52 JULY 2016 RICHARD EMERSON Richard Emerson, who started Emerson’s Brewery, Tap Room and Restaurant on a small scale in 1993, is regarded as offering some of the top craft brews in the country. And after his company was purchased by Lion Breweries in 2012, customers were worried that the brewing giant would absorb Emerson into its local Speights Brewery operation, never to be seen again. However, Lion decided to leave Emerson in charge, and the brewery has grown in leaps and bounds since, thanks to its parent company’s wider customer base for distribution. And Emerson, whose deafness is acknowledged on a plaque commemorating the recent opening of the new $25 million brewery complex, has never let his disability stop him for achieving great things. As his mum Ingrid Emerson says, “With his loss of hearing but with his sensitivity to smell and taste, brewing was something that he could do. He came back from Edinburgh determined to change our beer culture, and started perfecting his porter beer in my kitchen.” The then-teenager eventually set up his own craft brewery to manufacture and sell a beer that would be different but also suit the New Zealand palate. With the assistance of family and friends, Emerson’s Brewery Limited was formed in October 1992, with Emerson as managing director and chief brewer. The first brew, made at a small site in Grange Street, Dunedin, was a London Porter marketed in January 1993. It was a hit with Dunedinites and thousands of ‘scarfies’ at the University of Otago and demand grew, with Emerson forced to expand his operations and move four times before opening his new state-ofthe – art brewery, tap room and restaurant in Anzac Avenue, Dunedin. For the self-confessed train buff, doing something unique in the country’s brewing industry is very satisfying. From its opening last month, customers to both the off-licence tap room and the 225- seat bar and restaurant can now see their beers being made in both breweries situated in the complex. These new breweries, designed to not only make the brewing process more efficient but also to make the process able to be observed by customers, are close to train tracks and new batches of beer are signalled by a train whistle. “You can whet your whistle and toot at the same time,” Emerson says. The main brewery produces 5000-litre batches of beer at any one time and has the capacity to do that six times a day. Emerson believes that this new facility will enable the company to double its annual beer production. There is also a 1200-litre experimental brewery which will be used for smaller batches of beer and Emerson’s’ very popular seasonal brands. This brewery is a smaller version of the main brewery, which means experimental beers that achieve popularity may be scaled-up for general production by the larger brewery. This experimental section also includes three 400-litre fermenters, which means a single batch of beer may be divided and fermented with the different yeast strains at the brewery. All bottling and packaging is completed in the new plant on an American-made machine, but according to Emerson sales and marketing manager Greg Menzies, about 70 per cent of the company’s sales are kegs of beer to its many retail outlets throughout New Zealand. Emerson’s beers are not pasteurised – unlike most major commercial beers. The technique includes leaving the yeast alive in the beer to mature and enhance the flavour, with the beers made from malted barley, hops, yeast and water. The new complex is unusual in other ways too. Richard Emerson’s late father George was one of the founders of the world-famous Taieri Gorge Railway, and this is reflected in the brewery design and construction. The food trail at the new bar is a length of real railway line and the toilets sometimes play a soundtrack of a train and its whistle. As the brewery is situated close to the railway line that leads to Port Chalmers where the cruise ships dock in the summer, Emerson is expecting a significant number of visitors from that source next summer. The railway theme is further extended in the design of the new brewery, the roof of which is based on the design of the old Dunedin locomotive shed. Beer from the new brewery has been on sale for a few weeks, and there are plans to include 333ml bottles sold in six-packs, and possibly even cans. Lion managing director Rory Glass says Emerson’s is an authentic brand that was Richard Emerson selling faster than it could be produced. Greg Menzies A profoundly deaf brewer who got interested in making beer after a trip to Scotland with his parents nearly a quarter of a century ago has opened his brewery to the public for the first time.
FT AUG 16
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