Saturday's RiverCity Craft Beer Festival was Whanganui's first beer festival - that's according to the memories of locals on the day.

It was a small but busy first year of the festival, with just four breweries pouring, two from Whanganui. One of those was Roots Brewing, the first brewer in Whanganui since the 1960s, set up by festival organiser Andy Henshaw.

"The beer festival came about for a similar reason to why I started a brewery," Henshaw said. "I've always wanted to work in a brewery and there was nothing here. I would've had to have move towns to work in a brewery. So I started a brewery."

"And looking around and going 'now we need a beer festival'. Umm, OK, yep, I'll do it."

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Starting the festival small and regional was a given, with Roots Brewery the only business currently producing enough beer to service a festival.

"Lads Brewing - they're right on the cusp of opening up their brewery," Henshaw said. "I'm very excited to see what they are doing. They've already been doing a little bit of contract brewing and getting it out there.

"Mothership Brewing has recently opened as well at the Kingsgate Hotel. They've got a really small system brewing one keg at a time, but they're fully licensed as a brewery as well. So by the end of the year, Whanganui will have three breweries, which is fantastic."

Putting a brewery together is expensive, demanding and requires a bit of lateral thinking.

Lads Brewery have built their own brewery using number-8 wire technology to modify a freezer to always sit at 3C and refashioned old pub taps bought on Trade Me.

"It helps that the four of us all have different skills," said Andy Solesbury, who is one of the lads behind Lads Brewing.

"I'm an insurance broker, Hamiora is a fabricator so that's good when it comes to building the system, and Adam is our brewmaster although he is a farmer by trade, and then Timotei is in the Air Force, so he's got an electrical background.

"All those different skill sets come to one to be the lads."

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Lads won Te Manu Atatū Māori Business Award for the best emerging new business in Whanganui although it may not be "emerging" for very long. In a city rich in beer history, where hops grow wild in the hills, there's a bright future ahead for the business of brewing.

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