Pulling out all the stops for ale brewed to a tea

PUSHING BOUNDARIES: Yeastie Boys brewer Stu McKinlay samples some of the product.
PUSHING BOUNDARIES: Yeastie Boys brewer Stu McKinlay samples some of the product.

Wellington may be New Zealand's coffee capital, but it was tea that inspired one of the capital's most creative brewers.

The Yeastie Boys - aka Stu McKinlay and his business partner Sam Possenniskie - are well known in brewing circles for pushing boundaries in the beer world.

A homebrewer for many years, it was this culture of constant experimentation that led McKinlay to create his most successful beer - a tea-infused IPA called Gunnamatta.

Asked to create a beer for the Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular, the Island Bay resident decided to dust off an idea that had been in mind for a while.

Calling up boutique tea company t leaf T, McKinlay headed out to sample some of the dozens of varieties and flavours to see if any would work well in a beer.

"I thought I knew what I had in mind but when I went out there he took me through about 10 different teas and just blew my mind.

"I jokingly said I almost wanted to sell Yeastie Boys and start a tea company."

Settling on blue flower earl grey, the 6.5 per cent Gunnamatta (named after a track from Australian musician Paul Kelly) was "dry-leafed" with the tea added at the end of fermentation.

The beer went on to win people's choice at the festival and has become so popular it is now Yeastie Boys' top-selling product.

Though McKinlay says his idea of putting tea in beer raised a few eyebrows at t leaf T, owner John van Gorp notes its product has been used by companies making icecream, chocolate and cocktails.

Yeastie Boys are not t leaf T's biggest customer, but they are the largest buyer of blue flower earl grey and show no signs of slowing down. The brewery has brewed several other tea-infused beers and plans to release more next year.

Shane Cowlishaw is the co-writer of dompost.co.nz's blog The Beerhive. You can follow him at facebook.com/ beerhiveblog or @BeerhiveBlog.

The Dominion Post