With 2015 only a week or two old, it is probably a timely opportunity to reflect on 2014 here at Croucher Brewing. And what a year it was.
Th biggest event was shifting the brewery. After the best part of 10 years in the same old sausage factory (which we had actually grown to big for at least 3+ years ago), we found an ideal new site in Dec 2013. However there were significant delays due to plumbing issues with the building - a function of a neighbouring development gone rogue (with Councils permission). It took until July/Aug for this to be remedied. So eventually the process of moving and upgrading the brewhouse commence. The highlight was the building of a 100+ square metre chiller - sheer luxury after 10 years working in a refrigerated shipping container.
By October we had the brewhouse in place and a few brews under our belts. There is still a strong element of number 8 wire technology in use, but have improved number of process challenges and identified the ones we need to address in 2015.
The increased capacity of extra fermenters and bright beer tanks is starting to pay dividends, with better availability of our core range of beers (Pilsner, Pale Ale, Lowrider, Patriot and ANZUS IPA) and a number of seasonal/one-off beers rolling off the line. Look out for a return of Croucher Black Forest in Feb, which this time is a chocolate sour cherry porter. The Raspberry Pilsner will be back in Jan, along with our APA (Nigel's favourite). The Singletrack IPA experiment continues, where we brew the same base beer but use one (different) hop variety each time - Singletrack IPA has been a really popular addition to our brewing programme.
Another satisfying part of 2014 was growing the team at the brewery. When we include the bars we employ 50 (I just about fainted as I wrote that!) people across our businesses and in 2014 we finally put some meat on the bones at the brewery too. With Dikky taking on the brewer role, we employed Julie as our Sales and Marketing Manager. Julie is ex-Rogue and ex-Hopworks in Portland, Oregon, so brings a wealth of pub/brewery experience and sheer enthusiasm to the team. Talking of enthusiasm, Kim joined later in the year in a sales and events role and has quickly formed a dynamic duo on sales with Julie. The final piece of the puzzle was Ramsey, who joined us as a cellar hand late in the year, and with Dikky these two made sure we have kept beer moving at all times since. We finally have a real team, which is super satisfying after many years of just Paul and Nigel running like mad things on the brewery mouse wheel.
We had great results at beer awards in 2014; five medals from six entries at BREW NZ, and a couple of medals at the Australian International Beer Awards too.
Our ANZUS IPA was selected to represent NZ in a Canadian craft beer advent calendar. It was a huge order by our standards and had to be shipped in the the middle of the year to allow all the collation and packing (there were more than 23,000 packs made up). Reaction to the beer was fantastic, and there was around 1000 reviews of ANZUS IPA made on Untappd in the period following the release of the calender.
Our two BREW | Craft Beer Pub's (Rotorua and Tauranga) went from strength to strength. BREW Rotorua has become one of the most popular bar/restaurants in Rotorua and won OUTSTANDING BAR at the Rotorua Hospitality Awards for the second straight year!!
The year ended with a change to the drink-driving laws in NZ, introducing a lower blood/alcohol limit. The most obvious initial impact us was an immediate increase in interest in our LOWRIDER IPA. This 2.7% flavour bomb re-wrote the book on lower alcohol beer, and is a great go-to option for all of us who want a drink or two with a meal.
2015 promises to be another exciting year, with more production improvements to be made, new beers to be brewed (and sampled), new markets to explore and more fun to be had. Stay onboard for the ride, we love and appreciate your support.
Best wishes for 2015 from all of us to all of you.