Who is New Zealand’s Oldest ‘Craft’ Brewery?

Longevity is not the same thing as quality, especially in the beer industry. After all, Tui has been around for donkey’s years. I set out to learn which ‘craft’ brewery is the oldest because of a realisation that I could think of at least five breweries that were all trying to claim the title in one way or another. Frankly, I didn’t believe any of them. Heritage is perceived as a valuable marketing tool and it’s no surprise that several different outfits are vying for the position oldest ‘craft’ brewery.

But which one really is the oldest? Let’s take a look at the contenders. But first, some terms:

Oldest – I’m defining oldest as: “The brewery that has operated as a commercial brewing entity continuously for the longest period of time”. By ‘commercial brewing entity’ I mean a business that has been making beer under a ‘brand’ name. To put it simply – was the brewery, throughout the history they claim, making beer; and could I reasonably expect to go and buy one?

The reason I’m defining it this way is because all the breweries I’m going to look at in the course of this article have changed hands at least once in their history. What I want to do is differentiate between breweries that have been sold and continued operating as essentially the same business, and breweries that have changed ownership and subsequently become a new brewery altogether.

An illustration of the difference would be the cases of Emerson’s and Monkey Wizard. Both were sold to new owners, but Emerson’s stayed Emerson’s. You can drink the same beers, with the same label. You can go to the Emerson’s Brewery.

Monkey Wizard on the other hand, as soon as it was sold, ceased to be Monkey Wizard. You could no longer reasonably expect to go and buy a Monkey Wizard beer and you can’t go to the Monkey Wizard Brewery. Instead, you can go to the Hop Federation brewery. It’s a whole new entity, making a different range of beers under a different name. Monkey Wizard was founded 2006. Hop Federation uses the same premises and equipment as Monkey Wizard, but it would not be reasonable for Hop Federation to claim to have been founded 2006 (and very sensibly, they don’t).

Apologies for going on at length about this, but the distinction will become important later on.

‘Craft’ – I’ve always put that word in quotation marks because there is no agreed on definition of the term, nor do I ever think there will be one. I’m using it here as a collective term to broadly describe beers that are part of the ‘craft/boutique brewing sector’.

As such, these beers are not separable from the rest of the market in any quantifiable manner. ‘Craft’ beer isn’t definable according to quality, ownership, production method, style, or any other measurable way. Instead I’m using the ‘Obscenity Method’: what is ‘craft’ beer? I can’t describe it, but I know it when I see it.

Some people may take issue with this approach. If that’s the case, I make no apology. These are my opinions and yours may differ. Caveat lector.

So let’s get down to assessing some of the cases for New Zealand’s oldest ‘craft’ brewer. Let’s start with the easiest to dispel.

Hancock & Co. BrewingHancock

The claim: According to their website and this rather painful Youtube video. Hancock has been busily brewing ‘craft’ beer since 1859.

How it stacks up: complete bullshit.

Hancock Brewing was indeed founded in 1859. It was in Auckland. Importantly it was one of the ten breweries that merged to become New Zealand Breweries, and ultimately the company known today as Lion.

As such, the company that was Hancock is still operating (as Lion), but Hancock itself ceased to exist as commercial brewing entity. So why is it back?

Well, Lion sold the brand which it still owned the rights of, and new beers were launched under the name, brewed under contract at McCashin’s in Nelson. So as a commercial brewing entity, the Hancock of today can only claim to have existed since 2011.

Founders Brewery

The claim: 1854, from their website.

Founders-brewery

How it stacks up: Also bullshit.

If you read their ‘history‘ page, you could easily believe that the Duncans/Dodsons have been handing down a brewery from generation to generation for over a century. They haven’t.

As before, there is a grain of historical truth in this one: an ancestor of the contemporary founder of Founders brewery did indeed have a brewery, although he didn’t found it, he bought into it.

Joseph R. Dodson bought into Hooper & Co., a Nelson brewery. He later then sold these shares and leased the Bridge Street Brewery, only to buy back into Hooper and Co. a few years later.

In 1879 the name of the brewery was changed to J.R. Dodson and Sons and the story runs more or less as the website claims, until 1944 when it merges with the Raglan Brewery (which Dodson Senior had also helped set up) to become Nelson Breweries Limited.

Nelson Breweries operated until 1969, when it was bought out by DB and closed down completely. This is where the dynasty ends and Founders start playing fast and loose with the truth.

When the website claims that Nick Duncan was brewing from 1969-2004, this is technically true, but he wasn’t brewing for Founders, he was brewing for DB, at Tui and elsewhere. This is a bit of a sneaky claim, akin to if Fork Brewing claimed to have been established in 2001 – the year brewer Kelly Ryan also went to work for Tui. Similarly, the claim on the website that John R. Duncan has been brewing since 1987 is also misleading: he was brewing for Mac’s between 1987-1999.

The modern entity that is Founders Brewery, now owned by Asahi, was started from scratch in 1999 by John Duncan. The supposed heritage claimed by the website actually spans five breweries and disguises a gap of 40 years.

Not really. Source.

Not really.                                          Source.

Monteith’s

The claim: Founded by Stewart Monteith in 1868.

How it stacks up: More bullshit, but not necessarily in the way you might expect.

Stewart Monteith didn’t found a brewery in 1868, he took one over – the Phoenix Brewery in Reefton. Through various mergers and closures, we end up with the Westland Brewery, which was absorbed into Dominion Brewing in 1969.

So in a certain manner, some sort of brewing has been happening out of what is now the Monteith’s brewery for over a century. But the Monteith’s that we know of today, although having the appearance of a family-owned brewery that has been been taken over by a corporate brewer (a la Mac’s and Emerson’s), was a was itself entirely an invention of DB. They took a name from history, stuck it on the wall and said it had always been so. As such, the ‘commercial brewing entity’ that is Monteith’s has only existed since 1990.

Mac’sMac_s Shield

The claim: 1981

How it stacks up: Accurate, but…

Mac’s was indeed started in 1981 by Terry McCashin. It was the first independently owned brewery to open since Lion and DB had set about closing down or pushing out all of New Zealand’s small breweries decades before.

As such, it is fantastically important part of New Zealand brewing history. I don’t want to understate the importance of Mac’s to the contemporary beer industry. I recommend you read Michael Donaldson (2012) and John McCrystal and Simon Farrell-Green (2013, see bibliography) to learn more about it.

But was it a ‘craft’ brewery? I don’t really think so. Certainly not by modern standards. Which isn’t to say that Mac’s couldn’t have become a contemporary ‘craft’ brewery; I just don’t think it ever did.

In 1999 Mac’s was sold to Lion, which doesn’t rule it out of being a ‘craft’ brewery (look at Emerson’s). In fact many have said the quality of beer improved after the sale; another reason I’m reluctant to grant early Mac’s the ‘craft’ moniker.

It’s not that Mac’s is owned by Lion. Nor is it that the beers are no longer made in their traditional location in Nelson. Nor is it the fact that they are now brewed in several different locations that churn out products for a range of different labels, all owned by the same conglomerate. Nor is it even the fact that all character and personality (both literal and figurative) has been divorced from the beer so that it now exists only as part of ‘brand portfolio’ with a marketing team behind it. It’s none of those things. It’s kind of all of those things together.

Don’t get me wrong, I bear no ill will towards Lion (I applauded them at the BrewNZ Awards a few weeks back), and I don’t dislike the Mac’s beers. I’d drink a Hoprocker over quite a few ‘craft’ beers of less reliable quality. We’re just back to the old situation of ‘I know it when I see it’ and when I look at Mac’s, I don’t see it. I see a ‘brand portfolio’, consisting of reliably faultless, not very inspiring, but basically fine beers. And that’s OK.

Of course feel free to disagree with me on this one. If Mac’s fits your own internal obscenity definition, then call it case closed. I can’t and won’t argue with you. If like me, you want to keep digging, then read on.

McCashin'sMcCashin’s

The claim: 1981

How it stacks up: I won’t say bullshit on this one, but it’s not the whole truth.

According to the website, McCashin’s was started in 1981 by Terry McCashin. It was the first independently owned brewery to open since Lion and DB had set about closing down or pushing out all of New Zealand’s small breweries decades before and if you’re getting the feeling that you’ve heard this story before, then you’re not wrong.

This is the story of Mac’s. So what’s the deal?

As we’ve established, Mac’s was sold in 1999. Note – this was the brand only, the brewery premises (the old Rochdale Cider Factory) remained in the hands of Terry. A ten year restraint on trade was put on Terry, and his sons Dean and Todd.

Mac’s was brewed in Nelson by Lion from Rochdale until 2004, when it was moved elsewhere and the plant was mothballed. No brewing would take place here by anyone for several years.

Fast forward to 2009, and the restraint on trade on Dean ends. He and his wife Emma take over the brewery location and equipment from Terry and Bev. They started a brewery called ‘McCashin’s Brewery’, and launch a new range of beers in 2010 under the name of ‘Stoke by the McCashin Family’.

