The Man who Helped Dis­cover the Win­ning For­mula of FIJI GOLD BEER

mailife - - Plus - By JOHN MITCHELL Pho­tos JONE LUVENITOGA

It is around 4.30pm Satur­day and the wind blow­ing across Suva Bay onto the Suva Bowl­ing Club green seems re­fresh­ingly cool. At the same time the am­ber colour of Fiji Gold in a glass ap­pears tempt­ing. Warm fin­gers lift the beer mug from the ta­ble, where a man with white hair sips through parched lips. One look at him and you know he’d been sweat­ing on the bowl­ing green most of the day. He is 80, be­spec­ta­cled, and wears the white hairdo of most men his age with dig­nity. From a dis­tance he doesn’t seem to ex­ude the en­ergy he once ra­di­ated. You look away. But then some­one tells you this is the man who helped cre­ate the for­mula be­hind the brand we now know as “Fiji Gold”. A few wows later, you look back with en­thu­si­asm and meet Mataiyasi Vakaloloma Naua - pa­tron of the Suva Bowl­ing Club, bowl­ing fa­natic, fa­ther of 10 and ca­reer brewer. This is how it all be­gan! In 1958, Naua started work at the then Carl­ton Brew­ery Fiji Lim­ited, one year af­ter it opened under the own­er­ship of CBF and Carl­ton & United Brew­ers of Mel­bourne, Aus­tralia. He was 21,fresh out of DAV School and hoped to find a job where he’d work tem­po­rar­ily be­fore find­ing a per­ma­nent one. He also had to help his dad who sup­ported the fam­ily on his mea­gre wages as a gar­dener. “Funny, I didn’t grow up hav­ing a dream job. I was pretty much a good chem­istry stu­dent so work­ing at the brew­ery was a nat­u­ral choice for me. I never in­tended to stay there for long but sur­pris­ingly it was the only place I ever worked. I stayed there for 43 years be­fore re­tir­ing,”Naua said during an in­ter­view with maiL­ife. Naua’s first job was as lab­o­ra­tory as­sis­tant, test­ing prod­ucts from the start of brew­ing process un­til beer was packed in kegs and en­sur­ing that what peo­ple drank was safe. Af­ter three years, man­age­ment de­cided to em­ploy him at other stages of pro­duc­tion start­ing from clean­ing the com­pany’s five brew­ing tanks and han­dling brew­ing raw ma­te­ri­als in­clud­ing malt, hops (a leaf that pro­duces al­pha acid and gives beers its bit­ter taste), sugar and wa­ter. He spent up to six months learn­ing the ins and outs of brew­ing, cool­ing, fer­men­ta­tion, cold stor­age, car­bon­a­tion, fil­tra­tion and pas­teuri­sa­tion. Af­ter the brew­ing stage he was in­volved in fer­men­ta­tion, a process where heated and cooled brew called wort was mixed with yeast and left to fer­ment for seven days. This pe­riod al­lowed the wort to re­act with yeast to give off car­bon diox­ide gas and form al­co­hol. Once fer­men­ta­tion was com­plete, beer was chilled on its way to stor­age tanks in the 31-32’F cel­lars where beer was sub­jected to cold tem­per­a­tures and sed­i­ments were al­lowed to set­tle. Then beer in the tanks were in­jected with car­bon diox­ide gas and fil­tered into tanks for the pas­teuri­sa­tion process. Bulk pas­teuri­sa­tion re­sulted in draught beer which was fi­nally stored in kegs while pack­aged beer was filled in bot­tles and went through a pas­teuris­ing cham­ber be­fore it was la­belled and packed in car­tons. Naua said Fiji’s orig­i­nal beers were Fiji Bit­ter and Fiji Lager. A few for­mu­las were cre­ated and prod­ucts made through­out the years but noth­ing was quite like what they stum­bled across in the 1990s. “In the 1990s. Fiji Bit­ter sales were go­ing down so moves were made to find a beer for­mula peo­ple would love and help drive sales. Through trial and er­ror that took close to year Fiji Gold was born.”

