Beer to stay the same, Emerson tells drinkers

By Dene Mackenzie

Emerson's Brewery founder says signature and specialty beers will stay the same.

Emerson's Brewery has been sold but it's business as usual for Bob King, general manager, (left) and Richard Emerson, founder. Photo / Otago Daily Times
Emerson's Brewery has been sold but it's business as usual for Bob King, general manager, (left) and Richard Emerson, founder. Photo / Otago Daily Times

Emerson's Brewery considered following rival boutique beer company Moa onto the NZX before opting for a sale to Lion New Zealand for an undisclosed sum. Emerson's founder Richard Emerson said he and general manager Bob King had developed a strategic plan for expansion but the plan needed capital.

Emerson's had contemplated following the lead of Moa, a craft brewer which was seeking a listing on the NZX. In the end, the board decided to accept an offer from Lion with the assurances that it would be business as usual.

"To move forward, we needed capital from existing shareholders," Emerson said. "That was difficult. We have made the right choice."

When shareholders were told of the offer for the brewery, they asked two questions, King said.

One was about the future of the beer and the other was about staff.

Emerson, King and brewing manager Chris O'Leary would retain the day-to-day running of the Emerson's operations and all other roles within the Emerson's business would remain unchanged.

The current 12 staff would remain with the prospect of more being taken on as the brand expanded.

Lion saw the value of the beer as the brand, King said.

Emerson said it was important to Lion to continue brewing Emerson's in its current Wickliffe St brewery.

Speight's, also owned by Lion, was spending around $29 million redeveloping its Dunedin site but Mr Emerson ruled out Emerson's being brewed on the Speight's Rattray St site.

"They want to encourage people here, to make the pilgrimage to the brand. Dunedin is the home of Emerson's."

Asked about his reaction now the news was being made public, Emerson, who founded the brewery 20 years ago, said it was good to feel valued and appreciated.

He had been assured of the freedom to keep brewing not only his signature beers but also the specialty ones like the latest Trooper's Stout.

It was also pleasing that the 16 loyal shareholders had been rewarded for their support over a long period. The shareholders were friends and family.

"It's been a great ride but we have another journey to go," Emerson said.

Some Wellington bars specialising in independently open boutique beer have already indicated they will stop selling the brand. Lion is owned by Japanese firm Kirin.

However, the owner of Dunedin's Albar, Steve Collins, said he would still be stocking Emerson's beer in both Albar and his Portsider Tavern, in Port Chalmers.

"It is a very popular beer. We hope the sale won't discourage people from drinking it. We are told it is business as usual and nothing will change but you just don't know with the big breweries," he said.

Lion NZ managing director Rory Glass said Emerson's was a fantastic brand with a rich history, which complemented Lion's beer portfolio.

The sale takes effect on November 30 for an undisclosed sum.

Beer facts

Founded: October 1992.
First brew: London Porter, January 1993.
Production: 1 million litres a year.

- Otago Daily Times

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