Wellington brewery Panhead Custom Ales sold to Lion Group

Former Panhead Custom Ales owner Mike Neilson plans to continue  brewing for the company.

Former Panhead Custom Ales owner Mike Neilson plans to continue brewing for the company.

Upper Hutt brewery Panhead Custom Ales has been sold to international brewing giant, Lion Group.

However, former owner Mike Neilson will stay involved and plans to continue in the role.

"It will be business as usual, I will hand over the running of the company to businesspeople. The best part is I will get back to brewing."

Panhead's Canhead range.

Panhead's Canhead range.

He would give up engineering, accountancy and logistics to concentrate on writing recipes and brewing award-winning beer.

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The price Lion paid for Panhead has not be revealed.

The business will now employ Josh Drake as its general manager, giving Neilson more time to spend with his wife Anna and their children.

All other roles within the Panhead business would remain unchanged.

"The chance to have Panhead's future supercharged by a merger with the big boys was too good to pass up. Lion's backing will help Panhead grow to a point where anyone, anywhere in the country will be able to experience our beer," he said.

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Lion is owned by Japanese beverage giant Kirin, which produces beers including Stella Artois, Steinlager, Guinness and the Mac's range.

Neilson broke the news about the sale on the Panhead Facebook page on Friday.

After three years in business, demand for the beers was so high a decision had to be made on the future of the brewery and how to get it to a larger size and scale, he said.

"You guys have made us so damned successful, we either try to control this growth thing or strap in and go to the next level. No prizes for guessing which way the decision went," the Facebook post said.

It was a "very big call" that would take effect from July 1 this year and was an idea the owners would have "laughed about" when they first started.

Lion's stewardship over its other acquisitions - Emerson's and Mac's ranges - had given them heart.

"We know the big boys are taking craft seriously now. We're delighted to see how Lion have handled their stewardship of Emerson's and the positive experience that Richard has had. We're glad to see Mac's is making beer that hop addicts can drink."

The deal was not Lion buying out a competitor, he said.

"At our current volumes, we're no threat to them. They're smart enough to see that the ground is shifting, and just as wine did 30 years ago, beer is growing up and moving out.

"Panhead can help them ride that change and ensure that beer in New Zealand heads in the right direction. And lest we forget, they're also excellent technical brewers."

Lion New Zealand managing director Rory Glass said Panhead was "a phenomenally successful brewery, with a fantastic range of award-winning beers, and some big growth aspirations" and the new owners had no interested in changing that.

"We have no interest in changing its winning formula. Lion's investment in Panhead will free Mike and the Panhead team to do what they do best: brew great beer."

 - Stuff


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