Rich chats with the founder and head brewer Aidan Styles
Saturday 28 August 2021
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Ones to Watch
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In the heart of the Petone neighbourhood of Wellington, New Zealand, Baylands Brewery started life in 2012, in a double garage under a house, with a 300L Chinese brewing kit and a lot of ambition. Founder and head brewer Aidan Styles had started homebrewing a few years earlier, in the late noughties, inspired by beers from New Zealand craft stalwarts like Epic and Liberty and fell in love to such an extent that he quit a 22-year career in computers, and struck out to pursue his dream.
The first Baylands beer was launched at Goldings Free Dive, a popular freehouse dive bar in Wellington, in May 2013. “After all that work and taking that personal leap, being able to see the place absolutely packed and people enjoying the beer was really a sweet reward for us at the time,” says Aidan. “Thankfully, we’ve discovered you still get that same feeling every time you launch a beer!”
Obviously, Baylands quickly outgrew its basement startup home, and relocated to a 1200L brewery in the heart of vibrant Petone, which has since been upgrade to a 2400L system. “Petone is a hugely vibrant neighbourhood and home to a buzzing food and drink scene, with great bars, cafes, arts and a real multicultural influence,” says Aidan. “What it didn’t have at the time was a brewery. We love it here, and think we bring something special to the neighbourhood too.”
Having been through every step of that start-up journey, Aidan has a few choice pieces of advice for anyone just starting out.
“Having a really solid business plan in place is key, with a clear understanding of what makes you different. In a crowded market, you need to be able to say why people should spend their hard-earned cash on your beers instead of the next brewery’s. Also make sure you’re starting out with a decent amount of money behind you, or that can create all sorts of challenges. And finally it’s always an easier journey if you’re building from a strong, loyal, local market, which is another reason we love Petone.
Having a really solid business plan in place is key
Baylands has a huge range of beers, to which it is constantly adding, with wild names and packaging designs that have become almost as much of a calling card as the liquid itself.
“Coming up with the names and artwork is probably one of the hardest parts of the process; the actual recipe is actually relatively straightforward,” laughs Aidan. “Okay, maybe not. But hitting on a concept that not only ties into the recipe but will also entertain people, that’s a real trick. So we’ve had a lot of beers that we’ve done around extreme sports, then we did a series around the concept of ‘Hop Wars,’ with names like Hop Infiltrator, Hop to Hyperdrive, Defend the Galaxy – that sort of thing. It definitely all comes back to the beer though, of course. We always strive for great drinkability, something that you want to go back and have another one.”
Aidan is not a person to rest on his laurels and is always developing and experimenting with different techniques and new ingredients. Having held on to his original 50L homebrew kit, and the 300L system, there is a good route for each new beer to scale up to full commercial production, if it makes the grade. So does this mean Aidan is still really a homebrewer at heart, albeit one whose more successful experiments end up in bars and bottle shop shelves?
“I probably do a little more spirit stuff these days, when I’m at home,” he says. “So, yeah, making and distilling washes, playing around with a bit of craft gin and rum… it’s a fun way to wind down after all that beer.”
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