They might be operating beneath the shadow of Mount Manaia, but Mark Hardy and John Maltby are casting a shadow of their own in the craft beer industry of Northland, having established Manaia Craft Brewers.

From humble beginnings in 2014 – two mates brewing beer in a garage – the duo are now supplying local stores with their selection of craft beers.

Maltby, a registered nurse and Hardy, a government agency worker, are brewing in McLeod Bay and hoping to move the boutique brewery to bigger premises in Reotahi in September.

So, how did it all start to brew?

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"We tended to read published brewing books, published by renowned breweries around the world especially concentrating on the American and English, as these guys set the trend for the craft beer revolution," said Hardy.

"The age of the internet allowed us direct contact with breweries from around the world. There are generally no secrets in brewing and we found most people to be open in discussions.

"But, of course we learnt hands on … lots of trial and error. Several years passed before we made our first sale."

Some of the Manaia Craft Brewers collection.
Some of the Manaia Craft Brewers collection.

The pair brew, bottle, market, clean "and do everything else associated with the brewery at the weekends as we both presently still work in our full-time jobs", Hardy said.

He said Whangarei District Council gave the brewery support through the licence process, "when setting up the premises regarding national food programme and all health and safety requirements" because they had to be granted a special licence for the Artisan Markets, located in a liquor ban area.

Inspiration
He said years of brewing beers in plastic barrels with shop-bought kits took its toll, but the pair were thrilled when they won the Whangarei Heads home brew competition for two years running. The contest is run by Kelvin Dobbs.

The art of brewing beer was not new to Maltby, a former president of the Campaign for Real Ale in Portsmouth, UK – an organisation that promotes the traditional brewing technique over larger corporate approaches.

"Small independent brewers have identity and beer drinkers like to see and hear how the beer they are drinking is made."

They didn't have to look far for naming inspiration either, with beers such as Number 7 Buoy, American Pale Ale, Sandbank Lager, Bream Bay Defender DIPA, Smugglers Porter and Darkies Hill Black IPA.

Northland is enjoying a craft beer fascination, as the region celebrates a good beer with homegrown foods, said Hardy.

"People now demand something a little different and especially something local to complement the excellent range of local food produce available here within Northland."

And what do Northlanders like in a beer?

Slightly hoppy pilsners in the summer, and pale ales and lagers.

"Trending beers I anticipate this coming summer season will still be varying aromatic pale ales including the emergence of lightly hopped lagers showing moderate bitterness."

The beers are now available in 1.2 litre plastic bottles but the brewery hopes to supply 500ml glass bottles over the coming months.

They are also setting up a website for this summer which will cater for online orders and delivery. The beers can be bought at Parua Bay's bottle shop and Four Square, and New World Onerahi, with Liquor King on Maunu Rd also accepting the beers shortly.