“I can’t tell you the specifics of the for­mula ex­cept that Fiji Gold is smooth and easy to drink. It is a strong brand that con­tin­ues to do well in the mar­ket. Af­ter a ca­reer that spanned across four decades Naua retired in 2001 at the age of 64. He looks back with sat­is­fac­tion know­ing he had con­trib­uted a lot to the in­dus­try and a house­hold brand loved by many the world over. “I joined just to gain work ex­pe­ri­ence but lit­tle did I re­alise I was go­ing to stay for 43 years. That is just how in­ter­est­ing my job was. There was never a dull mo­ment be­cause I worked with a very ded­i­cated group of peo­ple. They re­spected me and I re­spected them.” “I made very good friends and con­tinue to meet many of my for­mer work fam­ily. Some­times we sit down for a few beers and talk about the good old days.” For leisure, Naua and his wife, Martha, play lawn bowls at the Suva Bowl­ing Club every Satur­day. Bowl­ing al­lows them to ex­er­cise, so­cialise and con­tinue their as­so­ci­a­tion with Fiji Gold, the brand he calls his baby. “Bowl­ing al­lows me to ex­er­cise all parts of my body and have fun. Beer also tastes so nice af­ter a hot day on the lawn so af­ter the games at around four or five, my wife and I get to sit down with friends and en­joy a few drinks,” Naua said. “I al­ways ad­vise peo­ple to drink Fiji Gold be­cause it tastes beau­ti­ful. But like any­thing, you must take it in mod­er­a­tion oth­er­wise it be­comes not so beau­ti­ful,” When not sip­ping chilled beer with friends or play­ing bowls at the Suva Bowl­ing Club, Naua en­joys the com­pany of Martha at their Nadera home, a woman he says swept him off his feet as a young man. He said his fa­ther did not earn a lot as a gar­dener but he was hard work­ing. His mother was a house­wife. They lived on Charles Street in Toorak, a place peo­ple who grew up there fondly call Ba­gasau. “We lived in long bar­racks that had 10 rooms. We were rent­ing one and Martha moved in op­po­site us with her mum. I fell in love with her the first time I saw her. She was re­ally beau­ti­ful.” Af­ter a while, the two were walk­ing to work to­gether, hang­ing out and even­tu­ally fall­ing into love. Martha ex­plains: “I re­mem­ber the day he pro­posed to me. We were walk­ing to see some of his rel­a­tives in Laqere. I said hang on, I have to think about this. I was only a teenager and my mum was strict.” “It took a bit of time to size him out. We even­tu­ally got mar­ried and have been to­gether since.” Naua said:”We have a seven year age dif­fer­ence but she was just so beau­ti­ful in those days. I knew she had a lot of ad­mir­ers, some of them good friends of mine but I knew I could get her”. When asked about the se­cret of a last­ing mar­riage, Naua was au­to­matic with his re­ply. “A hus­band has to learn to lis­ten to his wife. Most times the hus­band does the talk­ing and the wife does the lis­ten­ing. You have to lis­ten to each other, talk to each other and say sorry if you’ve done some­thing wrong.” “A hus­band and his wife are equal part­ners…they are both up there, to­gether, side by side. The woman is not below the man and the man is not above the woman. If a man treats his wife well, a woman will be happy, the cou­ple won’t ar­gue and there would be no rea­son to ever break up.” And Naua’s se­cret to longevity? “Hap­pi­ness. Al­ways be happy then noth­ing will bother you.” Be­ing an im­por­tant mem­ber of the team that pro­duced the Fiji Gold for­mula does not make the Moce, Lau is­lander big­headed. He said it was rather a hum­bling ex­pe­ri­ence marked by hard work, care­ful re­search, hours of ex­per­i­ments and ded­i­ca­tion. “When­ever I get a chance to have a few beers with friends I feel happy to drink and share a brand I was heav­ily in­volved with. I tell them to drink Fiji Gold and en­joy its health ben­e­fits.”

Mataiyasi re­laxes at his Nadera home with wife, Martha.

The Nauas on the porch of their Nadera home.

End­less love…Martha and Mataiyasi get head to head.

Mataiyasi gives an in­ter­view at home.

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