New Zealand: Lion opens new brewery in Christchurch after earthquake

Lion Breweries, a subsidiary of Kirin Holdings Company which operates in Australia and New Zealand, announced to open a micro-brewery in Christchurch, New Zealand, in late March. The site is located close to the brewery, which had been in use since the 1950s and which was destroyed in an earthquake in February 2011.

"It is unlikely we would ever have a brewery of this scale here again, but we are certainly not discounting the possibility that we might have something else," a company responsible said at that time. Seven years ago a majority of the thirty-eight employees, who had been working there, lost their jobs.

The Fermentist, as the new brewery is called, will be of a much smaller scale and is designed to be the world's most sustainable brewery.  Kat McDonald, Lion's sustainability manager, explained the intent behind The Fermentist was to create transparency in how Lion produced its beers. The new brewery will be used as a platform to educate consumers about sustainable beer production. The micro-brewery will use only local hops from Nelson, will be solar-powered, have rain water storage and an electric vehicles fleet.

Depending on the success of the new brewery, Lion's larger breweries will also incorporate green-conscious alternatives to generating power and recycling hops during the beer-making process, McDonald said.

In December, New Zealand’s breweries were struggling to keep up with demand for beer after a heat wave struck the North Island. "The market is growing one per cent over the year and in the last couple of weeks we've seen demand spike 20 per cent compared to the same period last year, and the orders coming through to our warehouses are up 40 per cent," a Lion spokesperson said mid December.

The two largest breweries in New Zealand, Lion and DB Breweries, control almost 90% of sales by volume and have last year made some inroads into the still growing craft beer market.

In 2012, Lion bought Dunedin-based Emerson's Brewing Co. for $8 million and agreed to buy Wellington based brewery Panhead in May 2016 from the family of founder Mike Neilson. The brewer paid $15.1 million in cash upfront for Brand Strong, the Panhead holding company, and will pay a further $10 million based on earnings over the following four years. In January 2017, Lion’s arch rival DB Breweries, owned by Heineken Asia Pacific, followed suit in buying Tuatara Brewing located in Paraparaumu on the Kapiti Coast and its pilot brewery - The Third Eye, in Wellington. 

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