DB Breweries is proposing to close its Monteith’s small-batch brewing operation in Greymouth on the West Coast of the South Island.
When DB made a similar attempt to shut down the brewery nearly 20 years, a nationwide protest and a boycott of its beers resulted in a swift about-face and the brewery stayed open.
The Greymouth Star reported that the restaurant and bar will remain open but that up to seven people could lose their jobs when the brewing operation closes.
In a statement to Brews News, DB Breweries confirmed it was proposing to move commercial production away from the brewery’s spiritual home in Greymouth.
“DB Breweries is proposing to move commercial production from its Monteith’s brewery in Greymouth to its other breweries around New Zealand. The Monteith’s gastropub and brewery experience will remain in operation,” the spokesman said.
“This decision has been made in light of the impact of Covid-19 and a wider need for DB to streamline its operations in the context of ongoing uncertainty. The complexity of moving raw materials to Greymouth, and then transporting finished product out is no longer commercially viable, given the relatively small volumes produced in Greymouth.
‘‘At this stage, the move is only a proposal so it is not known what the final number of impacted people will be, but we have worked hard to minimise the number of roles affected. Employees who work as part of the gastropub and brewing experience are not impacted by this decision.’’
Monteith’s has a loyal following, especially in the South Island, and DB plays heavily on the brewery’s West Coast history in its marketing material.
The brand has a complicated past. Stuart Monteith was an Irishman on the run from the law when he took over the Phoenix Brewery in Reefton in 1868.
Phoenix was one of five breweries that amalgamated in 1927 to become Westland Breweries, a company headed by Stuart’s son, William Monteith. The new organisation was based at Turumaha Street, Greymouth, site of the current Monteith’s brewery.
DB took over the brewery and renamed it DB Westland Breweries in 1969.
In 1993, DB went through a rebranding exercise, it decided to drop the “DB” tag from the brewery name and create some history around one of the original driving forces behind West Coast brewing: the Monteith family. It renamed the brewery Monteith’s and created a range of products under that label.
However, in 2001, DB announced the brewery was going to close and production would move to Auckland because that’s where most of the beer was heading.
Nationwide protests, including from people who didn’t even drink Monteith’s, forced DB to backtrack and the brewery stayed open, though the bulk of the beer is now brewed in either Timaru or Auckland.
In 2012, DB invested $4m in a revamp of the run-down brewery, creating a stunning new restaurant and bar with an emphasis on tourism.
Gerry Morris, who led the battle against the 2001 closure is infuriated by the latest news, the Greymouth Star reported.
‘‘How can they not brew in Greymouth, but continue to trade on all of the West Coast history?’’ Morris said.
‘‘They should continue to brew the beer in Greymouth, it is the payback to West Coasters who have supported them all these years. Taking Monteith’s out of Greymouth is like taking the Vatican out of Rome and putting it in Disneyland’’.