Big brewery ownership a two-sided coin for craft brewers looking to sell


DB Breweries managing director Andy Routley, left, and Tuatara founder and master brewer Carl Vasta at Tuatara’s brewery in Paraparaumu.

“About bloody time.”

Those were the first three words out of my mouth when I saw craft brewer Tuatara had been sold to Heineken-owned DB.

The Paraparaumu company has been linked to all three of New Zealand’s big brewing companies – Lion, DB and Independent Liquor – for years, and was always going to be an attractive buy after winning champion New Zealand brewery in 2016. (full story)

[WARNING] Craft Beer in Crisis?

richard_emersonWhy don’t I hear more concern from craft beer drinkers about the recent purchase of Panhead by Lion? Are the warning signs from the US craft beer industry or even from history not being listened to?


This comment from Sam Calagione hopefully sums up what is happening

Dogfish Head founder crafts brewery’s future

Q: What does growing consolidation mean for the craft beer movement?
A: Everyone needs to realize that right now in every bar in every state there are massive global breweries going in and trying to sell those bars kegs of beer that they are hoisting off as local craft beers from somewhere in America that are really being made and distributed and marketed by the world’s biggest breweries. If the consumer doesn’t vote with their pocketbook to prioritize indie craft, we risk losing the vibrancy and diversity of our industry because the little guys can’t compete at the price points that the big brewers are hoisting this so-called craft beer off on.

[Read Full Article]

Please consider history as well

Craft Brewing Takes Flight in N.Z. (part II)

In 1923, the first New Zealand brewing giant, under the name of New Zealand Breweries (since renamed Lion), was born through the merger of ten major regional breweries (including all of their licensed hotels and tied independents) located in the major metropolitan areas of the country. Although exact figures are unavailable, it is probably safe to say this new company controlled well over half of the country’s beer production and distribution. In subsequent years Lion continued to grow, not through capital investment in new plants, but by buying additional regionals, closing some and bringing others into the corporate fold.

[Read Full Article]

richard_emerson (1)Is the follow article part of making things OK? Are Kirin/Lion/Emerson’s really just good guys after all? If so maybe some of the bars they have tied might be good enough to free up a tap to two so that the small independent brewers might be able to sell a little more beer? Seems a bit pointless helping small independent breweries to make beer when on the other hand they are blocked from the majority of the market through tied agreements.


‘Big boy’ steps in to save brewers’ bacon

But Emerson’s Brewery in Dunedin came to the rescue and last month secured an organic malt supply for the micro-brewery.

At the brewery’s 5000L brew house the inevitable spillage was about 5tons a year. (pretty sure this isn’t true, and if it is it won’t be long before Kirin come and sort it out)

[Read Full Article]


Belgian Beer Cafe – De Fontein – Mission Bay

Belgian Beer Cafe - De Fontein - from 2004
Belgian Beer Cafe – De Fontein – from 2004

Today we had lunch at the Belgian Beer Cafe De Fontein at Mission Bay. I’ve been here a number of times over the years. This time of the year is the best, as you can sit outside on the balcony and look out to the beach and ocean beyond.

We arrived at 12.30pm, so the height of lunch and all the outside tables were full, but they said they would move us outside once a table came free. We sat at a table inside. After sometime the waitress came back, we were ready to order some drinks, actually we were ready when we sat down. It wasn’t a mad busy lunch time, and it wasn’t crowded, as half the tables inside were empty. It also didn’t seem like there were to many or too few staff. About right for the number of people.


De Fontein Pilsner
De Fontein Pilsner (or Mac’s Hop Rocker?)

On the drinks menu there was a promotion for the “De Fontein Pilsner”.

I asked the waitress about it. As there wasn’t much more than “Crisp hoppy bitterness with just a touch of malt”. This didn’t tell me much.

I asked where it was from/where it was made. She said “here”. It was their beer. I started to ask did they make it in the kitchen, or have a brewery on site, but then stopped as it just made things more confusing.

It was obviously going to be a Lion brewed beer. Do people really get sucked in by buying house labelled beer? What is the point? I guess it’s the price? So who cares where it’s made.

(On leaving I asked for a small taste, and at a guess would say it is Mac’s Hop Rocker. Why not sell it as that. Isn’t there more value in having the Mac’s brand on it rather than De Fontein Pilsner )


Hoegaarden 500 vs 1000 jug
Hoegaarden 500 vs 1000 jug

I had a Hoegaaden and it was as good as it as ever. Love the citrus from the orange peel and coriander (or flavours of). But always find the little floral note slightly detracting in the finish. Still 4/5

The others got a 1 litre jug of Jupiler to share. Pretty clean, flavourless and easy drinking. Well made, and fresh.

Here is a photo of my 500ml Hoegaarden glass next to the 1000ml jug of Jupiler. That is a lot of glass in the Hoegaarden.

Both beers were in great condition.

Prices seem pretty fair for the beers in this place. More than your average mainstream beers. But for imports with higher ABV’s they offered value.

Only issue was some where out of stock due to the last two weeks being holidays. Missed out on the Rochfort 10 I wanted ($17.50)

De Fontein Calamari

Since the service was pretty slow I just took a punt and quickly  ordered a large main size calamari with the drinks, as an entrée to share. Even though it had been a year or so since I had had this meal here, the previous couple of times I had been impressed.

