Lakeman Brewing Co

Nestled among the rolling countryside of the Central Plateau overlooking the stunning waters of Lake Taupo and the maunga of Ruapehu, Tongariro, and Ngauruhoe you’ll find Lakeman Brewing Co.

From a shed in the middle of a working sheep and beef farm, you will find a team of talented locals producing award-winning craft beers.

The light-heartedness and fun of Lakeman Brewing were born out of a time of change and uncertainty in the farming district around Taupo.

Back in 2009, James and Elissa Cooper were a young couple who enjoyed drinking a beer but had absolutely no idea how to make one. Elissa was working as a veterinarian in a local practice and James had taken on a lease block and was farming sheep and cattle.  At that time there was a lot of change happening in the rural landscape of Taupo. Environment Waikato had found the freshwater quality of Lake Taupo was under threat and the amount of nitrogen reaching the lake from farmland and urban areas needed to be reduced to slow the degradation of the water quality.

A raft of changes were implemented which meant all farms within the lake catchment had their nitrogen inputs capped. In simple terms, this meant the number of livestock that each farm could carry was limited as was the amount of nitrogen fertilizer that could be applied.

Farmers realized the absolute need to protect this natural resource but were unsure about the new regulations and the ongoing viability of their businesses. As a result of this uncertainty, land prices fell.

James and Elissa were keen to own land and the fall in land prices gave them the opportunity to purchase 100 hectares. The piece of land which they bought had a low nitrogen discharge allowance (NDA) and their farming business due to the size and regulations was very marginal. It became evident in the first couple of years that they needed another income stream. The couple had three young girls under two years old including premature twins which needed a lot of care so in the short term it was not going to be from Elissa returning to work as a veterinarian.

James, inspired by his namesake Cooper’s in Australia, and the fact the farm had natural bore water decided a brewery was the answer to their business model.

Elissa was hesitant about the idea, but they came to an agreement that he had three shots at making a drinkable brew.

The basis of a brewery was set up in an implement shed just below the house.  Not one to muck around with a pilot brew system James with no home brewing experience but the help of YouTube and the brewing bible Home Brewing for Dummies brewed into a 1000-litre vat. The first brew went down the drain, followed by the second and third. Elissa can remember the disappointment. The money had very nearly run out, but James being James snuck in a fourth brew and it was so much better not great, but you could drink a glass.

Elissa conjured up the name Lakeman and the last of their savings were tipped in to employ talented local Marty Day from Brandco to develop Lakeman and the brand.

Meanwhile, up the road in Hamilton were a trio of brewers Greig McGill, Graham Mahy, and Peter McKenzie. They tasted the first few batches of Lakeman and politely told James that for the good of the industry the beer needed to improve. They took him under their wing and they hammered home the need for quality.

As Lakeman approaches their 10th anniversary you will find James and Elissa with their team of seven Taupo locals doing everything from farming, brewing, canning and distributing to marketing, managing events and pretty much hands down everything to get their award-winning craft beers delivered to you and see the Lakeman brand finding its way throughout New Zealand.

Lakeman — Where Farming Meets Brewing


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