Dan Hagenaar, Ed Briem and Mike Stringer are behind Nelson’s only dedicated homebrew store which has just opened in Tahunanui. Photo: Charles Anderson.

Brewing a solution to bad beer

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A business analyst and an IT specialist walk into a pub.

That’s how the story starts – 11 years ago. Back then, Mike Stringer and Ed Briem were just friends who liked drinking beer and playing chess. But what they really wanted to do was brew beer together.

Mike started brewing his own as a student, but then he began getting serious about it and holding “how to” sessions at the very first MarchFests.

“I was really excited about doing beer properly,” he says. “I realised that when you talk to people and you say you make homebrew, there is this label on it that makes people think of students brewing in bathtubs. There wasn’t that perception that it could be quality.”

So, he and Ed set out to change that. The League of Brewers was born.

The pair have operated online for some time but only just opened their first dedicated store out of a warehouse on Vivian St in Tahunaui.

“For us it’s about the hobby,” Mike says. “There are people who want to brew for cost but it’s a lot more motivating if it’s about quality, so that is what we focus on – helping people make better beer.”

The pair had been looking for a location for about a year and when the previous tenants, distillers Liquid Alchemy, moved out they knew they had found their place.

The store is now stocked with grains, yeasts, hops, brewing kits and expert advice. They also stock wine making and distilling products. Eventually, they also want to be able to brew and sell their own beer there.

“Every homebrewer dreams of selling their beer commercially,” Ed says.

When they do get set up with all the right paperwork, the League of Brewers will be one of the smallest commercial breweries in the country.

“It’s never going to be about putting bottles on supermarket shelves,” Mike says. “This will be about something local – one keg at a time.”

The pair are focusing on making sure they are growing steadily. They already have a strong community supporting it and have Dan Hagenaar manning the shop during the week.

“Our goal is the same as when we started,” says Ed. “It’s about getting people into brewing. You can be creative and scientific. It’s a great hobby.”

They offer beginners’ courses for those starting out, as well as homebrew competitions for those who are further along their journey.

“We want more people to brew great beer,” Ed says. “It’s about the fun of it.”

Find out more at www.leagueofbrewers.com