Balance the key for fast growing Cassels Brewing

Although they have won major international awards, Cassels Brewing are excited to get local recognition in this year’s New World Beer & Cider Awards.

Included in the Top 30 is the family-owned Christchurch company’s Cassels APA. With the tropical fruit and resiny pine character of West Coast US hops it’s a great example of the American Pale Ale style, described by judges as offering a ‘‘long, coherent flavour

Owner and director Alasdair Cassels says that phrase sums up the balanced beers that the brewery aspires to produce.

‘‘We pride ourselves on that,’’ he says. ‘‘Drinkable beers that people go back to, and to some extent our success has been based on that. Some APAs  reek of hops when you take the top off, but that’s all you’ve got. Our beer from the beginning to the end, you get
the hops, you get the malt, you get everything.’’  Launched over a decade ago, Cassels Brewery now has the fastest growth in the Top 10 premium craft beer producers in New Zealand, according to Nielsen statistics. They have a focus on export, and are making headway in both the United Kingdom and Chinese markets.

As well as the APA in the Top30, they make superbly balanced IPA, lager, pilsner, pale ale, New Zealand APA, and a milk stout that won at the World Beer Awards in both 2019 and 2020.
Cassels Brewing’s owner/director Alasdair Cassels, executive brewer Simon Bretherton, director...
Cassels Brewing’s owner/director Alasdair Cassels, executive brewer Simon Bretherton, director Zak Cassels, and director Joe Shanks.


Executive Brewer Simon Bretherton explains that a lot of work goes into developing beer of the consistent quality produced by Cassels. To develop a new beer, they start with a strong idea, which is refined over several brews at the brewhouse in Woolston’s Maunsell St. Of course, there are other vital factors to brewing good beer.

‘‘People are key,’’ Bretherton says. ‘‘Anyone we recruit into the brewing team has to have the right character and attitude. They’re all passionate about brewing really good beer. That’s the bare minimum really. And good equipment.’’

Cassels began in September 2009 with a 200L wood-fired brewery, expanding in 2010 as they opened a brewbar at The Tannery in Woolston, owned by property developer Alasdair. His son Zak and son-in-law Joe Shanks came aboard as the other two directors.
Only months after the opening, the February 2011 earthquake wrought extensive damage to the brewery, but also spurred Cassels on to something more ambitious.

‘‘The city was wiped clear, to start again,’’ Zak Cassels says. ‘‘What we’ve got here now with The Tannery we could never have dreamt about pre-quake. This was a downtrodden, industrial part of town where fashionable shops didn’t belong, but they do now. So
the quake has a big part to play in our story.’’

They’ve also witnessed huge changes as the craft beer market has exploded in New Zealand over the last decade. When Cassels launched, there were perhaps 50 breweries in the country, and now there are over 250. The premium craft beer market grew by around 30% in 2020.

This has meant an upscaling of production, and at Maunsell St, Cassels now have a 25HL (2500L) brewhouse that runs twice a day (soon to be four times). They also have a sophisticated bottling plant, and a canning machine that will soon be online.
‘‘We have more growth than any ahead of us and we haven’t started with cans yet,’’ Alasdair reflects. ‘‘Cans are becoming quite a big part of the premium craft market, so we expect to see some really strong growth. We’re fairly well set up, and we have quite a
few things planned.’’

He says that the New World Beer & Cider Awards are a great avenue for breweries to get their product in front of beer lovers around the country.

The Awards were judged by an independent panel of 28 New Zealand beer industry luminaries. They assessed over 650 beverages from over 100 breweries and cidermakers over two days in March, taking in a range of beer styles - from hazies to IPA, through pale
ales and stouts, lagers and ciders and beyond. The Top 30 award winners are available in New World stores nationwide throughout the month of May.

‘‘New World are helping brewers get on the shelves,’’ Alasdair says. ‘‘It’s good for start-up companies, and it’s very good for us. The Awards prove how much New World back craft beer and craft beer brewers in New Zealand.’’

Discover the New World Beer & Cider Awards Top 30 in store and at