Meet the Maker: Emporium Brewing

Owner of Emporium Brewing, Paul Finney has always said that having a brewery was the result of a hobby that spiralled out of control, the brand starting as a contract brewery in Christchurch. 

“We owned a homebrew shop called Finney’s Homebrew Emporium and as any homebrewer will say, the dream is of brewing professionally. So, we started Emporium Brewing and a year later moved to Kaikoura to set up a permanent base,” explained Finney.

The Finney’s moved to Kaikoura in August 2016. The search for a building in which to house their own brewery led them to stumble upon their current site in Kaikoura. Plenty big enough for the brewery, an existing mini golf course, and lots of potential to add other fun attractions, they couldn't resist.

The timing wasn't exactly perfect (opening the doors to the new business just five weeks before the big earthquake) but the couple’s determination to make their dream into reality continues to spur them on.

As a father of two beautiful girls, Hazel (nearly 3) and Annabel (9 weeks), Finney’s morning is spent trying to get them ready for the day. Then, it can be anything from a 12-hour brew day to cooking in the food van, to serving beer and back to cleaning kegs or bottling the newest beers. 

“Oh, and any maintenance that needs doing. Never a dull moment!”

Emporium Brewing focuses on creating highly drinkable beers with lots of variety.

“We are not just focussed on hop forward beers, however, we make a lot of traditional beer styles too.”

Emporium Brewing recently put together a 20-bottle beer pack where all the beers were different, and different styles.  

“I get a lot of inspiration from the European beer styles from where I grew up. I love Belgian style beers and would make more of them if they sold better! A lot of brands, and bars, go for the hoppier styles. We do make them, but if you come to our tap room there is always something different on tap for people to try and experience new styles.”

Styles currently on tap are: Pilsner, Dubbel, Belgian blonde, Saison, Imperial IPA, White IPA, Barrel aged Stout, APA, Bright ale, fresh hop pale ale, and probably something new already by time this comes to print. 

Finney noted that breweries have a bit of an advantage when it comes to incorporating sustainability into the business. 

“We all tend to use kegs which hold 50l at once, they are also reusable. The grain from the brew is always fed to the local goats and cows. At the bar we allow people to reuse their own riggers for takeaways. Our beer labels are mostly made of paper (there are the odd ones that are not) and the backing is also paper.”

Creating something that brings people together is what Finney enjoys most about his job.

“The beers, the site here, the mini golf and escape rooms. All those activities bring joy, and it is very rewarding hearing the laughter.”

When asked what it is people don’t typically know about brewing beer, Finney said he thinks a lot gets made of the hops, but not so much about the grain and certainly not a great deal about the yeast.

“The yeast makes the beer and without it there is no beer. (the saying goes “Brewers make wort, yeast makes beer”) and the variety of yeast is amazing. You could even give two people the same yeast and if they treat it differently, they’ll get different results. The one yeast strain we use here is called Kviek and it comes from the highlands of Norway. Great little yeast that seems to get better the worse you treat it!”

Finney said his experience watching more businesses move to local beer providers has been great, adding that the creativity that the smaller breweries have brought back to beer has made great beer more accessible.

“I would say to anyone, seek out the local breweries. There are many of us around now and most of us are family businesses that will pump any profits back into the community they are situated in. Support these breweries directly if you can too as it makes a difference.”