Christchurch’s Raindogs Brewing is back in production at a new site.
Raindogs’ first home was the Eagle vs Dog brewery in Riccarton, right next door to the Volstead. “So it’s a good location,” say Raindogs’ owner/brewer Sean Harris, “but it’s a small site and it just got a bit awkward with two breweries working in there.”
Eagle vs Dog started when Sean met Eagle Brewing’s Dave Gaughan – they were both contract brewing through Four Avenues (now Stainless Brewing). “We decided that if we pooled our monies we could set some plant up. It got us both started.” They moved in together in 2013 and the move was a success – both Eagle and Raindogs continued to grow till it was time for the Dog to leave the nest in late 2015.
After one false start and some unexpected delays finding a suitable site, Sean restarted production last October in Raindogs’ new site in industrial South Hornby. It was the first brew on his brand new brewkit, which had been sitting in storage at BeerNZ’s depot for about six months. “I used to go and look at it there.”
After doing some contract brewing to fill the gap, Sean is now brewing full time in his own brewery, rebuilding stocks of his core range and trying new brews. “It’s a 1200L brewkit. It’s steam-fired with a condenser on top of the kettle. We don’t get a lot of evaporation with it, but we haven’t had any issues with off flavours. It’s nice gear actually and easy to use. I’m really happy with it.”
Raindogs’ core range includes Deadwood IPA, Apothecary Amber, and Wee Bairn 3.8% session bitter. Most of it is kegged, but some is bottled at Three Boys and distributed nationally through BeerNZ. The beers tend towards balanced styles in Christchurch’s English tradition, but Sean prefers to use New Zealand ingredients whenever possible.
“We try and stick with New Zealand ingredients – the local hops, and malt from down the road from Gladfield. So we do things with a bit of a New Zealand twist. There’s a lot of big, strong beers out there, and we’ll be doing a few as seasonals, but we like to keep a core of balanced, drinkable beers available. I try to resist the urge to hop everything to the back of beyond. I like a hoppy beer but I try to keep to the lower end of the range.”
Sean’s brewing career started around the turn of the century, when he was working as a physical chemist in the United States. Got bored, chucked it in, completed a brewing course with the American Brewers Guild, “and then I got a job at a little brew pub north of San Francisco.”
On returning to New Zealand Sean was the brewer at Twisted Hop's brew pub, but left the job after the Canterbury earthquakes wrecked the surrounding laneway. He formed Raindogs in 2011 and contract brewed before setting up Eagle vs Dog.
Raindogs’ next phase is to refine its rough industrial building by adding a chiller room and a tap room for onsite sales. Sean’s also doing some contract brewing, and is working on a collaboration with neighbour Valkyrie Brewing. “We’re toying with the idea of doing an Eisbock. It’s not something I’ve seen from a New Zealand brewery, so now we’re just trying to figure out the mechanics of freezing a batch.”
And the name – just another Beer Dog Brewery? “I always like music references and I’ve been a Tom Waits fan for a long time. His album Rain Dogs is one of my desert island discs so it thought, ‘We’ll go with that’. There seems to be a fairly common usage of dogs with beer so it must work. There’s nothing too deep and meaningful, but it come from something I really like.”