Stainless is a brewery you know but you’ve never heard of.
Instead it brews to contract, and is the only contract-only brewery operating in the South Island. You’ve probably had a Stainless-brewed brew without even knowing it.
Stainless’s customers include contract brewers like Yeastie Boys, Behemoth and Beer Baroness; commercial brewers who need extra capacity, or a toehold in the South Island, like Eagle and 8-Wired; and small brewers turning commercial, like Vulcan.
Stainless has brewed for so many different labels that brewery manager Andi Hickey has lost count. “We’ve got about ten breweries that we regularly brew for now, but I would say we’ve brewed for more than 20 since we started.”
Providing additional brewing capacity is highly desirable in the rapidly-growing craft beer scene. But Stainless also plays a role in nurturing homebrewers through their first commercial batch, another reason why Christchurch’s brewing scene is thriving.
“Most the homebrewers come to us first and find out the financial side, what it’s going to cost, getting the ingredients, excise, and so I give them all that information. Then if they decide to go ahead I hand them on to Cam for all the technical questions.”
Cam is Stainless’s brewer. A homebrewer himself, Cam Burgess has brewed in Canada and New Zealand, and holds the General Certificate in Brewing from the (UK) Institute of Brewing and Distilling.
“When I went to Canada I just lucked out and got a really great job at Central City Brewing. They’d just won top brewery in Canada three or four years in a row and the brewhouse was brewing four times a day, churning out the beer. When my visa was expiring I saw a job for Cassels which I applied for while I was overseas. I came back over a weekend and started the Monday I arrived. I was at Cassels for two and a half years, then I started at Stainless in September last year.”
Cam says Stainless is flexible about working with contract brewers. “We get brewers from all over the country. I’ve brewed for people in Auckland I’ve never met, just spoken on the phone and emailed. Others might come to their first brew day and after that we don’t really see them. Brewers can be on site but they can’t physically help with the brew, that’s a health and safety thing. We’re happy to let them empty out the mash tun. That can be fun for the first ten times.”
Andi is transparent about the cost of contract brewing. “Everyone pays $1.65 per litre to us, plus their excise. We take a deposit on the first 500L and its excise seven days after brew day, then they pay the final amount seven days after packaging.”
The standard batch size is 1200L, with 2400L fermenters available for double batches. Brewers can supply their ingredients or buy them through Stainless, and packaging options include an on-site bottling line operated by Bottle Solutions.
Sitting next door to Pomeroy’s, Stainless brews for Pomeroy’s and Beer Baroness, owned by Pomeroy’s Ava Nakagawa. Cam has just launched his own Southpaw Brewing, with the first batch brewed at Stainless in July. Andi is about to open bookings for the busy October-December season, and it’s first-in-first-served. Check the details here.