Craft brewery expands in move to better site

By Katie Holland

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GROWING UP: Paul Croucher takes in the blank (apart from the odd soon-to-be moved car) canvas of the new brewery. PHOTO/STEPHEN PARKER 110814SP6
GROWING UP: Paul Croucher takes in the blank (apart from the odd soon-to-be moved car) canvas of the new brewery. PHOTO/STEPHEN PARKER 110814SP6

Paul Croucher quite happily refers to his current brewery as a sh*thole - which explains his excitement at moving to a bigger, higher and more efficient site.

Mr Croucher and Nigel Gregory co-own Rotorua craft beer company Croucher Brewing, which they started in 2004 in part of what had been a "little butchery" on Depot St.

"But we got bigger and moved in [to the other part]. It's never really been suitable," Mr Croucher said.

It's only about 170sq m, the ceilings are too low and the place is bursting at the seams - with a lot of their brewing gear kept in storage because it won't fit in the brewery.

However the pair have now signed the lease on their new brewery - a 600sq m former storage shed behind Drift Kartz, off Lake Rd.

Perfect spot

Although it's still an empty shell, the pair have already mapped out what's going where - with a brewing process based on lean manufacturing principles. With ultra-high ceilings and existing drains, it was the perfect place for a brewery, Mr Croucher said. There's also plenty of space to put their forklift to work moving kegs, saving the manual labour and sore bodies.

The new brewery will have solar panels, with plans to look at other alternative energy sources in the future.

Mr Croucher said he hoped to be brewing in the new brewery in two months.

"That's pretty ambitious ... but really we're using a lot of the gear we already have and the infrastructure here is amazing."

It's no surprise he's keen to get started, at the moment "as soon as we make it [beer] we sell it". They simply can't keep up with demand.

"We struggle to brew more than twice a week [now]. We should be able to easily do five a week [in the new brewery]," he said. "I'm aiming for a 10-fold increase in productivity . . . although Nigel thinks that's a pipedream," he laughed.

Good test

Mr Croucher said the higher production capability would be a good test of just how much demand there actually was for their beer, with a lot of craft beer makers now in the market. However having two Brew bars (on Rotorua's Eat Streat and in Tauranga) performing well gave them extra confidence, he said.

He is also excited about returning to their roots and playing around with unique brews.

With so much demand for the old favourites, there had been no time or space for the more "quirky" or "risky" experiments they used to take. Those may include cider, or even the Yugoslav plum brandy Mr Croucher's been keen to try.

"It [the new space] just opens up possibilities."

While the focus is very much on increasing production, there's also talk of offering brewery tours and hosting functions on site in the not too distant future.

"People want to try local beer and see where it's made. At the moment we're too embarrassed to show them."

The new brewery was the start of a fresh chapter and it was "feeling big", he said.

"It took a long time for the business to stop feeling like a hobby and there's still a hangover from that.

"It's time for Croucher Brewing to grow up and this is the vehicle for that to happen."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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