The story of Liberty goes back all the way to when I became dissatisfied by what offerings New Zealand had in terms of beer. In particular: Flavour in Beer. Living out in West Auckland there was not a lot to offer: The local licensing trust controlled what one was able to buy in the local outlets. I had tried all the imported stuff… and this led me to believe that it was possible that there was more to beer than flavourless fizzy lager.
I began playing with home brewing. The first beer I tried to brew was a Weizenbock: the result was amazing even considering I was only using easily obtained ingredients, which back in the day wasn’t much! A couple of years later I discovered places like the Cock and Bull, Hallertau and Shakespeare’s in Auckland. Then I discovered beers like Croucher’s and Epic. It dawned on me that I wasn’t the only person in the entire world who put a priority on flavour.
And just when things with the home brewing were going so well: being part of a growing community where sharing our home brew and information on techniques, improving each other process etc. I had to move down to New Plymouth… which was an even larger Craft Beer Desert than Auckland. I couldn’t even buy any ingredients locally. This was probably going to be the end of it all. That was until I discovered Liberty Brewing.
Liberty Brewing was an online brewing supplies website. It had all the malt and hops I needed to brew the beers I wanted to brew. It was great. I very quickly became their biggest customer. Then it was during a discussion on New Zealand’s premiere brewing forum Realbeer where the previous owners Stu McKinlay and Brendon MacKenzie basically offered me the business. I couldn’t refuse: This alone was the single moment in time when Liberty Brewing as you know it now was born.
TOO BIG FOR OUR BOOTS
I continued to operate the website for a year increasing the range. Christina took over the daily operations thus improving our service. The market started becoming competitive with websites like Brewshop and The Brewhouse offering online services. I thought of an idea that could differentiate us from all of the home brew competition: Try Before you buy. It was a simple idea: Make beer using the ingredients that we stock, to prove to our customers how flavoursome the resulting beer could be. A simple ploy.
Dominic Kelly from Hashigo Zake helped out by offering me a tap to put our beer on. He was such a fan of our beer “Summ!t” (brewed with my good friends Hallertau back in 2009) that he couldn’t see any risks by offering our beer to his customers.
Now the major issue going forward was that within a month or so we had built such a following for our beer that we had quickly outgrown our brewery. So an evolutionary upgrade began, and with a few months we were producing 300L batches of beer several times a month. Surely this was good enough to keep the Hashigo Zake customers happy?
ROAD TO OUR OWN BREWERY
In another massive oversight, we shortly realised that word had spread past the walls of the Cult Beer Bar into other Wellington Bars – and across New Zealand. We had demand from Auckland and Christchurch too. And for a year or so we were doing OK with our very short supply. Hashigo Zake helped tremendously by distributing our beer throughout Wellington, and then the entire North Island… and BeerNZ was sending our beer all over the entire country. But before we knew it, our production became too short. Again. But this time it wasn’t simply a case of getting a bigger brewery: we just couldn’t afford one large enough.
After a brief but productive quick chat with Carl Vasta of Tuatara I found myself digging out a 4000 litre mash tun and adding ten times as many hops onto the kettle than I normally do. With the help of Carl and Mike, I was finally able to keep up with the demand for our beer.
So finally this leads us to where we are now. To cut a longer story shorter, after moving on and brewing with Hallertau for some time, it became obvious with the volumes we were pumping out that we needed a brewery of our own! So thats what we did... Now brewing from Helensville in Auckland, we are taking our beer to the masses!
Where too from now? Well… who knows. Our brewing is and has always been about our customers. As long as there are boundaries to cross, rules to break and lines to blur, we will be here: Crossing, Breaking and Blurring.