This time not so much. Everything on this plate was disappointing. I’ll leave it as that. I just hope the feedback makes it to the kitchen, and they can lift their game.

We had just finished our calamari and drinks and they came and said we could move outside. WooHoo. Beautiful day. Before we moved we said we wanted to place our order for our food. Didn’t want to lose our waitress again and have to wait even longer.

Tasting Platter of Grilled MusselsWe ordered the tasting platter of grilled mussels.

Tomato and Basil Pesto ones didn’t have much of either of those flavours.

The cheese and bacon just dominated the mussels

The crumbed/breaded/parmesan overpowered the mussel as well.

Don’t get these, as they aren’t that great.


Belgian Beer Cafe Pork Ribs

The BBQ Pork Ribs (800gms shown) came with a very runny/watery liquid on the plate. Maybe the sauce used, BBQ sauce? There was no BBQ flavour. The ribs were tender, meat fell of the bone, there was plenty of meat. There was just no flavour. Maybe they forgot to put the BBQ sauce on?

OK, but wouldn’t recommend these.

Where was the Flemish Stew? No longer on the menu?


Belgian Beer Cafe Pot of Mussels with Tasting Sample of saucesWe couldn’t decide on what flavour mussels to get so we got a kilo of mussels with a sampler of all the tasting sauces. This was a really cool idea, because then you could taste them all.

Unfortunately they were all disappointing apart from the Thai curry. They lacked any flavour intensity.

So if you are going to order a pot of mussels, just got straight to the Thai curry. There was a deal on today where you get the mussels for half price with your beer.


Leffe Brune, La Chouffe and Mussels

In summary, this place had a feel of new management (or owners on holiday), the food felt like there was some corner cutting going on, as the quality wasn’t has high as I have come to expect. The staff seemed new, inexperienced, and overwhelmed. They lacked knowledge, and attention to customers. We had to get their attention several times, to get them to come over. We had to ask for water, twice.

For the win, location, great weather, good company, good beer.

If you visit (sorry I couldn’t have been more positive about todays experience), get there just before 12 noon, get a primo spot on the balcony, and watch the world go by. Order a 500ml of Hoegaarden and a half pot of the Thai curry mussels.

Luke with previous BBC owners Trevor and Lynn Ready 2004
Luke Nicholas with previous Belgian Beer Cafe owners Trevor and Lynn Ready 2004

I found this old photo of a younger version of me (from 2004, WHAT!?? 11 years ago) with Trevor and Lynn Ready who started De Fontein in Mission Bay. Not sure when this bar opened, but this photo was from the night they got awarded the Brew Masters certificate for clean beer lines. Guessing it wasn’t long after they opened.

The beer is good here. An extensive range of bottled Belgian specialty beers.







TASTING TUESDAY 140610 – Brew On Quay

Its been a while, after much international travel and much beer judging, now its time to bring back Tasting Tuesday. Tasting Tuesday has probably been the posts that I have had the most positive feedback from. So it would be silly not to do a few more.

Brew on QuayI was asked by David Cryer of Beervana when I was doing my next one, I said how about tomorrow, there is no reason I shouldn’t do one. I just need to get on and do it. Next on the list had to be Brew on Quay. This is one of our best tap accounts for Epic Pale Ale.

The one issue many beer geeks have with Brew on Quay is that it is 80% tap tied to Lion which has historically meant that the range of beers had been boring due to them having to come from the Lion portfolio. Things have improved since Emerson’s joined the family though. But wait [BREAKING NEWS] come the 4th July Brew on Quay will be independent, a freehouse. They will be free to put what ever beers they like on tap. WooHoo! Finally a win for #CraftBeer in Auckland. (FYI we lost a few more taps last week with the closing of No 1 High St. Come on publicans we must be able to turn this tide).

Gallery of photos and tasting notes:

Moa 5 Hop Winter Ale from hand pump was also sampled. (I forgot to take a photo of the tap badge). Presented with a nice head, the beer was clean and balance, the malt had hints of chocolate/cocoa, but I found the hops were muddled, and lacked definition, or any peaks that stood out. Maybe got some Fuggles in there?


We got lucky with the food, as it a new menu. Check it out. I’d have to say they have come a long way since my post on getting carrots in my Nachos (need to find the photo, and then I will repost). We only sampled from the tapas menu, so haven’t tried any of the main dishes. Something to look forward to.

Photos of menu and food:

I’m excited to head back for the 4th July to celebration Brew on Quay’s Independence Day. (actually I am excited to be heading back on Friday 20th June for the 2014 Hop Zombie and Hot Zombie launch)

On a side note, if you are looking for a unique property investment the building that houses Brew on Quay if for sale. Here is some background history on the building.

The single-story brick structure was designed by architect Charles Arnold on reclaimed land, and was completed in 1904 as the New Zealand headquarters for the Australian company Colonial Sugar Refining, now known as Chelsea Sugar, which processed sugar from Fiji and other colonies.


The New Zealand Police took over the lease of the building in 1961, and it was the Wharf Police Station up until 1993.