Brewer's plans adapted to circumstances

Burkes Brewing Co founder Sebastian Burke is focused on building his craft brewery business in...
Burkes Brewing Co founder Sebastian Burke is focused on building his craft brewery business in the Mackenzie. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
For beer-loving enthusiasts, being a brewer sounds like a dream job.

But the reality is plenty of hard work in the background - including lots of cleaning - that was not seen when a beer was poured, Sebastian Burke, the chief keg wrangler and founder at Burkes Brewing Co, explained.

Fortunately, his engineering background and a brief stint as a plumber was useful as he was able to maintain some equipment and fix the likes of piping issues.

"If there's something broken, I can usually fix it,'' he said.

Brewing beer fitted around Mr Burke's day job as a Twizel-based helicopter engineer, a career that taken him to work overseas, including stints in Papua New Guinea.

Admitting he was "late to beer'', he was originally not much of consumer but had become increasingly interested in latter years.

He started home brewing in the usual way - "kits and the like'' - but the interest continued to grow, as did the upgrade of equipment.

Burkes Brewing Co was launched three and a-half years ago and it was very much focused on the surrounding Mackenzie district.

While there was much publicity around the rise of craft beer and it was a growing industry, it was "still tiny in the scheme of things'', taking about 5% of market-share volume-wise, he said.

Craft brewers had to have their own point of difference to succeed in the industry and Burkes Brewing Co was focused on the Mackenzie.

It also did not tend to follow trends in beer but "sometimes they seem to end up following us'', he said.

When the brewery launched its Raspberry Goes in September, 2017, nobody else was doing a raspberry beer.

Mr Burke liked the base style, which was a traditional German style, but did not feel he could sell a non-fruit version of it.

He liked raspberries as a fruit to work with - he did not particularly like how a lot of other fruits "played'' with the beer - and raspberries were popular with most people.

During the early stages, Mr Burke did a lot of trialling recipes. But now he had developed more confidence in his ability to generate a recipe without necessarily having to pilot it all the time.

Mr Burke continued brewing in his garage, although as volumes had grown, he had also contracted out to a Christchurch facility.

He had not been able to upgrade to a bigger facility, although that had always been the aim.

His original plan was to build a brewery and brew pub in Twizel and later expand into a second venue, preferably somewhere like Tekapo.

But he had been trying to find suitable land in Twizel for the past three years and had no luck, as there was either no private land that was suitable, or land was not zoned correctly to build it.

An opportunity arose last year to buy the Tin Plate Kitchen and Bar in Tekapo, so the plan had happened "in reverse'', although he was still keen to build a facility in Twizel.

Growth in Twizel had been "huge'' as far as recent housing developments, but it had not changed the population, and job creation had been minimal, he believed.

As far as visitors to the town, it was not a winter destination like Tekapo and there was a "very tight time frame'' to sell product, he said.

On Saturday, Burkes Brewing Co would be represented at Cheers to Beer and Wine, a fundraiser at Oamaru harbour for the Oamaru Jazz Festival, and then at the Twizel Salmon and Wine Festival the following Saturday.

Eventually, Mr Burke hoped to leave the aviation industry and focus solely on the brewing business.

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