Born in the industrial town of Secunda, South Africa, Godfrey Quemeneur was the youngest of four. He had an interesting upbringing with a French father, an Afrikaans mother and three sisters.
Quemeneur completed his primary high school education at the region's only English high school, attended by all expatriate children. This led him to meet and interact with people from all over the world and form friendships with people from mixed cultural backgrounds.
He began a career in construction and engineering and met his wife, Rachel, on a holiday to England. After settling down in Nigeria to work on a project, the couple realised their love for a sustainable rural lifestyle.
Only during a holiday visit to Rachel's parents in New Zealand was Quemeneur first introduced to his father-in-law's homebrew. Nigerian beer was alright but could improve quality and consistency, so Quemeneur packed some New Zealand kit and kilo homebrew wort cans and extra consumables back to Nigeria. However, the region's climatic conditions did not seem suitable for the brews.
In 2006, while working on a project in Australia, Quemeneur's wife gifted him a professional home brew kit along with Jeff Rodham's The Basics of Kit Brewing, and he started building his own brewery in a tin shed.
Four years later, the couple took all they had and moved to Maraekakaho, a rural settlement in Hastings, Hawke's Bay, with the dream of growing hops and starting their own microbrewery. The property was close to the stream and had an excellent underground water supply and good river terrace soil, all required for growing hops and brewing.
With the ideology of creating a destination venue and not just a production brewery, Quemeneur opened the doors to his cellar, the Happy Yellow Caravan, in 2015, which served wood fire pizzas and beers. With no distribution intentions, they want families and beer lovers to experience beer in the environment it is produced in, sitting under the hops and soaking up the countryside.
Today, GodsOwn Brewery consists of the Happy Yellow Caravan, which is now a bar, with a thirteen-foot Chevron Kitchen caravan, a roof pergola, an outdoor kitchen with two pizza ovens, and a glamping safari tent that serves as an indoor dining space.
GodsOwn Brewery produces seasonal beers with the philosophy to brew flavourful beer made with love and a vision that considers the environmental impact of production. Their unique water profile is excellent for dark and hoppy beers, while rain and bore water are much more suitable for light, softer styles. None of their beers are filtered and fined using animal-based agents, making them vegan-friendly.
Despite being in the business for a while, Quemeneur is still a purist in beer styles, preferring authenticity over what sells best. He loves the four to eight-week process of lagering a beer during the winter which conserves energy. He employs the process on certain styles like Pilsners, Marzen, Biere de Garde, at temperatures as low as -1 degrees Celsius.
With sustainability being a significant part of the business ethos, there are certain advantages and disadvantages when it comes to being a rural business. Wastewater from the restaurant, bars and toilets goes through a septic system and is treated with a bio zyme to keep the whole system nice and healthy. The final waste water chamber is pumped out to water native plantings. The brewery wastewater is captured in a retention pond for paddock fertigation purposes. The yeast trub is separated before entering the retention pond and added to the compost. The malt not used for making brew grain crackers is fed to cattle.
The caravans and tents on the property are second-hand, and the children's playground is recycled, with a lot of community member donations like the outdoor tables, recycled cable drums and other second-hand furniture.
The business has been using glass since day one. Customers can refill bottles. Those who wish to refrain from refilling can return the bottles with a cash-back guarantee.
According to Quemeneur, the most remarkable innovations can be seen in daily activities. Their beer is stored in a cold, dark environment till it is poured into the customers' beer glass, as residual beer in kegs can produce unwanted flavours. They also have a strict three-strike fill policy to minimise keg cleaning to save water.
To him, the most rewarding part of the job is the freedom of decision-making. He loves interacting with people and seeing them enjoy themselves. Being a community-focused business, GodsOwn Brewery offers employment opportunities to local youth. They have also organised fundraisers for local and national causes like "I Am Hope" and "Tools For The Paddock."
GodsOwn Brewery's Silent Night Espresso Stout was recognised with the People's Choice Award at this year's Beer Appreciation Day festival. The brewery is currently undergoing a slight expansion and will be playing with the idea of fruit infusions and barrel ageing in the near future.
An event to look forward to is GodsOwn's Annual Hop Harvest festival, which takes place during the first weekend of March with live music and food trucks. They also have a Burning Man effigy made of hopbines on the last day of the season.