Brewing industry veteran David Cryer has announced that he will be retiring from Cryer Malt, the business that he founded 30 years ago.
Cryer Malt has been a leading supporter of the brewing industry, and has continued to be since its acquisition by Barrett Burston Malting in 2017.
David said there were a number of reasons that led him to retire now.
“I’m very pleased with where Cryer Malt is, and I look at my family and I’ve got some young people, they’re seventeen and twenty-year-olds, and I really want to make sure I’m around a bit more for them,” he said on the Radio Brews News podcast.
“And quite frankly, also just the last couple of years getting through COVID, I think everyone could identify with this. I’m sitting on my own here, just running a business from a screen. It’s tough. And I’m just ready for a bit of a kick the feet up and relax.”
Cryer founded the business after spending 13 years in the New Zealand wool industry.
“It was a really fun industry to be in but, unfortunately, not very profitable,” he said of his time in the wool industry.
He said a family connection who had seen that the beer market was changing in the USA and the UK approached him to sell malt in New Zealand.
“And I said, ‘yes’. And it was a really quick decision that sounded like quite fun,” Cryer recalled.
“And it got to be even more fun when I discovered just traipsing around New Zealand and meeting, probably about 13 craft breweries at the time, they weren’t very many.”
“It became quickly apparent that there was an opportunity there. As soon as I showed some of the New Zealand brewers some of the English malt I could bring them that they’d been wanting to get hold of for a long time.
“So it was obviously a really good area to be involved in.”
Cryer’s impact on the brewing industry has been significant. Last year he was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Independent Brewers Association in recognition of his efforts to grow and develop the brewing industries in Australia and New Zealand. In a testimonial video celebrating the award, among the many accolades he received brewer Sean Symons described Cryer’s contribution as ‘unparalleled’.
The brewing industry celebrated David Cryer’s contribution to the brewing industry in a testimonial prepared to mark his Lifetime Achievement Award.
Cryer said that he always took the approach that what was good for the industry would always be good for his business. During his career he served as Chair of the Brewers Guild of New Zealand and was also instrumental in the working setting up the Craft Beer Industry Association, since renamed the Independent Brewers Association.
In 2011 Cryer Malt purchased the Beervana beer festival from the Brewers Guild and set about fundamentally changing the event into what he saw as a modern industry festival.
“I think as suppliers, you know, obviously the health of the industry is really important to us,” he explained.
“So for me, being able to join with the brewers, work with them pretty closely and I was chairman of the New Zealand Brewers Guild for about four years, really enjoyed that. And just trying to make sure the industry was properly looked after.
“Because I think, before we developed the Beervana, in New Zealand in particular, there were a lot of what I regard as quite average beer festivals where drinking was the main focus.”
He said that the image of beer drinking and the average beer drinker was something that could hold back the growth of craft beer.
“We felt at the Brewers Guild it was really important to develop something like Beervana where it became about quality and tasting in an environment that anyone, male or female, anyone at all would feel comfortable coming along and trying,” he said.
“And I think we really did actually succeed because then not only did Beervana continue to grow, but it spawned other craft festivals, which I think that’s just fantastic. When you go around Australasia now, the amount of choice you can get and they’re really good quality festivals.”
Throughout the modern craft movement Cryer always managed to deftly balance strong support for small and independent breweries while acknowledging the role that larger brewers have in growing the brewing industry and the beer category. He said that small brewers had had a huge impact on the larger brewers.
“You look at the larger brewers now are doing a very good job of making these styles of beer,” he said.
“You go into a bottle store and see how many different types of IPA you can buy, from a small producer through the large, so there’s a little spot in there, probably not as not as big as I’d like it to be for the smaller brewers to get shelf space, but just the influence on that on the larger manufacturers.”
He said a vibrant small brewing industry was key to the health of the industry.
“I’m heartened when I look around Australia, there’s still a lot of really innovative small brewers doing their thing,” he said.
“Like Wildflower, it’s really interesting stuff. And I just think there’s lots of these people still coming along, there’s room for creativity, and creativity is the key.
“For the industry to be healthy it does need a creative craft brewing sector, because it makes so much noise for its size and it’s why craft so important to large, and also large as important for small, so I think the two working closely is a key thing.”
David’s influence over the industry has extended well beyond his direct influence in the industry, having mentored and actively encouraged many of the current and next generation of industry leaders.
His last day with the company will be August 12.
You can listen to our special Beer is a Conversation podcast where David discusses his career and observations on the brewing industry.