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Christchurch beer festival raring to go, despite initial struggle to source carbon dioxide

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Last year it was canned due to Covid-19, this year there is a carbon dioxide shortage, but the Great Kiwi Beer Festival is going ahead in Christchurch this weekend.
Photo: 123RF

More than 40 brewers from across the country will descend on Christchurch’s Hagley Park this weekend, for the annual Great Kiwi Beer Festival.

From 10,000 to 12,000 people are expected through the gates to sample around 300 beers.

But amid a carbon dioxide shortage, needed to push liquid through pipes and give a brew fizz, some stall-holders had to call on locals for help.

Epic Brewing in Auckland said it had been a stressful few weeks trying to confirm a carbon dioxide supply for the festival.

Operations manager Ellie Tocker said because it was a dangerous product, their existing stocks were not able to be shipped.

“Sourcing it down in Christchurch was our next challenge. I had four orders on the go with different portals… so I had one directly with BOC [an industrial gas company], I had one directly with the event organisers and I had another one with two breweries down there,” she said.

Ōtautahi’s Beer Baroness Brewery manager Andi Hickey said the pinch of the shortage was being felt this month.

“We put in [an order of] our normal month’s supply [of carbon dioxide] and we got a quarter of it,” she said.

“They’ve now got us on weekly rations so we’re just getting drip fed our monthly order. If we do use more some weeks, then things might get a bit tight but our local rep assures us they should still be able to keep drip feeding us smaller quantities.”

There was a price hike to go with the shortage too, Hickey said.

“Our gas price down here in Christchurch has increased over 120 percent in the last eight weeks and I know some of our friends up in the North Island have had their prices increase by as much as 300 percent.”

This was before record tax and material costs, she said.

But the brewery was pleased to help source carbon dioxide for visitors, despite their own tough circumstances.

“Breweries around New Zealand, we’re all mates, we don’t really see each other as competitors and we definitely do try and help each other out,” Hickey said.

“The organisers of the Great Kiwi Beer Festival, they’d put out an email to all the local Christchurch breweries saying ‘hey there’s sort of a dozen breweries that are having trouble sourcing gas, who’s got some they can lend?'”

Tocker said Epic got confirmation of gas supplies last Thursday afternoon and their beer was sent down the following morning.

“If we didn’t have any CO2 we were just going to send canned stock – that was our back up plan, which is more expensive for us,” she said.

“Luckily one of our four orders came through and we were able to get the gas we needed just in time.”

Festival director Callam Mitchell said not long ago, it was looking like a bit of a disaster.

“Well at one stage about a week and a half ago, it looked like ten breweries were struggling but we’ve managed to secure enough CO2 for everyone,” he confirmed.

The festival was looking forward to being back after it was canned just six days from opening last year, due to Covid-19 restrictions, Mitchell said.

“The site’s looking fantastic, the weather’s looking really good for Saturday. We’ve got a heat wave coming through Christchurch sort of over the next week but it looks like the only reprieve from that will be Saturday.”

“Twenty-three degrees with a bit of cloud cover, which is ideal,” he said.

The site was already buzzing and brewers were looking forward to greeting fellow beer enthusiasts when the gates opened tomorrow morning, Mitchell said.

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