After keeping a low profile, Giant Brewing are now taking big strides as the Hawke’s Bay beer scene continues to grow.
Over the past few years Giant has stayed under the radar and their beers hardly ventured outside the Hawke’s Bay region but a new brewpub promises to bring the beer to a wider audience.
Brewer and part-owner Chris Ormond, a former journalist, including a stint in the parliament press gallery, started his adventure in a spare corner of the Origin Earth cheese factory on the outskirts of Havelock North.
Back then Giant mostly kegged their beer and ran a small bottling plant. Slowly but steadily their beers started appearing in the local craft beer bars, at selected restaurants and in supermarkets around Hawke’s Bay.
“I had other work at the time, and it made sense to grow the business slowly and transition out of my day job as demand for the beer grew,” Ormond says.
In 2017 Ormond, and his business partners Tom Ormond and George Mackenzie were ready for the next step. They moved the brewery out of the cheese factory and to a commercial site in the middle of Havelock North.
“After brewing hidden away for two years, we finally had a face to the public. This was a major change, and the more direct contact with the end customers was – and still is – very encouraging.”
Although still without an onsite license at the time, Ormond opened the brewery three days a week as a fillery where he offered his own beers along with guest beers. Giant use a 500-litre brew house and cover a wide range of beer styles including Pilsner, APA, IPA and Giant’s biggest seller, their NZ Pale Ale.
“IPAs and Pale Ales are the most popular styles, and although hop dominant beers are all the rage, I try and strike a balance with the malts.”
This affinity to maltier beers is Giant’s point of difference, with Ormond preferring the more old-world British beer styles. Extra Special Bitter, London Ale and Scotch Ale are beers that only have a small number of followers across the country, but when they are brewed with Ormond’s passion, they are a worth a try.
A few months ago, Ormond and his business partners teamed up with local couple Inga Wallace and Hugo Fitzsimmons to grow Giant. Wallace and Fitzsimmons now have a half a stake in the business.
“With organic growth of Giant Brewing continuing, our aim had always been to open a brew bar. Inga and Hugo saw the potential of expanding to a full-size hospitality set up and when the perfect spot for a brewery, taproom and restaurant just a couple of hundred metres away from our fillery became vacant, we took the opportunity.”
Opened to the public the week before Christmas, Giant is now Hawke’s Bay’s newest craft beer destination and can host over 100 people.
“We’ll be very low on our own beers over the summer months as the brewery has spent a lot of time out of action due to the shift, but we’ve increased the guest beer offerings to make the most of our 12 tap set up.”
The kitchen, which is subcontracted, offers pub food with a modern twist. “Our idea was to create an old school pub environment with leaners, tables and seating at the bar, but to make it contemporary at the same time.”
Ormond and the team at Giant have clearly mastered this balancing act – the newest addition to the Hawke’s Bay craft beer scene it is definitely worth a visit.