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Lighthouse Brewery

I first met Dick Tout from Lighthouse Brewery in the late 1970s when he owned RE Tout & Son, a service station on Collingwood St where the 132 Medical Centre is now.

During the time he owned the service station he also bought a couple of properties that had been part of the original block the service station was on. One of these was to become the home of Dick Tout Beer Essentials in the 1990s before evolution saw the launch of Lighthouse Brewery in 1996 in the premises now occupied by the Sprig & Fern on Hardy St.

That may have been the start of Lighthouse Brewery but his brewing story started back in 1964 during his mechanics apprenticeship.

At home there wasn’t much wine available so mum and dad drank beer most days with their evening meal and young Dick was allowed the occasional small glass. When he started his apprenticeship at Bolton Motors in 1964 he really discovered beer.

For his first Christmas party at the workshop, staff organised a fishing trip and Tout signed up to go. He arrived with his fishing gear and everyone else had crates of flagons.

He was the only one who did any fishing that weekend and as Tout says “as a young lad this was a real eye opener”.

In those days he was earning five pounds a week and Tout says his mum had some strict rules. One was that he had to save half of everything he earned while he was living at home. There wasn’t much left to buy beer with so he started brewing it.

He says there were some great beers, plenty of them memorable for all the wrong reasons, but he persevered and after a few years was “making a pretty decent drop”.

As the years went by he got married, did the obligatory OE and when he returned home bought a business and a house and there still wasn’t a lot of spare cash so he decided to get serious about brewing his own beer at home in 1977.

Tout loved the interaction with the public at his service station and there was always plenty of banter in the workshop and on the forecourt, much of it about his beer making.

In about 1985 a guy appeared on the forecourt one day and said he was selling home brew kits.

At this stage Tout was brewing beer from scratch and each brew took about four weeks. “This guy reckoned the flash home brew kit could make better beer in half the time” … so he bought one.

Tout liked the results and asked the guy from Christchurch if he could be the Nelson agent for them.

He started by ordering six kits, sold them in the first week and had a waiting list for them.

Out went the packs of oil and other slow selling automotive accessories and in moved a small home brew shop within the service station.

The next move was to sell the service station (it became BJ’s Gym then the medical centre) and set up Dick Tout’s Beer essentials, a business he ran and enjoyed for a number of years.

Over time others started selling beer making kits and associated products too but buyers always came to Tout for advice on how to use them or on how to make better beer.

While he has always loved dealing with people he got sick of showing people how to use gear someone else had sold them so gave up selling brew kits and set up the Lighthouse Brewery.

Tout wanted to do the whole brewing thing properly and contacted Customs to see what was required.

At that stage, Customs had rules designed for big operations not a small brewery with a 200 litre capacity for each brew. He says Customs were incredibly helpful and set him on the right track.

Stuart McPherson, who was the food technologist for Mac’s, designed the very small brewery and Customs came up with a solution for his small business that allowed him to comply with excise duty requirements.

Tout says “there was no point in trying to put one across them, it will only come back to bite you”.

The brewery in Hardy St was commissioned in 1996.

Lighthouse Brewery is now located at 21 Echodale Place where Dick still makes 200 litre batches of unpasteurised, preservative free fresh beer, the most popular beer is his Tasman Bay Pilsner but he still sells plenty of the Cheeky Little Larger, a stout and has two seasonal beers – the summer breeze larger and the DPA which is a slightly darker beer for winter.

For Marchfest this year he made a red onion ale. The organisers asked if he was sure because one rule of brewing is, “don’t use onion”.

On the public score sheet one person gave him 4.5/5 and commented he had achieved everything he aimed for. Someone else described it as one of Lighthouse Breweries’ better disasters.

I tasted it last week and I must say if he bottled it I would buy it!

Tout says if you do a good job as a mechanic people don’t always tell you that you have done a good job, their car just runs better, but with beer you always get feedback about a great product and he loves seeing smiles on people’s faces.

The truly boutique Lighthouse Brewery is open for tours by appointment and has sales on site between 9.30am and 4.30 pm in winter, except Tuesday afternoon which is when he does his deliveries and bookwork. The cheeky banter is free.


Milcrest Estate 2014 Reserve Chardonnay RRP$33.50

This is a beautifully balanced full style chardonnay. Ripe fruit, firm oak and soft malo characters blend to make a delicious wine. Passionfruit flavours with overtones of peach and creamy vanilla characters and a wonderful texture make this is a five star wine.

I have been writing a regular wine column for The Nelson Mail newspaper since 2000.

Unfortunately the column space is not big enough to include my thoughts on all of the many wines I taste. Hopefully this blog will fix that. It also gives me somewhere to archive the many columns I write. I will also include some favourite recipes from my dearly beloved who loves cooking and of course because wine and food simply go together. I will also point you in the direction of upcoming events and websites I think are great. Enjoy, Neil

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