Richard Emerson: Emerson's is dead! Long live Emerson's!

In the second of The Beerhive's summer guest blogs, New Zealand beer don Richard Emerson writes about life after being bought by a bigger fish.

Emerson's Brewery was sold to Lion in 2013, a move that shocked some beer lovers.
ROSS SETFORD

Emerson's Brewery was sold to Lion in 2013, a move that shocked some beer lovers.

OPINION: Emerson's is dead - long live Emerson's!

It's been more than three years living under Lion now, so what's changed for us and our customers? Nothing really, except that the sale to Lion has allowed us to grow faster and allow punters the opportunity to have our brews more widely and readily available.

Back before the sale went through, I was a little nervous about the concept of selling out. What will the punters think? Will they still continue to buy our product? Will my shareholders be happy? All those thoughts ran through my mind.

A beardless Richard Emerson in 2004, but still more than a decade after first starting the brewery.
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A beardless Richard Emerson in 2004, but still more than a decade after first starting the brewery.

But the shareholders were more than happy to see a healthy return on their investment, and concerns from the public that Emerson's would become a "watered-down mass-produced product" were quickly allayed.

READ MORE:
* Lion buys Emerson's brewery
* Lion won't 'water down Emerson's'
* Long live Emerson's brewery
* Bars to drop Emerson's following sale to Lion

 
Emerson's new brewery and restaurant in Dunedin is nearing completion.
SUPPLIED

Emerson's new brewery and restaurant in Dunedin is nearing completion.

The small amount of negative feedback proved to be just knee-jerk reactions and they were quickly forgotten.

There were just too many positive vibes going around. One of the best comments came from a fellow brewer: "Richard, you have given us hope." And he was right.  I believe that as the craft beer market continues to grow, more of the craft breweries will be acquired by other interests, rewarding their founders for years of hard work and dedication.

This begs the question, what is the exit strategy or succeeder plans for all the numerous breweries in New Zealand? There have been a fair few acquisitions among large brewers in the USA. No doubt those founders had already been thinking about the future.

A more recent pic of Richard Emerson at the Dunedin brewery.
ISABELLA HARREX/FAIRFAX MEDIA

A more recent pic of Richard Emerson at the Dunedin brewery.

Let's face it, there are plenty of breweries in New Zealand that must look like an attractive proposition for investors. Many have been around for decades and still continue to grow. Think about the likes of Harrington's, Galbraith's Alehouse and Sunshine Brewery. I would imagine they have various strategic plans in place for the future. You know… just in case.

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Carl Vasta, after two decades of brewing in different enterprises, has got his formula right with the successful Tuatara Brewery, selling a 35 per cent stake to Rangatira Investments in 2013. Who will be next?

For us at Emerson's it doesn't get better than this. Looking out of the window from our current brewery at 14 Wickliffe St, Dunedin, we can watch the rapid progress of our new brewery just across the road in Anzac Ave.

We see our new spiritual home rising from the grounds of the former coal yard. Before this site was acquired for Emerson's, it was an unsightly, unkempt industrial ground littered with old pieces of machinery. Man, it was a scruffy eyesore for cruise ship tourists passing by.

Soon it will be an attractive landscaped site with a brick-clad building and a roof profile that pays homage to Dunedin's industrial past. Our shining "six-pack" of 25,000-litre outdoor fermenters already adorns our outside tank farm, and they are highly visible to train patrons and the Port Chalmers commuters. All of this would not have been possible without the generous assistance from Lion.

Everywhere I go, people ask me, "How's the brewery going? Will there be a bar? A restaurant?" There's certainly a lot of excited talk going around town about what is expected to become one of Dunedin's premium hangouts.

But, while our new brewery will have a restaurant and bar, we don't see ourselves as a brewpub. We are first and foremost a brewery, continuing to do what we do best.

This will be the fourth time that Emerson's moves to a bigger location and the timing cannot be better. We are busting at the seams trying to maintain the flow of beers to Lion and our customers.

In a few months' time we will be relocating the current 5,000L brew plant and all the tanks over to the 80 Anzac Ave site. In addition we will have a new 1200L brew plant built by Dunedin's Farra Engineering to conjure up new brews - the boys can't wait!

We expect to open sometime in July, just in time to bust the winter blues. So do drop in and check out the place with a beer in hand!

Life is good in the Lion's Den!

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 - Stuff

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