No pint-sized brewing plans

Musician Dave Gent (left),  Queenstown photographer Michael Thomas and businessman Sir Peter...
Musician Dave Gent (left), Queenstown photographer Michael Thomas and businessman Sir Peter Maire have joined forces in Arrowtown Brewing Ltd. The company is launching its latest beer tomorrow — which will be available for one day only. Photo: Curtis Simmons
A Wakatipu trio  has plans brewing for world domination.  As the ale enthusiasts prepare to launch their latest craft beer this weekend, Tracey Roxburgh  talks to the businessmen who want to have fun while doing it.

Have you heard the one about the photographer, the musician and the Knight of the Realm?

They may be an unlikely trio, but what they’ve come up with is no joke.

And while their business, Arrowtown Brewing Ltd, is in its fledgling stages, photographer Michael Thomas, The Exponents bass player Dave Gent and Navman founder and businessman Sir Peter Maire have plans for world domination — starting with Arrowtown and expanding "a mile at a time".

The company was founded last year by Mr Thomas, Mr Gent and the late Tim Hemingway, who owned Arrow Private Hotel.

Like most good ideas, it was dreamed up over a couple of pints at their local pub, Arrowtown’s Fork’n Tap.

Mr Thomas said Mr Gent — "people might remember him from the ’60s" — had just returned from a trip to the United States and was talking about how big the craft beer scene was there.A couple of beers later the three friends decided to give it a whirl themselves.

"We started to get organised and we got a recipe for the first one and were just about to get that started and then Tim fell ill," Mr Thomas said.

"Basically, within three months he had died."

Mr Hemingway, who was diagnosed with cancer, died on June 30, the day after their first beer — Arrowtown Brewing Pale Ale — went on tap at the Fork’n Tap.

The initials "T.H." were immediately put on the top of the beer tap label.

Mr Thomas said that beer was made from a recipe dreamed up by Dan Coxhead, who manages the Fork’n Tap, and since then they had worked with Jim Holly, from Christchurch, to produce the Sawpit Pilsner and Macetown Gold Lager.

Recently, Arrowtown Brewing Ltd has added Sir Peter as its third equal partner — a business deal, fittingly, done at the pub where the company was founded.

"I think we may have stumbled into genius," Mr Thomas said.

"The thing is, anybody that’s employed or who has worked for us, it’s always somebody who’s come within two metres of our table at the Fork’n Tap and, luckily, on a given day Sir Peter was within two metres of our employment station, and he liked what we were doing.

"We had lots of chats about it, just in a general way, [and] a few weeks later he was keen to come in.

"Obviously, he’s been on quite a few major boards in New Zealand and he’s going to have to get used to the downgraded boardroom, which is basically a table in the corner of the Fork’n Tap in Arrowtown.

"He’s into it, he’s really, really keen and he’s got the same thing as us — we just want to have fun, and have fun doing it."

The trio will launch the company’s latest offering — available for one day only — at tomorrow’s Pie, Pint & Pinot event, held as part of the Arrowtown Autumn Festival.

There will be just 100 glasses of the 4.2% OTT Glacial beer, made from water sourced from a remote glacial lake in Fiordland, available for sale.

Mr Thomas said the idea for the Alt, a German-style beer, started when he and Mr Gent were talking about doing "something different".

Mr Gent was friends with Over the Top helicopters owner and chief pilot Louisa "Choppy" Patterson and asked if she could help.

"She brought us 60 litres [of water] in plastic containers from a glacial lake in Fiordland," Mr Thomas said.

The water was then delivered to Lake & Wood Brew Co brewer Jay Sherwood, of Arrowtown, who turned it into the final product while he and Mr Gent "obviously helped with the tasting".

"It’s a great beer ...  It’s got almost no aftertaste.

"We’re absolutely stoked with it [but] at the moment it’ll only be at the Pie, Pint and Pinot.

"We only made a very small batch of it because it must be the most expensive beer ever made.

"The water is not only pristine glacial water, it’s also had the luxury travel ...  It’s come first class from Fiordland to the brewery."

Mr Thomas said they planned to make it again at some point, but given the cost associated with it, "it can’t be a money-maker".

At present the trio’s brews are available in three Arrowtown restaurants and they have plans to enter the Queenstown market.

"We were just in Dunedin this weekend. We went and looked at a few breweries and we’re really just at the point of ‘where do we go next and what we do with it?’

"The great thing about that craft beer industry, whoever you deal with ...  everybody is so into it and just so willing to help."

In time they hope to establish a brewery in Arrowtown, given everything else about the beer — including the artwork and logos — is proudly local.

And Mr Thomas is confident Mr Hemingway would be "super happy" with what his friends have done.

"I think he’d be laughing ...  We just continued it in the way we all set it up, which was, really, let’s just have a good time and enjoy it."

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