Townshend Brewery eyes global market with new distribution deal

Upper Moutere craft brewer Martin Townshend.
Alden Williams

Upper Moutere craft brewer Martin Townshend.

The award-winning Townshend Brewery has signed a major distribution deal that could see the famous range of craft beers from Upper Moutere, near Nelson, go global.

Martin Townshend, who was named champion brewer at the 2014 Brewers' Guild of New Zealand Beer Awards, said he was still running a "one-man" operation in his shed but had recently completed a distribution deal with Kapiti Coast craft brewery Tuatara that will take his beers to national and, potentially, international markets.

"It's fabulous for us," Townshend said.

"We can produce 10-20 times more than what we have been and tap into a national distribution network. We'll have a much greater impact on the New Zealand market and more shelf space in retail outlets."

He said the move had "ruffled a few feathers" but it was a "solid business decision".

"It's good to be confident in the business, rather than being on the backfoot.

"Distribution partners we've had previously have been great but we needed to take a step up – there's a lot of competition and great brewers in New Zealand."

Townshend will continue brewing out his 11,000-litre backyard brewery, but the Tuatara deal will mean he can leave his bigger brewing requirements to them.

He'll also be able to guard his award-winning brewing secrets.

"It gives me that chance to keep experimenting, that's the goal. I'm a pretty miserable bastard and I like to do my own thing, so I wouldn't want to put anyone through the nightmare of having to work with me."

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Townshend also said he was ready to defend his champion brewery title at the  Brewers Guild of New Zealand International Beer Awards om Auckland next month.

"I started getting ready for these awards the day after we won last year. We've been working on some quite weird and wonderful stuff that still needs some time in the bottle.

"We've expanded a great deal, with beers aged in oak barrels, one that's 10% (alcohol by volume) and has been in the cask for eight months and seasonal and annual releases.

"We'll keep tasting to see which ones we want to put up for the awards."  

The Free House co-owner Eelco Boswijk said it was quite common for breweries to share production and distribution. 

"Breweries that have outgrown their own production facilities contract certain beers to other larger breweries. It's a business decision, but [the fact that] people are very happy to do that shows there is cooperation and collaboration within the industry."

McCashin's had produced some of Marlborough-based Moa's beers, and Invercargill Brewery produces Wellington-based Yeastie Boys. The Mussel Inn's bottled beer was once made in Invercargill as well, though that had now shifted in-house. 

Boswijk said Townshend was one of the most prolific brewers in the country despite being a one-man band. "We've had more of his different beers through the pub than any other brewery in the country. He pushes himself hard, tries new things and isn't content to sit and rest on his laurels." 

New Zealand's beer brewing industry is worth $2.2 billion, according to the Beer Brewers Guild.

The 2014 ANZ report into New Zealand's craft beer industry found craft brewing was the fastest growing segment of the brewing sector, at about 25% per year.  In the US – one of New Zealand's biggest beer export markets – demand for craft beer has grown 10 per cent year-on-year.

ANZ estimates that the potential export market to Asia could be up 300% in the next decade.

Brewers Guild of New Zealand chairman Bob King said it was good for smaller breweries, like Townshend's, to be able to concentrate on their product while using the distribution and production resources of a large operation. 

"He's making a very fine product and is an example of one of those New Zealand craft brewers who started small but is producing great beers.

"You can't be all things to all people, so entering into these types of agreements with the best networks will allow him to concentrate on making great beer while also getting it to the marketplace."

 - Stuff

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