Now this company claims to have been brewing since 1981. That’s not technically true. What is true is that the equipment they use was commissioned in 1981 (in fact the premises dates back even further, to the 1940’s). However no trace of any company trading as McCashin’s Brewery or making beer under the name McCashin or from the Rochdale Cider Factory can be found before 2009. All intellectual property associated with McCashin’s Brewery and indeed the company that owns it (660 Main Road Stoke Limited) are registered from 2009 onwards.

We’re back to the Monkey Wizard situation – existing brewery premises, but a new brewery operating out of it. With this in mind, and the fact that no beer was commercially brewed at Rochdale for a period of seven years – therefore failing the ‘can I go buy one of their beers?’ test; the claim of McCashin’s Brewery to be the oldest ‘craft’ brewery doesn’t quite hold up.

So it’s at this point we reach the end of breweries who claim to be either ‘first’, ‘oldest’ or ‘Established [1800-and-somethingsomething]’, and yet we are still no closer to finding a satisfactory answer to our original question.

But I can think of two other potential candidates that are worth investigating.

Sunshine BrewerySB_Logo_RGB

Sunshine Brewery was started in 1989 in Gisborne by Geoff Logan and Gerry Maude. They made a handful of beers, notably Gisborne Gold (Lager), Gisborne Green (Pilsner) and Black Magic (Stout). I’ve always had a soft spot for Sunshine – I drank a lot of Gisborne Gold in my formative years at university.

In 2013, Sunshine was sold to Martin Jakicevich, the operations expanded and a revamped range of very nice beers was launched, including the revival of several classics of their range, such as Black Magic.

White Cliffs Brewery

White Cliffs, better known under the name Mike’s Brewery Also started in 1989, by Mike Johnson in Urenui, Taranaki. They made one beer back then, Mike’s Mild Ale, which was apparently praised by Michael Jackson and is still available today. White Cliffs has changed hands twice in its history – in 2003 to Stephen Ekdahl and Sharol Cottam, then again in 2007 to Ron Trigg.

Ron has turned the old brewery into a stalwart of the contemporary beer scene.

So we have two breweries both started in 1989. Digging through online records wasn’t much help. So I got in touch with the current owners of both breweries. Whilst no documentation of exactly when beer was first sold could be found, anecdotally, we might have an answer: Sunshine was first brewing in September 1989, with first beer sales happening a few weeks before Christmas (end of November/start of December). White Cliffs on the other hand, was brewing test batches in June/July the same year, with first sales happening in mid-September.

So it seems that White Cliffs/Mike’s wins out by two months, which in brewing terms (And certainly brewer-founding terms) is a nose. With this in mind, perhaps the gentlemanly thing to do would be share the title between them. In the end what makes me happiest is not that both breweries have been around a long time, but that today they are both making great beer.

Bibliography

Names, dates, places and other assertions have been pulled from:

Gordon McLauchlan, Beer and Brewing – A New Zealand History, 1994, Penguin Books.

John McCrystal & Simon Farrell-Green, The First Craft Beer: The McCashin’s Story and the Kiwi Brewing Revolution it Sparked, 2013, Random House.

Jules Van Cruysen, Brewed: A Guide to the Craft Beer of New Zealand, 2015,  Potton & Burton.

Kerry Tyack, Kerry Tyack’s Guide to Breweries and Beer in New Zealand, 1999, New Holland Publishers.

Michael Donaldson, Beer Nation: The Art & Heart of Kiwi Beer, 2012, Penguin Group.

The following websites were also useful:

The Prow. A website devoted to the history of the top of the South Island. Particularly this page on the history of the Dodsons/Duncans.

The Companies Office

The Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand

Lion. Particularly their history resources.

DB. And their history resources too.

Other websites are linked in the main body of this article.

Video Beer Review #1: Hot Water Brewing Kauri Falls Pale Ale

Let’s talk about beer reviews.

A friend and I have a running joke: if she was ever to start a beer blog, it would be called “This Beer is Nice”. Every single post would be the name of the beer with a single sentence: “This beer is nice”. Alternatively, if she didn’t like it, it would say “This beer is not nice”.

And when you get down to brass tacks, that’s kind of what all beer reviews do. Some do it with more words, some with fewer. Some with greater technical acumen, others with less. But in the end, it all comes down to a subjective opinion on whether someone likes a beer or not (“This beer is nice”).

And you know what? That’s fine. I don’t want to put anyone off contributing to the public discourse of beer in New Zealand. But beer reviews definitely need to be taken with a grain of salt, and a fairly large one at that.

Brewers reading beer reviews should consider the relative reliability of the source. A reviewer who has spent years in the industry, has brewing experience, or has beer judging experience/certified BJCP or Cicerone (I’m thinking of Phil Cook of The Beer Diary and Greig McGill from the short lived Awkward Beer Reviews), will probably give more accurate and constructive feedback than some schmo who’s decided to put their opinions on the internet.

Likewise, consumers need to be wary of taking any reviewer’s opinions as gospel. There are writers out there (like Greig and Phil) whose opinions I regard highly. At the same time, I know that my particular palate is quite different to both of theirs, so just because one of them likes a beer, I don’t automatically assume I will as well.

I recommend either finding a beer reviewer whose particular tastes overlap with your own. Or better yet, try everything and decide for yourself. Be your own beer reviewer. Start a blog even. I encourage everyone to take part in the conversation about beer in this country.

But you really do need to be wary of and acknowledge the limits of your own subjectivity (and I’m talking to the writers out there, both present and future). I’ve always struggled with writers who give reviews without qualifying them as opinion, particularly if they’re using a numerical/star rating.

If you want to assign beers a score according to your own system, that’s fine, but keep in mind one thing: In the end, someone writing “this beer scores 4.3 bottlecaps out of 5,” may sound intelligent, but it really isn’t any more valid than some loon, on his knees behind a table, burbling into a can of Kauri Falls.

Just for the record, I think Kauri Falls is pretty excellent. Ten ‘gurgles’ out of ‘hurgh’. But that’s just my opinion. Your mileage may vary.

 

Absolutely, Positively, a Dick Move

Who went to Beervana this year? Did you all have as excellent a time as I did? Were all the the beers you tried absolute blinders? Did you feel that the vibe was on point and the effort from the vendors top notch? Were you stoked that the southerly wasn’t blowing, so the stadium was actually at a temperature humans could inhabit? Good on the organisers for sorting that one out.

In all seriousness, I was very impressed with Beervana this year and I’m stoked to see what next year will bring. Well done to Sarah Miekle, The Wellington Culinary Events Trust, Beth Brash, the breweries, restaurants, and of course everyone else who contributed in in any way, shape or form.

I had a great time, and so to did a lot of visitors to this city – Wellington was chock full of Aussies, Brits, Americans and of course, New Zealanders from every corner of the country. And here lies the only tiny little blotch on the whole event. A small group of people; I don’t know who or from where (and I really don’t care) came into town, visited various bars and left behind these little cards:

CardAs you can see, the accusation here is that the bars, which offer a serving of beer smaller than 562 ml are ripping off customers.

11056544_10153505379790586_186756547978479258_nThese are pretty serious claims, which I like to repudiate. Before I begin, I must point out, none of these cards were left at Golding’s. They were however, left at Hashigo Zake, Malthouse, Bethel Woods and Little Beer Quarter. As such, the views I’m going to put out in this post are entirely my own and do not represent those of my employer.

At the same time, I feel it is appropriate for me to comment because Golding’s uses the same pricing formula (give or take) as all these other bars. I am the person who sets the prices of different products at the bar. By extension then, these people are accusing me, personally, of ripping off our punters. I take exception to that.

What You Got Right:

Yes, you are correct. 425 ml does not fit any official definition of a ‘pint’. There are several different definitions of a ‘pint’, which vary depending on where you are in the world and what you’re measuring. When it comes to beer, a ‘pint’ is technically either 568 ml (strangely, not the 562 ml mentioned on the card) or 473 ml (which, for the record is what Hashigo uses).

So technically, you are correct. Bully for you. But you’re also wrong: since we adopted the metric system in 1976, the definition of a ‘pint’ ceased to have any legal relevance. In the same way that I can’t sell you a ‘pound’ of butter or a ‘gallon’ of petrol, without telling you the relevant mass in grams or volume in litres, technically I can no longer sell you one ‘pint’. I have to sell you X number of millilitres.

But that’s not quite how modern language works and people still order ‘pints’ in bars. The difference is that now the common usage in New Zealand is that ‘pint’ means “the largest single-serving of beer you offer”. You may not like this usage. You can protest it until you’re blue in the face. But you won’t be able to change the way people use the term.

So congratulations, this make you the beer equivalent of King Canute, telling the tide to turn back. It ain’t gonna happen.

What You Got Wrong

Everything else. But let’s start with the assertion that you have been served “34% less beer for the same $”. This is utterly false.

