Mata Beer Tasting Room and Brewery
17 Gateway Crescent, Coastlands, Whakatane, New Zealand
It’s Friday afternoon, just after 5pm, and it’s been a busy week at work. I wanted to do something different to end the week, so I called my friends Sam and John to check out why there’s such a great buzz about the new Tasting Room at Gateway Drive.
Mata Beer (Aotearoa Breweries) had its humble beginnings in the small town of Kawerau in 2005, though what they have achieved is anything but small. This year has seen them expand to add a foodie experience for craft beer lovers.
Gateway Drive is an industrial section of Whakatane - just a few minutes drive past the bridge and across the road from The Hub shopping centre. Trades and car yards have long lived here - yet somehow it made sense to open the Tasting Room just down the road. The area is often deserted after hours, so street parking is no issue, and even just a short drive away from all the other cafes and restaurant in the CBD, makes it feel like an ideal escape from the daily grind.
There’s a friendly, neighbourhood nostalgia about the place - where you run into people you know and catch up over a drink or two. Or in my case, pizza. By the way, I chose to give up drinking back in 2007, so I can’t tell you much about craft beer. Actually, that’s why Sam and John came with me, and they helped me to choose some take-home for my Dad.
Sitting outside and already enjoying a tasting tray were our friends, Liz and Nathan Minchington. Sam and I knew them through musical theatre, and I had taught their daughter, Holly, during my dance studio years. I had featured them in a past post when they invited me over for dinner at their home in Taneatua. Nathan is an amazing cook and it was a feast to say the least.
Tasting trays and pizzas
We were greeted at the counter by a smiling young man with a beard. He had a genuine, natural banter and gave us the kind of service you get from someone who is both professional and really enjoys their job. I also noticed that he was left handed, which of course made him extra cool in my books. Sam and John ordered their tasting trays, making sure to choose different beer flavours. We also ordered two pizzas: Pepperoni as well as Chicken and Cranberry. They were great choices I must add.
The pizzas arrived as the boys were halfway through their tasting trays. The Chicken and Cranberry pizza was a unanimous favourite. To quote Sam, “Thank you for not making it taste like a cafe panini.” We all laughed, but I know what he meant. Chicken, cranberry and brie is a flavour combination that is both delicious and incredibly frustrating when done wrong. Yes, Tasting Room, you did good.
The base has a lot to do with it of course - between a thin crust and classic, it held together well and had a great texture that made all those carbs worth it. Though not made in-house, the bases are made fresh locally from a local French cafe. The young man with the beard came back to talk food and craft beer, and future pizza flavours. Luckily for him there were four foodies at our table, and of course we wouldn’t miss an opportunity to talk shop.
Even though craft beer is their main product, the Tasting Room’s real appeal is in getting the basics right. In an industrial setting, they have created a modern, homely space that is welcoming to a wide range of customers - from the tradesman to the craft beer connoisseur. There’s something special about this place, yet I can’t quite put my finger on it. You just need try them for yourself, then you’ll know what I mean.
The Mata Beer Tasting Room, yes, you did good.
#RonnaEats taste: 4.5 spoons
Vibe: 5 stars
Who is RonnaEats? Ronna Funtelar runs this independent foodie blog, with a philosophy to eat and write about food we can rave about. We don't ask for free meals or collaborate with our reviewed eateries, so you can be assured the reviews are unbiased and all for the love of food. Whether it's a food truck, a hole in the wall eatery, street food, local hangout or fine dining, we want to know where to head to for our next food adventure.