One of Dunedin’s better-known craft breweries, New New New, is for sale.
Co-owner Ian McKinlay told Pursuit of Hoppiness that while the past two years have been hard he was ready to move on for personal reasons, rather than fiscal ones.
“It’s largely for personal reasons as I’m after a change of scene. The team can see a path forward with the world opening up but I came to the conclusion that the brewery will be better served in the hands of a new owner. The last two-plus years have been really tough for most in the industry but with a lot of hard work from the team here we have thankfully come out OK.
“My original business plan was to do a lot more outside of the brewery and open new venues but Covid has slowed that up and moved us onto a different course and that has taken some of the excitement out of it for me. I enjoy building, progressing the brand and innovating but that work has had to be put on hold to a large extent. It’s time for a new adventure for me and that opens an opportunity for the right owner with new impetus to take the brewery to the next level.”
McKinlay, who once shared a flat with Garage Project co-founders Jos Ruffell and Ian Gillespie*, said the brewery, being reliant on on-premise sales struggled with closures and restrictions during Covid and they also struggled to get traction in supermarkets thanks to their “other there” styles.
“Covid definitely hurt. Being a venue and a brewery we got hit on two fronts, our bread and butter on the brewery side is keg sales and our loyal bar and venue customers haven’t had an easy time. We saw some uplift for packaged product at the start of the pandemic but a lot of that demand seemed to move to the supermarkets where a lot of our products were perhaps a bit ‘out there’ to fit. The venue at the brewery has seen great support in between lockdowns which we are really thankful for.”
McKinlay did admit that the brewery struggled to get beer on taps at other venues in the city as Lion owned the two biggest breweries in the city; Speight’s and Emerson’s.
“Lion definitely is very aggressive in locking up taps no doubt about it, this is the main reason you see the independent breweries feeling the need to contract or own their own taps more and more. I don’t believe there are too many breweries [in Dunedin], more independent taps is what is required. An independent model can work with a single venue and/or grow to get to the point where you can contract taps and open more venues.”
McKinlay said the capacity of the brewery — it’s capable of producing 1 million litres per annum — offered someone an opportunity to continue with the well-established New New New and add their own brand.
“New New New enjoys a good following so I see lots of opportunity with it. If someone wanted to add another brand or project there is capacity to do so. Obviously my wish would be to see the brand I built continue and thrive but ultimately that will be up to the new owner. We have plenty of capacity to spare so there is the option to continue it alongside another project, time will tell.”
New New New is owned by McKinlay and Southern Capital Limited and was set up in 2015 in an historic brick stable on Crawford Street in Dunedin. The building is not part of the sale. The brewery itself is rare in New Zealand as it features an expensive piece of equipment called a mash filter which allows the brewery to work at a higher efficiency, getting better extraction of fermentable sugars from their mash.
The beer brewed by former Emerson’s brewer Brendon Bransgrove was always adventurous, with their Synaptic Voyage, a Thai lime and lemongrass sour, being something of a flagship brew. McKinlay feels the market is now concentrated on hoppy styles.
“When we started I feel the industry was a bit more exciting for the likes of me, people were more willing to try and pay for the weird, experimental and aged,” McKinlay said. “Over time I’ve watched demand shift to the more predictable Hazy, IPA, APA and for Dunedin especially, NZ Pilsner.
“That said, non-beer products have taken some of this market, seltzers, kombucha, one of our biggest sellers is our ginger beer for instance. It’s no longer just about new flavours, it’s about being more health conscious also, zero percent and low carb beers have continued to grow and there is also the rise of craft distillers. The industry also has become more about hospitality and not just what you put in the can, the upside is the boon of unique experiences smaller brewpub sized players can provide and I hope that continues.”
An earlier version of this story said McKinlay used to flat with Pete Gillespie.