I arrive at Shining Peak on a hot, sunny Taranaki morning in January. New Plymouth has just lost the crown of NZ’s sunniest town to Tekapo, after two years on top, but founder and head brewer Jesse Sigurdsson isn’t fazed. There has still been plenty of good golfing weather. He managed to get 18 holes in after work last night, wrapping up around 8:30. He was playing a different course for a change. He’s chatting to one of the team about it, “Too good. Putting was a lot easier there. The greens were true and fast and nice. We talk about golf a lot here by the way, Jed.” Five of the team play regularly.

With the important business out of the way, Jesse gets back to brewing. He’s on the tools today because the assistant brewer, Brian, is off sick. It’s good and bad for Jesse. “My day generally consists of sitting in front of computers. and making phone calls. The life of someone who starts a brewery.” A planned double brew has been changed to a single brew so Jesse still has time to get the pressing admin work done too. And maybe another round of golf. 

We pop over to their storage unit just up the road to get a bag of oats for the brew. They used to have storage across town but it was a hassle, a 20-minute trip if you forgot anything. “This place has been an absolute dream,” Jesse says as he attacks the plastic wrap on a pallet of malt with his keys. “I need to get a pair of scissors stored over here though!” After freeing the bag of oats he shows me out the back. The space seems to go on forever under shops on the main street. We enter a concrete bunker full of barrels. Jesse, a tall man, stoops to avoid hitting his head on the ceiling.

Shining Peak
Brew day at Shining Peak with Jesse Sigurdsson

“It’s a wicked setup. I really want to do a tasting in here one day. So despite the fact it’s a little bit low for me, it would be cool to set up a table in here and do a blending and tasting session.” It may be a way off yet though as the team are flat out constantly brewing their core range to keep up with demand at the bar, even with some of the packaged beer being brewed at Steam in Auckland.

Shining Peak have been busy since opening in 2018. Joe explains that having a good venue with good beer is a good start but it’s the good service and food that keep people coming back. “It’s been busy for almost five years now, non-stop. It’s been a quick five years.”

The bar is so busy the brewery has hit capacity. There is potential to add more tanks outside but most of the space is already being used. Jesse accepts they have to be happy with the size they are now. It’s “fairly efficient for a tiny little brew space. We make it work, because we have to.”

I had popped into the bar the previous afternoon to say hi and taste a few beers while chatting with Brendan Amos, Shining Peak’s sales and events manager. Jesse asks what my favourite beer of the night was. The Good Nurse Burton Ale was my pick. Jesse approves. “I love that Good Nurse, it’s a bit of a winner plus it’s using Green Bullet which is sort of the hop that no one loves. I particularly used that hop because we were sitting around and a few people were bagging it and I was like nah, I can make a beer with that.

Shining Peak
Brendan Amos at Shining Peak

Brendan arrives to do some admin. “Ah, a photo shoot. He loves the attention, loves it!” “Glad we got the nudes out of the way before you got here,” replies Joe. Then there may have been some more golf chat. 

Jesse thinks it was Kelly Ryan that got him into brewing. Joe started brewing with Kelly’s brother, Shannon, in his garage. “I was already interested in beer, but I hadn’t brewed it before apart from shitty homebrew in high school.” Jesse had also gotten to know the staff at Liquorland. “I was the only one coming in buying Epic and Liberty. No one else was buying craft beer.” One day the owner said, “Well, you seem like a pretty good candidate. I was just talking to Ron at Mike’s and he’s doing 14-hour days every day trying to keep up”. “So I just went out and said ‘Gidday, I’d be interested to learn’ sort of thing.” And so began a six-year stint as the brewer at Mikes, constantly learning.

“It was such a rickety old brewery. It was hard to get through the day without something failing, so I think it was a great experience, stressful at the time. But you learn how to be quick on your feet and make solutions to problems. Every tank was a different size and shape. That actually played a really big part in the fermentation profile. It was hard to get consistency. [But] we made some really great beer.” Joe Wood, from Liberty, was based in town then and Jesse would pop in for beers and to talk. And Kelly Ryan was always happy to give advice. “Good people to learn from.”

The last photos of the day are of the hop addition late in the boil, Nelson Sauvin and Waiiti. “Smell those. Freestyle Sauvin. So good.” As I pack up for the day Jesse offers me a beer. I get a Petite Pegasus to taste how today’s brew will end up. “Yeah, it’s a pretty popular one. Light but fruity, a good summer drink. A golf course beer!”

Shining Peak
Jesse Sigurdsson