Auckland beer Urbanaut has roots in New Zealand 'malt country'

The crew from Urbanaut Brewing Company, originally from Marton. From left, Simon Watson, Bruce Turner and Thomas Rowe.
Thomas Rowe

The crew from Urbanaut Brewing Company, originally from Marton. From left, Simon Watson, Bruce Turner and Thomas Rowe.

Every time you drink a New Zealand brewed beer, there's a high chance the malt came from Marton.

The Rangitikei town is not only home to New Zealand's largest malting factory, but also three entrepreneurs starting a brewing company in Auckland.

The Urbanaut team – Simon Watson, Thomas Rowe and Bruce Turner – are long-time friends from their years at Rangitikei College. 

Last week, their craft beer made its Palmerston North debut at Brew Union. 

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The trio add to Marton's fascinating history with beer, which is famed for holding home-brew competitions at its annual Harvest Fair. 

The town is considered the "malt capital of New Zealand" and is home to Malteurop – the world's leading malt producer. 

Project Marton's Cath Ash said before the Harvest Fair this year that one of Marton's favourite pastimes was home brewing, maybe born from its origins.

The town was originally set up a few miles down the road until someone suggested it should become a dry town. As a result several rebellious locals uplifted their belongings and moved further up the road and established Marton town as well as some pretty impressive stills. 

Rowe said they always wanted to open a brewery, it was just a matter of getting everyone in the same place at the same time. 

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While head brewer Bruce Turner spent several years perfecting his trade in the United Kingdom, Watson and Rowe travelled the world and dabbled in various other jobs

They are well known for running property development company Evoke Property, which was famous for buying a $1 million hovel in Grey Lynn, doing it up and selling it for more than $2.8m.

They now find themselves in their dream job. 

"How could it not be?" Rowe said. "It's something we had always talked about for 10-15 years, but it was just a matter of being in the same place.

"Obviously, in the university days, beer drinking was a big part of the lifestyle. I guess that's where it all started." 

A tour of the United States opened his eyes to craft beer and inspired him to name brews after specific places: Kingsland Pilsner, Williamsburg IPA, Brixton Pale Ale, Gastown Red IPA and Shimokita Lager, named for the hip Tokyo suburb famed for its fashion, food and entertainment.

He said the name Urbanaut was a play on words, mixing urban and astronaut to create the idea of urban exploration.  

 - Stuff

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