Martin Bennett and Stephen Hardman arrived in New Zealand from England with their families in February of 2003, on separate planes and unaware that they had the same dream of bringing cask conditioned beer to New Zealand.
They were both disappointed with the bland, sweet, cold and fizzy offerings found in most pubs and bars of Christchurch. Through networking in the brewing industry, they were brought together and a plan was hatched. Together they decided to set up a brewery and bar of their own, to brew beers that are full of flavour and served in the traditional manner, just as beer has been produced in England for many hundreds of years.
And so The Twisted Hop Real Ale Brewpub was born.
A six month renovation and refit of an old warehouse at 6 Poplar Street led to an exciting opening night on 26 August 2004. The building had been earthquake strengthened and fire rated before Martin and Stephen carried out much of the refitting work themselves. The 100yr old concrete floor was ground down and the bar area furnished using native timbers. The 600litre brewery (viewed through huge glass panels behind the bar) wa built in Invercargill by John Timpany, a brewer himself, who spent many weeks teaching Martin and Stephen how to brew great real ale.
Several busy and happy years followed. The Twisted Hop grew and other bars were attracted to the previously overlooked lanes area tucked in between High St and Lichfield St. By 2011 Poplar Lanes had come of age attracting customers looking for something a little bit different, hosting various festivals in the newly cobbled, largely pedestrianised lanes. We all looked forward to being a popular stop on the extended tram route just in time for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
The Christchurch earthquake in February 2011 hit the lanes area hard. Mercifully no lives were lost, but those iconic old brick buildings took a hammering and have pretty much all since been demolished. The Twisted Hop needed to be re-invented and born again.
The months of uncertainty following the quake were used wisely by the 4 directors of The Twisted Hop. In the aftermath of disaster, they saw a unique opportunity no one could have predicted. The opportunity to start all over again. To step back from the busy pub operation, the demands of 25 staff, the tight brewing schedule and rekindle the dream – a wee bit older and a whole lot wiser. What a gift! Together the Bennetts and Hardmans worked out a way forward.
In December 2011, an industrial unit was leased on Parkhouse Road, Wigram and the brewery was salvaged from Poplar Lane to be reestablished there. Twisted Hop devotees relished early brews in a resurgence of ‘free houses’ and craft beer bars popping up in Christchurch. Old Poplar Lane regulars came to the Brewery Shop to fill riggers fresh from the barrel and reconnect with their favourite ales.
Clare and Stephen Hardman identified a potential new site for The Twisted Hop Pub in Woolston Village in April 2011. The build and fit-out took many months and incorporated old timber from demolished buildings and furniture salvaged from Poplar Lane. The new pub opened in October 2012 – The Twisted Hop was back!
Meanwhile a new 1800 litre brewery had been designed by Martin and manufactured in Christchurch by Falcon Hammersley. It was installed at Parkhouse Road and commissioned in July 2012.
The old Poplar Lane brewhouse is now in storage waiting to take centre stage in an exciting new brewery/bar/restaurant called The Laboratory that Lisa and Martin Bennett are building right now in Lincoln, 20 minutes south west of Christchurch
And so the story goes on………….
Lisa, Martin, Clare and Stephen at The Twisted Hop Woolston
See below for a pictorial diary of the Poplar Lanes project from start to opening night: