Emerson’s new $25 million brewery opens next Monday on Anzac Avenue, Dunedin.
Beertown.NZ visited last week, the day after the official launch party featuring Richard Emerson’s mother Ingrid cutting the ribbon, and Richard’s favourite band The Chills warming the crowd.
Richard, profoundly deaf, appreciated The Chills performance – “They were loud!”
The new brewery is designed with two goals – increased efficiency, and demonstrating the brewing process.
The main brewhouse will produce 5000L batches, with the capability of making six batches a day. With an initial annual production of 2.5ML, and plans to reach more than 4ML/yr, the new plant more than doubles the volume of Emerson’s beer produced each year.
The equipment is all connected through fixed pipes, rather than hooking up through hoses, and an automated clean-in-place system keeps the nasty caustic soda out of the way.
Brewery tours will be an important part of the new site. Almost all of the equipment, including the fermenters, has large viewing portholes to allow visitors to see what’s happening inside. Large windows separate the brewhouse from public areas like the restaurant and taproom, so visitors don’t need to join a tour to see the action.
A 1200L experimental brewhouse will be used for smaller batches and the always-popular Brewer’s Reserve series. This smaller kit is a scaled-down version of the main kit – the idea being, because it uses the same configuration, scaling up recipes to full production will be relatively simple. The experimental department also includes three 400L fermenters so a single batch can be divided and fermented with different yeast strains.
Dunedin manufacturer Farra provided all the new brewing equipment. Richard specified local production because he wants to support local suppliers and believes the quality and support are better than imported gear. “It all came in on time and budget.”
The complex includes a taproom, bar and restaurant. And since Richard is such a great big trainspotter, the restaurant’s interior is based on an industrial/railway theme. The bar’s foot rail is a length of genuine railway line – “Main Trunk Line strength, not branch line” – and the toilets play a soundtrack of a train and whistle to assist you performing your ablutions.
The restaurant and bar are expected to be popular destinations in their own right, on the route for cruise ship passengers coming into town and near Forsyth Barr Stadium.
There are rumours Richard wants to build a branch line and station at the back of the site, which adjoins the Port Chalmers railway line. He’s already installed a steam engine whistle on the new building, and says it’s so loud it can be heard easily on the other side of Otago Harbour.
All packaging and dispatch is done at the site, with plans for a new bottling line capable of filling Emerson’s traditional 500mL bottles and new 330mL bottles for six-pack cartons. A canning line is also planned. “I can’t hear much but the sound of a can opening is always inspirational”.
The new brewery is celebrated by Emerson's 1992 Whisky Porter (7.1%). The limited edition whisky porter marks the year Emerson's launched and is aged in the barrels used for Dunedin's Wilson Distillery's 1992 vintage: "As companionable a companion to haggis as you're likely to find and rumoured to make bagpipes more tolerable".
Writing as someone who visits breweries every week, Lion’s $25 million investment in the new brewery is impressive and obvious. The design, scale and quality of the equipment set a new benchmark in craft brewing facilities. You can say what you like about Richard’s decision to sell his business to Lion, but you will not find a better equipped craft brewery operating anywhere else in New Zealand.