Alasdair Cassels, who died last week of prostate cancer, was quite the force of nature.
View this post on Instagram
I interviewed him once, at length, over the course of a day that included a long lunch and many tall tales, all told by those around him rather than the man himself.
During the entire interview I always felt the roles were somehow reversed: that while I was asking the questions he was in fact examining me.
When he talked about building an export empire for Cassels beer, I ask him why he thought he could succeed when others had struggled in that area. He fixed me with his famous, unwavering gaze and said matter-of-factly: “I’m determined, really determined.”
In that regard he was a man who seemed to achieve things by force of will, but also by never allowing any doubts to enter his head.
That he grew Cassels, with son Zak and son-in-law Joe Shanks, from a small hobby brewery to one of the biggest in the country is testament to his business skills and work ethic. As Shanks noted, Alasdair was the driving force, always pushing his “sons”. “He thought if we were going to do it, we were going to do it properly.”
Zak adds: “Our development and growth you can attribute to Dad — not all of us have that business acumen.”
He was immensely proud of the success achieved by the brewery’s flagship Milk Stout which earned international plaudits in 2019 when it edged Guinness to be named champion stout at the World Beer Awards.
He was also incredibly dedicated to Christchurch, as a city, and to its architecture. But he hated being called a “property developer” — as that implied buying land to build on sell. Rather he wanted keep everything he bought.
His triumph in this area was the vision he for The Tannery in the working-class suburb of Woolston, where he wanted to develop the area while keeping the buildings tied to their blue-collar roots.
Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel said Cassels left a “real legacy” with The Tannery and always gave time to lend support to his local community.
Former Christchurch Labour MP Ruth Dyson was “very sad” to hear of Cassels death, she said on Twitter.
“The Tannery is such a beautiful spot thanks to his vision and passion.”
His commitment to saving ChristChurch Cathedral after it was destroyed in the 2011 earthquake work to
A large turnout is expected at a public service to celebrate his life at a date to be confirmed.
“There’ll be plenty of beer,” Zak Cassels said. “We’re expecting a good crowd will be there to celebrate him.”
He will be missed but his legacy will live on in the beer and buildings he leaves behind.