From the Croucher website:
Paul had been a casual observer of New Zealand’s developing taste for flavour. Coffee drinkers have shifted from instant to exotic blends, while wine drinkers have switched from Chateau Cardboard to a raft of high-value high-quality varietals. Beer drinkers had been slower to embrace change having been indoctrinated by strong brand loyalty campaigns from the major breweries. However, a shift is occurring as this great nation’s beer drinkers look for greater substance and flavour from their beer than the traditional offerings provide.
Living The Dream
Once settled back in Rotorua, Paul looked to make his dream a reality. Starting by experimenting at home, he began to produce quality beer on a very small scale. In fact, in 2004 Paul entered the Brew NZ brewing championship, and won the Non-Commercial Brewing Section with his Bohemian Pilsner.
This gave Paul, and business partners Richard Croucher and Nigel Gregory, greater confidence to forge ahead with a commercial brewery. The Croucher Brewing Company was set up in 2004, premises hired in January 2005, with brewing commencing in the second half of that year. With each of us having to balance work and other commitments, it was a slow process.
Croucher Brewing made its commercial debut at the Mt Maunganui Blues, Brews & BBQ’s festival in January 2006. The beer went down a treat with great feedback and lots of sales. In April, Croucher Brewing also had a stand at the Auckland Wine & Food festival, which was another great success. June 2006 saw the ‘on-premise’ launch into a handful of bars, restaurants and lodges locations around Rotorua and Auckland.
Our First Beer Award
By August 2006, the timing was now right to put more time in to the business. Nigel left his job as Marketing Manager at SKY Television in Auckland to move back to Rotorua, while Paul was in the middle of a period of intense brewing to build stock levels. Also at this time Richard left the company.
The 2006 Brew NZ awards (think of it as the Olympics for brewers) took place in early September, and incredibly for such a young brewery, Croucher Pale Ale was awarded a Bronze medal in the hotly contested Pale Ale category. To put it in perspective, only five Gold’s were awarded across all 15 categories. And many more-established breweries went home empty-handed. It is a great result!!
Our first full summer in operation was full of festivals, Blues Brews & BBQ’s at Mt Maunganui and Hawke's Bay, a Rotorua Food & Wine Festival, similar at Te Awamutu, plus the inaugural NZ Beer Festival at Ellerslie Racecourse in Auckland. The festivals are lots of fun, and a great opportunity to try a range of craft beers from across the country. Make sure you get along to the ones nearest you—and come and say hi if we are there.
Following the success of The Hef and Pilsner at each of the festivals, we decided it was time to start bottling and selling these variants. It was at this stage that we decided to change the label design, after our bottle supplier had stopped supply of our preferred bottle the original label no longer sat perfectly on the bottle. On top of a new label, we also had to face the issue of keeping up with increased bottling and labeling, therefore we invested in a small single-head filler/capper machine that we imported from Canada, as well as a simple labeling gizmo. Once up to speed these investments relieved a lot of pressure from us (and our partners!!).
October 2007 has proved to be the craziest month for the business so far, and for many reasons. The month started out with Paul almost blowing up a fermenter (he literally thought it, and all the beer contained, was going to explode). This is a pretty devastating occurrence, as it is one of those things you just don’t budget for (LOW). The next day Nigel and his partner Kate had the birth of their first child, a son, Isaac Finn Gregory (MASSIVE HIGH). Just a few days later Croucher Brewing was named the Destination Rotorua Emerging Business Of The Year at the Westpac Rotorua Business Excellence Awards (ANOTHER HUGE HIGH). A week or so after that the brewery was broken into and the laptop we use for all our business records, accounts, email, etc was stolen (MASSIVE LOW). But instead of sitting around feeling powerless, we offered a lifetime supply of beer (one dozen Croucher beer every month until death) to the person who returned the laptop. Well the story caught the imagination of the media, we were interviewed on TV ONE’s Close Up, on Radio Live, Newstalk ZB, More FM, 3 Australian radio stations, had stories written up in the local paper The Daily Post, and had the news story carried in papers and websites across New Zealand, Australia, United States, Canada, UK, Germany, France, India, and South Africa (ANOTHER BIG HIGH). Sometimes dark clouds do have silver linings… now if only the laptop would turn up!!!!
With demand on the rise, we have managed to ‘borrow’ a 2400ltr brewery and bottling line that was the ex-Limburg/K.E.A. plant. Installation has taken some time (from around Oct 2008 to March 2009) but this has provided a massive improvement to our manufacturing capability. 2009 promises to be an exciting year for Croucher Brewing.
An opportunity arose to open our own small craft beer pub in Rotorua, which we named The Underground Bar. It quickly gained a reputation as the only place in Rotorua to get a good range of craft beer, and built an extremely loyal bunch of supporters. Friday nights at The Underground was the place to be - it was a tiny bar and would literally be packed with punters.
The bar stretched human resources to the limit, with Nigel running the bar Paul was left to try and do two peoples jobs at the brewery. While the bar was a great way to spread the word about croucher beer in Rotroua, it really did spread us too thin. Even so, it was a great shame that the restaurant we were working with (who supplied both the liquor licence and food) went under in January 2010 - ending an exciting chapter in our existence. Best part of a year later and we are still asked numerous times each week when we are opening a new bar… we’ll keep you posted!
With the bar closed, and all hands back on deck at the brewery, 2010 has been a year of real growth. We put a lot of work into working smarter, and evaluating our strengths and weaknesses. One of these evaluations led us to consider contracting out some of the brewing and packaging for our bottled beers. We started working with Steam brewing in Auckland (home of the Cock ‘n Bull beers, Epic Brewing, and a few other top class New Zealand beers). But the standard had been set high for them as just before we commenced brewing at Steam Croucher Pilsner was named CHAMPION INTERNATIONAL LAGER at the BrewNZ Awards. This was a HUGE result for us, and was reward for a lot of hard work. The award, along with the excellent quality of the new Steam beers has given us a great platform for growth. One of the first big wins was our first direct exporting - we have sent a couple of shipments of beer to Australia, with high hopes for that market. In December, our Pale Ale was named CHAMPION NZ BEER 2010 in the annual Capital Times Beer Necessities Survey, with both the Pale Ale and Pilsner named in the Top 12 beers of the year. We would look forward to 2011, but quite frankly there is still so much to be done before that!
Croucher's Range of Beers:
Pale Ale - 5% ABV
Appearance - A rich rose-gold hue, with good head.
Aroma - Massive up front fruit with strong freshly crushed grain. Passionfruit and lychees predominate with a stonefruit undertone - fruit salad on weetbix. Grassiness from three Nelson hop varieties compliment the fruit to give an aroma reminiscent of a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc but the grunt in the palate leaves you in no doubt that this is a very serious beer.
Body & Mouthfeel - Very smooth with a gorgeous lingering finish.
Bohemian Pilsner -
Our Czech-styled lager was released in January 2007, and is one of Paul’s favoured styles of beer.
Appearance - a pale straw coloured beer. 10% wheat malt added to the grist supplies a generous clinging head.
Aroma - a true lager yeast fermented at low temperatures provides the characteristic characteristics of a bohemian pilsner. Generous additions on New Zealand Motueka and Riwaka hops provide a new world twist to this ancient classic. This is a very hoppy lager.