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"When I started Emerson’s Brewery in 1992, I wanted to prove that we could make world-class beers right here in Dunedin. That vision has been well and truly recognised. And thanks to our partners at Lion, we now have an amazing new building to serve as a fitting new spiritual home; a place where all our Emerson’s fans can come and see, taste, smell and enjoy all our great beers."

Richard Emerson
Emerson’s Brewery

On June 21st I attended the opening of the new $25 million Emerson’s Brewery in Dunedin. The location next to Forsyth Barr Stadium is perfect, the architecture stunning and the Haggis bites were surprisingly tasty.

The good news for Emerson’s fans is that the new facility will also dramatically increase the brewery’s production capacity. Emerson’s Brewery at Wickliffe Rd produced approximately 1 million litres of beer a year. At the new Anzac Avenue site annual production will immediately increase to 2.5 million litres with the potential to grow to 8 million litres a year.

For consumers that means more bars and restaurants serving Bookbinder, 1812 IPA, London Porter and a range of Emerson’s seasonal releases. I’ve been an Emerson’s fan for a while but it wasn’t till I attended the opening of the new brewery that I really appreciated the remarkable story of the man behind the beer.


The story of a man born profoundly deaf who learnt how to brew beer in his Mum’s kitchen sink and then spent 25 years turning his brewing dream into reality.

It was fitting that Richard’s Mum Ingrid officially opened the Anzac Avenue Brewery because it was Ingrid who taught her son to lip read and eventually to talk. Even more importantly Richard’s parents Ingrid and George instilled in their son a belief that his hearing difficulties would not stop him achieving his potential. That potential took shape when the family spent a year living in Edinburgh. While in Scotland Richard fell in love with British beer and came home to Dunedin determined to brew his own.

Thanks to financial help from family and friends the first Emerson’s brewery opened at 4 Grange Street in October 1992. It didn’t take long for Richard’s dream of producing world-class beers to become a reality. In January 1993 Emerson’s signature London Porter rolled off the production line and since then Emerson’s fans have been seeing, tasting, smelling and enjoying Richard’s creations.

"“We’ve come a long way since 1992 . . . at least 500 metres.”
Invitation to the opening of the new Emerson’s Brewery"

Since its inception Emerson’s biggest problem has been how to produce enough beer to meet consumer demand. The new Anzac Avenue location is Emerson’s fourth physical home as the brewery has grown exponentially to match its customer base.

The most controversial part of this growth curve was in 2012 when Richard Emerson sold his brewery to Lion. The public and media reaction ranged from panic, to hostility, to a sense of mourning.

In the past four year’s consumer’s worst fears have evaporated as Emerson’s continues to produce distinct quality brews. Today Emerson’s has a new state of the art facility and the ability to produce more beer for more customers. Richard freely admits this would never have happened without Lion’s support.

On the 1st of July Panhead Ales also joined the Lion stable. Like Emerson’s before them Panhead needed major investment to meet customer demand. Investment the local bank manager is unlikely to sign off on. Panhead and Lion will follow the same successful model employed at Emerson’s with former owner Mike Neilson and his team continuing to brew the beer in Upper Hutt.

It was great to see a far more measured reaction from the public and media when the Panhead sale was announced in late May. Yes, there was plenty of angst and criticism but there was also a lot of support on social media forums like the beer blog.

"nothing to see here a straight up success story, well done boys! Wellington is proud of you."

"As long as Lion stick to scaling production & distribution, and let Mike and co handle brewing and branding this is a win all round”

"I had an Emerson’s recently and it tasted just like it did before Lion bought them so I’m sure Panhead will continue to make great beer.”

That of course is the real test for Panhead and Emerson’s – to continue to make great beer. After sampling most of the Emerson’s range on tap at the new Anzac Avenue Brewery in Dunedin I can happily report Richard and his team are not only passing this test they remain near the top of the brewing class.