Renowned brewer David Nicholls is leaving Moa after 13 years to start his own brewery in the wine-growing region of Blenheim.
Nicholls is partnering with winegrower Ant Moore to build a brewery in Moore’s vineyard.
Nicholls and Moore bought a 2400-litre kit and bottling line from defunct Wellington-based brewery Tinker Tailor and will ship it to Blenheim on November 23.
The business is operating as Vintner’s Brewing Company but Nicholls said that “probably wouldn’t be the brand … we haven’t decided on a name yet”.
Nicholls said he’d been thinking about striking out on his own and saw an opportunity when Tinker Tailor folded.
“I’ve been looking for a while and after going up to look at the Tinker Tailor plant I heard Ant was looking so we came together – as there’s no reason for us spending money on stainless twice.
“It turned out we had a very common theme and desire for what we wanted to do so we set up a partnership and formed a company.”
He said the Tinker Tailor kit was a “lock, stock and barrel” purchase.
“It’s quite a large plant, quite a lot to it – and the team at Tinker Tailor had done a good job with it.
“It’s all scaled for double-brewing – two brews a day – all the uni-takes are two-brew fermenters, two-brew storage tanks, two-brew brite beer tanks. The bottling line is ex-Three Boys, so it’s pretty high capacity. It’s lock, stock and barrel right through to empty kegs and dispense systems. We will be adding a canning line.”
Having the brewery inside the winery has huge benefits.
“The brewery will be inside the winery and connected to many of the services, so we get the benefits of scale from refrigeration, electricity and the like. The whole idea is low-cost production.
“We’ll have an on-site presence as well as the winery currently doesn’t have a cellar door, so consents have been lodged for a new building.”
He hoped the new brewery would be operating in the first quarter of next year.
While Nicholls has been brewing for decades, this is his first owner-brewer venture.
He learned his craft at Tui Brewery in Mangatainoka and then managed Heineken plants in Papua New Guinea and St Lucia before returning to New Zealand where he met Moa founder Josh Scott when he was just starting out – ironically with a brewery set inside the family-owned Allan Scott winery.
Nicholls said the time was right for a change after helping take Moa from a fledgling start-up to the only brewery listed on the New Zealand stock exchange.
“It’s time, I’m not getting any younger, so it’s now or never.”
Nicholls is highly regarded for his sour and Belgian-style beers such as Southern Alps White IPA which was named champion beer at the 2018 NZ Brewing Awards. He has no qualms about entering a crowded beer market alongside 200-plus brands.
“I certainly see a niche – I wouldn’t be doing it otherwise, but I can’t go into too much detail without giving away our business strategy. But we’ll brewing, put it that way.
Moa is currently advertising for a head brewer and Nicholls said he and Moa were working through a transition period.