Tim Wills builds breweries.
As Premier Stainless System’s product coordinator for Australia and New Zealand, Tim’s job involves designing brew systems, organising construction and delivery, then coming to the brewery with his socket set to put it all together and hit the Start button.
Premier’s brew kits have a good reputation. This year alone, Beertown.NZ has checked out three new Premier systems at Choice Bros, GodsOwn and Eddyline. Brewers say they like the build quality, compact footprint, and Tim’s support through assembly and commissioning.
The Premier systems are cheaper than the tailor-made New Zealand builds, while having better quality control and after-sales support than the cheapest Chinese options.
Tim came to the role with a background in brewing in Anchorage, Alaska. He moved to Australia after the GFC and found work at Murray’s Brewing near Newcastle, NSW.
“They had a Premier Stainless brew system and I contacted Premier asking about used equipment which was about the only thing in my budget at the time. They’d just sold two systems to Australia and asked me about my brewing experience. We started work on a handshake.”
That was eight years ago and Tim’s been assembling Premier Systems across New Zealand and Australia ever since. His first New Zealand customer was Garage Project, which came back to him when it bought a bigger system and doubled capacity a few years later.
“I probably get contacted for quotes 10 times a week on average. I tend to get more queries in January when people say ‘This year I’m going to open the brewery’. My best advice is to buy the best and biggest brew kit you can afford, and a few tanks, and then grow on the tank side. Tanks take about 16 weeks to get manufactured and shipped, so once you have your brewhouse operating you can plan your brew schedule around receiving more tanks, and just drop them in place if you’ve planned the space and the glycol system and the control panel.
“I send quotes for the next size down and the next size up. There’s economies of scale and the cost of an 1800L system is not that much more than the cost of a 1200L. If you’re getting up to an 1800L system and you have the budget, add a whirlpool. It will give you more flexibility and it fits into the shipping container.”
While brewpubs and smaller systems make up a lot of Tim’s recent New Zealand business, he says many smaller breweries are expanding.
“In first half of 2017 I’m installing a 2000L system in Perth, 2500L in Canberra, a four-vessel 4000L system in Adelaide, with interest in a 5000L system in Australia. I think the growth is going to be at that larger end – these are guys who have been in the game on smaller systems, or who’ve been contract brewing, that are now making the move. A lot of them have an eye on export, to China in particular – no excise, close shipping and a massive market.”
At the smaller end of the scale, Tim’s watching the growth in brewpubs here and across the Tasman. “Bottleshop shelves are packed, and you’re fighting for space with every production brewer. Contract brewers have to combat production brewers and add their own margin on top of that. I think you will see more brewpubs in New Zealand – customers come in to get the product, more will only sell their own product in their own bar, and that’s where the biggest profit margin is.”