Let’s have a quick talk about the price of beer. Basically, I’m going to give you two links: Stu’s breakdown of the cost of a Yeastie Boys Beer. Also useful is Dom Kelly’s breakdown of the pricing of different beers from Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

Basically, beers are priced according to margin. Breweries set the price of the keg, then we put on a retailer margin (~22%), and then GST on top of that. Now of that margin, it breaks down in various ways. The biggest cost that needs to cover is price of the beer. After that come staff wages, and following that, various other expenses, ranging from rent, to electricity, to freight on empty kegs, to sanitising solution for our dishwasher, to cloths for drying glasses, to food grade carbon dioxide bottles to push the beer through our taps and a million other things.

After all of these is profit. Now we are profitable. We need to be. We’re a business, and this is capitalism. You’ll have to take my word for it, but let me assure you, neither Golding’s, nor any other beer bar in Wellington will ever make its owners fabulously wealthy. I will never be a millionaire from working my job. Hell, I’ll probably never be able to own a house.

What I’m really getting at here though, is that beer prices work on a set margin, and this is calculated by the millilitre. So your assertion that you should get more beer for the same price is ludicrous. Working off a margin, if you wanted 568 ml of a beer that costs $10 for 425 ml, you would need to pay $13. If it was a more expensive beer, say a big Imported IPA that cost $12.5 a 425 ml, you’d be paying around $17 an imperial ‘pint’.

Now I’m perfectly willing to do that for you. Come in, tell me who you are, tell me you want an imperial ‘pint’, and I will make a product item in our till system just for you. But you better be willing to pay, because if you think you should be getting a 568 ml serving for the same price as 425 ml, then you are delusional. That’s not how mathematics work.

“But Dylan,” I hear you say, “In XYZ town/city, I can get an imperial ‘pint’ of the same beer for less than $13”. Yes, this is true; I quite enjoy going to Nelson or Christchurch and paying slightly less for beer. The reason for this is because of variation in local economies. Just like the cost of rent changes from city to city – renting a two bedroom house in central Wellington or Auckland will cost you much more than a similar house in Hamilton – the cost of beer will vary from place to place (in fact rent is one of the big factors).

If you’d like a more dramatic illustration of this, then all you need to do is step over the Tasman. I’ve met Australians who have been astounded that they can get a Coopers for the same price (or even cheaper) in New Zealand than they can at home. On the other hand, in parts of America you can pick up a ‘pint’ (of the 473 ml type) for the equivalent of $4-6, plus tax and tip.

But the most extreme example I’ve personally come across is Norway. In Oslo I paid the equivalent of $18 for what amounted to 300 ml of 7% beer (I was almost never served a ‘pint’ in Scandinavia). And you know what? I didn’t feel the need to complain. Because that’s how the world works. If I can’t deal with that fact, that’s my problem, not the operators of the Norwegian bars and restaurants I visited.

If you really can’t enjoy a beer because because it came in the wrong glass size, for slightly more than you might pay elsewhere, then I don’t think you’re a good Beer Geek. In my books you’re a pain in the arse with entitlement issues. But enough of this. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.

Why I’m So Angry

This really boils down to two things. First of all, the way the message was delivered. Note cards? Dropped on the table as you scarpered? What are you? An emo 16 year old? A passive aggressive flatmate, leaving notes for everyone around the house before locking themselves in their room?

That’s not how adults should behave. If you have criticism for someone, you discuss it privately, in person or via message. Or, you could face up to your peers and state it in a public forum. God knows I spend a decent part of this blog criticising people in the beer industry, but I sign my name to it. On the left hand side of this page is a link to my Twitter, where anyone can contact me.

Dropping an anonymous note is cowardly. But even this isn’t what annoys me the most. What really gets me going is the accusation that I, or any of my fellow Bartenders/Owners/Managers are deliberately, maliciously, ripping people off.

11056544_10153505379790586_186756547978479258_n

I am an honest human being. If nothing else, let that be the last thing they say about me. When I’m gone, put that on my gravestone. You’re accusing us of setting out to swindle. I wouldn’t do that to a stranger, and our customers aren’t strangers to us. They’re our friends. You think we’re being greedy when we set our prices? I assure you we’re not. I spend a big chunk of my week buried in the company accounts. I know the numbers inside-out.

Yes, we make money. We’re businesses, not charities. We need to make money if we’re to survive. Because this is our livelihood. Each bar has at least half-to-a-dozen employees who also rely on their jobs to live. And it’s not just us. It’s the whole damn industry – the distributors, the logistics companies, the brewers, the hop and malt growers, the brewery equipment manufacturers and thousands of other invisible people cash their paychecks when you buy a beer. To be sustainable everyone down the line needs to make money, or the whole thing doesn’t work.

But if you honestly think that the markup is too much, feel free to open your own bar in Wellington. Charge what you think it should cost. Put us all out of business even. Be our guest.

Мы вас похороним.

Garage Project Photo-Chop-Shop

Every year at Golding’s we’ve run an event with Garage Project as an SPCA fundraiser. A sort of tap takeover/bring your dog to the pub day. This year was a raging success and collectively we raised over $6000 for the Wellington SPCA. Absolutely Stirling.

One of the things we decided to do was rename every beer on tap with dog/animal puns. Sounds easy enough. We’ll just change the name on the menu board, and that’s sorted. Oh, and I got asked very nicely, if I could please change the tap badges to make them more ‘doggy’.

Well now, messing around in Photoshop is one of my favourite ways to waste time when I should be doing more important things at work. We had eight beers to re-brand, plus one new beer that required all new art. Whilst some came out better than others, overall I’m pretty pleased with the end results (if I do say so myself). I thought I’d share them here.

Credit to Mattie, Ian and the Garage Team for the dog puns.

Death From Above

At Golding’s we use a rectangular tap badge, quite unlike what most other bars use. So my usual technique is to take bottle labels or posters, then crop and shrink them down to size. With Garage project I’m usually pretty blessed. They frequently commision artists to create unique label art. In this case, it’s Tim Gibson of Flying Whities who made the original:

DFA

And our version…

HE WILL KILL YOU WITH CUTENESS!

HE WILL KILL YOU WITH CUTENESS!

Baltic Porter

The original is designed by ALC, and features a boxing Russian Bear.

GP Baltic Porter

For out version, I nicked a wolf head from another piece of ALC art and popped it on the bear’s body (because wolves are dogs, right?).

 

11222037_653796748055352_2676029605504154116_o

Mon P’tit Chou

Mon P’tit Chou means “my little cabbage”.

MonP_titChou_Poster_417x591_150dpi_1024x1024

The original art reminds me very much of the work of a wonderful artist Stasia Burrington. So I cycled through her portfolio to find something doggy that still had the right feeling basically stole it wholesale (sorry, it was for charity).

MON PETIT CHIEN

Mon P’tit Chien means ‘my little dog’. This badge presented an interesting challenge – typefaces. Swapping the image was easy, but altering a unique lettering, that’s difficult. For expediency, I started from scratch, and went with a typeface that evoked the right feeling for me.

China White Beyond the Pale

Beyond the Pale - A2 Poster

Silhouette of a bottle? No problem. How about Silhouette of a cat? I had cats growing up, so I couldn’t resist a kitty reference somewhere in here.

BEYOND THE TAILRecreating the background was the hardest part of this one. In fact, I feel like this is perhaps the most slap-dash of all the badges I made. Then again, I was on a deadline and I feel I got the jist of it.

Hapi Daze

6f5740b0b53838786116172a51510575

This is another Tim Gibson work. It’s pretty great. All I had to do was change the words and drop in a doggie with a frisby.

YAPPY DAZEWhilst doing this one, I noticed for the first time that the chap in the lawn-chair is blazing a splif…

For him, life is sweet.

For him, life is sweet.

Hops on Pointe

This one I’ll admit to copping out on. The art simply does not crop well.

HOP_TBforShopify_500x500_150dpi_49a72ba7-f9ac-4100-9bfc-53ca1d93b680_1024x1024

So basically I simplified the whole design, added an ‘R’ and popped in a few paw-prints.

HOPS ON POINTER

L’il Red Rye

This was my easiest job of the lot, being the most canine-related of all the GP bottle art I was working with.

LilRedRye_TBforShopify_500x500_150dpi_1024x1024 (1)Again, text presented the biggest challenge. I don’t love the text I went with, but it was the best I could wrangle. As for the doggies, a little palette swap to make them more Retriever-y and…

L'IL RED RETRIEVER

Angry Peaches

This is both one of my favourite Garage Project beers, and the badge I’m proudest of/spent the most time on.

AngryPeaches_Poster_417x591_150dpi_1024x1024

It’s also, coincidently, the badge that had the most Photoshop-trickery/bullshit go into it. Can you spot any?

ANGRY POOCHES copy

My only wish is that I’d made the top dog blue. Otherwise, FUCKING NAILED IT!

Tummy Tickles Brown Ale

So we had one more beer to make a completely new piece of art for. Tummy Tickles was a one-off small-kit brew batch of a hoppy Brown Ale. So basically, one of my favourite styles of beer, ever.

I had a concept, which was fake/subversive Victoria encyclopedia illustrations. I think that there’s potential for an entire brewery brand to be based around this idea (Remedy Brewing has played with something similar).

Here was what I came up with:

TUMMY TICKLES FINAL

I think I can safely say I nailed the look I was going for.

