News Lion are bringing the Little Creatures brand and brewpub concept to Hobsonville Point in Auckland is a huge development in the industry here.
The brewery, bar, dining hall, fish ‘n’ chip, gelato business will occupy an old hangar at the defunct Royal New Zealand Air Force base (a place I have fond memories of living, I might add).
It’s a clever move by Lion but one which speaks to the lead article in this edition (More ups and downs than a ski field, P4) about the power of the big breweries to squeeze out small operators and the equally important power of provenance.
Lion could have dropped in one of its existing Kiwi brands – Mac’s, Emerson’s or Panhead – or even had a Steinlager-branded brewery. But none of those would have been right. Panhead is Upper Hutt – that’s their bogan-petrolhead story. Emerson’s is proudly Dunedin, that’s their badge of honour. Mac’s … well Mac’s could have worked at a pinch.
Little Creatures, even though it started in Fremantle, West Australia, is no longer tied to that place. Its story is a beer experience, with its Geelong brewery and canteen the blueprint for what’s going to happen in Auckland.
Extending that experience further east to New Zealand feels natural and it allows Lion to tell a good story about a small brewery that started in the yachting equivalent of a hangar – an old America’s Cup warehouse.
The new brewery complex will also sit in a good geographic spot; there’s a fast-growing population at Hobsonville Point, and a pitch from those selling affordable housing there is that everything they need is on the doorstep. A brewery, bar and dining hall is a perfect fit for the sales pitch.
Good back stories – or provenance to use a fancy word – are becoming more important as ambitious beer brands look to separate themselves from the pack. It’s one of the reasons Altitude has chosen to build its own brewery in Queenstown rather than continue to contract production. They want a home, a base, a story to tell.
The other side of this coin is the pressure exerted by bigger breweries to control taps. Little Creatures’ advance adds to the suite of products Lion can offer its clients, making it harder for independent breweries to secure pourage rights, another thing we touch on in the Altitude story.
We certainly live in interesting beer times, with each new move as unpredictable as the last.