BREWING BY THE RIVER
WORDS Kim Newth PHOTOS Sarah Rowlands
It has been five years since Avenues last caught up with craft beer brewer Dave Gaughan, owner of Eagle Brewing NZ. Much has happened since our last interview alongside a stainless-steel tank in shared brewery premises in Riccarton. Today’s interview is at the Port & Eagle, his smart new riverside brewpub in Kaiapoi.
Dave hails from northern England and enjoys nothing better than a good porter or stout at this time of year. Wanting to recreate the dark beers from home is what first led him to try his hand at micro-brewing after moving to New Zealand in 2006. He has come a long way since producing his first home-brewed ales from a garage in Rolleston.
By 2016, Eagle had entered the annals of craft beer fame with Dave’s intensely dark Coalface Stout winning the top trophy in its class at the New World Beer and Cider Awards. The following year, Eagle Dry Hopped Pilsner took out the Lager Trophy in the Brewers Guild of New Zealand Awards. Today, Eagle Brewing is an established national brand, also exporting to Taiwan. There are shelf-loads of awards at the brewpub, denoting the quality of Eagles’ many champion brews.
The sheer growth in demand helped propel the move to Kaiapoi, where the scars of the September 2010 earthquake are fading fast as the town’s commercial rebuild gathers momentum. The Port & Eagle stands on prime riverside land left vacant after the earthquake, with a new boutique retail development now also under construction on an adjacent site.
Crowdfunding raised more than $300,000 towards the brewpub venture and has also helped build a community of support throughout New Zealand. “We needed more brewing capacity and my dream had always been to have a brewpub like this,” Dave says. “I wanted something that felt right and had character. When the opportunity to build in a growing town by the river came up, we recognised it as the ideal place to showcase what we do.”
Brewing capacity is not something Eagle Brewing is likely to run out of anytime soon, with potential capacity now sitting at one million litres a year. (By comparison, the brand was brewing around 200,000 litres a year at peak in Riccarton.)
The pub part of the venture has an inviting ambience, boasting a boatshed design, glass frontage to the river and extensive courtyard space. A pizza oven is in the pipeline to add to existing food options. Being able to take a look at the working brewery, from a purposebuilt function area, is a smart inclusion that caters to a growing craft beer tourism market. “There’s a lot of excitement for us right now around being able to tie in brewing with events and making the most of this fantastic place by the river.”
Dave is assisted by a small, hardworking team that includes his partner Marilyn Yosores, who is the operations manager, and stepdaughter Shermane, who is a management and marketing graduate taking care of administration and sales. They have barely had time to reflect on what has been achieved since opening in March. An initial spate of vandalism has mercifully abated, and the mood now is one of optimism heading towards their first spring and summer by the river.
“A lot of people have thanked us for bringing the brewpub here: for them, it’s something modern and new and it’s really helping to grow this town.”