Cassels Brewing in Christchurch is celebrating a repeat triumph for its flagship Milk Stout at the World Beer Awards.
Cassels doubled down on last year’s awards, when it won best Milk Stout and then took out best overall stout as well.
Executive brewer Simon Bretherton woke up at 4am this morning to check the results as they unfolded from the UK and said his “phone’s been ringing off the hook” since then.
“It’s like lightning striking twice, déjà vu. It’s still hard for me to get my head around the big one we won last year because we’re just this little brewery in Woolston. It’s quite mind-blowing.”
Bretherton said the award was a more of a surprise than last year because he’d almost forgotten the event was on.
“I had totally forgotten about the awards as I thought they might not go ahead because of Covid-19. I was only reminded when I got an email telling me that they were going to be announced at 3pm in the UK.”
Bretherton said sending beer to the other side of the world for judging was always a risk.
“That’s always a challenge – once the beer is out of your hands there’s always a risk something can go wrong, even with domestic competitions let alone when you’re send it to other side of the world.
“While so many things can go wrong, the Milk Stout is a very robust beer which makes it less of a concern but we also sent it in a polystyrene box with freeze packs and we fly it there. All the same, once it’s in the logistics chain it’s out of our control.”
The award comes as Cassels continues play the “quiet achiever” in the New Zealand brewing scene. Its doesn’t get as much publicity as some other craft breweries despite being one of the biggest players in the market.
“When we won the big award last year, it felt out of character to try to get the message out as we’re not the big name, trendy kid on the block.
“Within the brewing team I try to make sure we don’t focus on awards – I say ‘let’s do our job really well and if we pick up an award it’s icing on the cake, and if we don’t we still know we’re a really good brewing team’.
“That principle doesn’t change because we’ve won a major global award. I guess quiet achievers is good way of describing it.”
While the brewery is sometimes reluctant to “blow their own trumpet” the sales tell a different story.
Bretherton, who previously worked at Boddington’s in the UK and Little Creatures in Perth, said the brewery was about to take delivery of five 50-hectalitre tanks and was planning a new brewhouse as annual production moved towards 1 million litres. It’s a far cry from the 200-litre woodfired kettle the brewery started with in 2009.
“I know from our sales and emails I get from people, that there are a lot of people who appreciate our beer and what we’re doing.”
That includes a strong export market in the UK, where the brewery has two salespeople on the ground, and a growing presence in China.
“Literally today there’s another refrigerated container of beer being picked up for the UK, we’re sending beer there all the time so we’re definitely building a presence there.”