Monday 27 January 2014

Thick markets: Gunnamatta edition

I'd not heard of contract brewing before moving to New Zealand. The craft beer scene started taking off here not long after I arrived in 2003. Brewers would start off in their garages. Then, they'd have to invest in kit to build up a proper brewery or brewpub. By 2008, or thereabouts, the market had thickened up enough to allow a new innovation: contracting for the use of spare capacity in others' plants. This was great for everybody: brewers making capital investments could leave themselves room to grow while renting out currently excess capacity to new upstarts, while new guys could come onto the market without having to raise a pile of money for stainless kit.

And now one of New Zealand's star contract brewers, Yeastie Boys, is heading off to London.
A 50,000 litre batch of beer brewed especially for one million United Kingdom punters has local craft beer brewery Yeastie Boys fizzing at the prospect of tapping into more offshore markets.
But the Wellington-based "virtual" company is conscious of exporting too much beer and losing touch with the local scene, as it looks to establish a physical venue soon.
Last week Yeastie Boys announced it had received one of only 10 worldwide invitations to brew at the JD Wetherspoon's International Real Ale Festival in England, the largest of its kind in the world.
The brewery's Gunnamatta earl grey India Pale Ale, made with Earl Grey tea, would be served in 850 pubs across England during two weeks in April.
These pubs are expected to serve about one million UK beer fans, giving the company which launched its first beer in 2008 its widest European exposure to date.
They're going to be brewing up some Gunnamatta, an Earl Grey IPA, for the festival. I hope they bring some Rex Attitude for the Scots as well.

And now they're looking at investing in some physical plant.
Yeastie Boys was expanding its productions at the three New Zealand sites it brews at, particularly in Invercargill.
"We brew just under 100,000 litres through them a year, we're looking to close to double that this year."
But McKinlay, who works three days a week at Z Energy to help pay the "family bills" for his wife and three boys, said Yeastie Boys would now also look at establishing a physical venue, most likely in Wellington.
"We've always been a really virtual company; we do all the brewing at other people's breweries.
"Now we're looking at a venue, whether it's a brew pub or some sort of warehousing facility where we actually have ‘fill your own taps' or something like that."
I didn't know that Yeastie Boys wasn't yet Stu's full time job. Amazing that he's been able to pull all this off on 4 days-a-week plus evenings.

All of this is possible because New Zealand has sane regulations around brewing and distilling. So long as you pay your excise, it's not that hard to get going. Because the regs don't make it too hard to start up, a thick market developed on the producer side making it easier for other guys to start up - sharing expertise and leasing kit.

And all of it means that I get excellent local beer. With easy entry, you have to do a bit of sifting to find the good stuff. But that's fun too.

1 comment:

  1. Hard to be ambivalent about Rex. I love it, but can totally understand why others wouldn't.

    Try some next time while holding your nose so you don't get the peat smell. Entirely different taste.