Last week I had the opportunity to attend the inaugural (and long delayed due to covid restrictions) Punky Expo in Christchurch.
A magnificent afternoon bash for the buyers and suppliers within the ever-expanding Punky Distro network of brands. This was a huge milestone for the Punky team, and as a native Christchurch craft drinker, one that I was immensely proud of them for reaching.
Punky Brewster for me will always be the quiet little bar hidden in the strange inner-city industrial pocket of Tyne Street, but while that’s certainly still their spiritual home, it’s the distribution wing of the company has quietly expanded to be so much more in recent years.
I caught up with co-founder Rachael Norcross for her take on how this all got started.
“The whole thing began for us simply because we built a cool room for the fillery and it was probably twice the size we needed,” Rachael explained.
“Before we opened, one of the Matts from Parrotdog said to us ‘whatever you do, make sure the cool room is big, you’ll always need more fridge space’. Words to live by as it turns out.
“Andrew from Behemoth got wind of the cool room and asked if we could handle doing some distro. Starting with pallet layers of eight kegs and a handful of cases we started there, knowing very little about what we were doing but giving it a go. Then we took on Parrotdog, whose beer was definitely quite new on the mainland at the time, and it all took off from there.”
I’d call Parrotdog and Behemoth pretty strong first gets for any fledgling distribution company, and over the years the Punky portfolio has expanded to encompass a whopping 23 brands in total, including wines, ciders and spirits along with the 14 breweries represented. Crucially, many of those are North Island producers, making Punky Distro something of a portal to previously hard to find beers from northern brewers, at least 10 of which find their way south through Punky Distro exclusively.
So next time those of us in the South Island raise a glass of McLeod’s (or similar), we should raise it just a little bit higher in thanks to these innovators of indie distribution who, in following their core ethos of “bringing good beer to people that want it” have made the South Island’s beer scene that much better.