Change, and the Rise Of The North

On the subject of facing change, the late-and-very-great David Bowie gave some choice advice: that we should all just turn and face the strange.

Most change is an accepted part of life – an inevitable consequence of Not Being Dead.  Our pubic hair will unfortunately sprout whether we’re ready for it or not; and the people who moulded and shaped us will, one day, suddenly not be there anymore.

Some changes, of course, are made in an entirely voluntary capacity.  Generally speaking, voluntary change is driven by dissatisfaction with the status quo: it’s us saying I’m not happy with these cards, and then doing something about it.  The knowledge that the bulk of our existence is predetermined, coupled with a hearty desire to Take The Power Back, often will cause us to leave a perfectly-safe burrow and crawl into the unknown – ostensibly in search of a better deal.

My position on change has always been immediate reticence.  I’ve spent enough time visiting hospital wards in my three (ish…) decades to know that Life Is Short, And Random – so once you’ve secured a safe and comfortable existence, you really have no business upsetting the balance of things by introducing new variables.  Example: I’m quick to be friendly, but slow to make friends; I love to travel, but the thought of being more than an hour away from home gives me the shits.

However, as I get older (and f*cking greyer: involuntary change is, it turns out, a total dick), I’m slowly learning that acceptance of change is a personality hallmark of all those people whom I admire the most and aspire to emulate.  It’s slowly dawning that being okay with things changing not only opens-up a world of new opportunities, it also acts as an excellent survival mechanism: change really is inevitable, and resistance against it is quite pointless.

I guess I’ve realised that in a fight between Change and Me, it ain’t Change that’s going to be wandering home with a broken jaw and its tail between its legs.

So, in a few short sleeps – too f*cking short at the moment, actually; hence the time to write this rare post – our wee family are uprooting our comfy existence in suburban East Auckland and re-planting ourselves in the sunny northern village of Warkworth.  As first home buyers, it was a choice between a brand-new four-bedroom home on a sun-drenched hill overlooking the township, or a ramshackle tin shed adjacent to a six-lane interchange in Pakuranga:

So not really a choice at all, then.

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Our own change rather conveniently comes at a time when – at least in brewing terms – the North is on the rise.  The most obvious example is 8 Wired Brewing Company – who, after what might be conservatively termed a difficult first year-or-so at their new Warkworth site, are now in full-flight.  After popping-in to see Søren at the brewery the other day, I can comfortably report that the future of 8 Wired is an immensely bright one: with an entire wall of the brewery dedicated to their incredible barrel-aging programme, this team remains at the cutting-edge of New Zealand’s brewing renaissance (if you will excuse the horrible pun).  And my new home is within walking distance of the brewery: which means my first order of business upon relocation is to convince Søren to install a rigger-filling station.

Then we have the continuing ascent of Sawmill Brewery.  In a similarly-insightful move to the one that saw Wellington’s Fork and Brewer take on brewing genius Kelly Ryan, Sawmill management have seen fit to employ young gun Sam Williamson as their own brewery manager.  Sam’s exceptional CV includes formative years at Steam Brewing, and as the highly-praised brewer at Auckland’s original brewpub Galbraith’s – so there can be little doubt that Sawmill’s move was a smart one.

With a brewer of Sam’s calibre on-board, expansion was inevitable and probably necessary – and as such, a new brewery is in the offing (if not near-completion):

But these are just two examples from my own (new) backyard: where once there was tumbleweed, Auckland’s brewing scene is now bulging and rich.  There’s the existing stalwarts, like the aforementioned Galbraith’s and Brown’s Bay’s Deep Creek; there’s the new-and-exciting, like the gleaming Brother’s Brewery on Akiraho Street in Mt Eden (where Beer For A Year’s Alice Galletly is now a key member of the management team); and there’s the uber-smart relocations, like Funk Estate’s new 12-hectolitre brewery in Grey Lynn.

The fact that there are now far too many breweries – both brick-and-mortar and contract-only – located north of the Bombay Hills to list here is a relatively-new (and exceedingly-welcome) problem.  But it’s Auckland’s northern outskirts that interest and excite me the most.

I truly believe that the likes of 8 Wired and Sawmill are just the beginning: the award-winning wineries that litter the Matakana region make this area reminiscent of Nelson and Marlborough, where the brewing and wine industries coexist in such marvelous fashion.  With around a million potential customers within cooee – customers increasingly-prepared to fork out increasing-amounts for good beer – the smart money would surely be placed on further brewery developments in North Auckland.  And the fabulous terroir enjoyed by the Matakana wineries must have a few deep-pocketed souls dreaming of opening-up a new hop-growing region…

In other words, it’s my view that the next Ten-Twenty-Thirty years will see immense brewing growth north of the bridge – fueled by Auckland’s population, affluence, and isthmus shape, which is driving young families (such as ours) either north or south of the city.  Think: Northern California, but without the hippies and software companies.


In the short term, look for the next several Brew Hui Podcast episodes to feature Northern breweries, starting with Søren and the 8 Wired team.  Then Sam, if he’ll have me; I haven’t asked him yet, but hopefully going public with the idea here will guilt him into agreeing…

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More than a year ago – after interviewing Søren for the first time – I quipped that our family would soon be relocating to Warkworth, to ride the new wave of brewing development in the region.  At the time, it was a joke: and yet I now sit typing this post surrounded by boxes and bubble wrap.  It’s clear proof that if you sow a thought, you truly can reap a destiny – and I intend to embrace this particular change with open-arms and a thirsty palate.  Twitter: @jasegurney

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