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Rise of craft beer in Fiji

Monika Singh
Friday, March 09, 2018

CRAFT beer has carved a niche in most of the countries around the world and Fiji is not far behind.

A definition of craft beer says it is beer made in a traditional or non-mechanised way by a small brewery.

In a report released by the ANZ Bank in New Zealand, ANZ Commercial & Agri general manager central region, John Bennett said craft beer had gone from nascent to niche to almost normal in New Zealand and was now an option in the majority of liquor retail settings.

For as long as we can recall, Fiji Bitter and Fiji Gold have been the most popular choice for consumers in Fiji however a new brewery has opened up a new option for beer lovers.

Kailoma Brewing Co. is just more than one year old and is the producer and distributor of Mokusiga beer.

The producers' explanation of their product says Mokusiga is an unfiltered lager style beer, which they have dubbed the world's first "Pacific Lager", true to the boutique and craft beer movement.

It is a partnership between a mechanical engineer by profession and a farmer from the Coral Coast and was started as a result of their interest in different types of craft beer.

According to the company website, Mokusiga (mo-koo-sing-a) is derived from two separate words in the Fijian language.

"Moku meaning kill and Siga meaning day and used colloquially by locals as an expression for killing time, the word itself embodies the very essence of relaxing in Fiji; by the ocean, salty lips, sandy feet, under a coconut tree, lying in a hammock".

The inspiration for the startup of the brewery came from one of the partners' exposure to different flavours of craft beer during his time at a university in Sydney, where craft beer and micro-breweries were taking off at the time.

Wikipedia describes a microbrewery or craft brewery as a brewery that produces small amounts of beer (or sometimes root beer), typically much smaller than large-scale corporate breweries, and is independently owned.

The dynamic duo felt that they had to help introduce Fiji to the "amazing experience of craft beer".

Kailoma Brewing Co actually started producing and distributing Mokusiga over the past three to four months and so far the feedback has been great with people loving the extra local beer option in Fiji.

According to the brewers, there is no hiding the fact that local beer options are limited in Fiji and to open the only independent and locally owned brewery in Fiji as well as produce Fiji's very own craft beer was just too tempting.

The current production capacity of the brewery is 1000litres per week and is sold throughout Fiji — Suva, Coral Coast, Nadi, and they just took their first order for Taveuni.

More notable locations include the Traps Bar, Onyx, Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort, InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa, Ed's Bar, Malamala Beach Club, and Cloud 9.

Just as any other new business faces teething problems at the beginning so did Kailoma Brewing Co.

According to the company the business of starting a brewery was difficult, but once they found the right people, their assistance was invaluable.

Some of the departments and people that were influential in helping the business take off included the staff members at Namaka Fiji Revenue and Customs Service, Namaka TLTB and Korolevu NFA, to name a few.

Being a infant company and producing a fairly new product can be a daunting experience as far as competition from the already established large scale producers are concerned.

Competition for the product

According to the brewers, there is no doubt that Mokusiga is a minor player in the Fiji beer game (for now).

However, the company has big plans for the business and enjoys the competition.

"What's more, Fiji needs variety and the Kailoma Brewing Co. is here 'to brew and serve'. "Mokusiga Unfiltered Pacific Lager is our flagship, but we have started our research into the flavours and styles which will follow soon enough."

The brewery is located at the Beach House in Korolevu and has four casual staff members who are from the Korolevu area, including Navola and Namatakula Village.

More people from the area are expected to be employed as the brewery expects to triple its current capacity by 2019.

Craft beer has been very popular and has created a niche market in both Australia and New Zealand with statistical analyis from the ANZ Bank in NZ showing that "the combined output of all small breweries grew at 28 per cent and 22 per cent in the 2015 and 2016 calendar years respectively".

The brewers believe that it will be very positive for Fiji if they can harness the same momentum experienced in our closest neighbour countries who form Fiji's largest tourist group.

About Mokusiga

The bolder characteristics of the beer include the sediment you find in the bottom of the bottle. The sediment is the trace leftover of the hops, malt barley, and yeast which form the major flavours of the beer. Unlike mass commercial brands already available in Fiji, the beer is unfiltered to retain these elements and the full flavour. They encourage the bartenders to offer to roll the bottle or gently turn the bottle to mix the sediment prior to serving.

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