How to Name a Brewery

With so many new breweries opening in recently and no doubt more opening in months to come, there’s a discussion we need to have: how to name breweries and beers. This post is going to be related to the former rather than the latter (I’ll write that next). Both I think, are very important, because of one simple truth:

A good name attracts customers and sells more beer. A bad name discourages customers and will lose you sales. 

This is a simple fact that I’ve observed from almost six years of selling beer to the public. There are also quite a few pitfalls that new breweries can fall into when it comes to naming themselves and their beers.

Now I know what you’re thinking and I totally agree: surely the quality of what’s in the glass should be more important than what it says on the label. Yes, it should. But getting your beer into the hands of first-time customers is also important. You want your brewery name to stick in someone’s head and, if your beer impresses them, you can create something valuable – a returning customer.

It’s true lot of brewery names come from stories. Stories are good. Stories help build a brand. ParrotDog was founded by guys who owned a parrot and called each other ‘Dog’. That’s great. But stories are not what I want to talk about here. I’m more interested in the mechanics of what makes one brewery name work better than another.

I had originally intended for this post to list some hard and fast rules of how to name breweries The more I thought about it, the more I realised how much of this is subjective. But in my six years I’ve poured more beers than most people will drink in a lifetime. There are certain things about brewery names that I see trip-up customers time and time again. Here are a few, what I guess you’d call ‘guidelines’ to avoiding some of the major pitfalls of naming a brewery.

No offence to any brewers I use as examples. Firstly this is no reflection on the quality of your beer. Secondly, quality of beer is ultimately more important. A bad brewery name is no reason to turn your nose up at a good beer. Third, if you’ve had your name for years and you’re doing just fine, then by all means ignore this post. This is more directed at the newcomers. Alright, let’s do this. And we’ll start with perhaps the most important point first.

1. Keep it Short

Short is good. Short is dynamic. Short is easier to remember. Brewery names need to be direct and to the point. It should be one or two words, three at most (but only if one of them is ‘and’ or ‘the’). This doesn’t include the words ‘Brewery’, ‘Brewing Company’ or similar, which naturally get sliced off the end in conversation. Nobody ever refers to Brew Moon by its full name: ‘Brew Moon Brewing Company’. Brew-Moon What I consider to be good brewery names are a handful of syllables that roll off the tongue and are away: ‘Liberty’, ‘8 Wired’, ‘Three Boys’. These are simple words that you can say without tripping-up over. There’s a very good reason for this – when written on beer labels, tap badges or menu boards or spoken to bartenders, brewery names sit in front of a beer name. Let’s take an example: 8 Wired Hopwired IPA – Good. Quick, easy, to the point (some people don’t like the repetition of ‘wired’ in the name, but that’s a different discussion).

All G.

Everything as it should be.

Sometimes however, customers get confused about this name and refer to 8 Wired as ‘Number 8 Wired’ or occasionally ‘The Number 8 Wired’. Fair enough, it’s an easy mistake to make as the name originates from number 8 wire. But for argument’s sake, let’s give that a go. The Number 8 Wired Hopwired IPA – Bad. A clunky mouthful.

This is why we can't have nice things.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

Beer names can already lumbering enough, if you’re going to hitch it to an already difficult brewery name, you’re not doing yourself or your customers any favours. But how long is too long? Hard to say. Two breweries that I think are pushing acceptable limits of syllables are ‘Garage Project’ and ‘Beer Baroness’. I think both get away with it, Garage Project because it has a nice structure, and Beer Baroness because it has alliteration, but that’s just me.

2. Names of People/Places are Perfectly Acceptable

There are quite a few breweries named after the brewer. Sometimes it’s a first name, like Mike’s or Dale’s. More frequently, It’s a surname:  Townshend, Gailbraith’s, Croucher, Harrington’s, Emerson’s, Fitzpatrick’s, Cassels and so on. Very rarely, it’s both first and surname – I’m looking at you, Ben Middlemiss.

Perfectly fine. Except maybe the 'Crisp'...

Perfectly fine. Except maybe the ‘Crisp’…

Likewise, place names are commonly used: Invercargill, Baylands, Coromandel, Hot Water, Kaimai, Queenstown, Arrow, Waiheke, etc. This is also a good option, although I guess it might reduce your options of changing where your brewery is (Baylands is not on Baylands Road anymore). Personal or place names are perhaps the least interesting way to name a brewery, but they are basically functional. I think names like these are a good option because they usually obey rule 1. – They’re short and informative. Although, as I type this I realise I shall never found a ‘Jauslin’s Brewing Co.’ as no Anglophone can ever say it properly…

3. No More Dog Breweries

Animal names are another popular choice, and seem to work fairly well. They also tend to be short and to the point. Some go simple – just the animal name. Tuatara, Moa and Kereru fit this bill. Others, like to use what I call the ‘Indie Band’ approach. A trend in recent years amongst indie bands is to use a something-animal’ name. Hence: Modest Mouse, Fleet Foxes, Frightened Rabbit, Wolf Parade, Tame Impala, Arctic Monkeys, Band of Horses, Grizzly Bear, Deerhunter, and so on (it’s a regular Animal Collective).  Similarly, in the brewing world, we have Golden Eagle, Golden Bear, Monkey Wizard, Velvet Worm, Pink Elephant, Crafty Trout, and I could go on. Animal names are a good option, with one notable exception: Dogs. You see the problem is, people come in and say “I want that ‘Dog Beer’ please,” and I really can’t help them because in New Zealand, we have:

That may not seem like many but they may, even in the New Zealand context reasonably also be referring to:

  • BrewDog (Scotland)
  • Moon Dog (Australia)
  • Flying Dog (USA)
  • Dogfish Head (USA)

I’m officially marking New Zealand as above quota on ‘dog’ breweries. No more guys, we’ve got too many already. In fact a search for ‘Dog’ on Untappd brings up 760 brewery results. Forget New Zealand, the whole world has too many dog breweries.

4. Jokes Get Old

So you’ve come up with a clever pun or something, and you think you’re going use it to name your brewery. That’s cool, but keep in mind one thing: you will be repeating that joke again, and again, and again. It gets less funny every time (this is known as The Bee Sharps Effect). Now this isn’t an issue if the name works well regardless of the joke. I’m thinking of Yeastie Boys here. “Yeastie Boys! Haha, it’s a music-themed brewery riffing on The Beastie Boys!” But underneath that joke, I find ‘Yeastie Boys’ to be a nice, short, chewy-sounding name. YB But what if the name isn’t so good? Well then the joke just sits there being repeated, again and again. And it’ll be repeated a lot. It’ll be tacked on the front of every beer you brew. It’ll be plastered on menu boards and tap badges. You will never escape it. Fork & Brewer, I’m looking at you guys. The Cameron Slater school of humour. Yeah. Nah. Sorry Sean, Colin, Neil and Kelly. I really like your beer, but I think you should have stuck with Bond Street Brewery.

5. Choose Descriptors Carefully

A lot of brewery names have descriptive words in them – Pink Elephant, Wild & Woolly, Fat Monk and so on. These are all fine. But choose your words carefully, because if you include a descriptor in your brewery name that frequently applies to beer, many customers will automatically assume that descriptor applies to any beer you make. What do I mean by that? Well, let’s look at the two most common examples. First of all, ‘hop’. As in: Twisted Hop, Dr. Hops, Hopmonger, Hophugger, Hop Federation, Hop Baron, Hops Valley, etc. Besides being incredibly unoriginal at this stage, having ‘hop’ in your name can put off many inexperienced customers who see the word on a menu and automatically steer clear of it, because for whatever reason, they’ve decided they don’t like hoppy beer.

It might also be a time to call a moratorium on 'Hop' names as well...

It might also be a time to call a moratorium on ‘hop’ names as well…  Although three of these breweries are no longer operating.

Likewise, but perhaps for another reason, be wary of the word ‘golden’. As in Golden Eagle, Golden Bear and Golden Ticket. Inexperienced drinkers see the ‘golden’ on a menu and automatically assume the beer in question is a lager of some sort (the same but opposite may apply to the ‘black’ in Black Dog).

Think I’m kidding? I’ve had customers come up to the bar and ask me: “So this Golden Bear Seismic IPA, that’s like a Pilsner, right?” or “Golden Eagle Coalface Stout, that’s a lager, yeah?” Or they just order a Coalface (which is an awesome beer by the way) and look at me blankly when I put a pint of black beer in front of them.

Now I know ‘Coal’ signifies dark and ‘Stout’ should clinch the deal, but what needs to be understood here is that a large slice of customers, perhaps even a majority of the people who drink all the ‘craft’ beer in New Zealand, are not Beer Geeks. They may not know the difference between a Lager and a Stout. They may assume all Lagers are pale, and all ales are hoppy. They may have all manner of assumptions they have picked up or been taught over the years.

I’m not saying we need to pander to or talk down to this demographic (that’s patronising behaviour that breeds resentment). I’m just urging a bit of forethought as to as to how your brewery name will influence customer expectations.

