A beer-loving Kiwi found a novel way to farewell his home country - by brewing in a forest hut.

Zachary Byrne - who is moving to the USA - chose to spend his final days in New Zealand crafting a beer in the wilderness before cracking it open and sharing it with friends.

Over 30 days in February and March, Byrne developed 'Roaring Brew', which he named after the Department of Conservation hut he brewed it in - the 12-bunk Roaring Stag hut in the Tararua Forest Park.

He had chosen the hut because of its relatively close proximity to the trail head, and the clean river water that ran alongside the hut.


He had planned to save the beer for a celebration on his last evening at the Roaring Stag, and had invited several friends to hike in for the night, including his brother Nicky, who travelled from Colorado, USA, to be there.

"The final day was fantastic. I got to see my brother who I hadn't seen in three years, and friends who I hadn't seen in a month," Byrne told the Herald on Sunday.

"To finally have my brother and my friends here after a month of being alone, I was just ecstatic.

"It was less of a 'wild party' and more a fun night with friends, five of us, as others couldn't make the trek. Sorry to all who turned away from the hut. They missed a fun night."

He described the beer as a dark and malty brew with a sweet, caramel flavour.

While happy with how it turned out, the self-described extrovert wasn't quite prepared for stretches of several days with no human contact.

Zachary Byrne set up a makeshift tripod to hold the brew steady on the fire. Photo / Supplied
Zachary Byrne set up a makeshift tripod to hold the brew steady on the fire. Photo / Supplied

"The physical stuff, hiking in 25kg-loads, that wasn't nearly as bad as just being alone for five or six days, not seeing another human being," he said.

"I was surprised by the vast loneliness. You talk to yourself a lot."


He had taken some time to explore other huts in the northern Tararua, but did not meet many people.

"When you're tramping, the only thing you hear is your boots, your breathing, the bird life and the rivers. No one to talk to. No one to laugh with when you slip in the mud.

"Over the rapids, you keep thinking you hear music in the distance, but it's not. It's just some trick."

It had taken Byrne a week to carry several cumbersome items from the trail head to the hut - a 10km round-trip.

These included a 50-litre pot, plastic containers to ferment the beer, hops, yeast, priming sugar and 15kg of grain - mainly barley.

He also carried in 5kg of onions, 5kg of potatoes, 5kg of carrots, 1kg of brown sugar, a bag of flour, 90 eggs, and half a kilo of dried mangoes which he described as "my favourite".

Day eight was brewing day, which started with Byrne filling his pot with 30 litres of water from the Ruamahanga River.

He used wood from the forest floor bound with rope to set up a tripod so he could set the pot above a fire pit.

"I got the fire going, got it up to 65C, then put the grains in."

After a 75-minute steeping process, he drained the water - now called the wort - cleared the pot, and then returned the wort to the pot and boiled it for 65 minutes. He then put the wort into fermenting containers and dragged them into the river to cool them.

"I was worried they'd float away, so I tied them off with a rope."

Zachary Byrne spent 30 days in the Tararua Forest Park for a home brew experiment. Photo / Supplied
Zachary Byrne spent 30 days in the Tararua Forest Park for a home brew experiment. Photo / Supplied

Once cool enough, he added the yeast, then left it for 10 days to ferment. During this period, he explored the northern Tararuas, but got stuck in Dundas Hut for three days waiting out a storm.

"I was worried someone would come in to Roaring Stag and think, 'Oh, free beer', and eat all my food. I had no sign on any of my stuff saying I would be back because I didn't expect to get stuck in a storm."

When he got back, his brewing operation was thankfully still there, and he added priming sugar and bottled it. It sat in bottles for 18 days.

Nicky Byrne called his brother an "absolute legend" on Facebook.

"Zach was without cell service for his 30 days in the backcountry, so none of us knew what or how he was doing," he posted.

"It was a beautiful hike in - lush canopies above, narrow suspension bridges spanning steep gorges below, ferns of all sizes, exotic bird calls, a lush riparian ecosystem.

"We joked at what we would find at the hut? An unrecognisable man with overgrown body hair, a pungent smell, and a strange affinity for the mice? Or would we just find a body? No one had heard, so no one knew."

He smelled the fire at the hut before seeing it, he said.

"I burst out from the bush and called 'Is anybody home!?' There was Zach, alive and well, a wide grin bursting from behind an even wider beard. It had been three years since I had last seen my brother in person. I couldn't have been happier."

He said his brother exemplified the responsibilities of enjoying and looking after the outdoors, and they all helped to pack everything out the following day.

"I may be biased. But hell, the Roaring Brew was one damn good creation."

Not everyone was as enthusiastic about Byrne's brewing project. One Wellington tramper complained to media about finding Byrne brewing beer in the hut and her surprise that DoC didn't mind.

Lorraine Freeman said: "You wouldn't be allowed to brew beer at the local town park, so why would it be okay to do it in a national park?"

However, DoC's Wairarapa operations manager Kathy Koukamau said Byrne was "personable and friendly" and had a current hut pass, so there was no problem.

"While we certainly wouldn't encourage this behaviour, our ranger made a call that, from what he witnessed, the man wasn't bothering other users at that time."

Byrne responded to the media story on Facebook, saying: "I offered this couple tea and fresh bread and they were still so grumpy! I told them they were welcome to join me, I welcomed anyone in. But they were so upset that they hiked 2 hours back to the hut they stayed at the night before! I even swept the hut and cleared cobwebs. The hut had never looked so good."

His brother also weighed in later, saying: "I only wish Lorraine would pack in her bad attitude, dig a six-inch hole, and bury that s*** where it belongs."