NWBCA Top 30 – Sawmill Brewery

Sawmill Brewery

Sawmill Brewery was established in 2004 by the Freckleton family who rented a shed from the owners of the Leigh Sawmill Café. Mike Sutherland and Kirsty McKay bought the brewery in 2010 and relocated a few years later to a new site just out of Matakana.

The brew team is made up of talented individuals, Sam Williamson, Paul Carson, Masashi Yoshida and Junior Parata.

The brand is all about independence and resourcefulness.

“We have always been willing to break new ground, do things differently and believe we can serve our customers best by thinking for ourselves,” said Mike Sutherland.

“So, the style of beer we have made and the way we have delivered it have always been quite different. This is what independence really means for us – thinking for yourself.”

Last year a fire ripped through the brewery and tasting room, forcing it to close, and now post-Covid the adaptability of the team really is a stand-out. “This is what makes Sawmill such a great business, the tenacity, creativity and intelligence of our crew.” Sutherland believes that communication is critical to affecting any strategy. “So, we kept that up with our sales team daily and with our whole team weekly. During lockdown we got all our stock up online and partnered with some really dynamic online platforms like The Market and Container Door to reach a wider audience.”

The brand also won the inaugural Brewers Guild Sustainability Award which was open to anyone in the industry, not just breweries, something that the team is very proud of achieving.

“For the last 12 months, we have released a monthly beer in our Homegrown series – the first beer series in New Zealand to champion New Zealand farmers and growers and their role in our industry. Until now this has been a monthly keg-only release but later this year, this will be a packaged 440ml can release which we are really excited about. It’s also a chance to tell the stories of the outstanding New Zealand businesses that support the industry. Look out for the Sawmill Homegrown IPA series.

“We think customers want really drinkable beer and are now less interested in gimmicky ingredients. They are increasingly aware of making sure their beer is fresh and has been stored correctly for the best taste.”

The team at Sawmill work hard to brew balanced beer and know its customers appreciate this.

“We believe there is huge pride in what happens here in New Zealand and we aren’t looking overseas for something better.”