The decision to close New New New brewery in Dunedin on October 1 reasonated around the world (truly!). Here American beer writer Louis Livingston Garcia reflects on a pre-Covid visit.
Arriving at New New New Corporation in Dunedin was like visiting old friends at a brewery. Then brewery manager Andy Duke, who left in April, welcomed my wife and myself with a brewery tour, a bunch of beers (even some unreleased barrel-aged stouts inspired by Goose Island’s Bourbon County Brand Stout), and a seat at a picnic table behind the brewery with a group of locals full of revelry.
New New New — which I’ll refer to just as NNN from here on out — reminded me of American breweries. I don’t mean to say that America is the standard of craft beer, but it felt like a top-tier enterprise with truly wonderful beers and even better people running the mash tun.
Duke was happy to introduce me to a number of beers like One Must Fall, an American-style IPA he was excited about because of the US Citra hops in it, and one he thought was their best (it was delightful and was a constant in the campervan fridge as we travelled). We laughed at how in America, brewers wanted the hops from the fields we would drive through days later in the northern part of South Island, and NNN was just as excited to get hops from our Yakima Valley in Washington. That envy in the brewing world in both countries persists.
Sun Sun Beer was a traditional caramel malty brown ale with a touch of tropical fruit undertones. Fear Not, made with smoked eel, was a gimmicky stout that worked thanks to a bed of cocoa and roasty malt. Atop of that was a touch of smoked meat, and maybe this was just because of the description, but a bit of salt and umami.
“We have license to do whatever,” Duke told me in November 2019, being inspired by Asian foods and being driven by the experimentation that defines many craft breweries around the world. “We’re trying to challenge Kiwis’ [palates],” he said while pointing out the smoked eel stout.
Other beers we sampled included the Supreme Harmony barrel-aged stout, Syndicate, a mélange of oak, vanilla, and bitter chocolate. The two fruited sours, one of which was the peach and nectarine For Humans, were a delicate balance of sweet fruit and subtle tartness.
At one point Duke bemoaned the fact that I didn’t let him know I was coming ahead of time; he would have set me up to brew with the head brewer and see the cutting-edge mash filter, the only one in New Zealand at the time.
This is a very rare, effective piece of machinery. I live in the Midwest in the US, and the only brewery here to own this type of machine is Modist in Minneapolis. It uses less water and replaces a traditional lauter tun, allowing for a mash bill that doesn’t need malted barley (you can make an IPA like Modist’s Dream Yard with 100 percent oats and wheat, for example).
NNN was quite modern in its tastes, approach to brewing, and even pushing forward on the business side with its Yum Cat Diner and plans to build a hotel with beer taps in the rooms.
It’s just such a shame to see a place that was packed full of visitors, serving good beer, and pushing forward has shut its doors. Duke and company were so welcoming, and the space, a former horse stable, was open and modern, a joy to drink a pint in.
Dunedin was my favorite city to visit in New Zealand thanks to the beer, vibe, and yellow-eyed penguins. It’s a place I often tell my wife that we should move to. New New New and Duke were a big reason why. And although many brewers I interviewed in New Zealand while travelling there said that the New Zealand craft beer industry’s largest problem was too many breweries, this is one I wish had stood the test of time and been there when we next visited.