Change is Brewing
The latest happenings at Mount Brewing Co.
Born-and-bred in Mt Maunganui, Mount Brewing Co’s beers have long been local favourites. Now its pioneering owners are passing on their legacy to the next generation.
Locals take it for granted — being able to swan into The Rising Tide, peruse the menu, and decide which of the 40 Mount Brewing Co Brewery beers they’ll drink that day. But when you consider that Glenn and Virginia Meikle have been producing craft beers since 1996 — long before most of us knew an IPA from a wheat beer (and, let’s face it, before some of their current customers were even born), it’s an impressive local legacy.
However, the MBC founders are now ready to step back for the next generation, putting daughter Briar and partner Niall Harley in charge of the brewery. “Briar has new, young ideas; we believe her ideas can carry it,” says Virginia. Glenn agrees: “We’ve taken it so far, now I think it’s a great opportunity for them to step in and take it to a new level.”
You could say beer is in 23-year-old Briar’s blood, considering her parents got into brewing when
she was a fresh-faced six week old. “I think I’ve done every single job possible here,” Briar says.
More than well-equipped to lead the brewery, she’ll be paying particular attention to the marketing, while Niall will focus on sales and production.
As fate would have it, the couple even met at The Rising Tide. When Briar was home from university one summer, she met Niall behind the bar: a South African-born, Ireland-bred beer lover, who was here on a working holiday with mates. They have since travelled and lived abroad and have recently returned to the Bay eager to put all their big ideas into play.
One of the main plans is to bring the brewery into the spotlight: “A lot of people would know
The Rising Tide before they know Mount Brewing Co Brewery, but we were the first brewery in the area,” says Briar. “I like to say we’ve been brewing craft beer before craft beer was even a thing.”
Build It & They Will Come
Before beer was his thing, Glenn worked for his family’s furniture business in Whakatane. But he
was after his own challenge, so the couple sold their house and invested everything they had.
Initially, it was just Glenn, and his mum Lyn helping with the books. Now there’s 40 staff and it remains a family affair, sans investors. “We’ve always kept reinvesting in our business,” Glenn says.
The family-owned and operated brewery we’ve come to know and love has seen a few iterations,
but roughly four years in, they came across the current site on Newton St, which was part-panel beater, part-plumbing shop. They put the Super Liquor at the front, a bar in the middle, and the brewery in the back.
The Super Liquor remains, what was Brewers Bar rebranded to The Rising Tide in 2016, and
Mount Brewing Co Brewery continues to produce beer. Plus, there’s High Tide at Our Place
Tauranga, and the MBC caravan that heads to events.
All Mount Brewing Co’s product is made on site. In terms of scale, it’s what Glenn would call
a medium-sized brewery with its 1200 litre brewhouse. “This brewery can make up to 400,000 litres
a year; could probably go up to 500,000,” he says.
They pride themselves on their broad offerings. “There are a lot of breweries that bring out
massive beers only certain people will enjoy, but we’re more of a brewery that has beers for everyone,” Niall says. “We have our easy drinking larger, we have a few hoppy beers, a few ciders... something everyone will like,” Briar adds.
There are nine beers in the core range, including crowd favourite Mermaid’s Mirth, along with Saltwater Blonde, Mount Manuka Honey Hussy and Blowhole Pale Ale to name a few. Also, there
are two ciders — the Dark n’ Stormy being a real winner making it onto the Top 30 New World Beer
& Cider Awards. Current seasonals Crazy Hazy Daze and Marg & Rita sour (Briar’s favourite) are about to become part of the core range too.
Because experimenting is a big part of what makes their cold ones stand out, they’ve brought on three new fermenters to lighten the load and enable them to experiment even more. “At the moment, we can’t keep up with demand,” Briar says. “The brewery is constantly running; there’s constantly beers in the fermenters.”
More Rising Tides are in the foreseeable future and, in turn, the brewery will expand with it.
They’re working toward exporting overseas, developing merch and more Mount-centric collaborations, including a mural in the brewery by local street artist Shane Walker.
Then there’s the spirits. Beer is fickle, like milk, whereas spirits allow mass production without the pressure. “Our beer has to go straight into the chiller and has an expiry date because we don’t
add any preservatives,” Briar explains. “With spirits, we can make it, put it somewhere, and it
doesn’t go off. We’re launching our new pink gin cans and we’re going to open a spirits range,
but it’s still early days.
“My biggest goal is to be in the Mount, and Mount Brewing Co beer is everywhere: it’s the beer
that you drink, says Briar. “In Dunedin, Emerson’s is everywhere. I want our beer to represent the Mount as a whole.”
Glenn and Virginia will remain in-house mentors for now, but the plan is to do so from afar.
“Spain-afar,” Virginia laughs.
“Glenn and Virginia have been through thick and thin; they did it all themselves — we’re so lucky
to have them backing us,” says Niall. “And if we do have a problem or something we don’t know,
we have them to go to.”
“As a family, we always had the dream of where we are today,” Briar says. “My parents have worked so hard; they’ve got us to this place.”