Something is afoot in Christchurch that will warm the cockles of a beer drinker’s heart. This story starts in a rundown part of Woolston, which in the 1880s was the industrial hub of Christchurch.
Many early businesses were spread around the Heathcote River as there was easy access to water and rail transport, horse and bullock wagons. A tannery was built on a section of land wedged between the railway line, and Garlands Rd. Most of the buildings date back to the 1880s and somehow most of them have survived.
For the past 16 years Alasdair Cassels has owned the site. Alasdair, with his son, Zac, and son-in-law, Joe, has started a brewing company, Cassels & Sons. They have been working away quietly in the corner of the site, where Garland Rd crosses the Heathcote and they have already built a brewery, employed a brewer (Nigel, ex the Twisted Hop brew pub) and their beer is now available.
They are currently converting one of the old brick buildings into a restaurant/brewery/bar with the bar due to be up and running early next year. The great thing about small breweries is they are generally run by colourful independent people and this comes through in the type of beer that they make. Cassels & Sons has started out with a few unusual brewing practices and I am sure it will add plenty of diversity to New Zealand’s brewing scene.
It has a wood- fired kettle. Of course, all beer would have been brewed this way once, but it is now an extremely rare thing. They are also using 500-ml swing-top bottles, from Germany (and paying $1 for each bottle returned).
At the moment the men are still feeling their way, getting the bottling sorted and trying to build a restaurant. At the moment they have three different styles of beer, a lager, a pilsener and the dunkel.
The bottled beers are available at Cooking with Gas, Monster Bar, Pepperoni Pizza, Restaurant Schwass, Lyttelton Coffee Co. It is on tap at Pomeroy’s, and can be bought direct from the brewer at the Lyttelton Farmers’ Market.
Today I am tasting the dunkel, which is a German-style dark lager. I poured it vigorously into my glass and a good head did form but it quickly disappeared. The beer was a very deep brown-black.
On the nose there was a big, fresh, roasted-malt aroma with a hint of malt sweetness. In the mouth the texture was soft with a sedate malt sweetness initially. The middle is pretty much the same with some characteristic dark malt flavours coming through. Towards the end things intensify with more chocolate toasted flavours coming out and a crisp green bitterness lining the back of the mouth. Good clean palate with fresh flavours.
Cassels has hit the ground running.