A small Auckland brewery which started out in its founder's garage is proving popular with Chinese consumers within months of its market debut.
Deep Creek Brewery, which employs 15 staff at its Silverdale brewery and 30 for its North Shore brew pub, began exporting to China in January. Six months later, the market has responded beyond what the craft beer brewer had expected.
The brewer, which specialises in sour fruity beers of German and Belgian origin that "taste of an island holiday" and "hazy IPAs", exports canned beer to China, Taiwan, Malaysia and Australia, and a handful of Nordic countries.
But it is its success in China that gets Deep Creek co-founder and managing director Jared MacLachlan the most excited.
MacLachlan says the company's hazy IPAs and sour beer styles are taking off in China - both due to their taste and aesthetic packaging.
In 2017, Deep Creek showcased its beers at the Great Leap Beer Festival in Beijing along with five other New Zealand breweries. At the beginning of this year the company signed a deal with a large Beijing distributor through a connection it made at the festival.
Its beer is now sold in bars and through retail stores throughout China.
MacLachlan says China is Deep Creek's third-largest market behind New Zealand and Australia, and demand for its sour beers from Chinese consumers was skyrocketing.
"China is where the big move is. Even though we've only just dipped our toe in there, it's definitely got the real growth and most opportunity," he says.
"Our sour beers in China they've jumped 165 per cent since the start of the year and the hazy IPAs, which is the real big craze right now, have grown 660 per cent."
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MacLachlan says servicing China was "a lot of work for any New Zealand company" but the brewery had the production capacity to service the market and its growing middle-class population.
"With the rate of growth there, we believe China could certainly take over both our home market and Australia. We have a lot of interest there."
Chinese consumers likened Deep Creek beer to fine wine and were prepared to pay a premium for it, MacLachlan says. "We're finding there's a lot of demand, especially from Beijing. We just had an order two weeks ago from Beijing where one bar ordered 150 kegs for a tap takeover, which is sort of unheard of for any of our markets.
"The most we've ever had a tap takeover previously would have been 25 kegs."
In addition to China, the brewer wants to grow its exports to Australia through distribution with liquor supermarket chain Dan Murphy's. It is also gearing up to launch its product in Japan in the next couple of months.
The company exports 120,000 litres of beer annually.
Deep Creek was founded by MacLachlan, Paul Brown and Scott Taylor in 2011. The business operated for five months out of MacLachlan's garage, back when it was brewing between 1000 and 2000 litres of beer each week. Production then moved to the company's brew pub and restaurant in Browns Bay.
Deep Creek soon outgrew its 100-litre brew kit and in 2013 built a 1000sq m production facility in Silverdale, which now brews about 600,000 litres of beer each year. It could brew around 2.5 million litres from the facility at maximum capacity.
Its revenue growth has increased more than 50 per cent year on year and its sales production has increased by more than 50 per cent this year.
Deep Creek began exporting three years ago after it won the Champion Small International Brewery award in 2017 at the Australian International Beer Awards, the largest annual beer competition in the world.
Craft beer makes up 17 per cent of New Zealand's total beer market by value, dominated by India Pale Ales and Pale Ales which accounts for 9 per cent of the market. However, by volume, it makes up 10 per cent of the market.
Figures from Stats NZ show New Zealand exported $45 million worth of beer last year. The country's largest export market is Australia.