantities of Hobbit label Southfarthing Sackville Cider and Frogmorton Ginger Beer since the inn opened its doors exclusively to Hobbiton tourists.

All three are brewed, exclusively, by the Good George brewery in Hamilton and are using the Hobbit label at the suggestion of the Saul Zeantz Company which owns the rights to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

"It's just been fantastic," said Jason Macklow of the Good George. "At one point we were supplying 55 kegs of beer a week. We now own about 1200 kegs."

Macklow thought that level of consumption made The Green Dragon Inn one of the busiest bars in the country, if not the busiest.

His one brewer has been joined by 3 others since they picked up the contract with Hobbiton.

Massey, who was also behind the Middle Earth style makeover of Matamata's tourist information centre, has just finished placing around 400 extra props around the set.

That includes more washing on Hobbiton's washing lines, fish hanging from a drying rack at the side of the lake and an abandoned Hobbit picnic outside one of the Hobbit holes.

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