Matt and Gemma Smith were both born and raised in Hawke's Bay and after spending nearly ten years in Auckland city were delighted to return to the Bay to start a family and launch Brave Brewing Co.
From small beginnings, Brave Brewing Co has quickly crafted a loyal following and bagged more than a few national brewing awards! We chatted with Gemma about, well, beer...
What do you think sets Brave Brewing beers apart from the field?
There’s some great beer being made in Hawke’s Bay. It’s really exciting. I think what sets us apart from the field (aside from the fact that Matt is a great brewer) is how we’ve established ourselves as a friendly little neighbourhood brewery, right in the heart of Hastings. Being central is very helpful as we’re so easy for people to get to. Over the last few years there’s been a real swing back towards supporting local, small businesses and you can see how satisfying it is to our customers when they can pop in to our tasting room, enjoy a pint, grab a burger and fill a flagon of beer to take home, fresh from the source.
Our Bottle Rocket EPA and Tigermilk IPA both have a very loyal following now. It’s important to us that we produce good quality, flavourful beer, and that we also market it well too. If Matt is not entirely happy with a product he will continue to tweak it and develop it, until he’s really satisfied. We enjoy spending time at the tasting room and engaging with our regulars about the beer that we are putting out. Their opinions matter to us.
How do you get your inspiration for new brews?
Matt doesn’t get to produce ‘new’ brews as often as he’d like because we’ve always had capacity issues, and when a restaurant or bar goes out of their way to print your beer on their menu you want to be able to supply to them. With the bigger brew house he’s getting a little more experimentation time, and often inspiration for new brews comes from things he has enjoyed drinking himself. Of course we pay attention to different trends that are happening in the craft beer world too, and we also listen to the requests of our biggest fans.
What’s surprised you most throughout this process of establishing your own brewery?
We are really in awe of the support that we have received from our local community. We are nearly four years in and as a small family-run business, it is absolutely exhausting. We work long hours and wear far too many hats, but it’s so easy to let go of all of that when you get to observe a room full of people delighting in each others company, enjoying a pint of your beer. Or when the orders roll in from the good people that stock our beer, or someone goes out of their way to help you, which happens all the time. We are surrounded by the nicest people here in Hastings, and it’s pretty darn heart-warming.
What was the thinking behind the recent brand refresh?
When we first launched our brewery we had very little in the way of a marketing budget. Our friend Dan did the original design work and did such a great job. I think we may have even paid him in beer!
Having recently undergone a large upscale in the brewery, we knew we’d soon be tapping into the wider market in New Zealand and branching out of Hawke’s Bay. We also knew we were going to be adding a 330ml bottle offering. The timing seemed right. The brand refresh was about refining our brand and imagery a little, establishing a core range and giving our most popular offerings a unique identity of their own. We also had a little bit more of a budget this time around, so we were able to enlist the creative talents of our friends Steve and Jill (of Parkby Projects) in the Mount. They captured the essence of our brewery beautifully with their work. We’ve never taken ourselves too seriously. We love the playful aspect of it all, the friendliness that the imagery evokes. It’s still a pretty simple, clean design - just how we like it. It was also really important to us that we kept the bugle imagery in the logo. It’s quite a defining element of our brand. Matt used to play the cornet in the Hastings citizens brass band, and the bugle is also synonymous with bravery.
Why do you think the Hawke’s Bay brewing scene is enjoying such a good run?
Hawke’s Bay was very ready for an uprising in terms of the craft beer scene and with a multitude of good brewers, all well spread out around the place, doing their own thing, it just works. The quality of beer is great, the different venues all offer a unique experience and Hawke’s Bay is such a lovely place to enjoy a beer.
What’s the best food and beer match you’ve ever tasted? Why?
Good question. Beer pairs well with almost anything, but a favourite of mine would have to be a good hot Indian curry with a refreshing pale ale or IPA. You also can’t go wrong with a classic grilled cheese or the buffalo wings done by our friends at Carr’s Kitchen and paired with a Brave beer, down at our tasting room.
And finally, what’s the must-try sip on the Brave taps for Spring?
Keep an eye out for the Brut IPA that we will be releasing soon. Mimicking the qualities of sparkling white wine in a beer, this beer is effervescent, bone-dry, with minimal bitterness and malt character to allow the hoppiness to burst forth. Our ‘Stay Gold’ pairs well with a hot sunny day and fresh new batches of the ever popular ‘Tigermilk IPA’ will be rolling out too.
F.A.W.C! Food and Wine Classic
Brave Brewing are getting amongst Summer F.A.W.C! 2018 with Simple Pleasures - a collaboration with story-teller and sourdough alchemist, Libby Moon of This Table.
The alchemy and fermentation processes implemented in the production of craft beer and sourdough bread, share a symmetry of science, technique and intuition. Enjoy five samples of different sourdough varieties as well as five tastings of different styles of beer from Brave Brewing Co.
Monday 5 November
6.00pm - 8.00pm
$60 - buy tickets here