Pro Features

Art Deco Beer – combining a quality brew with a local identity

When Hawke’s Bay-based beverage company Parkers decided to add a craft beer to its portfolio, it started with a simple objective.

“Our aim was to produce best-in-class beer,” says Parkers founder Doug Speedy.

“Before we considered the branding, our starting point was that the beer had to be good.”

Doug spent about six months researching pilsners and IPAs – the two varieties Deco City Beer launched late last year.

“It involved a lot of tastings of other people’s beers in the quest to find the right flavour profiles. We wanted the profiles to be quite accessible for a craft beer – and not excessively hoppy – so people who were new to craft would find it approachable as well as appealing to seasoned craft beer drinkers who have reached peak hop,” he says.

“We wanted to appeal to the drinkers of mainstream European lagers, to encourage them to move across to craft beer.”

As he worked on developing what would eventually become Deco City Beer, Doug had been talking to Simon Gilbertson, co-founder of Napier contract brewing facility bStudio.

bStudio, a top-end, multimillion-dollar brewery built using state- of-the-art German equipment, opened last year in the old National Tobacco building, which is depicted on Deco City cans.

One of its founding customers was cult Wellington craft brand Garage Project and since opening, the facility has been busy brewing and packaging beers for a range of clients around the country.

Doug says Parkers initially looked at starting its own brewery but decided it made more sense to use bStudio.

“They’ve got the best equipment and the best staff. On a global scale, they’re the best at what they do.”

bStudio has a canning line and the decision was made to produce beer in cans rather than bottles for quality reasons, Doug says.

“Beer keeps better in cans, it’s as simple as that. There’s no light- strike, no oxygen exposure. On top of that, it chills faster and is lighter to carry.”

With flavour profiles and brewing facilities sorted, Doug turned his mind to branding and says the Deco City Beer name was born.

“It was a no-brainer, really. Those of us involved in the company are from Napier. The beer is brewed in the former National Tobacco building, the most photographed art deco building in New Zealand, if not the world.”

But before the naming decision was made, Doug talked to the Art Deco Trust, and those discussions have blossomed into a strong working relationship, which is a win-win for both organisations, he says.

Deco City has become the official beer of the trust’s annual Napier Art Deco Festival.

The brand is now in about 600 retailers around the country and more than 90 per cent of production is sold outside of Hawke’s Bay.

That makes it a strong promotional tool for attracting visitors to the Bay, as well as an ideal brand to have on hand at the trust’s events.

The beer will expand its presence at next February’s festival with a Deco City tent bar being set up near the Marine Parade waterfront. Doug says he plans to partner with other local brewers to showcase Hawke’s Bay craft beer at the event.

By then the Deco City range will have expanded. Doug says a third variety, a pale ale, will be released in time for Christmas.