The old tasting and barrel room (Tinger 1)

The old tasting and barrel room (Tinger 1)

The Old Tasting and Barrel Room; The Build!

After five years of brewing, bottling and labeling by hand in Lee-Ann’s basement, Craftwork was running into greater logistical problems, than just the inefficiencies of running two baby 50 litre Braumeisters side by side on their own little TV trolleys. By this time our lovely friends Jess and Simon of Rhyme and Reason , Wanaka, had offered the opportunity to purchase one of the 1200 litre fermenters to be installed in their new brewery. This meant we could travel over there monthly,  to bottle { Simon’s Microbrew Tech business produced a multi-head small bottling MACHINE } the last brew, clean the newly emptied tank and brew our new beer to fill the tank the next day. This ideal arrangement also enabled social time with brewster friends, something we missed, feeling isolated in our small town. 

However, this caused a new problem. Every month 2000 + bottles of beer would arrive on a large truck . Lee-Ann’s house is located with an excellent sea view, but no flat areas nor did she own a forklift. Our beer was conditioned in a specially built warm room in Wanaka, so that wasn’t a problem, but unloading and storing it in a customs controlled  excise area was. Fortunately our chum Renzo who managed the winery in Kurow said we could get the beer delivered there… An hour's drive one way to retrieve beer was not ideal, but for now it saved us…

It became obvious  that we needed our own place in Oamaru , a flat location with forklift access and ideally the ability to have a small shop and tasting room to serve the public directly.. Therefore , being in the heart of Victorian Oamaru seemed obvious- except there was very little available. We did toy with the idea of buying an historic stone stables on the town boundary; looking very like a Belgian farmhouse brewery… We are now very glad we did not choose that option!

Finally a space did come up , after much enquiry a lease was signed. To say our landlords were hard arsed would not be  emphatic enough. The blog writer felt sick and doomed to be paying so much rent for such a dingy dungeon in an unromantic 1960’s breeze block building. Astonishingly, this building was being used as a sugar grindery, AND coal bagging and storage within the same space! Imagine the sticky gray floors, decades of icing sugar and coal dust. Only in Oamaru, one may ask. 

We received great advice from an old friend from the  Auckland student  party days of Grafton, in the 1980’s. He owns a construction business, and thanks to his efficiency, a dividing wall with roller door and warm room , faux wood paneling and plumbing  done in ten days! We had no issues, nor intervention from the council and were up and running remarkably swiftly. In time our wee mate Herbert, built from scratch,  a rather large bar out of plywood and mdf, which with the right veneer paint  and stain effects matched our ‘brown cafe’ wall panels. The interior  was very intimate, and had the look and feel of one of those tiny cafes found down a narrow alley or impasse ,  in central Brussels. We constructed large heavy wooden barrel racks and soon filled the whole place up with barrels and only enough room to seat a dozen curious drinkers. 

We employed our chum Herbert as barkeep, ‘till he went off to run the Criterion Hotel with Marise. At a Craftwork / Natural wine paired tasting in Auckland, we met our next employee, Lyss. A  Californian, Lyss brought a new dynamic to Craftwork. She had a depth of knowledge of beer and natural wines and was a gifted salesperson. We were still brewing as much as possible under Lee-Ann’s basement, double batches of 200 liters. They were 12 hour days so rather exhausting. But now we had a tasting room in town and our landlord ‘Sugar Daddy’ on the forklift to stow large batches in giant crates arriving from Wanaka in our warmroom. I still felt we were paying way too much rent and there was no prospect for us to brew on site.  

And then an historic stone warehouse diagonally across the street from us became available for rent…

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