Wanaka’s first neighbourhood brew pub and restaurant has opened its doors, with beers brewed onsite using 100 percent renewable energy.
Local craft brewer James Hay and businessman Matt Laming have converted a 180-square metre car workshop into an architecturally-designed brewery, tap room and restaurant.
Called b.social, the new establishment is located in the recently re-zoned mixed business development in Anderson Heights.
James is the sole owner/operator of the award-winning b.effect brewing company, which he founded in 2015. Matt and his wife Anna own prominent Wanaka bar and eatery Urban Grind, alongside investments in property, hospitality and tourism.
b.social provides seating for 100 people, and boast Wanaka’s largest tap selection with 16 beers. The restaurant serves lunch and dinner seven days a week, with the menu focusing on high-quality food that pairs well with beer.
The aim is to create a modern, reputable establishment that becomes a Central Otago attraction and institution, said Hay.
“Ultimately we want b.social to be regarded as an iconic brew pub in Wanaka and throughout the wider region – a bustling little neighbourhood bar where both locals and visitors feel at home.”
The state-of-the-art brewery is electric, providing an eco-friendly alternative to most gas powered brewing processes.
“Being as efficient as we can through our use of energy and water is very important to us."
Future plans include investing in solar panels and an electric delivery vehicle.
Opening a brew pub has been a goal of James’ since he first started brewing in his garage nearly 10 years ago. The unique business model, whereby all beer is made and sold onsite, enables brewers to establish a point of difference in a crowded, taste-driven industry.
“As the market becomes more saturated and therefore more localised, the brew pub concept is an increasingly appealing option."
“As a brewer you have the vantage point of selling directly to and connecting with the consumer – you can tell your story effectively and also receive valuable feedback.
“From the customer perspective, they can get a really authentic experience from everyday people just like them who love a good beer. There is nothing better than knowing your beer was made on the other side of the bar and being able to talk directly to the brewer.”
A recent 2019 report by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise estimates the country now has more than 260 craft breweries. It predicts the industry’s next “wave” will be a return to hyper-localised, decentralised establishments.
“There seems to be pretty wide consensus that a return to hyper-localisation will provide a bright future for brewers – where every suburb has a brew house that serves just the local area,” the report states.
“It’s a model that brings clear benefits to the brewer – higher margins, lower business complexity, and the headspace to be passionate and innovative.”
Hay agrees, adding there has “never been a better time to be a beer drinker”.
“The choices are huge and the quality is getting really good. We are in an age where people care about what they eat and drink. Therefore, customers are more discerning and appreciative of complex and unique beers that offer an alternative to the mainstream.
“Matt and I are excited about bringing the brew pub concept to Wanaka. There are a lot of people and businesses in the local area who are enjoying having a neighbourhood brewery and restaurant that they can drink at after work, or bring their family to for dinner.”