Jules van Costello is hunting for new breweries.
Jules’ Brewed – a guide to the craft beer of New Zealand was published one year ago this month. He’s now working on the second edition, due next winter.
Brewed is a fascinating snapshot of our craft brewing industry at maximum acceleration. It covered 142 breweries operating in 2014, and by Jules’ own estimate, about one third of them were established in 2013 and 2014.
The 2017 edition will also record a specific time in the industry, and Jules expects to see some changes.
“I know that the growth we had between 2012 and 2015 has tapered off. I have a list of about 165 breweries at the moment. I think it’s going to end up being about 170, maybe 180. Realistically, if a brewery were to start today, it’s very difficult to get an idea of what the beer is going to be like if they haven’t been around for very long.”
Jules also says some of the Class of 2014 have already left commercial brewing. “A lot of breweries will drop between Edition 1 and Edition 2. There are people who have won a competition, have a good recipe, get contract brewed, but actually find out it’s very, very hard to get that beer to market. Making it is one thing, selling it is a huge other problem. That’s why there’s a lot of people who go, ‘Actually this isn’t viable, I’m going to go back to home brewing and buying other people’s beer’.
“With the number of established brands on the shelves now, it is very hard to sell beer and it’s becoming harder. Supermarkets only have one aisle of beer and in a good supermarket that aisle is pretty much full already. Anyone who knows what they’re doing knows the retail market is heavily concentrated with labels, so they are looking for other ways of selling the beer. I think brewpubs will be one way of doing that well. Over the next couple of years, a lot of the operators who stick around will be brewpubs.”
Jules is researching the second edition now, identifying the breweries and finding out about their beer. “I visited about a third of the breweries (for the first edition), and I’m visiting another third at the moment. Edition One took me about six months of research and three months of hard writing. I need to get it done by the end of January, so I’m talking to breweries at the moment through to mid-December, and basically writing through January when Wellington is a ghost town.”
And it’s not just about beer writing. Jules also has a wine brand, is starting a new wine book, running two Wellington restaurants, has just opened a wine shop, and is juggling family duties: “I describe myself as a drinks writer and drinks professional”.
Expect a few changes in the second edition. “We’ve dropped ‘Craft’ from the title. Personally I think the term craft is becoming problematic in New Zealand.” The book’s structure will be different, but, despite the growth in brewery numbers, it will be about the same size. “I mean, it’s a guide book, you have to be able to throw it in your backpack or handbag when you are travelling. It has to be approachable.”