Somewhere in Grey Lynn there’s a steep driveway lined with budget car workshops. At the bottom of the hill there’s a doggy day care and an industrial unit pumping out malty aromas and James Brown – that’s Funk Estate.
The Funk’s been on this Estate for six months now – “We got the keys on the 23rd of December and we did our first beer on the 24th,” says Funk Estate’s Jordan Evison.
Jordan moved from Wellington to Auckland with business partners Dylan Shearer and Shigeo Takagi last year. Like many blooming brewers, they started at home before going commercial, starting as contract brewers in 2012.
“I really like contract brewing,” Jordan says. “I think it’s a good model and it let us get to the point where we are now. We could have kept going that way but it is hard to achieve scale and very difficult to ensure you can make the beer when you need it; you’re subject to somebody else’s schedule”.
But the next step – building your brewery – is always complicated and time consuming. Many New Zealand brewers have taken this path in the past couple of years, and just about every one has a story about delays caused by manufacturers, agents, shipping, customs, councils, builders, landlords and/or divorce lawyers.
So when Funk Estate had the opportunity to walk into an established brewery, it jumped at it.
“Buying a working brewery was a big part of our decision. A lot of breweries get kit from overseas, and we’ve heard about a lot of issues of one kind or another. We wanted to avoid all that. We were pretty lucky to be able to do what we did.
“When the brewery became available we had already started the process of looking at our options and building our own brewery. We believed there was opportunity for growth in Auckland as well, so it seemed like a good deal for us and we moved quickly to make it work.
“I’d heard about this brewery from another brewer a few months before, and we got in touch (with the seller). It was all kept pretty quiet until we’d signed. We didn’t want it to be another one of those worst kept secrets of craft beer,” says Jordan.
The site was sold by Andrew Peacocke, who’d established Governor Beer there in 2011. The room is large, and the brew kit itself is a stunning, modern 1200L piece built by Nelson’s CLE Systems.
Dylan is clearly happy with the new gear. “We’ve seen a few different systems while we were contracting but actually operating your own is a bit different. It’s really well designed and very easy to use. It just works really, really well. We’re stoked with it. We’ve got four fermenters at the moment so we do eight brews a month like clockwork.”
The next step is to fill some of the ample space and get to making more beer. By mid-August they will have commissioned new 2400L bright tanks and fermenters. “We took over this place knowing we’d have to go through an expansion pretty quickly because, had we built our own brewery, we would have gone bigger,” says Jordan.
“It’s been a bit of a struggle introducing seasonals and keeping up with our core range, so the new tanks will give us more flexibility and we’ll be able to keep growing.”