Tuesday, May 3, 2011

CT Column 6/04/2011: A sanctuary for beer lovers

Craft brewing and craft beer consumption is at an all time high and happens in places you would never have found it a year or two ago. Last week I attended a Tuatara beer and food matching evening held at the Zealandia Wildlife sanctuary. The evening was held to celebrate the birthday of the first Tuataras to be born on mainland New Zealand in over 200 years and to raise money for the sanctuary’s 500 year vision. It goes to show how far things have come that what until recently would have certainly been a wine tasting is now a beer and food event. The evening was hosted by former Tuatara brewer Dion Page and Zealandia Ranger Russ Drewry. After an explanation of what beer is and how it is made plates of food and Tuatara beers were brought out. Rata CafĂ© Chef Craig Dunshea had crafted a menu to match the Tuatara beers and managed extremely well considering it was his first attempt. For me two matches stood head and shoulders above the others. Vietnamese summer rolls with coconut marinated fish were matched with Tuatara Pilsner. The assertive fruity hop character of the Pilsner blended seamlessly with the fresh mint of the summer rolls while it cut the richness of the marinated fish as well as any lime or lemon could hope to.
Herb crepes stuffed with warmed Chevre goats cheese matched with Tuatara Hefe was another winner. The tangy richness of the Chevre was perfectly cut by the overt fruit and spice notes that stem from the yeast strain that Tuatara use to ferment the Hefe, while the assertive carbonation of the beer cleaned the mouth coating richness of the dish.
The event attracted a crowd not normally seen at beer tasting events and served as a great introduction to craft beer for the uninitiated. The evening closed with a promise that while it was the first Zealandia beer and food matching it would certainly not be the last. I will certainly drink to that!

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