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April 7, 2008 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]


It is absolutely possible to talk about Tui beer without mentioning the marketing – yeah right.

Founded in 1889 on the banks of the Mangatainoka River, the official history of Tui – as written by Tui – notes that the beer “remained pretty much a Wairarapa-Hawke’s Bay secret until the 1990s when Massey University students adopted Tui as their preferred drop. This led to the expansion through the lower North Island, then through the rest of the country.”

My historical research suggests a somewhat different course of events. The surge in Tui’s popularity was caused by clever marketing and aggressive sponsorship. It actually occurred despite the popularity of the drop at Palmerston North Polytech (known locally as Massey University). Young readers will need to know that this all happened back when Massey did not have more branches than Wishbone.

The catchy, funny and sometimes insightful billboards were the key. In 2006, a book of the hundred best billboards sold over 52,000 copies – a figure which makes WRIT students cry.

Before the current series of “brewed by women, gorgeous women” television commercials, there was a Tui ad featuring the Swedish volleyball team. I had my picture taken with them though the occasion was lessened by one team member constantly complaining that she had to go the toilet in an accent that was more Strathmore than Stockholm.

Each year, Tui sells over $2m of branded merchandise. Personally, I have a Tui sofa and television set. The website lists a staggering 55 items of Tui clothing alone. There are Tui clocks, golf club covers and six different gnomes. A party at my first flat conclusively proved Tui gnomes cannot survive a spin in the dryer.

The latest product is Tuimato – a “chunky tomato sauce with a splash of Tui.” It is relatively sweet but more than serviceable on sausages.

In addition to the standard Tui (5%), a new dark beer is currently on tap in select bars and will be bottled in April. The nice people at Tui set up a tasting for me at The Realm, Haitaitai – the bar with the catchiest jingle in radio history.

Toki Dark (5%) pours from the jug dark with flashes of ruby. Significantly maltier than Tui, it has a sweetish caramel nose and a body with some burnt notes. Correctly, it is served very cold. The beer does not improve when it warms up and Tui drinkers are hardly famed for their patience. For a mainstream beer, Toki Dark is pleasantly balanced and reasonably full. Try it with the suggested food matches of steak and mushroom pie or an “unlucky Mangatainoka brown trout”.


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Comments (5)

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  1. Flash says:

    Being new to this beer lark, it would have been good to actually hear more about the beer rather than some long-winded nonsense about the marketing. Does Neil even drink beer at all? My understanding is that Tui is an East India Pale Ale. If one looks at Wikipedia one can find all kinds of interesting information about this intriguing type of beer.

    More about the beer please!

  2. James says:

    In Neil’s defence Tui isn’t really interesting enough to stand alone as a beer to talk about, it’s an insipid poorly made lager (that’s right it’s not an Indian Pale Ale) that utilises cheap fermentable adjuncts rather than malt, I guess you could say it’s essentially an alcohol delivery system….this is exactly Neil’s point, it needs marketing to sell it! Without the advertising it would never sell on flavour not matter what the hardest core Tui fan will tell you.

  3. WAYNE RHODES says:

    Tuimato is not available in the South Island anyone know why.

  4. Steve says:

    You should find it on It’s a FREE liquor pricing search engine and you can find & compare specials on beer, wine & spirits across retailers all over NZ.

  5. Barry says:

    To reiterate what James said, find yourself a real IPA – an English variant, an aggressively hopped west coast USA variant or even one of our fine New Zealand ones (Emersons 1812, Tuatara IPA, 3 Boys IPA, Pink Elephant Rogers Reserve – look around for a decent bottle shop – like Regional Wines & Spirits there’s plenty of options).
    Taste it alongside a Tui and witness the difference between well crafted beer and mass produced watery amber lager.

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