Student helps create craft beer with gin

Massey student Tash Snowball Kui and Lila, the Juniper Wit beer she helped create

Most students leave their summer internship with new skills or knowledge or maybe even a job offer, but Tash Snowball Kui gets to leave with a beer she helped create.

Studying a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours (Chemical and Bioprocess Engineering), Miss Kui landed a summer role with Taranaki Gin Distillery, BeGin, researching how the water by-product from BeGin’s distilling process, could be used to create a beer.

The Juniper Witbier was released on January 5 by Three Sisters Brewery, named “Lila”, after the largest of BeGin’s copper stills. It is currently in five stores around Taranaki, with plans to produce more batches later in the year for further distribution. 

Miss Kui says that people’s reactions to the beer have been amazing.

“It’s the first-ever gin / beer that I have heard of in New Zealand. As a student, to make something, it’s pretty amazing. It’s definitely one of the best things I’ve done in my life so far.

“At the start we started off with just the still-water, which is the by-product that comes out of the distillation and then we ran some tests on it to see if there were any starches that could be used for fermentation for beer. We found some, so we decided to do a trial brew batch. The trial batch was quite zesty, quite orangey and a real light summer beer, which was different from the final batch. Which was surprising as when we increased the amount that we made, it changed the flavours, so we added gin and juniper berries to it as well and got a whole new flavour.”

“It is such an achievement because I’ve never really done anything like this. I’m being able to do something I love and learn new things, other than just learning the theory of it at university.”

BeGin’s Dave James, Jo James and Tash Snowball Kui, and Three Sister’s owner Joe Emans; Tash Snowball Kui.

From idea to beer

The initial idea came from BeGin owners, Jo and Dave James, who have a strong commitment to sustainability in their business. 

Jo James says that they try to find alternative uses for the by-products of their signature Juno gin. 

“When you are making gin, you end up with solid and liquid material at the end. The solid material is the juniper berries, which goes to a local chocolatier Giles who makes Juno Gin truffles, which are delicious. But we hadn’t found a home for the liquids and it was a discussion with the beermakers at the Auckland Food Show where we came up with the idea. Because it’s had all this juniper through it, it’s got starches and sugars, could we use that to ferment and make a beer? We didn’t know, so we were really looking for someone who could take that project on and run with it. “We had an application for an internship from Tash who said her interest were brewing, so it was a no-brainer.”

“The beer is delicate, refreshing and delicious — a perfect middle ground upon which craft beer and gin enthusiasts alike can get excited.”

Massey Contact Centre Mon - Fri 8:30am to 4:30pm 0800 MASSEY (+64 6 350 5701) TXT 5222 Web chat Staff Alumni News Māori @ Massey