Wednesday 14 March 2012

Green shoots

Enough. Time to stop being depressed while looking at downtown Christchurch. Look instead east to Woolston where Alasdair Cassels and his family are getting stuff done.

They started brewing excellent beer under the Cassels & Sons label a few years ago; we bought from them at the Lyttelton Farmers Market. Pre-quake, they started work converting an old brick tannery and industrial buildings in Woolston into a brewpub. The September and February quakes set things back a bit:
The tannery complex itself took a bashing during the earthquake. Alasdair has been restoring the buildings since he bought the 7000sqm site 17 years ago, but, since the earthquake, the cost of the project has skyrocketed. 
"All the bricks have to be taken down and put back up again. It's a big job, a huge job" - one that comes with a $10-million bill, which Alasdair is prepared to pay. He has big plans for the area, including a brew pub - The Brewery.
The brew pub's construction was in full swing before the quake, in the 1870s building that was once the tannery's drying room. Well-known chefs were to create magic using wood-fired stoves, in full view of restaurant patrons, with a pint of Cassels & Sons beer in hand. The old English pub was to open on to a large beer garden, a replica of the one shown on the site's original plans. However, the building did not fare well in the February earthquake and the project was shifted. The Brewery has been rebuilt inside a 1970s building at the Garlands Rd end of the development, which luckily had not yet been cleared for the garden.
They opened a couple of weeks after the June earthquake with some of the best beer in town and the best fries I've had since moving to New Zealand... honestly, the only fries that come close are the ones the women in the kitchen at the Hutterite Colony near our old family farm would hand us kids when we'd come round to buy milk.

And now they're developing the rest of the site for retail - an Arts Centre for the east side of town.
"We were always going to take this next step, but having this hospitality business here underwrites that the area can attract people," he said.
"I think retail will go well, there's very little around here and we've already had interest from tenants."
At over a third of a hectare, the shopping centre will be the size of Merivale Mall, minus the supermarket and Quinns store. Cassels hopes the first shops will be open by June.
He believed the increased need for suburban venues after the earthquakes helped the project get council consent
The September and February quakes damaged an 1870s tannery building Cassels had just restored for a new English pub on the site, destroyed the brewing plant and closed all the outlets stocking its beer.
The family picked up half a million bricks, got the brewery back in business, and built a restaurant and bar in a newer building to sell their product.
The project earned them a heritage award from the Christchurch Civic Trust in November.
To create the shopping centre Cassels will strengthen more of the old tannery buildings, renovating them in a Victorian style to make the most of original industrial features. Insurance proceeds will help fund the development.
The complex, to be known as The Tannery, will include an artists-in-residence studio for arts students, paid for by an anonymous North Island benefactor.
Cassels said the right mix of tenants would help attract patrons from across the city.
And they've now secured more tenants. I love seeing things like this coming up; it's a wonderful contrast to the flattening of downtown.

Cassels' milk stout is excellent but only available at the pub - it apparently doesn't hold up in bottles. Other favourites are Medicinal and The Alchemist.


  1. this is so unrelated, I'm not an economist but i enjoy your blog. all day we have been hearing that Jock Hobbs (clearly a great guy) saved rugby in 1995 from the 'evil' World Rugby Corporation, i wonder if rugby may have been better of if he didnt? counterfactual and all that...

    1. Seamus could better comment. I know nothing about that dispute.

  2. I wonder if the old and new tannery complex has insurance Eric.
    The insurance scandal is about to explode.
    It includes EQC.
    No more Insurance, goodbye American and overseas insurers,friends, goodbye to any belief in EQC Government forever,
    Coming soon Eric, to a family near you.
    Flee Eric while you have the chance, take your girls and Wife and flee.

  3. Made my first visit here the other week when down for the beer fest - cool place. Wood fired pizza is amazing! Milk Stout was very nice...though a little sweet toward the end (maybe a half pint next time).

    1. Why would you ever drink anything other than half-pints at a new place with a ton of beers to try?!

    2. My friends say I drink pints at the same rate they drink halves. Whenever I have a half I always end up unnaturally nursing it, trying to stretch it out...very awkward. There's nothing like a good imperial pint!

    3. So get two halves! More variety! More flavours!

  4. Enough. Time to stop being depressed while looking at downtown Christchurch

    I can't help but wonder if this was directed, at least in part, to one of your regular correspondents, one who seems to take an unnatural delight in broadcasting that Christchurch is "f*cked".

    Look instead east to Woolston where Alasdair Cassels and his family are getting stuff done.

    I have visited Cassels brew pub for lunch and beers and was delighted by the range and standard of both. An excellent venue. Well done to the Cassels.

    Encouraging ventures like this can only hasten the redevelopment of our beloved city. If we embrace the challenges, tackle them head on and focus more on the positives and less on the doomsayers then we have a chance of rising above the mire and getting on with life. To do otherwise is to accept defeat and to wallow in our own self pity - a sure recipe for "f*ckedness" if ever there was one.

    1. Nah, mostly directed at myself. I look at Council and zoning and insurance and regs and despair; I look at what folks are managing to get done anyway and rejoice.