How a Taranaki Brewery Raised more than $500,000 Through Crowdfunding

Expanding the business was a group effort for this New Plymouth brewery.

Taranaki-based Three Sisters Brewery are certainly on the hop, recently being named ‘Champion Small New Zealand Brewery’ at the 2022 New Zealand Beer Awards, an accolade that comes after a successful crowd-funding initiative.  

“We just brew what we get excited about, and hope the excitement rubs off, and people want to buy our beer,” says Three Sisters founder Joe Emans, who works as an engineer alongside his brewing business. 

7 v3Pictured Above: Three Sisters founder, Joe Emans.

UK-born Joe, along with his German wife Sarah and their three young daughters left England in 2012 and decided to make Aotearoa their home. Joe has always been fascinated with beer and brewing – which perhaps subconsciously stemmed from living next-door to a pub owned by his grandfather in Buckinghamshire, England.

He admits that he had to convince Sarah to pour their life savings into the business of brewing. “To be honest, I still don’t think I’ve convinced her...”, he laughs. 

The day Liquorland Toast caught up with Joe was a busy one. “We’re doing two brews today, finishing one and starting another”, he explained. “It’s a batch process, we’re moving the beer out of a kettle into a fermenter, and then moving the wort from a mash tank to a kettle. We’re simultaneously do these things while keeping the balance, the right speed, the right temperatures…”

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The relatively new location of the Three Sisters Brewery and Brew Pub at the old TSB building in New Plymouth is a critical step forward, and it means they can now produce up to 1200-litres in a day (made up of two 600-litre batches). Prior to this location, the company was essentially a home basement brewery, making 300 litres at a time. 

The move to a larger premises means there’s ample space for brewing and for the popular Brew Bar, but with Three Sisters selling out faster than they could produce, more capital was needed to be able to run a more efficient production.

“We talked to investors as well as coming up with an idea that crowd-funding could work well – it gives gives anyone who pledges the ability to have ownership in our business as well as providing Three Sisters ‘brand ambassadors’ around the country. It made sense, so we gave it a shot.”

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Three Sisters Brewery have done two rounds of crowdfunding through PledgeMe, with the most recent round fetching 180 shareholders and $520,000. The boost in cash (and in confidence) means that they can brew four times more volume and a canning line and chilling facility can be introduced alongside other enhancements to support the growing business.

Joe grew up drinking 'macro' lager, real ale and dabbled in Belgian beer, but it wasn’t until he came to New Zealand in 2012 did he begin to try the American, hoppy styles, which weren’t common in England at that time. "Calling this a job now is kind of a dream”.

While Three Sisters produces many varieties of beer and enjoys collaborating with other brands, Joe is in his happy place drinking and brewing lager. He says there’s a bit of misconception that lager can be easier to make and IPA more difficult, but he disagrees. “Making a good lager is a very difficult thing to do; it’s such a clean beer, any slight fault stands out. There’s absolutely nowhere to hide when making a good lager – and I love the challenge!”