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Martin Bennett is committed to keeping it local at The Laboratory Restaurant and Brewery in Lincoln. The craft beers are made using local ingredients where possible and are served onsite, using minimal transport and packaging.
When he arrived in Canterbury from England, Martin was ready for something new. He started looking at brewing cask-conditioned beers, which are common in England. His first brewing venture was the Twisted Hop in Christchurch. ”It was really a steep learning process and then over the years I’ve employed brewers who have got lots of experience.”
Martin bought a lifestyle block near Lincoln in 2004. He wanted to establish a bar in Selwyn, close to where his chi
ldren go to school. “The whole district was growing. I knew there were enough people to make it worth the investment of opening a bar and brewery,” Martin said.
The name, The Laboratory, reflects their philosophy of experimenting with new flavours. While they have a stable of a few favourites, every few brews produces a different beer. Martin has a background in science and the beers often have scientific names. Examples are a hazy IPA called Nebula, and another named White Dwarf. “The idea is to keep the customers interested by having new beers come out all the time,” Martin said.
Head brewer, Nigel, said using local ingredients is also a priority. The beer is made with Selwyn water from the bore hole right outside and Gladfield Malt from nearby Dunsandel. Where possible they use New Zealand hops, and they’re focused on reducing their environmental impact.
“The brewing by-product is a whole lot of grain, which has had most of the sugars rinsed out of it. That gets picked up by a local farmer and is fed back to the livestock - pigs and cattle. Even the bags that we get our malt in are re-used: some people fill them with horse manure or use them to fill with pinecones. Our brewery produces very little waste,” Nigel said.
Martin is happy with the small and environmentally-friendly scale of the business. “We brew the beer here and serve it in the pub. I don’t want to get into bottling beer. I don’t have aspirations to grow the business country-wide. I’ll just keep it small and local and I think that’s the way things are going to be in the future.”