It began in 2011 with a couple of local lads who enjoyed making beer in their garage – and now Deep Creek Brewing has flourished into an award-winning, world-class craft brewery.
“Paul and Jarred were the main guys behind the business,” says Deep Creek’s marketing director, Scott Taylor. “They’d won a few home brew awards, loved this area, loved beer, and decided to open their own brew pub.” Scott was invited to join the team soon after this. He’d been working in hospitality for nearly 20 years, running bars in Auckland and overseas. Funnily enough, he too was thinking of opening his own small home brew bar. “I was just sick of the usual beer choice,” he explains. “In the majority of pubs, it was mostly the same types of lager – Heineken or Stella, Corona or Sol, Macs or Monteiths – and there was a scarcity of ales.”
So, the team got busy! One of the first beers they brewed has become one of their flagship brands: an Indian Brown Ale called Dusty Gringo. Since then, they’ve explored all manner of flavours and styles from pale ales to IPAs, sours to stouts, putting their collective heads together to find exciting possibilities and try out, as Scott says, some “pretty crazy” ideas. These “weird and wonderfuls” have included a raspberry chocolate sour, a smoked chilli sour, a gin-lime IPA and the Lord Lamington stout. “I think my love for beer actually grows!” smiles Scott. “You’re really only limited by your imagination.”
During the last 10 years, the craft beer landscape has blossomed. Scott reckons there were probably 60 brands when Deep Creek began. A 2019 survey of the industry by the NZ Brewers Association now counts 218 breweries in NZ. These aren’t all independent breweries, however; some have contracts with bigger players, such as DB or Lion. “One of the biggest challenges smaller breweries face is access to pub taps: probably 90 per cent are controlled by the main breweries, which means you’ve got more than 200 brands competing for the remaining 10 per cent.”
This was one of the reasons that, when Deep Creek’s pub in Browns Bay was renovated in 2016, it was decided to allocate permanent space to guest beers and ciders. “Previously our 20 taps were mirrored – the same 10 on the side as at the front – and we only poured our own beers, but we wanted to offer real support to other craft producers.”
Scott enthusiastically remarks that the north and west of Auckland is something of a treasure trove for craft beers, with McLeods in Waipu, Sawmill in Matakana, 8 Wired in Warkworth, Liberty in Helensville, and Hallertau in Riverhead. “We’ve got some amazing people doing amazing things in this area, and it’s part of our community spirit to support each other.”
On average, Deep Creek releases one new beer every month. Sour beers are definitely on trend at the moment. (Scott is quaffing a Waikiki watermelon sour as we’re chatting. It’s a gorgeous, delicate shade of pink! Ed.) The flavour profiles for the kettle sours are like daiquiris, and the next scheduled release is Lava Lava which will feature mango and raspberry. “It’s all about the ‘island life’. That feeling of being whisked away on a tropical holiday.”
The team has learned so much since those early days and improved processes accordingly – always with the focus of brewing great beer for their customers. One of the most notable changes was moving the brewing out of the pub and into a purpose-built facility. This not only freed up space in the bar but meant they could produce a greater number of beers in considerably less time. There’s also a testing lab and a dedicated canning line. Barrel-aged beers take longer, and this has to be factored in to the release schedule and pricing. There are some wild ferment sours which have been in barrel for more than one year now. Senior brewer, Johan, tests them regularly and, as soon as he gives the nod, they’ll be kegged or bottled.
And now, Deep Creek beers are gradually being savoured around the world. Australia is already a significant market, and they’re also exporting to China, Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan, and Norway. Japan has recently “come knocking”, and negotiations are underway with other overseas markets too. What’s great is that these countries are asking for Deep Creek’s beers as they are, without taste adjustments to suit their own domestic palates. “The only adaptations we have to make are to the labels, perhaps tweaking the artwork or adding a few words of Chinese or Norwegian (for example.)
Deep Creek Brewing’s commitment to excellence has been recognised nationally and internationally, with many of their beers being awarded various gold and silver medals, and trophies. The pinnacle, so far, was winning Champion Small International Brewery at the 2017 AIBAs (Australian International Beer Awards). Did that come as a surprise to Scott and the team? “Well, we thought we were producing some pretty good beer, so we put our best foot forward,” he laughs. “I think it was more of a surprise to a lot of other people, who really didn’t know who we were.” In 2018, Deep Creek was the runner-up in this category (losing out to the brewery that they’d beaten in 2017!)
“We’ve come a long way in eight years, from a few guys who liked beer and liked the beach, and so opened a brew pub on the beachfront,” reflects Scott. “Yes, we’re taking on the world – but this bar, right here in Browns Bay, is still our home.”
(First published and permission to post by ShoreLines Magazine)