A hoppy career
Nelson’s Sprig and Fern brewer Tracy Banner has celebrated her 30th anniversary as a female brewer in an industry still largely dominated by men. Tracy landed her first job as a laboratory technician in 1983 with brewing giants Greenall’s in northern England.
She is now the head brewer and co-owner of the Sprig & Fern Brewery and a nationwide chain of taverns. She runs the Milton Street Sprig & Fern with her husband Ken.
The Sprig & Fern has six bars around the Nelson region. It opened a bar in Auckland this year and recently opened in Petone, its second bar in the Wellington region.
The Banners immigrated to New Zealand in 1994 and Tracy became the head brewer at Nelson’s Mac’s Brewery, and then moved up to run the brewery’s operations.
‘‘I’m very proud that in the mid to late ‘90s I was one of a number of brewers who were instrumental in bringing craft beer to New Zealand,’’ she says.
‘‘We really changed the face of brewing, and the way people think about beer in this country.’’
Following her role at Mac’s Tracy moved to Dunedin where she was the first woman to take on the dual role of brewery manager and head brewer for Speight’s Brewery.
‘‘Being at the helm of such an iconic brewery and in Southern Man territory was initially daunting but I had confidence in my extensive experience and knowledge of the industry.’’
After two years in Dunedin the Nelson lifestyle beckoned again, and in 2007 Tracy moved back to Nelson to become co-owner and head brewer at the Sprig & Fern Brewery in Richmond.
After 30 years Tracy says she still gets a reaction to being a female brewer: ‘‘ Men don’t struggle with it any more – they find it interesting and they want to talk about beer.’’
Beer exposure: Television presenter Aaron Corotta with Spring & Fern’s Tracy Banner and Dave Barrett at the Beach Rd brewery.