Popular Wellington brewpub Fortune Favours will continue to operate as an independent brewery, owned by founder Shannon Thorpe and brewer Dale Cooper, after a brief period when their future was uncertain.

Fortune Favours were majority-owned by Wellington hospitality company Kāpura which last month was taken over by DB Breweries-owned Star Hospitality, a newly formed body that also includes bars and restaurants formerly operated by Auckland’s Joylab.

The DB takeover of Kāpura means a number of former Lion pubs, including the Mac’s Brew Bar on the waterfront, are now in the hands of their biggest rival. Popular craft beer bars Bethel Woods and One Fat Bird are also now part of Star Hospitality.

As a brewpub with a distribution deal with Coca-Cola, Fortune Favours were in an odd position and Thorpe said the new shareholders “did the right thing” by him and Cooper.

Fortune Favours will be allowed to keep taps at former Kāpura venues until February 1 next year as part of the deal.

Thorpe says the next 10 months will be about looking to replace that lost volume, but that he and Cooper now have their destiny in their own hands.

Fortune Favours
Dale Cooper and Shannon Thorpe

Thorpe said the relationship with Coca-Cola made it hard for Fortune Favours to be part of the deal with DB.

“If DB had said ‘yes, we want to take on Fortune Favours’, there would have been penalty clauses invoked. It was a complicated contract.”

Thorpe believes that Jamie Williams, who moves from CEO of Kāpura to CEO of Star Hospitality, will fight hard for independent taps in certain key Wellington bars.

“I really hope they listen to Jamie, he’s very consumer-focused and knows the Wellington market … but DB will need a return on this investment and they will be keen to get Heineken, Monteith’s and Tuatara out there.”

Thorpe added that he thought DB would be rapt to gain the “best site in Wellington” with the Mac’s Brew Bar on the waterfront.

He said the Fortune Favours brewbar in Leeds Street would continue to be a flagship operation for them but that Coca-Cola would be working hard to secure more taps outside the old Kāpura network.

“The brewbar has been consistent from the start and that keeps the whole thing afloat. The Coke distribution is awesome for us as that does get us far and wide. Coke’s very focused on securing some additional taps. They are not at the level of DB or Lion or Asahi in terms of capital investment and paying for cool rooms and stuff like that but they do it on a smaller level, so they’ll be out there hunting.

“They enjoy having us, as a beer brand, in their portfolio as it allows them to sell more Jim Beam and Coke.”

Thorpe was uncertain what would happen to the Fortune Favours bar at Wellington Airport after February 1 next year.

“It’s not decided yet. That is out of contract. It was supposed to be a one-year pop-up and here we are three years later thanks to Covid.

“It won’t be a Kāpura decision, it will be a Wellington International Airport decision. And if you look at the tenancies at the airport, they are not big corporate brands, it’s all local Wellington brands and I think they will be wanting to keep that vibe. Whatever the new offering is it will be Wellington craft.

“I don’t think it will be a straight switch out from Fortune Favours to Tuatara, I don’t think that’s what they will do. But while it’s still branded Fortune Favours, it will be 100 per cent pouring Fortune Favours beer.”

The brewery has recently added a small canning machine at Leeds Street more limited run 440ml cans will be on offer through their webstore, such as their current Mother’s Day gift pack offering of a Sparkling Strawberry Sour and a Double Chocolate Stout.

Meanwhile, the deal that brought Kāpura Group and Joylab together as Star Hospitality, makes it the largest hospitality group in the country. 

The deal was completed last week with DB Breweries acquiring the remaining shares in Joylab and merging Joylab with Kāpura to create Star Hospitality.

The newly formed group owns and operates 55 establishments in Wellington, Hutt Valley, Hamilton, Tauranga and Auckland. These venues are made up of gastro pubs catering for a suburban market, and high-volume bars situated in key locations including the Wellington waterfront, Westfield shopping centres, Auckland and Wellington Domestic airports and CBDs.