Family raise mugs to old Hororata brewer
A trailer load of beer trundled into Christchurch recently. Not any old beer, but a unique ale.
Craft brewer Chris Barber produced it as a "one-off" at the Zeelandt Brewery in Napier. It is a replica of a beer produced at Hororata by his great-great- grandfather about 1880. Barber used a contemporary recipe to ensure maximum authenticity.
About 50 cartons of the beer were dispatched from Napier, by road and ferry, to Nelson. From there Sandra and Ron Marris brought it to Christchurch. Now it sits in a New Brighton garage awaiting a family reunion when it will be brought out and drunk.
The significance of the brew lies in its genesis at the central- Canterbury township of Hororata. Jesse Prestidge set up the brewery there and produced his popular range of pale ale, strong ale and extra stout, under the label of Hororata. After his death in 1904, sons Jesse Junior and Joseph took over and ran the brewery.
Prestidge left the English town of Rugby in 1863. In a clever piece of marketing, he designed a label for his bottles featuring a picture of a rugby player in the red and black stripes of Canterbury. Great-granddaughter Sandra Marris says surviving labels are faded and torn but have been copied as faithfully as possible for the replica product.
The figure on the label looks more like a jockey than a rugby player but that only indicates how sports fashions have changed over the years.
Prestidge had a large family and this October his descendants will gather in Christchurch for a 150th anniversary family reunion. Barber and Marris will be among them. The clan celebrations will be lubricated by the replica beer.
Barber carries on Prestidge's brewing tradition. But Prestidge was more than a brewer. This man of many accomplishments served the Malvern district as carpenter, bridge builder, farmer, hotelier and undertaker. He sat on the local Roads Board and the Coleridge Licensing Committee. He was a notable figure in the community.
Runholder and national politician Sir John Hall asked Prestidge to come to Hororata in 1868. Prestidge settled his family in a cob cottage until he built a two-storeyed house, complete with morgue. Among many buildings he erected in the area were several at Hall's Terrace Station and the original St John's Church (now the church hall). He bought and ran the Hororata Hotel and Riverlands Farm. He established his brewery in the old cob cottage.
With all this work, his seven sons should never have been short of a job. However, he had a reputation for undercutting other contractors in bidding for tenders, so the sons might not have been well paid.
The brewery closed about 1920. The building fell into disrepair and the site was cleared in 1963. However, pub and brewery should have done well in earlier times. With the Hororata and Selwyn rivers nearby, Hororata was a watering place for drovers, stockmen and teamsters heading inland across Canterbury. Not only did their animals need a drink after a day's plod in hot sunshine, the men had their own thirsts to tend as well. The wider area also grew extensive grain crops, bringing crews of thirsty harvesters in season.
Former Press writer and longtime Hororata resident Derrick Rooney said in a 1978 article that metal piping uncovered by floods about that time indicated water had been piped to the brewery from nearby Duncans Creek. It is often dry now but maintained a year-round flow in those days. Presumably Prestidge bought locally grown barley for his brewing. Rooney speculates that a flour mill on a creek near the township probably "doubled as a malthouse".
So the district was ripe for a brewery, even if, as Rooney says, part of the region was "a stronghold of fundamentalist religion", where consumption of liquor was strongly discouraged. This did not stop Prestidge. Regular customers had secret places, usually under matagouri bushes, where moonlight deliveries could be placed unseen. But perhaps the wowsers had their way after all. Barely a trace of Prestidge's brewery can be found now. His house burned down in the 1960s. The Hororata Hotel continued trading until recent times but is now closed.
Hororata is growing, however. New houses have popped up, as residents commute to Christchurch, Rolleston and Darfield for work. A new cafe is proving popular.
Prestidge descendants will gather at the Ferrymead Lodge Hall, in Christchurch, on October 18 for a weekend of reunion activities. They will be treated to bottles of Chris Barber's replica Hororata beer. Perhaps the taste may inspire a new craft brewing industry for Hororata.
Reunion inquiries to Sandra Marris, 03 546 7888