A pioneer of New Zealand contract craft brewing is calling time on contract tanks.
Invercargill Brewery partnered with Yeastie Boys in 2008, together pioneering the contract model that has enabled many new breweries into the market, however it is now removing the service from its offering.
The partnership resulted in recognition and awards in New Zealand and overseas, including the Morton Coutts Trophy 2011 and Australasian Brewery of the Year 2012.
Yeastie Boys is moving its bulk production to Urbanaut Brewery in Auckland, closer to its main markets and centralized logistics, while Invercargill Brewery focuses a lot closer to home, converting its dispatch area into an Asylum (aka Events and Live Entertainment Venue).
“(Yeastie Boy) Stu McKinlay and I had a frank conversation earlier this year and agreed to work on a conscious uncoupling for the benefit of both our businesses, Invercargill’s Steve Nally said today.
“Our other contract customers have already either set up their own breweries, or moved production to breweries closer to home ... and we are talking with the remainder. The industry has changed a lot in the last decade, with everything from more players in the market, to a big, expensive transport rift in the middle of New Zealand All of this means we are looking at a more regionalized industry,” Steve said.
“I remember going to an export forum in Australia and the message was clear that the craft beer consumers there didn’t want one big juggernaut of a brewery to develop as the third player in a three pint race – they wanted two major breweries and a whole lot of small craft breweries offering variety in that third space – and I think it’s the same here.
“Contract brewing enabled us to use our spare capacity to diversify the industry and, in its early days, that was a win-win, for us and the industry as a whole.
“However, now we have explosion of offerings the challenge for the industry is different. Knowing that, it would be irresponsible of us to continue to offer brewing services to brands who are facing steeper and steeper uphill battles to sell their beer into the market.
“We work with a live product that has a shelf life, we don’t want to leave customers stuck with stocks they can’t sell, or end up dumping bottles in an aged condition on the market – that only hurts the whole industry.
“Contract brewing still has a place but that’s in collaboration and shared capacity with other breweries rather than brands – and working to ensure that our industry is making the best beers we can.”
Invercargill Brewery will continue hosting the Southern Malt Collective, which started life four years ago as a collaboration brew that quickly morphed into a craft brewing seminar with a focus on education.
“We are at the end of the world. One of the best things about contract brewing was having some of New Zealand’s best brewers come down and brew with us, with the Southern Malt Collective we can still do all that,” Steve said.