Wellington's growing reputation as the craft beer capital gets a boost this weekend as three young enthusiasts launch an ambitious commercial operation in Vivian St.
Matt Kristofski, Matt Stevens and Matt Warner, the trio behind ParrotDog, will release the first output of their new brewery, which they hope will soon be turning out 4000 litres a week.
While the trio declined to reveal who had backed the venture or how much it cost, the steel vats, chiller, bottling machine, as well as an off-licence to sell self-filled riggers, represent a substantial investment.
Industry sources with experience of similar ventures put the cost at more than $500,000.
Like many micro breweries, ParrotDog grew out of enthusiasm and thrift. Kristofski and Warner, friends from university, began brewing as students in Aro Valley, initially for their own supply.
Eventually the pair approached Stevens, an accountant with no brewing experience, about the logistics of a commercial brew. This required a series of trips to New Plymouth, where they sub-contracted space from Mike's Organic Brewery on the weekends because there was nothing available in Wellington.
The efforts met with almost immediate acclaim. BitterBitch, the first commercial brew, won the people's choice award at Beervana 2011 at Wellington's Westpac Stadium, immediately creating demand well in excess of what ParrotDog could produce.
The taste of success was enough to prompt Stevens to quit his job at Deloitte late last year to focus on the brewery full time.
With hardware from China now assembled, ParrotDog relaunches keg sales this weekend, with bottled beer due in several weeks.
The trio deny being nervous about how the market will receive the product, although Warner said that for the first time, they would "actually have to start selling" their product.
"So far we've had so much demand that we haven't been able to fulfil, but that will only take up so much, then we're going to have to hustle the rest."
Warner said there had been few problems adjusting from backyard operation to small industrial scale.
Stevens said there were backup plans. If demand did not take up capacity, ParrotDog could contract brewing time to other budding brewers, or even sell the brewery entirely.
"The inverse of that, though, is if it goes well, we could be adding more tanks in 12 months' time so we can produce more."
Those in the industry are confident that growing interest in craft beer will create significant demand for new products.
Sean Murrie, who part owns both Tuatara Brewery, as well as the Malthouse and the Fork & Brewer, said while craft beer was still a small part of the market, it was growing quickly and new breweries only served to build interest in the sector.
"There'll be plenty of pubs out there willing to take ParrotDog beer. Plenty."
- © Fairfax NZ News