Allied Press Magazine Logo
03 magazine logo

How are you ‘beering’ up?

28 May 2021
Cassels Brewing
Cassels Brewing Co. co-owner Zak Cassels is keeping optimistic during lockdown. PHOTO: Supplied

For local brewers, it’s not actually a good thing when the fridges are filled to the brim with liquid gold. We talk to two Christchurch breweries to see what amber linings are on the horizon.

What do you do when you have no way to use up 500 kegs of craft beer in a chiller? That is one of the curly dilemmas Christchurch’s Cassels Brewing Co. is facing now.

It can’t supply its tasty beer to bars, café and restaurants. Nor run its own venues, based at The Tannery in Woolston, due to the Convid-19 lockdown. So, co-owner Zak Cassels has a fair bit of surplus beer in stock.

“As a brewery, the goal is to have as fresh a beer supply as possible. You typically have a constant stream. So, it is not the kind of thing that you want have 500 kegs in your chiller for a while,” he says.

The Cassels are well-known for their community involvement, working with various groups, and so it is not surprising to learn that they are looking at options to give the beer to essential workers, such as the police and hospital workers.

But even that is proving to be a bit of head-scratcher. The beer needs to be put into riggers and delivered safely with no risk to those who are on the receiving end.

“It is all quite tricky and not easy to do. But we are working away on that. It would be a shame to waste it and if there are people who appreciate and deserve it, then we want them to have it,” Zak says.

Cassels has amped up its online sales during lockdown, with deliveries to the doorstep via courier. However, online sales represent a fraction of the usual income.

“We are still allowed to brew beer, bottle beer and sell it to supermarkets and online sales, but that is a fifth of our total business.

“But we are okay. We are sort of used to adversity in many ways. It’s Christchurch – it’s what we do,” he says, referring to the recovery after the 2010-2011 Canterbury earthquake sequence.

Cassels has also put more focus on their social media. Even Zak’s dad, well-known property developer and co-owner Alasdair Cassels, has got involved with a segment called ‘Cooking with Cassels’. With a beer in hand, he shows viewers how to make Milk Stout Fillet. It involves whacking the steak with a “big piece of wood” and taking refreshing sips of the award-winning Milk Stout.

Business now, says Zak, is a continual case of trying to “work everything out”. With 67 staff, they are trying to find ways to keep bringing in income, alongside the assistance they receive from the government subsidy.

But it is a balancing act, says Zak, because, for them, community safety is paramount.

However, they are working on some future projects for when restrictions may ease.

“We are looking forward to the time when we are allowed deliver pizza from our chefs as well as fresh-filled riggers of our beer,” says Zak.

That might help use up some of those kegs, he reckons. But until then, he is keeping an optimistic outlook.

“Business will come back and we want to be ready to party when the time comes. It is not gone forever and it is just about getting by and weathering the storm during these times,” he says.

Zak’s beer recommendation: There is no going past the Milk Stout for Zak. With the perfect blend of espresso coffee, dark chocolate and lactose, it won the Best Stout & Porter at the World Beer Awards 2019.

Ralph Black And White Drinking

Ralph knows a fair bit about a good brew. And also why we need to support local after lockdown. PHOTO: Supplied

Three Boys Brewery

Ralph Bungard knows his fellow craft beer brewers will be hurting.

The Three Boys Brewery owner says locals sell to restaurants, cafés and bars. With lockdown, as everything shut down, that “tap was basically turned off”. And with no big international corporation behind them to prop them up, it is lean times.

He is in the same boat. Three Boys sells a “small amount” in supermarkets, but nothing to fill the tills with.

“Probably 70 per cent of what we do is through taps. It is going to have a massive impact on those who don’t supply supermarkets and supermarkets are the only place where you can go buy beer,” he says.

“That certainly applies to all sorts of industries who pride themselves on being boutique and being local. Those who are so crucial to making our local story – they are the ones hurting the most.”

But he does see a silver lining at the end of lockdown; people are committed to buying local.

“People understand how important local business is – it is a community cornerstone. A lot of the local economy is based on that local money going around in circles.

“They want to see where their money is going, so it doesn’t disappear off the face of the country. They want to see it going around in a circle within their community. Buying off local producers and then seeing those local producers showing up at your bar, your restaurant, your café, your shop and spend the money you just gave them on your products,” he says.

Ralph now has online sales for the brewery with courier delivery. He hasn’t had it before because people could get their tasty fill of Three Boys through off-licences, pubs or a visit to the Woolston brewery.

But with lockdown he wanted to make sure people who like to support local craft beer could still order it in a safe, contactless way.

“It has been really good and positive – certainly not something you build a business around, but what it does do is it allows people to get their favourite beer and allows us to keep people employed for a while,” he says.

Ralph’s recommendation: “We just bottled our Oyster Stout on Monday. We started brewing in March when the Bluff oyster season starts and finish brewing it around September. It is a great winter beer. It harks back to a very old oyster stout that was once made in the UK. Largely, it dropped off the scene for a while. I think we are probably one of the first people in modern brewing history to bring back a genuine oyster stout. And the reason is largely because in New Zealand we have the Bluff oyster season. And it is also New Zealand’s most awarded dark beer.”

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram