Two of brewing’s worst kept secrets came out into the light of day yesterday.
The Tuatara/DB hook-up has been rumoured again and again over the past few years. The mutual attraction is obvious – Tuatara is the most-awarded brewery in New Zealand with two Big BGONZAs; DB fell left behind as bigger competitor Lion grabbed Emerson’s and Panhead, increasing their production without devaluing their reputations.
The mutual benefits are obvious too. Tuatara’s discomfort under Rangatira-imposed management has been apparent even to outsiders like me. Say what you like about Big Beer taking over Big Craft, but DB will be a better cultural fit for Tuatara than Rangatira ever was. DB’s clinical quality control will do Tuatara no harm either.
On the distribution side, DB has scale and access to venues and supermarket shelves, while Tuatara brings its own tied taps in venues DB probably couldn’t access directly. The increased pressure on small, independent brewers will make their own distribution more difficult.
B-Studio’s 4500m2 plant in Napier’s port precinct is under construction right now, in the heritage National Tobacco building (pictured above in heritage B&W). Its owners are actively courting contract brewing with every medium and large craft brewer in New Zealand. I understand that even the largest indies, including Moa and Harrington’s, have been approached with the opportunity to get their beer made on the more populated side of Cook Strait.
B-Studio’s massive plant has the potential to be the largest independent brewery in the country, with a touted annual output of 5 million L. Its market is international and national, rather than Hawke’s Bay, but it’s a big, solid example of the growth in the region’s brewing.
At the smaller end of the scale, Napier Brewing, Fat Monk and Zeelandt have all invested in new equipment that will at least double production. Brave Brewing has also bought bigger kit and moved into a shiny new brewpub. Rooster’s brewery was briefly on the market late last year – it was quickly bought by locals and is still doing contract brewing for Havelock North’s Giant Brewing. Free taps are opening in bars and cafés, and the local SOBA membership has grown from about four to about 40 in the past year.
Hawke’s Bay water supply has been in the news for the wrong reasons. There’s a near-drought this summer, and Hastings’ and Havelock North’s water is now diligently chlorinated following last year’s gastro outbreak. Napier’s water is still untreated for now.
Hawke’s Bay already had the potential to be a craft brewing destination, with its own styles and the potential for beer tourism. Now the opening of B-Studio will bring volume, brewing talent, and possibly an on-site café/bar, as well as bringing in contracting brewers who will sample the local scene.