Mount Brewing is surfing the craft beer wave, opening a new brewpub and doubling production.
Owner Glenn Meikle says Mount Brewing has been making beer for 20 years, with a strong emphasis on the local market.
“We started in ‘96. We had a U-Brew system – it’s a Canadian concept where you come in and make your own beer. We did it for five years and it wasn’t really going anywhere, not the growth we wanted. So that’s when we decided to move to a new venue which was a bar, liquor store and a brewery, in 2001. We were there for the bar really, we only had a 500L kit just for the bar.
“Then about five years ago craft beer was getting bigger and bigger, so we upgraded the brewery to 1000L and now we’re maxed out at 10,000L a month.”
Glenn says local beer drinkers were notoriously loyal to traditional beer branding, but that’s starting to change.
“I’ve owned a Super Liquor for 15 years, and Lion have 75 percent market share over Waikato Draught, Speights, Lion Red and Steinlager. Waikato/Bay of Plenty is one of Lion’s strongest areas, and we all know what those beers taste like. People have to really give craft beer a try, because its tastes so different to what they’re used to, but once they do they like it.”
Convincing staunch Waikato Draught drinkers to give Mount a try has taken persistence. Glenn and his wife Virginia have been active in organising local hospitality events, and have made sure their beers are the only one’s available. It also means working with draught drinkers’ expectations on price and flavour. Mount’s 1.25L riggers sell for about $12, and some of the range appeals to the traditional Kiwi sweet tooth.
“Mount Manuka Hussy golden ale uses manuka honey, so it’s quite a sweet beer and that’s a starter for people and they develop from there.”
Mount’s range also includes popular craft styles, including Mermaid’s Mirth American pale ale, and India Dark Ale, a Cascadian dark.
It’s even developed a beer style of its own – Certified Shaggy is Mount’s oldest beer, having been around for 15 years using different recipes. Mount’s website describes Certified Shaggy as “Not brewed to fit a style. Red colour, malty aroma and flavour with distinct spicy English hop flavour. Medium body. Balanced bitterness.” “It’s actually a very nice beer, when we get brewers visiting they like it,” says Glenn. “It’s 6%, quite malty, a good change from the hoppier beers.”
Growing acceptance and demand for craft beer in Mount Maunganui has seen Mount’s brewpub rebrand, and the brewery itself expand.
The bar refitted and reopened last month as The Rising Tide, with 30 taps, all pouring craft beer. Glenn says the bar’s setup is designed to encourage guests to think about the beer they’re drinking.
“People are blinded by brands. When people see a brand logo they know, they just buy it. So we’ve taken the labels off the taps. We use a printed drinks menu and numbered taps, so they don’t see logos and they have to think about what they want.”
The Rising Tide has also adopted GABS-style tasting paddles – complete with blackboard paint and chalk – to encourage customers to try a range.
“It’s 80mL servings, $2 each, and you can try any of the 30 taps. We wanted for people to sit down and go through the drinks menu and think about what they wanted to try. We want choosing your beers to part of the experience. Our drinks menu can get changed easily – it’s just an A3 photocopied menu.”
And there’s a practical reason behind the lack of branding too. “Tap badges can be a pain – it’s easier to write the beer’s name and rub it out and write another name when it’s changed.”
“Other brewers have come in and seen what we’ve done and are very happy to have their beer on tap here. We like to support local breweries. We’ve got Croucher, Rocky Knob, Fitzpatricks, we’ve got Mata on, all local Bay of Plenty guys, and that’s important to us. I feel that when we go to Wellington, all the Wellington guys support each other, and we can create that culture here in our own area.”
The Rising Tide is a brewpub, and its production is about to double. A new 2000L brew kit will be installed in October, with eight 2000L fermenters. “Next year we’ve set the goal to make 200,000L.”
A new bottling line will allow Mount Brewing to release 500mL bottles, with the goal of breaking into new Beertowns.
“As hospitality’s developed, the taste for beer has developed as well, and as that’s grown in Tauranga we’ve grown with it. I get blown away at how people are ready to try things and get into the bigger beers. Even five years ago that was a bit of hard work here. Next we want to target Auckland – it’s only three hours away, and a lot of people who holiday in Mt Maunganui are from Auckland so they’ve seen our beer here.”