6. No. More. Fucking. Dog. Breweries.

If you’re opening a brewery and you, even for one moment, consider giving it a ‘dog’ name, I will come around to your brewery, open all the valves on your tanks, and then beat you to death with your mash paddle. I don’t want to go to prison.

Please don’t make me.

The Craft Beer Graveyard

Have you ever stopped to wonder how many ‘craft’ breweries we have in this country now? The ANZ report from 2014 lists some 97 breweries/brewing companies of one sort or another. That’s pretty damn high, well done New Zealand! At the same time I first read that list, two things occurred to me.

First: there are breweries missing. I could think of at least two breweries that should be on that list. Second: there are breweries on this list that shouldn’t be there. At least three were known to be out of business at the time of publication. And that really got me thinking: How many breweries have gone out of business in this country? I could think of about five off the top of my head. How many more were there? Ten? Fifteen?

I brought this question up with some Beer Geek friends at the pub, and we started making a list. Twenty breweries in, I realised this was a bigger job than I’d bargained for. So I started digging.

The most complete list of New Zealand Breweries I could find, both current and defunct, is on RateBeer. But even this is missing some that I know have gone under. So I did some more digging, and I made a list of my own.

I’ve compiled every single ‘craft’ brewery I could find, paying attention to the ‘who’, the ‘where’ and the ‘when’. This is possibly the most comprehensive list of defunct breweries in the country. In saying that, there may be errors. I’m not a journalist, I don’t do this sort of thing for a living. I’ve also put some limitations on what counts as ‘craft’ (a few exceptions are made for certain reasons):

  • 1) They are independently owned. Lion, DB and Independent are forever creating and dissolving new ‘brands’, most of which are of little interest to ‘craft’ drinkers. So for example I haven’t included The Temperance or Estadio, which were the predecessors to Black Dog here. Conversely, I probably would make an exception if Black Dog were to close, and put them on the list, because they are of interest to the ‘craft’ crowd at large.
  • 2) I’m only including breweries that have shut down since 2009. This may seem a bit arbitrary, but I have done so for good reasons. Firstly, if I went back much further this list would be impossibly long. If I went back to the 50’s and 60’s, when Lion and DB were shutting down their competitors left, right, and centre, this list would be massive!
    Secondly, I put 2009 as the year the ‘Craft Beer Revolution’ started in New Zealand. Personally, I don’t like to think of it that way. Rather I think of 2009 as ‘The Year The Game Changed’. I have several reasons for thinking this, maybe I’ll write a post about it one day…
    Again, there are some exceptions to this rule, e.g. Historical significance. So Bean Rock Brewing will not be found here, but Limburg Brewing is (see below).

Finally: Caveat Lector. I’m suspect I’m digging into some unpleasant, even painful memories with this post. I’m not doing this to gloat; I’m interested for posterity. Don’t shoot the historian.

Alright, let’s do this.

The ‘Craft’ Beer Graveyard

666 Brewing

Type: Contractor
Formed by Graeme Mahy. 666 was always the brewery without a brewery. Mahy was the original brewer at Moa, before working at Murray’s Brewing in Australia. After that, he knocked around New Zealand trying to find a location to set up shop. A couple of years was spent contracting and collaborating and generally making good beers. 666 was shut down last year when Mahy decided to return to his old post at Murray’s.

Last seen in the wild: kegs are still out there but will be in in rapid decline over the next few months.

Ad Lib Brewing Co.

Type: Contractor
Ad Lib Brewing was Fraser Kennedy and Hayden Smythe. To my knowledge they produced three beers under the label.

Last seen in the wild: Went out of business 2012, Isolated bottles appearing as late as 2014.

Ale Brewing Chaps

Type: Contractor
The Ale Brewing Chaps was an initiative of five people: Ben Middlemiss, Vrnda Duncan, Alan Knight, Jerry Wayne and Rob Hillebrand. The idea was to brew beers for festivals. The brewery they used still exists on Waiheke Island, operated by Wayne under the name Relativity Brewing.

Last seen in the wild: December 2014.

Anchor Brewing

Type: Brewery
I’ve only included this brewery because it exists as a weird listing on Beer Tourist. No reliable online information could be found. Asking a few of my friends that have been in the industry longer than I have, I discovered that they were based in Porirua in the 80’s-90’s, not in Hunterville, as Beer Tourist suggests.

Arrow Brewing

Type: Brewpub
Based in Arrowtown, started in 2008. Seems to have gone out of business some time in 2013.

Last seen in the wild: Bottles still surfacing as late as January this year. Tap seems to have dried up in 2013.

Nope.

Nope.

Beltane Brewing

Type: Contractor
Formed by Vicki-Marie Yarker. They produced a wheat beer that I remember pouring at Hashigo. A rampant infection turned the beer into foamy acid in the kegs. They also produced a ‘snakebite’ cider.

Last seen in the wild: September 2012

CORRECTION: despite a hiatus of somewhere between 3-5 years, it seems that Beltane has not ceased to exist. I’ve been informed that they currently have a new beer aging in port cask. 

I greatly look forward to it’s release. 

FURTHER CORRECTION: I have since learned that there were in fact two batches of Wheat Beer produced by Beltaine. Only the second one showed signs of infection.

Bear Empire

Type: Contractor
Details are elusive, but seems to have started in 2012 and been the enterprise of one Wade Kirk. They made a ‘Black IPA’ and a ‘Red Pilsner’ (?!). Their logo looked a hell of a lot like the Bear Pride Flag.

Last seen in the wild: Check-ins of the Saboteur Red Pilsner from 2015 cannot be trusted, as at least one has a picture of the wrong beer. Last reliable check-in is from November 2013.

Brewery Britomart

Type: Brewpub
Started circa 2011 by Lawrence Van Dam and John Morawski (who now has a contract brewery called ‘Laughing Bones’). They made a Dubbel and a Belgian IPA that were mysteriously similar in ABV and colour, which I always suspected of being the same beer with different hops. Britomart went out of business in early 2013.

Last seen in the wild: Strangely it seems that a few kegs have surfaced recently and have gone on tap at Vultures Lane.

CROOKED CIDER/CROOKED ALES/50 KNOTS BREWERY

Type: Cidery/Brewery
I’ve written a little on the history of Crooked here. Technically they’re still producing cider, but they make the list because it really only still exists in name. The original orchards and brewery equipment is gone and the current product bears little resemblance to the original.

Last seen in the wild: Still in production.

An old piece of %0 Knot's equipment recently spotted at another brewery.

An old piece of 50 Knots’ equipment recently spotted at another brewery.

Geek Brewing

Type: Contractor
Started in 2012, Geek was the product of Andrew Cherry. They made one very nice Coconut Porter before disappearing.

Last seen in the wild: Isolated bottle appeared December 14.

Green Man

Type: Brewery
Based in Dunedin, Green Man was the brewery that kicked off the whole ‘Radler’ debacle – a textbook case of the mega brewers trying to muscle the small guys. I fondly remember voting in favour of the SOBA initiative to go to bat for Green Man in the IP court at the AGM, circa 2009; a memory I look back on with irony, as I always disliked the brewery.

There's a lot of history in this one image.

There’s a lot of history in this one image.

Frankly, their beers were at best pedestrian; at worst a parade of infections and brew faults. We all knew that Green Man wasn’t going to last in a market with consumers increasingly demanding quality. Having said that, they did circle the drain for about two years longer than I thought they would.

Last seen in the wild: Still available in many places.

Golden Ticket

Type: Contractor
Launched by Nathan Crabbe and Ally McGilvary in 2009, and went out of business some time around 2012. Nathan left to take up a job at Harrington’s, then set up Resolute Brewing (see below). Their beers were pretty good, except ‘Summer Babe,’ which I remember smelling like vomit Parmesan.

Untitled

A very dormant Phoenix…

Last seen in the wild: Some seems to have cropped up in California last year (?). Otherwise, last seen in this country November 2013.

Hophugger

Type: Contractor
Hophugger was a subsidiary of Timaru based company Treehugger Organics, and appeared around the summer of 2012/13. They were one of the first beers I ever reviewed (back when I still did that).

Last seen in the wild: October 2014.

Hopmonger

Type: Contractor
Formed by Edward Valenta in 2013, at that time working behind the bar at Pomeroy’s and as Assistant Brewer at Twisted Hop in Christchurch . Ed formed the company to get a bit of brewing and business experience before moving back home to the States.

Last seen in the wild: September 2014.

Hops Valley

Type: Microbrewery
Started by Tony McDonald and Cory Watts in 2012. I will always remember Hops Valley as the brewery that had an IP dispute with Yeastie Boys over the original Gunnamatta label.

Frankly I think Yeastie Boys made a good call not using this logo.

Frankly I think Yeastie Boys made a good call not using this logo.

Last I heard of them, they were attempting to sell their company on Trademe for way too much money (considering it consisted of a Farrah homebrew kit and a logo). They did eventually find a buyer, who has yet to surface.

Last seen in the wild: August 2014.

