JuiceHead's brewers know the back of a bar, but do they know how to make great beer?
The team of four – Emma Brown, Sam Graham, Calum Wallace, Ciaran Duffy – have 15 year’s bar experience between them. They’ve worked together at Fork & Brewer and the Malthouse: Emma and Sam are English; Calum is Scottish; Ciaran is Irish.
The four have just started producing their own beers under the JuiceHead Beer label, and have been successful in selling to Wellington venues including LBQ and Basque. While the JuiceHeads don’t own a brewery, they brew the beer themselves at DIY brewing establishment Occasional Brewer, and have just brewed a 2000L batch using Baylands’ plant.
Ciaran says their bar experience teaches them what customers are looking for.
“There’s a lot of good beer in the country but not a lot of excellent beer. We see new breweries come in all the time. Being able to critique other people’s beer is good and it lets you critique your own. The range of products we’ve got in the pipeline are going to be good and find a slot in the market.”
“We know what’s selling,” Sam says, “because we’re the ones changing the kegs”.
JuiceHead is using Occasional Brewer to brew 30L batches and test the market. “If it’s great we’ll sell it and if it’s not we’ll drink it ourselves,” says Ciaran.
Being well known in the Wellington hospo scene has definitely helped JuiceHead get noticed in a crowded business.
“Curiosity about those lads and lasses from the Malthouse has got us in the door but that only works for the first batch. That’s why [burger joint] Grill Meats Beer was such a great place to test it, because they don’t know who the fuck we are at all. It’s a restaurant environment and we were on tap there as a match for the burger of the week. The keg was gone in three days.”
“It will an eye opener once we start selling outside Wellington into a competitive market where no one knows us,” Sam adds.
And that’s when their barkeep experience will give them a point of difference.
“The bar scene in Wellington, I’ll start a new shift, there can be six new beers on I’ve never tried, and people are asking me about them,” Sam says.
“So our tap badges have cheat sheets on the back for the bar staff. Four bullet points covering appearance, aroma, palette, ABV. They start their shift, there’s our beer on, and they’ll look like a legend and it makes them feel good. If we can make the bar staff’s lives easier they’ll sell our stuff.”
The team are also very aware of the need for a good brand with strong graphics.
“Design and merchandise is essential for every brewer because people drink with their eyes. You see people walk in and there’s like 20 taps. They get 20 images before them. Being able to link a strong image to a good product is the key to it,” says Emma.
That interest in design – Emma and Calum’s speciality – was there before the beer came along.
“This whole idea never started out as a brewery,” Ciaran says. “Me and Calum wanted to have a t-shirt design company and fashion label. We wanted to produce t-shirts that were craft beer but not specific to a brewery, it was going to be beer merchandise. Then Sam kept bringing in his home brew and it was fucking wicked. Our company is called Cellar Boys and one of the arms of Cellar Boys is JuiceHead. Another arm could be graphic design or t-shirts. We’ve also looked at doing cellar maintenance.”
“The beer project is now and once that’s running itself, then why not move into something else that’s equally creative?”