In the heart of wine country on SH50 west of Hastings, Godfrey Quemeneur and Rachel Downes have established GodsOwn Brewery – a rural haven where craft beer enthusiasts can sample product brewed on-site.
The couple bought their 6.5ha property at Maraekakaho in 2010, embarking on a project to establish an environmentally sustainable brewing and hospitality business complete with a hops farm.
Rachel, a kiwi, and Godfrey, who grew up in South Africa, met in England where they discovered they shared a dream of developing some land that “brought people together”.
Godfrey, whose work as a chemical engineer has taken him to several countries, first dabbled in home brew while he and Rachel were living in Nigeria. He and a mate later built a small brewing system he designed in the carport of the couple’s home in Perth.
It was while in Western Australia that the couple observed the concept of breweries establishing themselves as visitor destinations within a wine region, a business idea they pursued when they resettled in New Zealand.
The search that led them to their Maraekakaho property involved a tour of the country in a 1973 caravan.
“We had a few boxes that we needed to tick. We wanted land because we wanted to be more of a destination [business] and we wanted to grow hops and we wanted to have a lifestyle for ourselves as well – we’d always planned to live on the site,” Rachel explains.
“We also wanted to be on a highway. We needed a good water supply, we needed a liveable house and some flat land. This property just ticked a lot of boxes for us. We knew it as soon as we walked in.”
The GodsOwn brand became a reality after a brewery was installed in a shed on the property in 2014 and the couple opened their cellar door (based out of the same 1973 caravan that brought them to the Bay) the following year.
They were fully licensed and operational by January last year and say they have been pleasantly surprised with how the business has grown over the past year.
“A lot of people said to us, you’re too far out of town, it’s not going to work,” Rachel admits, “but we thought, we’ve seen this work before so we were pretty optimistic from the beginning.”
GodsOwn Brewery is not bottling its beers and while it sells kegs to a few pubs – including Havelock North’s Rose & Shamrock – Godfrey says drawing visitors to the site to enjoy a brew and the food menu is the key focus.
“Our plan was to try and keep everything on-site as much as possible, we’re not looking too much at the distribution side,” says Rachel.
“It’s something we’ll look at in the future but at the moment we’re just trying to create a destination here and make it something you have to come and find.”