Island Bay Brewing Company (AKA Bennett’s)

Type: Contractor
Bennett’s Beer is the stuff of legend amongst the old guard of the Wellington beer scene. Maurice Bennett set up the company in 2006. Instead of the popular method of contracting we see today – sending a recipe to a brewery and having them make your beer for you, Bennett just bought beers off other breweries and stuck his label on them [EDIT: with the breweries knowledge and consent. He may also have had some original recipes, it’s not entirely clear]. They were Harrington’s and Tuatara’s beers specifically, but I’ve heard stories of Bennett running out of beer mid-festival and attempting to buy kegs off other stands to wheel over to his stand and sell.

Bennett’s shut up shop some time around 2010, but the legacy lives on, in other contract breweries that are more about having a beer with your name on it than quality and passion for the product.

Last seen in the wild: Two isolated Untappds from the last two years. Ratebeer puts it at 2010.

Kakariki Beer Co.

Type: Contractor
Started in 2013 by Simon Crook, an ex-LBQ bartender. This was a single-beer entity: Goldilocks Blonde Ale.

11084238_776197679143193_2632479218104073296_n

Last seen in the wild: October 2013.

Kiwi Brewery

Type: Brewery
The only reference I can find online to Kiwi Breweries is that it was in Morrinsville, and that its equipment was sold to Croucher Brewery. However, the Companies Office reveals that the directors were Gary and Valerie Hallett, that the company was registered in 2003, and last filed in 2010.

Last seen in the wild: No idea.

Limburg

Type: Brewery
Limburg is an often forgotten piece of brewing history. People with long memories rave to me about Limburg Hopsmacker, possibly the first modern APA brewed in New Zealand (although that may be Emerson’s APA). The company was the efforts of Craig Cooper and Chris O’Leary. It operated from 1998-2006.

Admittedly, this is outside my range here, but they are included here because of their historical significance: After the close, O’Leary went to become Brewery Manager at Emerson’s and Cooper went to work in Australia and Canada before founding Bach Brewing.

Last seen in the wild: Funnily enough, I have the last reliable check in of a Limburg beer – September 2013, a bottle of Oude Reserve 2004 from Dom Kelly’s cellar. More recent check ins are harder to verify and may be Bach Brewing beers with the same name.

Matson’s

Type: Brewery
Matson’s was a Christchurch-based brewery that never really made (or attempted to make) inroads into the ‘craft’ beer scene. In many ways, they were more like a macro brewery: all but one of their beers were 5% or lower, most (if not all) of their beers were lagers and several of them were actually made by blending two beers together.

The only beer of theirs I ever poured at Hashigo was the surprisingly good Pine tree Black, a beer by then-brewer Colin Garland.

Matson’s went into liquidation and was bought by Harrington’s, their brand dissolved, and their considerable capacity absorbed into Harrington’s.

Last seen in the wild: still plentiful in bottles, but will become rarer over time.

Monkey Wizard

Type: Brewery
Built by Matt Elmhirst in Motueka. Monkey Wizard was sold and taken over by Simon Nicholls to become Hop Federation.

Last seen in the wild: November 2013.

MUBS (Massey University Brewing Society) AKA Half Tanked Brewing

Type: Contractor
This is an odd one. This is the ‘Commercial Brewing Arm’ of the Massey University Brewing Society (ostensibly a homebrew club). It was lead by Simon Crook, who later went on to start Kakariki Beer Co. (see above) and like Kakariki, was a single batch entity: ‘1’ Pale Ale. Presumably it was meant to be followed by a beer called ‘2’, or maybe the name was meant to be prophetic.

Last seen in the wild: December 2012.

Yes, beer is made in tanks, that's a very clever pun. But could you have chosen slightly less punchable face to market it with?

Yes, beer is made in tanks, that’s a very clever pun. But could you have chosen slightly less punchable face to market it with?

Naturale

Type: Contractor.
Brewed out of Roosters in Napier. I feel like I’ve wailed on Naturale a bit too much this year, so I’ll keep it brief. Started circa 2011 by Tony Dapson. Went out of business the same year. Currently trying to rebuild on Indiogogo for the sixth time.

Last seen in the wild: November 2011.

Pink Elephant

Type: Brewery, now a contractor
Pink Elephant was founded by Roger Pink in Nelson, circa 1990. Pink Elephant is an odd one, insofar as it’s a brewery that’s done the reverse of what most breweries do these days. It’s gone from being a actual brewery, built of steel and concrete, which has been shut down in favour of becoming a contract brewer.

And I guess that’s why they make this list, because the ‘brewery’ that was Pink Elephant no longer exists, even if the ‘brewing company’ does.

Last seen in the wild: Still out there.

Rascal’s Brewing

Type: Contractor
Started 2013 by Vance and Wendy Kerslake. This was another single beer entity. Unusually their first and only beer was an Oktoberfest (amber lager).

Last seen in the wild: July 2014.

Resolute Brewing

Type: Contractor
Formed by Nathan Crabbe (see Golden ticket). After Resolute he went off to brew for Four Avenues. 

Last seen in the wild: Whilst bottles of cider kept appearing as late as 2014, the records indicate it was last on tap in October 2013.

Revolution Brewing

Type: Contractor
Formed by Brendon Mckenzie, circa 2010. A single batch of beer produced – ‘ANTIFA Amber Ale’.

Last seen in the wild: There are literally no records of this beer online.

Rogue Brewery

Type: ?
This is another strange listing on Beer Tourist. I have no idea where or when Rogue Brewery actually existed. There’s no record of them in Ratebeer or Untappd. There is a registered company under the name at the Companies Office, but nothing else can be found easily.

Secret Seven

Type: Contractor
I’d consider the Secret Seven a failed experiment. This was a single-batch contract brewery which came with a manifesto stating that beer should be about quality and not personality. I agree with many of the points they raised. I dislike the culture of star-struck fanboys that crops up from time to time in this industry (worst example: Garage Project’s 24/24). And I actively despise brewers who want to wrap themselves in the cult of personality, because the brewing industry in New Zealand is no place for wannabe rockstars.

I think though, that Secret Seven missed an important point: yes, ‘craft’ beer has been built on quality, but it’s also been built on stories. People love to connect to the Who, the Where and the Why of the beer they drink. Frankly the story of ‘some Schmos made some beer’ I find neither compelling nor particularly original.

And for that matter, who do they think in the ‘craft’ beer sector is using bikini models, I wonder? Actually Island Bay Brewing (see above) pretty much did this…

Last seen in the wild: Their Amber Ale ‘S1’ (Like MUBS I assume the plan was to make S2, S3, etc.) was last Untappd December 2013.

Shitwhistle Brewing

Type: Microbrewery
I’m not even going to bother looking into this one. Apparently it’s a legit surname, but whatever. Here’s their FB ‘About’ section:

Please do not to slap the next Dave you meet after reading this.

Please do not to slap the next Dave you meet after reading this. Also: 1895? Pull the other one.

Last seen in the wild: The brewery doesn’t exist according to Untappd. There is only one lonely Ratebeer entry from from our friend Jono, dated June 2013.

Southstar Brewing

Type: Contractor
Formed in 2012, this was Kiearan Haslett-Moore’s contract label, mostly for collaboration purposes. He’s since gone on to set up North End Brewing, and so Southstar has faded away.

Last seen in the wild: July 2014.

Stewart Brewing

Type: Contractor
Not from Stewart Island but named after the brewer, Tim Stewart. Founded in 2013. Made some really nice beers. Info on this one supplied by Jules Van Cruysen of XY Eats and Kiwi Craft.

Last seen in the wild: April 2015.

The Little Empire

Type: Brewpub
Strictly speaking this was Lion Nathan, so shouldn’t be on my list, but I included them from interest sake – because The Little Empire was the label of The Crown Brewpub; which was the name of the bar that took over The Brewery Britomart. I’m presuming they’re extinct because of this post on Facebook:

Crown

It’s unclear what’s moved into the premises, but with no check ins or updates on Untappd, we can assume the label is no longer current.

Last seen in the wild: October 2014.

Cider House Orchard (Three Rivers)

Type: Cidery
Another one I wouldn’t believe existed, if I hadn’t had their cider. I maintain they were well ahead of their time. After it’s sale, Cider House became Crooked Cider (see above).

Last seen in the wild: Ratebeer puts their end at December 2008, but I know I was drinking them regularly at Hashigo in early 2010.

Two Fingers Beers

Type: Contractor
Started in 2012 by Lawrence Oldershaw, Two Fingers is the most recent brewery to make this list, closing in February 2015.

Also spotted at another brewery.

Also spotted at another brewery.

Last seen in the wild: Still plentiful, but will gradually die out.

Velvet Worm

Type: Microbrewery
Velvet Worm is an odd one. They appeared in 2012 in Dunedin, started by a chap called Bart Acres and fell off the radar in 2014. I had them on the first draft of this list (their Facebook page was gone and their beers began to drop off on untappd), but took them off when I discovered that a company still existed under the name Stacpoole’s Brewing Co. and listing John Barton Stacpoole Acres as a Director. So I assumed that there is a direct continuity between the two, and possibly even a continuation of the Velvet Worm brand.

