Brewing up an NZ-first: Royalburn Station co-owner Carlos Bagrie, left, and Altitude Brewing Co head brewer Eliott Menzies have collaborated on what's believed to be a New Zealand-first beer


A new beer, believed to be a New Zealand-first, is being billed as ‘the taste of Queenstown’.

The resort’s Altitude Brewing Co, last year named New Zealand’s champion small brewery in the Brewers Guild of NZ Beer Awards, has teamed up with Royalburn Station owners Carlos Bagrie and Nadia Lim to create an Italian pilsner, in which the barley, hops and water are all sourced locally.

Bagrie says the collab’s serendipitous.

He and Lim are in their third season at Royalburn, on the Crown Terrace, a farm famous for its barley — in the 1800s, it was one of the first to supply James Speight’s factory with barley for malting.

More recently, the barley’s been used for cereals, but Bagrie says they wanted to look at what other ‘‘value-added things we could do’’.

After harvesting three paddocks of spray-free barley, he sent a sample off to a lab for testing, with results indicating it could be used for malting.

Given Altitude beers are a regular tipple at their house, Bagrie says they’d already marinated on a collab with the Frankton Marina-based brewery.

Simultaneously, Altitude GM Peter Forde noticed the barley fields were bare, so dropped Bagrie an email asking him if there might be any barley available for beer.

The rest of the story’s soon to become history in a bottle.

What’s special about the new brew is it’s the first time Altitude’s managed to find a Queenstown barley producer.

Taste of the terra: Royalburn’s Carlos Bagrie in one of three barley fields harvested to produce Altitude’s new Royalburn Italian pilsner. PICTURE: MATT QUEREE

Head brewer Eliott Menzies says, till now, that’s had to come from Gladfield, near  Christchurch, or around the Wairarapa.

‘‘Pete said, ‘we’ve got this opportunity to get local barley’ … which is something that’s been [desired] for a long time.

‘‘We’ve got local water and local hops, but to get barley and combine it all together in a beer that is 100% Queenstown, that means a lot to me.

‘‘When that was an option, I was like, ‘let’s do it’.’’

Bagrie says he can’t think of another NZ single-source, single-malt, locally-grown beer.

‘‘Our elevation, our farm, those paddocks — 700 metres above sea level — spray-free crops grown and harvested with love to then be shared with Eliott’s team, to be brewed with skill and expertise; this should hopefully be the taste of Queenstown.’’

Menzies says it’s the first time they’ve had a crack at an Italian pilsner, selected to celebrate the malt, and says it’s ‘‘shaping up really nicely’’.

‘‘We’re not aiming for 10% IPA, we’re aiming for a beer that’s accessible for people that want to try it, so an Italian pilsner is … 5%, fairly simple, approachable style, but still champions what we’re all about with the project.’’

Bagrie says the collaboration’s ‘‘one of the most fun projects we’ve been involved with’’.

“The Royalburn story that we really want to start to tell, as opposed to viewing ourselves as farmers, we’d like to view ourselves as food producers.

“There are some cool things going on – by virtue of where we are, and how we farm, we think we’re producing some really amazing food produce, whether that’s market garden greens, or lamb meat, or, obviously, barley … [and] most of what we produce stays within the Basin.”

Menzies says the Royalburn Italian pilsner keg will be tapped on July 1 — coinciding with Bagrie’s birthday.