Emerson's Brewery founder Richard Emerson.
Emerson's Brewery has been sold to Lion New Zealand, with
the promise it will be business as usual for Dunedin's most
recognisable craft beer brand.
The sale, for an undisclosed cash sum, will take effect on
Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter McIntyre said
the sale was a "signature of success" and showed how
successful companies operating in Dunedin could attract
"I don't see it as a bad thing at all. It is a natural
progression for a successful business looking to expand," he
Reports from the North Island suggested some bars would stop
stocking Emerson's because of the overseas ownership issues.
Lion is owned by Japanese drinks giant Kirin.
However, the owner of Dunedin's Albar, Steve Collins, said he
would still stock Emerson's beer in both Albar and his
Portsider Tavern, in Port Chalmers.
"It is a very popular beer. We hope the sale won't discourage
people from drinking it. We are told it is business as usual
and nothing will change, but you just don't know with the big
breweries," he said.
Emerson's founder Richard Emerson said in an interview he had
come a long way in 20 years, but there was further still to
He and general manager Bob King had developed a strategic
plan for expansion, but it needed capital.
Emerson's had contemplated following the lead of Moa, a craft
brewer which was seeking a listing on the NZX. In the end,
the board decided to accept an offer from Lion with the
assurances it would be business as usual.
"To move forward, we needed capital from existing
shareholders. That was difficult. We have made the right
When shareholders were told of the offer for the brewery,
they asked two questions, Mr King said.
One was about the future of the beer and the other was about
Messrs Emerson, King and brewing manager Chris O'Leary would
retain the day-to-day running of Emerson's operations and all
other roles within the business would remain unchanged.
The present staff of 12 would remain, with the prospect of
more being employed as the brand expanded.
Lion saw the value of the beer as the brand, Mr King said.
Mr Emerson said it was important to Lion to continue brewing
Emerson's in its Wickliffe St brewery.
Speight's, also owned by Lion, was spending around $29
million redeveloping its Dunedin site, but Mr Emerson ruled
out Emerson's being brewed on Speight's Rattray St site.
"They want to encourage people here, to make the pilgrimage
to the brand.
"Dunedin is the home of Emerson's."
Asked about his reaction now the news was being made public,
Mr Emerson, who founded the brewery 20 years ago, said it was
good to feel valued and appreciated. He had been assured of
the freedom to keep brewing not only his signature beers, but
also the specialty ones like the latest Trooper's Stout.
It was also pleasing the 16 loyal shareholders had been
rewarded for their support over a long period. The
shareholders were friends and family.
"It's been a great ride but we have another journey to go,"
Mr Emerson said.
Lion NZ managing director Rory Glass said Emerson's was a
fantastic brand with a rich history. It complemented Lion's
existing beer portfolio well and allowed Lion to offer
customers a leading portfolio of brands across the specialty,
boutique and popular craft market.
McDuff's Brewery in Dunedin is also for sale, although a deal
could be some way off, co-owner Gavin Duff said yesterday.
The company was "quietly" put on the market earlier this
year, Mr Duff said.
There had been some interest in the company, which employed
three staff, but a sale would be pushed next year.
Mr Duff said he and co-owner Graham Jenkins were "both 65"
and the time was right.
Founded: October 1992.
First brew: London Porter, January 1993.
Location: Moved from Grange St, Dunedin, site to
Wickliffe St in 2005.
Production: 1m litres a year.