New Zealand brewers brought back two trophies from the Australian International Beer Awards last month.
Bach Brewing collected a deserved Major Trophy for its mighty Seamaster Imperial Ale.
Deep Creek Brewing brought home New Zealand’s only Champion Trophy, as the Champion Small International Brewery.
The last time a Kiwi brought this one home was in 2014 when ParrotDog won. Since then ParrotDog has gone from strength to strength, raising $2 million in crowdfunding and building big, shiny new brewery.
AIBA pitches itself, with typical Aussie understatement, as “the largest annual beer competition in the world”. Picking up a Champion Trophy is a big deal and brings international attention and opportunities.
Deep Creek’s Jarred MacLachlan said the Champion Trophy caught them by surprise. Brewers don’t enter this category – it’s determined by each entrant’s medal count (and production volume).
“One of our entries won a gold but it wasn’t called out on the night so the guys were unaware of that. So it was very much a surprise when it was announced. We had 12 entries and ten medals out of that, so we were pretty happy, yeah.
“The big question right now is, how do we capitalise on it? We’ve been selling into the Melbourne area, and since the win we’ve had about five distributors from Australia approach us. Now we’ve got to look at the right ways to get our product into that market. Definitely it means we’ve got to invest further in our brewery and we’re looking at ways right now, there’s a number of options on the board.”
Jarred says Deep Creek brewed 350,000L last year. “Traditionally our business started with our brewpubs and our intention was to work on the quality and create an experience to educate people on craft beer. We hadn’t increased our volumes a lot and we were pushing them through our bars.
“This year we signed a distribution contract with Hancock and that really picked up things nationally. We also won a couple of medals in the New World Beer & Cider Awards, so things have changed significantly this year. In the last year we’ve pushed further into retail packaging.
“We’ll be looking at brewing around 600,000L this year. Growth is great, so long as we make sure the quality remains number one and we can push the product where we want to push it. Especially when we’re only making a certain amount of beer, we’ve got to make sure it gets good brand exposure and we make it as profitable as we can.”
Deep Creek produces a core range and three specialist ranges: Steam Funk (experimenting with fermentation); Nero (experimenting with dark malts); and Lupulin Effect (emphasising hops and IPA styles). These limited-release ranges let the brew team break loose and have some fun, but also demonstrate their brewing chops to beer fans and brewers. Jarred says that the experimental ranges will continue to develop as production increases.
“It's interesting stuff for our team to be producing, having a play with different flavours and ingredients etc., and they’re the number one priority for us, higher than our core range. From the customers’ perspective they’ve got a lot of choices, and I think the defining focus for breweries going forward in New Zealand is going to be quality. You’ve got to be top quality and you’ve got to be innovative.
“We have a few contract partners and interest has certainly ramped up in the last month. Obviously we continue to brew for Behemoth and Rocky Knob. We’re always happy to look at different brands depending on what their requirements are. Mind you, we have to be careful we can supply the commitment that we have before we jump into too much contract.
“Contracting out would be one way to increase our production relatively quickly and we always throw it into the mix when we’re assessing how we’ll meet the demand. In Silverdale we’ve definitely got the real estate to add fermentation capacity there. Silverdale’s near the city but being out on the fringes means we have a lower rental footprint as well, so it’s a bit of a sweet spot. Out this way now we’ve got a lot of other great brewers around us in the north here – Sawmill, 8 Wired, Hallertau and Liberty – so it’s become a craft beer hub to a degree.”
Check out Deep Creek at Auckland GABS this weekend, with Dusty Gringo IBA, Hoppy McHopface Double IPA, New England IPA (Lupulin Effect series), and Black Tamarillo Gose (Steam Funk series).