Brew boys

The fa­ther and sons team be­hind Cas­sels & Sons Brew­ing Co launch their new bot­tled beer range.

Paper Boy - - Food - Cas­sels + Paper­boy

It all started on a fam­ily sum­mer hol­i­day in the Marl­bor­ough Sounds in 2008-09. Ac­cord­ing to Alas­dair Cas­sels, he reck­ons he wanted to teach his son Zak and son-in-law Joe Shanks an im­por­tant life les­son: how to make beer.

Joe, who is mar­ried to Alas­dair’s daugh­ter Pippi, re­mem­bers it dif­fer­ently. “We were on a fam­ily hol­i­day and Alas­dair thought we were drink­ing too much so he said, ‘we bet­ter start mak­ing some’… and we did it on an old Rayburn wood-burn­ing stove.” The beer they brewed that sum­mer was a hoppy pil­sner. “We im­pressed the hell out of our­selves,” says Zak.

The Cas­sels trio can’t re­mem­ber ex­actly how their sum­mer hobby turned into a busi­ness – they just had a feel­ing there was a gap in the mar­ket for small batches of hand­made beer brewed on a wood-fired brew ket­tle. “We started do­ing it as a project,” says Joe, “and then it was Alas­dair driv­ing us. Alas­dair thought if we were go­ing to do it, we were go­ing to do it prop­erly.” With a back­ground in en­gi­neer­ing, Joe came up with a de­sign for a 200-litre wood-fired brew ket­tle. It was one of a kind in New Zealand and a unique sell­ing point for a fledg­ling op­er­a­tion.

Within a few months there was a lit­tle brew­ery up and run­ning in Christchurch. Beer was bot­tled by hand, la­bels were glued on man­u­ally, and soon swing-top bot­tles of Cas­sels & Sons beer were be­ing sold at the Lyt­tel­ton Farm­ers Mar­ket. From there it crept into bars around the city. They soon re­alised they needed a big­ger brew­ery and an ex­pert brewer, so in­vested in a 600-litre ket­tle – still wood-fired – and hired Nigel Ma­honey as their brewer. As Zak re­calls, 2010 was a good year. “Our lit­tle brew­ery was grow­ing, sales were grow­ing, our out­lets were grow­ing,

the whole craft beer mar­ket was grow­ing.”

Then Christchurch was dev­as­tated by the Fe­bru­ary 22, 2011 earth­quake, and so was the small brew­ery. But from dis­as­ter came an op­por­tu­nity: a build­ing sched­uled to be de­mol­ished to make way for a gar­den was, iron­i­cally, in good enough shape to be­come a home to the brew­ery, so work be­gan on a brew bar. “One hun­dred days later we had a bar, a brew­ery, a cafe, a mu­sic venue and a restau­rant,” says Zak.

More new be­gin­nings fol­lowed with the hir­ing of Si­mon Brether­ton, who had worked for Bod­ding­ton’s (one of the UK’S big­gest brew­eries), Har­ring­ton’s Brew­eries in Christchurch, and Lit­tle Crea­tures in Mel­bourne. Brether­ton has over­seen the build­ing of a world-class brew­ery, with a bot­tling sys­tem sec­ond-to-none in New Zealand. Cas­sels is now mak­ing a na­tion­wide push with a core range fea­tur­ing the Milk Stout; Ex­tra Pale Ale; Red IPA; and Golden Age, a bright sum­mer ale.

While Alas­dair is a well-known fig­ure in Christchurch, he doesn’t see him­self as the face of the brew­ery. “I see it as a fam­ily thing. It’s big­ger than me and I couldn’t do it my­self – dif­fer­ent gen­er­a­tions add the flavour. It’s a fam­ily busi­ness.” • Milk Stout, XPA and Red IPA avail­able at se­lect su­per­mak­erts and liquor stores. Golden Age launches at Taste of Auck­land, Thu 16 Nov

Above top From left, Alas­dair Cas­sels, his son-in-law Joe Shanks and son Zak. Above left The Cas­sels & Sons Brew­ery in Christchurch. Above right The state-of-the-art bot­tling sys­tem. In­set The bot­tled beer range.

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