Good mates Andy Larsen and Ant Browne founded Brothers Beer, a craft brewing space in the heart of Auckland City, to create a home in the city for lovers of good beer.
Andy knows a thing or two about beer. He has been working in the brewing world for over two decades, travelling around the globe helping to set up craft breweries. A beautiful wife and two children later he decided it was time to use that expertise to set up his own craft brewery in his hometown of Auckland City, in the hope of spending more time closer to home. He convinced his good friend Ant , who was getting tired of the corporate world, to travel with him to Melbourne for Good Beer Week and check out the burgeoning craft beer scene in the city. Ant was easily persuaded.
The pair concluded that Auckland was missing out and wanted to bring a little bit of that beer buzz home. So they set about setting up a brewing space right in the heart of the city at the newly developed City Works Depot and in December 2012 Brothers Beer was born.
They wanted to create an intimate and approachable space that was a little bit ‘low key’, ‘shabby’ and ‘super relaxed’ just like your mates garage. A place where they could brew their own Brothers Beer and ‘beer geeks’ could come to get good beer and try out different styles fresh from the tap, both their own brews, and beers from other craft brewers from around the country.
They were blown away by the success of City Works. It was “an explosion that we weren’t expecting” says Andy. So much so that they started to bottle their creations and sell them outside of the brew bar to their growing legion of fans. They now have 8 brews in their range, Farro currently stocks four varieties: Lager, Pale Ale, Tropical (a hoppy Golden Ale) and Brothers Mexican, a summer seasonal lager brewed with corn, rice and lemon peel.
They like to use NZ ingredients as much as possible – NZ grown malt and hops. Hand crafted in small batches, with no preservatives or mechanical processes. They aim to create nice, well-balanced, drinkable beer – that is approachable and has a broad appeal.
“We wanted to make beer that people want to drink rather than beers that are too big, bold and macho. Some brewers might take the ‘how big can we make it’ and ‘how many hops can we put in it’ approach. We wanted something nice, well-balanced and drinkable. So you can enjoy a few and now be too overwhelmed,” says Ant.
Andy learnt his craft from two mentors and brewing industry stalwarts Alan Knight and Ben Middlemiss. Ben (the man behind Marlborough Brewing Company, Cock and Bull/Steam Brewing, Australis, Martinborough Brewery and the Shakespeare Tavern), is now part of the Brothers crew. He believes brewing beer is much like roasting lamb. “The lamb roast is the constant, it’s what you put with it that makes it different. What varieties and combinations you use that make the difference.” There are over 1000 different hop varieties and 200 different malts around the world.
They pride themselves on delivering ‘fresh’ beer – best enjoyed soon after you buy it, chilled. “That’s why we manage all of our own distribution. We keep all our beer chilled from the brewery to Farro stores, to make sure it’s at its absolute best,” says Ant. He recommends never leaving it sitting around at room temperature in your garage for a few months – it tastes best stored cool.
Brothers quickly outgrew the brewing space at City Works and have since opened a larger brewery in Mt Eden and have a new outpost in Orakei soon to open right next to Farro.
They hate the macho stigma around beer that still lingers in New Zealand – man sheds, girls in bikini tops and blokes in stubbies. There is so much more to beer than the german-style lagers and brown ales that most Kiwi blokes grew up on. “We like to be inclusive, rather than exclusive. We believe there is a new generation of beer drinkers out there who want something more. Craft beer has such a wide variety of different styles – there really is a beer for everybody – including a lot more female drinkers too,” says Ant.
He calls them the “masterchef generation’ who want the freshest ingredients and not the mass produced stuff. They want to know where things come from. The boys at Brothers have more recently been testing different flavours – adding fresh nectarine and cherry to their brews are two more recent examples.
The newest Brothers Beer at Orakei Bay Village will be an experimental outpost. Four tanks will be used for fermentation on site using different yeast types to create sour, zingy beers, whilst retired wine barrels will be used for beer aging and conditioning. These new styles have become very popular in the United States but are still relatively new in NZ. “Try fermenting a golden ale in a Chardonnay barrel and you can some of those oaky characteristics infusing the beer. It’s about pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with beer flavours.’ They’re passionate beer and want to keep things innovative, exciting and fresh. We can’t wait to see it.