Most New Zealanders would be in agreement that we’re a nation that loves to crack open a coldie – and the numbers back it up. Statistics New Zealand figures show that in 2017, 289 million litres of beer was produced – almost three times the amount of wine produced that same year.
But those same Kiwis who are often environmentally conscious might not also know that for every glass of beer produced, about 75 litres of water is required – and clean water at that.
This is the realisation Misfit Brewing Co. founder Brendan Devoy came to when he started brewing beer as a hobby alongside studying business at the University of Auckland in 2014.
“At the time, the craft beer industry was starting to take off, and I would sit in my lecture theatres being taught business principles, and scribbling down how it could all be applied to a brewery,” Devoy says.
“It was actually in one of these marketing lectures where I was introduced to the idea of social enterprise, while we did a case study on Tom’s shoes. Fascinated by this new idea of business for good, I read their founder Blake Mycoskie’s book Start Something That Matters and was hooked.”
Off the back of this, Devoy started tinkering with the idea of a social enterprise brewery. While in a business accelerator called Live The Dream, he studied up on clean water issues and learnt that over five million Pacific Islanders lack access to clean water and sanitisation.
This, alongside the declining water quality of lakes and rivers in New Zealand, became the focus of Misfit Brewing Co.
“As I continued to brew, I noticed the reliance of clean water in the process, and was shocked to see that on average, 75L of water is used to make one glass of beer. Given the importance of clean water in production, it seemed a natural fit to have the funds go towards helping provide clean water to the 845 million people without it,” he says.
Devoy left his corporate job at New Zealand’s largest brewery, Lion, to focus full-time on Misfit in 2018. He started off by contract brewing from Kumeu’s Hallertau Brewery, and Misfit now have three beers in market – a New Zealand IPA, white IPA and a pilsner.
He says they now have kegs scattered across the country, while eight stores are stocking their actual beer bottle products. It’s still very early days, but come 2019, the real building work begins.
“The initial response to the product, and the idea behind the beer has been incredible. I believe it’s rather important to welcome feedback – good or bad – especially as we are still starting out and finding our feet, as we look to refine our processes,” Devoy says.
Devoy with Misfit’s first batch of beer
He says Misfit’s point of difference when compared to its competitors alongside being a tasty product is what the brand stands for, which is more than just beer.
“In New Zealand, we’re a nation of Misfits,” Devoy says. “We sit on the edge of the world, with strange accents, and just do things our own way, yet we punch well above our weight on the world stage. There’s an old Apple marketing campaign that sums it up perfectly – ‘Here’s to the crazy one’s, the misfits, the rebels… because the ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do’. We’re probably crazy to think we can bring about clean water through beer, but we’re giving it a go.”
To do so, Misfit will be supporting charities like Million Metres, which plans to plant one million metres of trees alongside stream and river banks to reduce toxic runoffs so that organisms living in the water can survive and is also looking at teaming up with the likes of Oxfam.
While Misfit is one of an estimated 2500 social enterprises in New Zealand, the sector is still in its infancy. Devoy says the support he received by both Live The Dream and the Akina Foundation was invaluable in terms of navigating this new model.
He says more businesses operating in 2019 should be taking into consideration their environmental and social impact.
“I remember from university having to write an essay on Peter Drucker’s Shareholder Value theory, which states the sole purpose of a business is to make money. I remember taking the opposing view at the time, and I still firmly believe today that while money is clearly a huge driver in business, there’s no excuse for it being at the expense of society and the greater environment.”
As for what’s next, Misfit Brewing Co. plans to double down on distribution across the country and introduce a bottle deposite, swappa-crate style system, as beer bottles can be reused up to 12 times before needing to be recycled.
Devoy says the big, audacious goal for Misfit is to become a leading brand in the populated New Zealand beer market.
“Staggeringly, New Zealanders consume the equivalent of 9L of beer each second, so we want to take some of that volume, and in doing so, contribute $1 million towards clean water restoration projects by 2030,” he says.