Tucked away in a light industrial area on Auckland’s North Shore is one of the hidden gems of the Auckland craft beer scene. Many of the readers of this fine magazine will never have heard of Mythica Brewing; you won’t find their beers on tap in your local bar (except for the occasional appearance at a Beer Spot location) and you certainly won’t find them on the shelves of your supermarket. However, if you venture into the hinterland of the Wairau Valley, past roofing supply stores and schools teaching Bollywood dancing, you might stumble upon a cozy taproom serving delicious beers to an appreciative bunch of locals.

Geoff Gill and his wife Lia Liefting started Mythica over 7 years ago along with Kerry Templeton & Camilla Velez (Kerry, in his hop research role with Plant & Food, and Camilla have since moved to Nelson but still come back to help at Mythica’s popular events).

Geoff Gill and his wife Lia Liefting started Mythica over 7 years ago.

Initially Mythica followed the contract brewing path but there were always plans to open a taproom. They decided to follow a model which is common in the USA: find a location for a brewery then develop a taproom onsite. This is what led to the choice of Wairau Valley as the home for Mythica — an industrial unit that could be renovated to a standard to house a brewery and taproom. Renovations took longer than expected, mainly due to having to meet ever-changing demands from Auckland Council. After two years of hard work, Mythica’s taproom opened in early 2020, just in time for Covid lockdowns to throw a spanner in the works. Some people would have given up at this stage but Geoff and Lia are made of sterner stuff; throughout lockdown they built a market for take-home flagons which kept them going and kept North Shore beer drinkers like myself fuelled through dark times.

These days the taproom ticks over nicely. They’re open Thursday to Saturday afternoons and evenings and have a regular clientele drawn from local businesses and residents. They have a very small kitchen which can cope with the quieter afternoons and which they supplement with food trucks when they have events. And it’s the events that bring out the best of Mythica. Their annual Oktoberfest is a highlight, with a lederhosen-clad Geoff dispensing foaming steins of quality festbier (which has had a full eight weeks of lagering time) to wash down the bratwurst and pretzels. Their recent Poseidon’s Seafood & Beer festival (which I sadly missed) was another triumph, and I always look forward to whatever event they put on during Auckland Beer Week.

Mythica produce a solid range of beers, ranging from well-executed German lager styles to some robustly-hoppy pale ales and hazies. One of their regulars explained to me that he loves their hoppy beers because “Geoff isn’t stingy with the hops!”. He’s right, there is a robust bitterness to beers like their Poseidon IPA and Proteus XPA. Their branding, based on Geoff’s love of all things mythological, is always eye-catching and there’s a good breadth of styles to appeal to all palates, including fruited sours and a zesty Belgian wit.

So why, with a reputation for excellent beers and a fun vibe in the taproom, are Mythica not more well-known? As Geoff says: “We’re basically a hobby brewery. We produce 5000 litres of beer a year on a 350L kit. Although the brewery and taproom are profitable, at that scale it can’t support us both and we wouldn’t be able to keep going if Lia didn’t have a full-time job.”

To generate enough revenue to enable them to both work full-time in the business, Mythica would need to brew significantly more beer. This would also require a lot more focus on sales and marketing which would also require more staff and investment. In the current market that’s just not a risk that Geoff and Lia are willing or able to take.

Similarly, entering beer awards or attending festivals (both activities that could lift their profile) are difficult undertakings for a small business like Mythica. Beer competitions typically require packaged product or an entire keg just for judging. Beer festivals need staff.

“We don’t really sell beer outside Auckland so we’d just be generating demand that we couldn’t satisfy.”

They are considering carefully dipping their toes into the contract brewing market again and also considering acquiring a canning machine so that they can satisfy the requests they often get from bars and bottle stores, but they will be very careful about the level of risk they’re willing to take on.

So, for the time being your only chances of sampling some of Mythica’s excellent beers is to venture off the beaten path into the wilds of the industrial North Shore, or to buy a filled flagon from their online store. But I don’t necessarily see this as a bad thing. Yes, Mythica may only be a “hobby” brewery but it’s important to have hobbies. Geoff and Lia enjoy what they do; they get great feedback from punters and their events are always well-supported and bloody good fun. If your hobby makes you happy AND makes other people happy, that sounds like a pretty fine outcome to me.