It requires inside knowledge to hunt out some of the best finds in Christchurch, post the 2011 earthquakes that devastated this resilient and innovative New Zealand city. No more so than The Brewery in Woolston, owned by the Cassels family.
While every local knows about The Brewery, the craft brewery and pizza café is not on the well-trodden tourist map. But it’s a compulsory stop for anyone wanting to sip some of the country’s finest ale in this historic building precinct – one of only a few remaining in Christchurch.
The Woolston Tannery, which houses The Brewery, was built circa 1870 and stands on the banks of the Heathcote River, an unlikely but immensely rewarding find amid this light industrial area.
The Brewery brews its cask conditioned ales, craft beers and lagers using the gleaming copper topped 600 litre wood fire kettle that has pride of place at the back of the bar. The truly Italian style pizza are also cooked in a wood fire oven. If you’re lucky enough to be there early in the day you’ll get a good view of the brewers making the beer.
They are one of the few breweries in New Zealand to brew proper cask conditioned real ale. The result is a typical English-style beer. The vast range of beers, includes interesting varieties such as ‘Medicinal’, a winter brew using elderberries sourced from Banks Peninsula, and its summer equivalent, the Elder Ale, which uses elderflowers.
In mid 2009 Cassels conceived the idea to open a brewery and bar on the old tannery site in Garlands Rd. Later that year they had produced their first brew, but the brewery was forced to move into the current building after the February 2011 earthquake smashed the previous operation. Just three months later, the shed at the front of the property had been converted into a safe, modern, brewery and bar.
The Brewery is open from 7 am until late, with food, coffee and beer available all day and hosts live music most nights. It’s only part of the vision though; progress is well under way on the redevelopment of The Tannery buildings into an 11,000 sqaure metre retail and entertainment precinct, set to open this summer.
The Cassels family has also opened the CBD Bar in Madras St, post earthquake.
Christchurch has been singled out by Lonely Planet for the way it is “bouncing back with a new energy and inventiveness” to put the city at number six on its list of ‘Top 10 Cities for 2013’.