I was tipped off again by Jules Van Cruysen that Velvet Worm is no longer an active band. A complete rebrand of a brewery is fairly drastic an action, and probably justifies the old label making this list.

Last seen in the wild: April 2015.

Waituna Brewing

Type: Contractor
Waituna made the ‘Taakawa Indigenous Ale,’ a Golden Ale spiced with Kawakawa. Waituna never really appeared on the ‘Craft’ beer map (I don’t think I ever tried it). Started circa 2002, went out of business 2011.

Last seen in the wild: One check in from December 2014, the previous ones from 2011.

West Coast Brewery

Type: Brewery
I umm-ed and ahh-ed over whether to include West Coast Brewery on this list, as there is still an entity that has been operating more or less continuously under the same name and in the same location. I included it though because West Coast was put into liquidation in 2012. Here’s the story:

West Coast was started in 2007 by Paddy Sweeney, a self-styled West Coast Larrikin, a claim I’ve always found puzzling, since he lives on the East Coast. Of Australia.

Anywho, the story of West Coast Brewing is the story of a bluffo-Kiwi-Bloke vs. bureaucracy and red-tape. At least that’s the book version, anyway. No really, he wrote a book about it.

Apparently the red tape Sweeney was rebelling against was paying those pointless taxes the government keeps banging on about, because West Coast ended up massively in the hole to the IRD.

The future of the company is unclear at this stage, but several moves to buy it back have been made by the original owners. Ultimately I include West Coast here because it’s been run pretty hard into the ground, and only really exists because of the strange vagarities of New Zealand Companies Law.

Last seen in the wild: Still brewing, may very well pull through.

Wests

Type: Contractor
Wests is a ‘beverage company’ (soft-drinks manufacturer) claiming to have been around since 1876. They’re still operational, but make this list because in 2004 they released a ‘Wests Ale’. I know this is a little before my remit, but I’ve included Wests because it’s fascinating example of a company outside the industry dabbling in beer.

Last seen in the wild: January 2004.

Yellow Cross

Type: Brewpub
Yellow Cross, a brewery I admit I’ve never heard of, and stumbled across by accident. It seems like rather a tragic story: The only record of them is a Facebook page (no Ratebeer or Untappd). The page reveals their location used to be in Christchurch on Lichfield Street, between Poplar and Madras Streets. The page was updated regularly until February 2011. Many readers will be able to connect the dots here. Two weeks after the last posting, a massive earthquake totalled that entire section of the city.

Yellow Cross

Many breweries were damaged in the Christchurch earthquakes, but no other breweries to my knowledge were completely put out of business.

Last seen in the wild: February 2011, I guess.

UPDATE: An ex-Cantabrian has informed me that Yellow Cross was a meat-market club. Others have have informed me that it was a DB-subsidiary.

Post Mortem

So how many breweries is that? For those who haven’t been counting or just skimmed the list (I don’t blame you), it’s thirty nine. That’s thirty nine ‘craft’ breweries (broadly speaking) that have gone out of business during the course of the ‘Craft Beer Revolution’ (broadly speaking).

That’s a hell of a lot. It’s more than anyone I spoke to predicted; most people guessing about half that number. And I know that I’ve missed breweries off this list. There will be breweries out there that appeared and disappeared without leaving a trace, and even brewing companies that never even made any beer before they shut down. Likewise, although no one wants to admit it, there are small breweries out there that are currently circling the drain, and will go down in the next year or two. Conversely, there may be breweries that will rise, phoenix-like again. But I’m sure this list is at best, a low-ball estimate.

But what can we take away from this list?

When I started researching, I thought I would find one or two common reasons why breweries close. In reality there are many reasons, many of which could apply to both stainless and contract breweries: buyouts, poor business management, unsustainable business models, changes in life situations, falling-outs between partners, moving on to other project and so on. I didn’t find any single cause of brewery closure.

What I did find though, is that there’s noticeably more contractors (22) than steel-and-concrete breweries (17). This is not entirely surprising, considering the sizeable commitment of setting up a brewing-plant, compared to the relatively minor paper-shuffling it takes to start a contract company. With more skin in the game, physical breweries tend to stick around longer.

What’s more interesting, is the relative ages of the different types of breweries: the majority of stainless breweries that have closed in the last six years opened before 2009; before the start of the ‘Craft Beer Revolution’. Conversely, most of the of the contract breweries opened after 2009.

If I can wildly speculate and generalise for a moment, I’d like to posit two ideas.

First: the older stainless-steel breweries are more likely to close down because they have not been able to keep up with changes in the market place. Examples of this I think are Matson’s and Green Man. Both had been around for quite some time and been fairly successful in their day, but neither of them made particularly good beer or much of a splash in any other regard. When the market changed and consumers of ‘micro-brewed’ beer (to borrow an Americanism) began demanding more quality and innovation, their markets began to dry up.

To put it bluntly, those breweries that fell behind, were left behind.

Now my second point: the majority of contractors that have shut down, were started after 2009 and seem to have been short-lived. We see multiple companies that produced one or two beers, or even just one or two batches of beer before closing. That’s indicative I think, of the type of light-weight business model that contract brewing employs; and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.

But…

I think the time is also coming where we in the New Zealand brewing industry need to have a discussion about contract brewing. That discussion is too big to fit into this post. Maybe I’ll write about it soon. But I’ll offer up one suggestion here: starting a contract brewery is a hell of a lot easier than actually running a successful brewing business. A lot of people that get into the brewing game are not adequately prepared for the realities of the industry; and with relatively little at stake, they don’t last very long.

But whatever. This is all speculation. For now, I hope you’ve enjoyed this stroll down brewing memory lane. Or at least found it interesting.

Eating My Words

Some of you may remember that I wrote a parody post mocking ‘Beers You Must Try’ articles? Do you remember how the final beer was one that I made up? A beer with a ridiculous name and a concept so silly that no brewery in their right mind would ever make it?

Remember me saying that you’d never get to try said beer, because ‘fuck you’? Well, now I’m rather thilled to to be tucking into a hearty meal of my own words, because said beer will be going on tap tomorrow.

That’s right, Silver Cat Angry Gummy Bear White Stout is now officially a beer you can drink.

There does not exist, nor has there ever been, a brewery called Silver Cat (although there might be one day, who knows?). The brewery that made this beer is Wellington-based Wild & Woolly. Never heard of them? That’s not surprising. Thursday is the official launch of not just this beer, but also the whole brewery. Silver Cat Angry Gummy Bear White Stout W&W is the project of LLew Bardecki, a long time friend of mine and someone I respect immensely for not only being one of the most daring and talented brewers I know, burt also pretty much one of the best dudes ever in the history of the world.

Here’s Llew’s own description of the Silver Cat Angry Gummy Bear White Stout:

“SCAGWS is a wheat stout fermented with a Belgian witbier yeast with the bonus of Haribo gummi bears added to the boil (wouldn’t you be angry if someone dumped you and your friends in a kettle full of boiling wort?)
It’s got a fabulous creamy head and mouthfeel, low roastiness for a stout, moderate Belgian yeast character and a clearly detectable flavour of gummi bears.”

Sounds good to me.

Silver Cat Angry Gummy Bear White Stout, along with three other beers from W&W will be hitting taps at Hashigo Zake from 5:30pm tomorrow (that’s Thursday 12/03/2015). You should be there. After all, it’s your one and only chance to complete The Bottleneck’s Top 20 Beers You Must Try to Put on Your Bucket List Before You Die.

The Worst Decision I Ever Made

"Investors seem willing to pay above market rates to buy into the
story of New Zealand craft beer." 
-Rob Simic, ANZ Commercial and Agricultural Regional Manager, 
Beervana Media Briefing Session, 2014.
"No-one will ever get a dollar back, so i [sic] really hope we 
don't hear them moaning about it down the track. It's a worse 
investment than a finance company debenture!" 
- C N, Comment on an NBR Article

Investing in Yeastie Boys is without a doubt one of the worst decisions I’ve ever made.

OK now to qualify that statement. No doubt if you’re even remotely connected to the New Zealand beer scene you’ve heard the news: Yeastie Boys raised half a million dollars in 26 minutes via crowd funding. Let’s all take a moment to appreciate that feat.

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Done? Right, now lets talk about how disastrously, ruinously mad it is.

The occasion has special significance for me for two reasons: first of all, the launch party was held at Golding’s, and I was working it. I’ve bartended many monumental occasions, including the launch of ParrotDog and Garage Project, but this one may just take the cake.

The other reason it’s significant to me is that I’m one of the the 219 people that chipped in money. Yes, I foolishly ponied up my hard earned cash for a tiny slice of the Yeastie Boys pie.

It was not my intention after reading the share proposal, to invest in the company. Because lets face it, the below the line nay-sayers commenters on the National Business Review articles are correct. Economically, Yeastie Boys is a terrible investment. It’s not that the company is going to go down in flames. To the contrary I have very good reason to believe that it will soar, if not like an eagle, then at least like a fairly ambitious pigeon. No.

