The evolution of Dunedin's Speight's Brewery continues with a redesigned tour,
writes Daniel Simmonds.
Winston Churchill said it best: "History is told by the victors" and who better to learn from, than the brains behind New Zealand's most popular beer, Speight's.
Keeping Kiwis refreshed since 1876, Speight's has been quietly churning out award-winning brews year after year, while still staying put in their homeland of Dunedin.
In 1983, Speight's was one of the first places in the world to host heritage tours in an operational brewery. And after 34 years, the Speight's Brewery and Heritage tour has just undergone a $1.3 million facelift.
Design team Art of Fact was given the task of retelling the story of Speight's in just two months; including rewriting the entire script, redesigning heritage displays and installing new and creative interactive technology to make this tour as immersive and engaging as possible.
Director David Hebblethwaite is proud of the outcome, narrowing the success to how it sticks with the staff.
"The guides love it and that's fantastic . . . it means if the guides love it, the people will love it".
The new tour is built around a simple but effective structure. Hebblethwaite boils it down to three steps: "Tell them, tell them what you told them, then tell them what you told them again."
The goal of the new tour is to give visitors information using new visual and interactive technology, then putting this knowledge to the test; seeing, touching and tasting your way through the brewing process.
A great tour focuses on the journey, rather than the destination. A greater tour focuses on the journey, and has beer at the destination.
The end of this tour winds up in the newly renovated tasting room, where you can use your newfound knowledge to identify your hops, malts and sugars.
Photographers are on call to take a picture while you stand behind the bar and pour yourself one of 10 beers from the new tap, including a few exclusive ales not found outside Dunedin. The new and improved gift shop perfectly caps off the tour experience - there's everything from key chains to Swanndris and the best seller, a beer cosy fashioned into a glove.
I had the honour of seeing the action first-hand at the official Speight's launch, seeing the $40m addition from 2014, while meeting the staff and designers who had worked so hard on this project.
Being a Southern man, I traced back to my Invercargill roots, donning my red Swanndri and wool socks, then immediately regretting that decision as I stood among 60 suits.
That all changed as soon as the Southern Man himself, Denis Henderson walked through the doors.
Memories flooded back as he brought out his guitar to play the Speight's anthem (who could forget those classic Speight's commercials played by the late Frank Whitten?)
It was also a pleasure, after the tour, talking to the staff about the preparation required on their end.
The guides had to unlearn a 35-year-old script from the previous tour for a new one within two weeks and the brewers were all forever dedicated and hard-working.
It felt like a family business the way everyone got along - and in some ways it was, among the staff there are brothers and sisters, others were following a long family lineage of past Speight's brewers.
For a fixed adult price of $29 (including tasting), the 90-minute tour is a hard deal to turn down.
Speight's marketing director Jane Dempsey says the tour celebrates the story of one of New Zealand's iconic beer brands. "The new tour will continue to celebrate our 140 years of history, and to tell the Speight's story as we move into the future."
Here's to another 140 years!
Jetstar flies daily from Auckland to Dunedin, with return fares starting from $158.
The 90-minute tour of the Speight's Brewery costs $29 for adults (students and seniors, $26). There are six tours daily and they finish with a tasting and appreciation session.
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