Not so shy and retiring

Melissa Cole shares a pint with one of her favourite brewers.


Setting up a craft brewery and BBQ joint in what is locally joked about as where Wellington goes to retire can only be considered a bold move, but then so was going from beer buyer to beer maker, as founding partner and head brewer at North End, Kieran Haslett-Moore, did. 

If you’ve never been to New Zealand, it’s hard to explain how truly breathtakingly beautiful it is, and Waikanae (which means ‘waters of the yellow mullet’ in Maori) where North End Brewing is based, is as picturesque a coastal town as you could want. 

But with an older demographic, it may not immediately seem like the place to set up something you’d normally expect to see in a more cosmopolitan setting. However, Kieran and his partners, Todd Cameron and Aaron Wagstaff, had the vision to see that there was huge potential in the area, with improved transport links being planned and lots of unused land for people to build on and a singular vision of what beers they wanted to produce. 

Founded in 2013, North End contract brewed for two years until it was finally ready for its proper home, attached to the Salt & Wood Collective, a truly delicious BBQ restaurant that makes a hung-over brew day a significantly more attractive process, as I found out.

But while it may be fuelled by smokey, meaty goodness, it’s Kieran that is the heartbeat of the brewery. His abiding passion for beer runs in his veins, with Devonian publicans on one side of the family and a London drayman on the other.

Sober beginnings

He has also been immersed in the world of beer since home brewing with fellow Kiwi and beer industry luminary Stu McKinlay of the Yeastie Boys, both of whom are founding members of SOBA, the amusingly-titled NZ beer consumer group. In this way, he moved from professional cheesemonger, to bottle shop chain beer buyer to finally, as he puts it, becoming ‘head janitor, keg washer, and cleaning manager’. 

Never shy of an opinion, Kieran has always been obsessively focused on the consistency of core range; his Amber ale is a firm favourite of mine, and he most certainly isn’t into chasing trends. 

“We don’t do hazy IPA, or pastry stouts or dessert sours, but we do brew beer that takes note of the great brewing traditions from Europe, making the most of the ingredients available to us here in the South Pacific and that results in something unique,” he says.

And when pushed on what it is he likes the most, he grudgingly reveals that “I don’t really have favourite ‘children’ but my taste and passion is for traditional English and Belgian beers. We do a 3.7% bitter called Omahi Street Bitter and a 4.6% Belgian called Table.”

Honest approach

Never one to sit on his laurels, or to fib about the difficulties of getting core beers right, Kieran is very open about the challenges he’s faced along the way. 

“Our gose Become the Ocean is very popular. People love it. But it’s never as good as I would like it to be, so I am constantly trying to improve it. I love Ritterguts and I want it to be like that – very traditional, herbal and drinkable. 

“A year or so back I made some changes which resulted in the beer losing some of its acidity, we started getting kegs returned. It made me smile, as once upon a time kegs would come back if they were sour and now they were coming back because they weren’t sour enough.”

Something I’m sure will also bring a smile to the lips of many a brewer out there too. 

Kieran is a huge nerd, there’s no two ways about it, teaching even this jaded old beer hack a thing or two with his answers to questions, especially when he say: “We are also continuing to invest in oak, we just brought five 500 litre puncheons.” Which left me scratching my head until I found out this is a term for a very large wooden cask, usually used for ageing wine or spirits (every day is a school day as they say).

I don't really have favourite 'children' but my taste and passion is for traditional English and Belgian beers

With an already strong and growing reputation for his beers at home and a small but growing fan base on these shores, the future looks extremely bright for North End. The trio are about to open their third pub restaurant (joining the aforementioned Salt & Wood Collective and another venue called Long Beach Tavern, as well as Olde Beach Bakery), and a passionate drive to put beer front and centre of all they do.

“Beer is in my blood,” Kieran exclaims, “I love its history, I love how it works at the dinner table, or the cheese board. I love pubs, I love how it relaxes people and works as a social lubricant. I love how beer can be accessible and everyday but also how I can drink incredibly rare beers older than me as well.”

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