But the cold hard facts remain: Half a million only buys 12.5% of the company, which places a value on Yeastie Boys at ~4M, or in other words, somewhere between high and ludicrous. Considering this, and the relatively low-profit nature of brewing at any scale, no one will ever see a good (if any) return on their investment. It’s truly a terrible decision to invest in the Yeastie dream.

"How dumb are some New Zealanders?" 
- Reece of the Duchy, Comment on the same NBR Article

But here’s the thing – we, as in everyone who invested in Yeastie Boys, already knew that. So why the hell did I willingly, gleefully even, chuck my cash into a flaming black hole? Well, first of all, because I could.

I invested a cheeky $500. I could frankly take that much cash out to the BBQ right now and set it on fire (or burn it in one hundred other more creative and figurative ways). Whilst this would be a very foolish decision, at the end of the day, I could do it and still make rent.

And I suspect this goes for everyone else who also threw money in. The average investment was ~$2500. There will be many low level investors like myself, but also a few that invested much, much more money than that. But I also know for a fact that no one invested at a level which means they’ll have to foreclose on the family home if Yeastie Boys doesn’t immediately (or ever) start paying out big dividends.

Frankly, the only one who’s going to get seriously burned if this whole thing doesn’t work is Stu. And he knows that.

The other reason I invested in this thing comes back to something I wrote a few months back:

"I’d invest in a brewery because I believe in drinking good beer, 
and I want to ensure I can get a good pint for years to come. 
Expecting a return on buying into a ‘Craft’ brewery is to me like 
expecting a return on buying a pint at the pub. Passion and 
enjoyment are why we get into this industry, not striking it rich."
- Dylan Jauslin, Beervana is Decadent and Depraved Part #2

So here was the chance. Money where mouth is. And it’s been two weeks since then and in the cold light of day, I stand by that sentiment. I want more Gunnamatta. I want more Pot Kettle Black, and yes, I even want more Rex Attitude. I do not for a moment regret making the worst financial decision of my life. In fact I’d do it again, in an instant.

Fuck'n. Classy. Bastards. Credit: The Brewers Guild of New Zealand.

Stu and I at the BrewNZ Awards, 2013.
Credit: The Brewers Guild of New Zealand

***

Having said that, there is one thing I’m nervous of: other breweries.

I can feel them, right now, waiting in the wings. Those who have seen what Stu and Sam have done and are thinking of going and getting their own share of that sweet, sweet crowd-sourced money.

I know that people are thinking about it and I can tell them now – it won’t work out the same. It might seem like Yeastie Boys pulled this off in 30 minutes, but they have been building up to this for 6 years, and Stu has personally been working towards it in one sense or another for more like 10 years (ask him one day about the history of Liberty Brewing).

So think long and hard before you go out there and try to recreate what Yeastie Boys (or even Renaissance) have done. There’s no guarantee it’ll turn out how you want it to.

OK, lets end this on a positive note.

I have officially sliced myself a “piece of the Yeastie Boys pie,” as Anna Guenther of PledgeMe puts it. But frankly, I don’t feel like I have. I feel more like I’ve contributed a little dough (pun intended) to the amorphous mass, which will eventually be rolled out to make the crust of a really special pie.

And in this regard, I feel like I’ve been supporting Yeastie Boys from day 366. For that was the second ever launch of Pot Kettle Black, and the first time I ever had one of their beers. In a very simple way I feel like I’ve been supporting Yeastie Boys for many years the same way those who didn’t invest (or just weren’t quick enough) can support them. By going out and enjoying a Yeastie Boys beer!

Cheers, or as Stu says:
Sláinte Mhaith!

Credit: The Brewers Guild of New Zealand

Credit: The Brewers Guild of New Zealand

The Craft Queer Project

This all came about because of a can of Garage Project ‘Beer’ and a permanent marker. But lets start at the beginning.

2014 saw some really great discussions start up about minorities and representation in the New Zealand beer scene. Most notably the Craft Beer Calandar, and a bit more talk about women in the beer scene, both as consumers and professionals. ‘Craft’ beer has been pretty much the exclusive property of middle class white men for a long time, but I hope we’re seeing the first signs of change (types the middle class white male). But it is wonderful to see some conversations and change happening, so lets keep it going.

Today I want to talk about queers in the beer scene. And you know what? I’m going to start by being fairly positive. Because right now, our particular little pool (that is the breweries, beer bars and beer events of Wellington) is a fairly open, welcoming and overall liberal place to be.

How do I know this? Well, because there are queer people representing every letter of the LGBT at every level of the industry. Queers make beer, distribute it, sell it, and of course, drink it. And it is as customers that queers are highly represented. I think it’s a credit to the industry that this is the case. However things are definitely not all rosy.

There’s still plenty of queerphobia, both in the beer scene and and New Zealand society in general. I’ve heard far too much of it over the bar in my time. We stamp on it at Golding’s and Hashigo when we hear it. But we know it’s out there and that means there’s room for improvement in our industry.

Which brings me to the can of ‘Beer’ and the permanent marker. You see I had to procure a Secret Santa gift for my co-worker Gen.

We had a limit of $10, so I thought crafting something might be the way to go. I’m fairly handy with a stencil and needle and thread, so I thought I’d make her an awesome patch or shirt or something. I had all the fabric paints, label paper and even an old black shirt to print it on. The only difficult thing was coming up with an idea for what to paint.

Gen’s a fairly Tough Bitch, so something about fucking up the patriarchy would be apt. Then I remembered this photo:

Tough. Biatch.

Tough. Bitch.

Combine it with the famous GFD ‘Beer is Love’ mural:

Draw.

Draw.

Cut.

Cut.

Paint.

Paint.

And, result:

One very stylish Tough Bitch.

One very stylish, Tough Bitch.

Gen was pretty thrilled, but it didn’t stop there. I’ve had dozens of requests for custom shirts from those who want to destroy the patriarchy whilst enjoying a good beer. The simple fact of the matter was it was too many for me to ever hope to make them all by hand. And that’s when inspiration struck: why not print them digitally?

So I drew:

B7bnCMvCAAEnVtj

But this time I didn’t cut; I scanned and Photoshopped:

B8QXPWtCcAAU20b

And result:

Why yes, I cam using the 'Handsome Man Hefting  Keg' shot.

Why yes, I am using the ‘Handsome Man Hefting Keg‘ shot…

So I designed a shirt to be made available online for all my friends. Now I had the option to profit greatly from this enterprise, but it didn’t feel right. Besides, I’ve been really inspired by the good work done by the New Zealand Beer Calendar. So proceeds from shirt sales will be going to Rainbow Youth.

Rainbow Youth is an organisation that offers support, information and advocacy for LGBT youth in New Zealand. Because we all know that being young is difficult, and being queer and young is extra tough. We’ve all heard the statistics: higher suicide rates and drug and alcohol use amongst queer youth in New Zealand. And it’s organisations like Rainbow Youth that can help change that.

It’s time to get our Queer-Beer-Pride on and stick it to queerphobia in style. Not queer, but want to destroy the patriarchy in style anyway? Not a problem. I designed a special ‘Beer’ version, so you can rock it no matter how you identify. The Craft ‘Queer’ Project shirts are available in both Men’s and Women’s cuts (and in a rainbow of colours) from this link on Print Mighty:

thebottleneck.printmighty.co.nz

If there is a product offered on Print Mighty that you would like with the Craft Queer Project design on it (a hoodie, tote bag, etc.), feel free to tweet requests to me.

So let’s crack a good beer and toast to the end of misogyny and queerphobia!

Beer Review: Epic Lupulingus

I think it can confidently be stated that this beer is like a cock, and I will elaborate: epic-bottle_lupulingus-011As well as serving an official function, it also gives pleasure from its appearance. It is something I want near my mouth. It is fulsome, enticing, warming and compelling. You see it and you just want more. Have I overstretched the analogy? It looks almost coppery amber in colour with a bright white head and had excellent clarity and carbonation. It smells heavenly: pink grapefruit, lemon zest, pine, of green grassy herbs and redwood bark. The flavours are similar in the context of a silky, almost oily body that carried a blast of bitterness. It also has lush ripe stonefruit flavours of peaches and stewed apricots. It is sumptuous and carries a lengthy finish. In the same sitting I tried the winner of the West Coast IPA challenge and while it had its merits, it wasn’t nearly as remarkable as this beer. I want more. I will have more, but like cock, too much is never enough.


Those who are greatly confused at this point, might like to try reading this beer review and play spot the difference.

Sexism is something that really gets on my tits (my own tits, no one else’s). Everywhere in life, but particularly in the beer scene. I myself (and others even more so) have watched the New Zealand beer scene grow from next to nothing to a world-acclaimed industry. And I’ve played a very, very small part in helping it grow. So it makes me grumpy when I see people being excluded or demeaned. That’s not our schtick. That’s the big marketing people’s schtick. That’s Tui’s shtick. I’ve flagged other instances of sexism for various reasons. This one I’ve flagged because we can learn a very simple, concrete lesson from it:

If you’re not comfortable saying it about a man’s body, don’t say it about a woman’s, because it’s probably demeaning.