On New Lynn's lightly industrial Wolverton Rd, arguably New Zealand's smallest commercial brewery cranks out just 50 litres of beer a fortnight.

But in terms of breaking the Trusts' stranglehold on West Auckland's liquor supply it's achieving far bigger things.

The Trusts is a community owned organisation that runs liquor retail outlets and hospitality venues in West Auckland. Profits are returned to the local community, including via its Million Dollar Mission designed to give $1m of funding.

Inside Hopscotch Beer Company, owner Hugh Grierson brews on his Dunedin-designed Farra system inside what is known as a Customs Controlled Area. In short, Grierson has a brewing licence and pays excise tax on his homebrew-size batches.

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By dint of having a Customs Controlled Area, he is also allowed an off-licence and he uses that to sell beer from around the country – giving West Aucklanders a wider choice than they get through the Trusts' virtual monopoly in the area. He has a 30-tap filling station and features his own beer alongside the best from Garage Project, Epic and others.

They think it's a trickster move to get around the Trusts.

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While defying the Trusts is a bonus for Grierson, he's adamant he's a brewer first, beer-seller second.

"People come in and say: 'Is this legal, do you have a licence, can I try these beers?' Then they go, 'Oh, you're brewing. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink' and I go, 'No, I'm brewing.' They think it's a trickster move to get around the Trusts."

Grierson has brewing history. He made Brown Teal in 2007 under contract at Hallertau at Riverhead. He has also produced larger commercial batches of his Mandrake-branded Bru-Ju IPA in collaboration with Tuatara in Paraparaumu.

"I was brewing since I was a teenager boarding at St Paul's in Hamilton," Grierson said.

"All the foreign kids had massive suitcases so we put the fermenters in the suitcases. It was terrible beer because we couldn't control the fermentation temperature. We brewed in the ablutions block and stored it in the suitcase room because no one went there from the start to the end of term."

That rebellious nature stayed with Grierson – at his former premises in Eden Terrace he was in the craft beer advance guard, being the first to re-introduce the modern form of the old flagon refill in Auckland.

Hugh Grierson is paddling his way into beer history, one brew at a time. Photo / Michael Craig
Hugh Grierson is paddling his way into beer history, one brew at a time. Photo / Michael Craig

He was forced to move when the city rail loop came to his street, threatening disruption to his business. As a Glen Eden resident he knew the west was ready for good beer and also knew he could get around the Trusts' control by brewing at his new site.

But it wasn't so much a middle finger at the Trusts that inspired him – more a desire to see the maturing western suburbs get services they deserved.

"I live out west and I was aware of the gentrification – it's people with higher expectations. That's one of the reasons the Trusts are getting grief because people expect decent bars, decent coffee. There's a shortage of all sorts of things out west.

"People come in here bitching about the Trusts – I hear it all. People complain to me that when they have friends come over there's nowhere to take them because all the bars are either Jake The Muss venues or boring cookie-cutter franchise venues. There's nothing with a bit of character and that's personable."

On that note, Grierson has a small hope others might follow his lead in West Auckland, using the law to set up a brewery and taproom outside Trusts control.

"West Auckland could turn into a mecca for craft beer because you could have little tap rooms popping up all over the place that are not controlled by the Trusts."