Brewing in the King Country got of to a rough start. Soon after the area’s formation, in 1884 the local Maori population voted to instate prohibition. The King Country becomes New Zealands first ‘dry’ area. Despite the restrictions placed upon the area by alcohol reform ‘Sly-grogging’ continues to be a problem for the King Country lawmakers and enforcers with a number of crafty buggers producing ‘Hop Beer’ throughout the area.
Major raids in 1907 uncover 15 barrels of beer stashed away in the bush near Makatoke and Raurimu. The raids and subsequent fines (Up to a staggering 10 pounds) did not deter local brewers and reports beer and spirits being produced in the King Country continued well into the 1920’s. Prohibition in the King Country finally ended in 1953 but it wasn’t until 60 years later that the first legal brewery was established…
The idea for a craft brewery located in Waitomo Caves village was spawned at the height of a particularly hot summer in 2012, an iconic local building was up for lease and Guy Pilgrim from the Waitomo General Store had a plan… He approached his good friend Bruce Tobeck and together the initial concept for the King Country Brewing Company was formed.
The concept was simple, produce a locally brewed, full flavour range of beers that would appeal to both local farmers needing to quench their thirst after a long days work and tourists after a celebratory pint having survived one of the many adventure caving options offered in the village. A beer that would showcase the rich heritage of the area and enhance the ‘Waitomo Experience’ for all those who visited.
Bruce and Guy did their research, enlisting the help of a few close friends, consulted with master brewer Brian Watson, developed recipes and come October 2013 under the supervision of Brian and newly appointed operations manger Oli Polson installed a 2000L Smartbrew ™ kit in a shed hidden in the hills behind Waitomo Caves village, six weeks later the first beers were poured at the newly minted King Country Brewing Company bar located in the village itself. The rest they say is history…
WHAT’S THE HAT ALL ABOUT?
One of the most common questions we get is “What’s the hat on your logo got to do with the King Country?” The Maori name for the King Country is Rohe pōtae. This name translates as “Area of the Hat”, and is said to have originated when the second Māori KingTāwhiao put his white top hat on a large map of the North Island and declared that all land covered by the hat would be under his mana.
This was later the cause of bitter dispute with the resident tribes, especially Maniapoto, who still considered they had mana(authority) over their own land. The white hat, with a wide black band, was originally owned by Te Heuheu of Tuwharetoa who was asked to be the Māori king. Te Heuheu,of Tuwharetoa,who was the dominant leader in the central North Island, passed the hat to various other chiefs, who all refused the position of king. After long debate, the hat was taken to Te Wherowhero, the great Waikato chief, and placed on his head. He was reluctant to accept the position as he was old but was eventually persuaded by Wiremu Tamihana (the king maker), who was a clever orator, and others to take the hat, which had come to symbolize the Maori monarchy. The hat was a white Bell topper.
Our hat on the other hand comes from another iconic symbol of the area, John and Karem Haddad of Haddads Menswear in Otorohanga, The brothers are legendary in their own right and their custom designed hat is worn extensively by both local farmers and tourists alike. The Haddads have supported local businesses for decades and it is an honour to be able to use their design in our logo.
We believe that the hat pays tribute to the regions formation and with it a certain type of distinctiveness found in the locals and also within our beers.