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Brewing a good story

Masterton historian Mark Pacey (left) enjoys a brew at CBK Masterton, while SUP Brewery’s Mark Harris checks out the new book. PHOTO/ELI HILL

Masterton breweries had a rough start

Eli Hill

The trials, tribulations, and celebrations of Masterton’s brewing history have been set down in a book by Masterton historian Mark Pacey.

At 44 pages long Burridge’s Famous Brewery – A history of the Eagle and other Masterton Breweries tells of the bankruptcies, fires, and prohibition that Masterton’s early brewers faced.

Pacey, who works at Wairarapa Archive, found inspiration for the book after writing an article for the Wairarapa Times-Age in 2017.

“I’m a bit of a bottle collector so I want to know the story behind these things. But once I got into it, it just became more and more interesting.

“I wrote one article and it just got bigger and bigger and bigger, so instead of trimming it I thought I’d just split it down the middle and do two articles and it went from there.”

After a long time spent researching Pacey started writing the book at the start of this year, and was finished by March.

“Then covid-19 came along and because I was printing it overseas it took forever for the proof to get here, and of course there’d be something wrong with the proof and you’d need another proof, then it’d take another eight weeks to get here.

“In the end, after six months of this I thought, I’m just going to get it printed locally, so I went and saw Peter at Printcraft who was really, really helpful and within about a week and a half of seeing him and giving my ideas it was finished.”

The book begins with the first brewery in Masterton, opened on February 3, 1877, it was called Wairarapa Brewery and was started by Greytown brewer Robert Vernon.

Within days it was sold to Wanganui brewer William Lingard who after five months put the brewery on the market.

Lingard later went bankrupt.

It’s next owner, German-born Johann Gottlieb Rockel, seemed to have things under control as the brewery went through a period of growth and recognition.

Ales and stout from the firm, which had its name changed to Waipoua Brewery won top prizes at the Wairarapa A&P Society shows.

Despite his product being well-liked throughout the district Rockel began to face financial difficulty and had to put the brewery, and his properties up for auction.

Despite fair attendance at the auction, ‘there was not a single bid for the valuable properties put up’.

Rockel was declared bankrupt and lived as a boarder for a time before he committed suicide.

Things didn’t get much better for the brewery which was eventually burnt down, allegedly by ‘the careless actions of a homeless swagman’.

Other breweries opened, and found some success – but just as things seemed to be getting going – prohibition came along and the sale of alcohol was banned in the Masterton District.

Luckily for those who loved a local brew the Eagle Brewery got around the ban by brewing in Masterton but selling it’s beer from a depot in Carterton.

There are plenty more stories in the book, which also includes images, articles from the time, and photos of bottles.

Fittingly the latest iteration of Masterton’s brewery scene – the SUP Brewery’s Mark Harris wrote an introduction to the book.

Harris said every town deserves to have something local.

“It creates unique flavours which are then Masterton flavours because we’re using Masterton water. Whereas everywhere else it’s their own unique flavour based on the water they have.”

  • Burridge’s Famous Brewery is available for $20 from Mark Pacey.

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