Emerson's brewing a successful recipe

Richard Emerson (Dave Goosselink)
Richard Emerson (Dave Goosselink)

Dunedin craft brewer Emerson's has opened the doors on its new $25 million brewery, after two-and-a-half years of work.

The new brick-clad building on Anzac Ave features a bar and restaurant alongside the large working brewery and smaller workshop operation.

Founder Richard Emerson says the little company has come a long way over the years.

"It's been a fantastic 24 years -- almost 25 year journey," he says. "The people of Dunedin have been very supportive along the way.  This is our fourth brewery and will be our permanent one."

He says the new building pays some respect to Dunedin's industrial heritage, and a tribute to his father George Emerson who was one of the founders of the Taieri Gorge Railway.

The new Emerson's Brewery building (Dave Goosselink)

"We've got an abstract railway track down here.  We've used the steel, we've got wooden railway sleepers in the booths, and the shape of the roof reflects the old Dunedin locomotive depot."

The deaf brewer set up his first operation in 1993 in Grange St, producing the London Porter variety as his first brew.

But his market quickly expanded outside Dunedin, and the latest move has been forced by continued growth in demand for Emerson's range.

Mr Emerson still runs the show at the brewery, although he sold the company along with other shareholders to brewing giant Lion NZ in 2012.

At the time there was concern from some craft beer fans that the brand would be watered down, and that production may have been quickly moved to Lion's nearby Speight's site.

Mr Emerson says none of that has happened, with the large company being very supportive of Emerson's independence.

"They've been a fantastic partner for us in being able to get this large project happening," he says.

"Now we have a wonderful new spiritual home for our beer."

The first Emerson's Brewery in Grange St (Supplied)

Lion's links have helped put the brand into more bars and restaurants across the country, with Australia next on the list.

All of Emerson's ranges of beers are still produced onsite, with the new plant able to fill both 500ml and smaller 330ml bottles, and plans for a beer canning line next year.

The new operation can brew four times a day, and will initially produce 1.5 million litres of beer a year, with the capacity to expand up to eight million litres a year.