The Island is set to be Bay of Plenty’s hottest beer spot this summer, spearheaded by its newly reopened taproom.

I sat down with head brewer Michael Julian and taproom manager Scott Featherstone for beer and a chat about the venue reset and their plans for the summer ahead.

Owner Paul Ryan started his involvement in Bay of Plenty hospitality with the iconic Mount Maunganui venue, Astrolabe Brewbar.  In 2016, a search began to find a new venue where he and Julian could pursue their idea of making their own beer.  Fortunately for them, the Papamoa Tavern site became available in 2017 and suddenly the dream moved towards reality.

The early days of brewing were spent on a small pilot kit where Julian learnt his craft. He is quick to acknowledge Malcolm Briar, who for many years mentored him and helped to shape him into the brewer he is today.   The brewery team, which includes assistant brewer Luke Taylor, have a real focus on high quality which is evident in the beers I enjoyed when visiting.

The brewery itself is located in the former sports bar.

A brand-new 2000L DME brewhouse was commissioned and it started producing beer before the brewery room was finished.  Julian laughs when looking back to the brewery launch day — “the roof was still being craned on while we rushed around getting the beer out of the tanks and to the waiting customers”. The later addition of an ABE canning line has made life a whole lot easier for the brewery team who like many other breweries, were vying for space with the Crafty Canning team based out of Auckland.

In its current configuration, the brewery can produce 20,000L of beer at any one time.  Visitors to the taproom get a great viewing experience through massive aluminium windows which look right into the brewhouse.

The newest addition to The Island team is industry stalwart Featherstone whose most recent role was with brewing legends Garage Project.  The impending arrival of his first child got Scott thinking about a new career opportunity, something that would keep him closer to home and be able to support his partner, Anna.  A conversation ensued with Ryan who had plans to further develop The Island taproom and place a stronger focus on retail sales.  Featherstone’s vast industry experience was a natural fit so in mid-2022, he joined The Island team.

the island
The Island brew team, Michael Julian and Luke Taylor

Featherstone explains that the taproom is designed to be the spiritual home for the beer and once that’s developed he’ll take it to the world.  Four open guest taps have been introduced alongside The Island range, Featherstone and Julian both keen to measure their beers up against the best in the industry. Other networks established while working in the industry have allowed Featherstone to stock beers that set them apart from other bars — those available for limited times in cans or bottles.

Non-alcohol beer is one of the fastest-growing segments in the industry and one the bar wants to focus on. The team at The Island has embraced this trend and is stocking a wide range of non-alcohol beers, alongside some amazing gluten-free beers, allowing them to offer a broad range to their beer customer base. The team has been undergoing various beer training to help educate themselves and in turn, offer a great experience for those who visit.

Great quality and approachable beer is the primary focus for the taproom but you can expect high-quality New Zealand wines and a massive choice of gin, bourbon and whisky for those non-hoppy enthusiasts, making it a great social destination for all this coming summer. 

The establishment of a beer club on the third Wednesday of every month is something Featherstone and Julian are really excited about. This month will be their first ‘Hazy Day’ with six excellent hazy beers from across New Zealand will be on offer.

Great food is a big part of the new offering.   Local food trucks on a rotating calendar add yet another layer to the experience when visiting the Papamoa venue.  If you’re keen on a quick beer and a great sandwich for lunch, then the taproom has you sorted with some great options from their onsite kitchen.  Recent upgrades to the taproom include new furniture and a realigning of the space that allows plenty of areas to spread out and take in the atmosphere.

Can’t make it to the taproom? The Island range of beers is available online — look out for the tremendous new branding which has also been through a refresh.

“Live Easy” is the mantra that The Island team live by so why not experience it for yourself and pay a visit?  The Island is open daily from 12pm to 10pm.