Greg Croke, managing director of Ellerslie Hop says his world changed completely on Friday 6 April, when a major fire destroyed buildings, equipment and much of the 2018 hop crop.
But he remains positive, buoyed by the support from the wider brewing industry, and intends to rebuild within the year. No one was injured in the fire, for which he extremely grateful. The sheds can and will be rebuilt.
“Friday is day one for us,” he explains. “That’s the mantra we’re working to now. We have 330 days to rebuild. It’s been extremely humbling the support we’ve received from all our colleagues in Australia and internationally, from craft brewers all the way to the huge commercial breweries. That’s why we work in the best industry in the world. I can’t express it in words, it’s mindblowing.”
The sales team at Ellerslie worked over the weekend, pulling together hops from wherever they could in order to continue to supply what Croke calls “the brewing fraternity”.
“I can’t stress highly enough the praise that I have for my team here. They’re second to none. They’ve been in contact with the bulk of their customers. It’s high on our priority list to make sure we don’t let anyone down. A lot of people have said to me that I seem to be a glass half full kind of person. You have to be in times like these. There are lots of families and employees dependent on us.”
Croke believes that he owes it to the industry to rebuild – Ellerslie has been servicing the brewing industry for 85 years, and he intends to continue doing so for the next 85 years as well. The company has already engaged engineers and architects for the build, which is expected to cost around $10m. Croke is already looking to the future and the rebuilding of the estate.
“We’ll be back,” he says. “People ask if we were thinking of walking away. You can’t away from 85 years or the support we’ve been given. People have put a lot of faith in us over the years and as a result of this and the support we’ve been offered, I think we’re a little bit indebted. We’ve got a major project ahead.
“We are already working our way through designs,” he adds. “We’re getting full support to help fast track our building permits and everything else that goes with us on this journey. These are the cards we’ve been dealt, so let’s reshuffle the deck and get to work. I’m not looking for money. We’re a business and it’s our responsibility. All I’m asking is for people to buy our malt, our hops and our yeast to help our cashflow!
“You want to be around in 12 months when we have the grand opening. That will be a party the day we cut the ribbon. I know a lot of breweries who want to make collaborative and celebration beers. Oh yes, it’s going to be a party.”