I’ve met a lot of incredibly nice brewers — brewers who have offered me their houses to stay in, given me free beer, helped me home-brew. But for me the nicest brewer is Stu McKinlay of Yeastie Boys.
I tell this to Stu as we sit on Parliament lawn sharing a few beers. He smiles warmly, matching the December sunshine, and thanks me. Earlier in the day Stu had donated a keg of Gunnamatta (Yeastie’s top-selling beer) to the 2015 New Zealand Beer Calendar fundraiser for the Sexual Abuse Prevention Network. This isn’t the first time he’s given away his product to help others, even when he’s been in the middle of his own financial crisis.
“Do unto others. I was given a Catholic education and, while I didn’t take any of the religious stuff on board, that really stuck with me. It feeds into that karma thing too. Paying it forward.”
2014 was a big year for Stu and his business partner Sam Posseniskie.
It kicked off with their beer being served in more than 900 UK pubs as part of the Wetherspoon’s International Real Ale Festival. Yeastie Boys’ Pot Kettle Black beat more than 400 beers from around the world to be crowned Champion Beer at the Hong Kong International Beer Awards. They launched a new logo, new bottle labels and a bunch of new beers, including the amazing Spoonbender series, made with botrytised Viognier candi sugar, and some new additions to the regular line-up. Stu also left his day job and began working full time for the brewery in August.
But the biggest event of 2014 was the Yeastie Boys fundraising efforts. Once again, the arrow of time and the tyranny of deadlines means this is written before the event and we don’t know the outcome of the investment drive.
The idea is to grow the business in the UK, with other New Zealand breweries doing the same. While in England for the Real Ale Festival, Stu and Sam scoped out a number of places that could brew their beer. More beer sales will also mean that Stu hopefully has more of a chance to brew at home again. While talking about the exciting prospect of brewing in the UK, Stu can’t help but say how excited he is to be potentially working with Ralph Bungard of Three Boys Brewery (one of the other breweries hoping to break into the UK market).
“He makes my favourite beer! Coconut Milk Stout. We were up for a Brewers Guild Award against it and all I could think was, ‘That’s my favourite beer, I kinda want it to win.’” Seriously, what a nice guy!