Beervana sees return of international breweries to Sky Stadium concourse

When the Beervana festival pulls its first pint on August 19 it will mark the return of international brewers to Wellington’s Sky Stadium concourse.

Beervana manager Ryan McArthur said it was a welcome relief from the “survival mode” of the previous two years.

“This is the first year since Covid where we’ve actually had international breweries on the ground,” McArthur said, as the festival marks 21 years.

The festival had stood as a focal point for a “revolution” of brewing in New Zealand for that time, he said.

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With nearly 90 breweries featured this year, the festival had outgrown the “craft beer” label.

“Craft beer was a great way of explaining what was going on with smaller breweries but really it was a revolution of choice,” McArthur said.

Beervana festival manager Ryan McArthur said the nearly 90 breweries featured in this year's festival on August 16 had outgrown the 'craft beer' label.

Bill Hickman/Stuff

Beervana festival manager Ryan McArthur said the nearly 90 breweries featured in this year’s festival on August 16 had outgrown the ‘craft beer’ label.

The variety of the lineup meant he was even more excited to see the stadium concourse “transformed” by the stalls, stages, food and entertainment.

“Some breweries tell me what they’re up to and some keep their cards close to their chest. That donut space is a constant reveal,” McArthur said.

Cosplay artist Sopha Stace adds a splash of color to the Boneface Brewing Co. stall in 2021 (File photo).

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Cosplay artist Sopha Stace adds a splash of color to the Boneface Brewing Co. stall in 2021 (File photo).

Beervana is celebrating its coming of age alongside Emerson’s Brewery other Brew Moon Brewing Company which mark their respective 30th and 20th anniversaries this year.

Brew Moon co-founder Belinda Gould said her crew always made the effort to “push the limits” with their offerings for the event.

“There’s been a few times when we’re putting the last beer into kegs when we’re about to get on the ferry,” Gould said.

Festival goers have their beer poured from Abandoned Brewery's smoking dumpsters in 2020. (File photo).

Ross Giblin/Stuff

Festival goers have their beer poured from Abandoned Brewery’s smoking dumpsters in 2020. (File photo).

When Brew Moon first started attending Beervana in the early 2000s its prime goal was to convince people that its beer was a genuine alternative to the two dominant breweries.

“Back then you were preaching to very few converted. People were more likely to say ‘oh it’s home brew’,” Gould said.

Brew Moon head brewer Rebecca Cope and co-founder Belinda Gould.

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Brew Moon head brewer Rebecca Cope and co-founder Belinda Gould.

Richard Emerson’s determination to broaden focus of New Zealand’s beer culture paved the way for the explosion of breweries that made Beervana the diverse event it was today, Gould said.

“The craft beer industry in NZ owes Richard a huge debt. He was the leader. He advanced the cause by about five years.”

ALDEN WILLIAMS/STUFF

Richard Emerson and his team cruised around central Christchurch in July 2018 delivering beer from the Emerson’s 1930s steam-powered truck.

Emerson said that over the years he had watched Beervana mature.

“It is like watching a child growing up from school.”

Emerson’s Brewing will occupy the coveted number one stall this year with a special stage celebrating Emerson’s love of the Dunedin pubs where he saw bands like The Chills and The Verlaines perform.

Richard Emerson, left, and Greg Menzies load a keg of Emerson's beer.  (File photo).

ALDEN WILLIAMS/STUFF

Richard Emerson, left, and Greg Menzies load a keg of Emerson’s beer. (File photo).

The brewery will also debut two new beers at Beervana each in reference to their founder.

Sales and marketing manager Greg Menzies said Reverb NZ IPA celebrated Emerson, who was born deaf, enjoying the Dunedin sound by feeling the “reverberation” of the music while triple IPA Drama & Chaos was a nod to Emerson’s creative process.

“Where ever he goes, drama and chaos are not too far behind him,” Menzies said.

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