At pub Waihao Forks Hotel in Waimate, New Zealand, patrons will find an unopened bottle of Ballins XXXX beer that’s been on display for over 80 years. Known as “Ted’s bottle,” the sealed brew commemorates a local hero who fought for his country during World War II. The beer and the lore behind it have lived on at the pub — and in New Zealanders’ hearts — since 1939, despite the passing decades and numerous ownership changes at the establishment.
Ted d’Auvergne was born on Feb. 21, 1906 as the youngest of six to a farming family in Waihao Downs, New Zealand. Wishing to become a farmer like his father, d’Auvergne left school at the age of 14 to work at the family farm following a diving incident that damaged the hearing in one of his ears. But two days after Germany invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939 — and when New Zealand declared war on the European nation in congruence with the British Empire — d’Auvergne knew his true calling was to join the war effort. Prior to war breaking out, he had been a part of New Zealand’s Territorial Force (a reserve component of the army) for 13 years. Despite the fact that farmers were deemed essential to stay at home to provide the country and its soldiers with food, the 33-year-old reportedly protested, “I haven’t played at soldiers for 13 years to not get involved when the real thing happens!”
After enlisting on Sept. 19, d’Auvergne was posted as a driver to the 27th Machine Gun Battalion as part of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force in North Africa and Crete. After his departure in January 1940, he served for 18 months before he was tragically killed in action in 1941 at the age of 35.
Sadly, d’Auvergne never made it back to the bar, but there are several versions of how “Ted’s bottle” came to have a permanent home there. The most common says d’Auvergne had enjoyed one last beer at his farewell party before his departure, leaving his second unopened on the bartop before telling pub manager George Provan, “We’ll open it when I get back.” Another similar story claims that d’Auvergne was invited to the pub by Provan to share a farewell drink before the train he was intended to be departing on started whistling, signaling boarding time. Provan is said to have put the bottle on the shelf behind the bar before turning to the soldier to say, “We’ll have this one, Ted, when you come home again.”
To this day, the bar keeps d’Auvergne’s memory and sacrifice alive, protecting the now-famed beer bottle encased in a glass box that reads, “In Memory of L.T.M. D’AUVERGNE.” Today, the story of Ted’s bottle is widely known across the nation, reentering public consciousness every April 25 on Anzac Day, a day of remembrance for all those in Australia and New Zealand who have lost their lives in service.