Cassels & Sons Respond: Tasting Great is Just as Important as Looking Great

Zak Cassels of Cassels & Sons responds to Jason Gurney’s critisism of 888ml bottles

Firstly, I’d like to thank Jason Gurney and his article “Wrong thing, wrong reasons”. Also thanks to editor Michael Donaldson for giving us the chance to respond. I feel myself motivated to write in defence of the Cassels and Sons Brewing Co’s decision to use the “Provider” range of bottles from O-I. The sensibly sized 888ml, 518ml and the 328ml. This piece may contain self-promotion.

My father has been brewing on and off for 40 years. We put down our first commercial brew in the winter of 2009 (200 litres of Pilsner). Our methods, our gear and our approach were extremely rustic. In the last eight years, we have done a lot of growing up, as has every other New Zealand craft brewery I know of. The whole craft industry is on a journey, continually growing up and innovating along the way.

It has taken us a very long time to get into packaging our beer because our head brewer, Simon Bretherton, has terrifyingly high standards of what is acceptable in a bottling machine. When we met Simon, we were handbottling into flip top bottles, spending hours gluing labels on and paying $1 return for the empties. Simon stopped us doing this as, even though we were CO2 purging using counter pressure to fill our bottles, there was a possibility of dissolved oxygen getting into the beer, reducing its shelf life and damaging our brand. We bought our 24-head Morovek from Moa in late 2015. At that time, O-I were releasing their brand new “Provider” range. We really liked the three sizes of bottles for a number of reasons:

  • No other brewery was using them at that time in the NZ market – no harm in being different.
  • They look great – we felt the traditional, slightly English-style look, suited our brand.
  • The words “Hand Crafted in NZ” reinforces to NZ consumers that it is a locally brewed beer as opposed to an imported beer – it also works for export.
  • Yes, the package volumes do all end in “8”, and yes, we do think this may offer some advantage in Chinese markets.

We had to put our beer into some kind of bottle and we were delighted to take advantage of this timely opportunity from O-I. Why would we want bottles that almost everyone else was using?

While on the subject of great packaging, well done to Good George for daring to be different in releasing the 946ml Squealers – they are everywhere so have to be considered a great success. Also, the now iconic, lizard-neck bottles from Tuatara; they are in keeping with the brand and they feel so good in your hand. Let’s not forget Garage Project and a few others who had the balls to tell us that cans were cool.

Perhaps the sensitive point that Jason has touched on is the rise of commercialism within the industry? An emerging desire for growth from some of the more motivated (and rapidly growing) breweries?

Once upon a time there was a belief that making great beer was pretty much all breweries had to focus on. Times are changing as the craft beer marketplace evolves and matures – consumers are becoming more discerning both in terms of beer quality and brand. Ultimately what matters to us more than anything is what is in the bottle. At team Cassels, we know our beer is tasting great and looking great.

We love that Jason is as passionate about craft beer as we are, so Jason, if you are ever down our way, give us a call – we would love to show you around and have a beer with you.

Back to The Pursuit of Hoppiness June 2017

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