Napier Brewing Co is part of Napier’s Westshore Beach Inn, probably New Zealand’s most eclectic craft beer venue.
While city bars can choose a theme and select a specific clientele, the Westshore has a truly diverse customer base and a beer range to match. It includes 10 mainstream taps, 20 rotating craft beer taps, and a microbrewery inside a traditional sports bar.
General manager Jeremy Bayliss says Napier Brewing is just one part of the mix.
“The goal isn’t to be a brew pub. We want to be a great pub that brews some of its own beer. We don’t want to be just a craft beer pub, and we don’t want to own all the taps. There’s an awful lot people who want to drink Carlsberg and Wild Buck, and why not? You have to make them comfortable and then move them towards craft beer, don’t shock them. To us it’s about being a great pub first, having amazing beer, and making great beer.”
Brewer Matt Searle was recruited from the bar staff, and was a keen home brewer with industry experience with Tuatara. “The equipment arrived October 2015 but our [intended] brewer struck immigration issues so it was a false start. So we went around the local brewers and asked, who would you want as a brewer in a fledging brewery? And everybody we spoke to mentioned Matt,” says Jeremy.
Napier Brewing now produces a core range for the bar, a house pilsner for Indigo, and Matt brews his own range under the Sneaky Brewing label.
Although it’s a small kit, Napier Brewing’s beers are served alongside the country’s top brewers, including Epic, Garage Project and Renaissance.
“We started off predominantly in styles that didn’t cross over into what the local breweries were doing. Zeelandt is doing very traditional high quality, European styles. Brave does really good IPAs that have been hugely successful in the bar. So we’ve gone to basics, like our Queen Vic English IPA and our pilsner.”
Sneaky Brewing takes a more experimental approach – it has produced a pumpkin ale, pineapple IPA and a coffee porter, sold through the Westshore. Matt says the Braumeister isn’t as flexible as traditional brew kits, but it suits the tight site.
“It definitely has restrictions on the amount of malt and water you can use, but it definitely has advantages – continuous recirculation on the mash, built-in elements, the small footprint in a small brewery. It’s controllable and the efficiencies are definitely high and it’s user friendly.”
Jeremy says Napier Brewing’s goals are to be a regional brewer, rather than seeking national distribution. The new fermenters will more than double production, and now Sneaky and Napier Brewing are considering sales through bars that understand and respect good beer.
“We want to get the beer into the right sites, to the people that care about it. They’ve got to have clean lines, they’ve got to be passionate about it, there’s no point in chucking your beer into a place that won’t look after it”, Jeremy says.
“One of the bugbears I have about the industry is that supermarkets generally don’t look after the beer. There’s nothing worse than going to the supermarket and the fridge is full of pasteurised mainstream product and all the craft beer is sitting outside the fridge at ambient temperature and covered in dust. It doesn’t help the brand and it doesn’t help the growth in craft beer. That to me is a real problem for the industry – you’re not going to get people to buy your beer if it’s not awesome at the other end.”