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Yeastie Boys, Gunnamatta

We thought we’d let Stu McKinlay, self-styled “benevolent dictator” at Yeastie Boys tell us everything that we need to know about this week’s beer and the brewery he co-founded.

We started by asking for an abridged version of the brewery’s backstory.

“We're one of the world's smallest multinational companies, operating out of both NZ and UK but still producing less beer in a year than Sierra Nevada make in a single shift. Craft beer is a vast world, isn't it!?

Yeastie Boys kicked off in 2008, making this year our tenth anniversary. We started brewing at a friend's brewery, making one-off seasonal beers only, and continued along on that part-time theme for six years before I decided it was time to ditch the day job and get into things full time. I was only full time for about six months before we crowdfunded half a million dollars in half an hour to kick off brewing in the UK. I moved my family here two months later and, almost three years on, the UK is easily our biggest market.”

Operating from sites in different hemispheres must have its challenges?

“It's mutually tougher and more rewarding than operating out of one country. There's all the business side of things that make it tricky, like being 12,000 miles away from where some of the beer is being brewed and where three of our staff are... but then there's also the personal side of bringing the family to the other side of the world. I have siblings in Manchester and the Scottish Borders but my wife has no one here. Luckily we love exploring and we've had a lot of visitors. On the positive side of things, we've got the Pacific covered from NZ and we've got the UK and Europe covered from here. So we can get fresher beer to market, we can keep shipping costs and lead times down, we're a shade more sustainable than the average exported craft beer, and we get to be involved in the UK's beer scene at a time that is quite unlike any other in history.”

What can you tell us about Gunnamatta? What on earth made you want to add Earl Grey to a beer?

“Gunnamatta is our Earl Grey IPA and it's easily our biggest selling beer, accounting for 40% of our total production in 2017. It evolved from this giant obsession that the beer world seemed to have with coffee beers back in 2011. I have always been more of a tea drinker, so I wanted to put tea beer on the world map too. I played around with a couple of homebrew trials, working with a local tea merchant (who thought I was crazy), and the 'dry leafing' of Gunnamatta was born. 

It's an Aboriginal Australian name, meaning 'sandy hills', and is named for a Paul Kelly surf rock instrumental that is in turn named after a surf beach southeast of Melbourne. The first commercial brew was for the Great Australasian Beer Spectacular (GABS) in Melbourne, 2012, and it won Champion Beer of the festival. We loved it so much, before the festival, that we'd already brewed a second batch before it won that accolade. It became our biggest selling beer almost immediately and we've struggled to keep up ever since!” 

Inevitably for those of us who like our hip with our hops, we wanted to know if the Beastie Boys (RIP MCA) had heard about the Yeastie Boys?

“I have no idea if the Beastie Boys know about the beer... they probably do but we're certainly not the only Beastie Boys inspired business. There's a Yeastie Boys clown punk band in LA, who appear to be around the same age as us, plus a bagel truck in LA of the same name. Yarra Valley in Australia is the home of another Yeastie Boys - a band made up of winemakers. Then there's the Eatsie Boys "Intergalactic Food Truck" in Houston, who we've talked about collaborating with at some stage.  We could almost make a whole tribute night of it!”

And a favourite B-Boys track?

“Truth be told it's my wife Fritha, who's also our visual creative lead, who is the BIG fan of Beastie Boys in our household. I'm a fan but not quite like her. My favourite song would have to be "Make Some Noise", off their last album "Hot Sauce Committee, Part Two". That takes me back to one of our last couple of summers in New Zealand with this big pimped up van we had, playing it very loud, my three boys jumping in the back. Good time summer memories. But "Fight For Your Right, Revisited" - the thirty minute music video based on that last album - is about my favourite thing they ever did. It's well worth taking some time out to watch and listen.”

So we had to ask Fritha the same question.

“Skills to pay the bills, of course! Actually, I couldn’t pick a fav I don’t think.”

You can follow the bijou multi-national brewing company that is Yeastie Boys on their website, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr (yes, really) and Instagram. You can watch the full-length version of Fight For Your Right (Revisited) here.

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