There's a familiar story being told across Wellington, from suburban bars to the fringe of Upper Hutt.
Friends connect over a love for beer. One develops a dab hand at brewing a strong drop of ale. Jobs are abandoned, fermentation tanks are bought, and another brewery is launched.
Waitoa Social Club in Hataitai fits the mould. General manager Mark Davey, 31, opened the suburban brewery bar in 2017 with three friends he knows through playing in brass bands.
The row of fermentation tanks in the small bar can brew 500 litres of beer, far less than that brewed at the likes of Garage Project, Tuatara and Panhead. Davey is unashamed, they are small and local by design.
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"We don't have any intention of selling to Auckland. It's Hataitai beer for Hataitai people, basically.
"When someone that advertises themselves as craft, a few friends doing it, and then they brew like 25 million litres a year, you've got to ask yourself how hands-on is their product?"
The craft beer business is frothing. The number of breweries doubled in Wellington between 2015 to 2018, with nine in the city becoming 18, and 15 in the region becoming 30.
Fortune Favours, Whistling Sisters and Heyday, all opened within a kilometre of each other in the CBD. A hub of three breweries, called Brewtown, congregated in Upper Hutt. The industry grew from 90 to 230 employees.
Davey says it only makes sense to sell beer by the glass, and the market is working this out. On a pint you can place a 30 per cent mark-up, compared to 10 per cent for a keg.
Hence the expansion plan, another Waitoa on Victoria St in the CBD. It's a proposition that Davey is confident will come off, because of the second reason for the burst in brew-bars.
New Zealand's consumption of beer rose to 293 million litres in 2018, bouncing back from a fractional decline of 1.2 per cent the year before.
And less favoured are lower alcohol content beers, which fell 13.3 per cent in 2018. Beers above 5 per cent alcohol content, generally a signifier of craft, rose 21 per cent to 35 million litres.
"The market is still growing, and it will continue to grow. I think the craft beer market is really saavy."
ParrotDog believes it has reached a suburban sweet spot. Founder Matt Stevens started the bar in 2011 with two friends also called Matt and they've since ridden the wave.
In 2016, ParrotDog moved from a small warehouse on Vivian St to their 1000 square-metre warehouse, retail shop and vintage-themed bar in Lyall Bay. The company is now backed by 1180 shareholders to the tune of $3m, and is sending more than a container of beer overseas each month.
Stevens says companies in the craft beer market are going to go one of two ways: niche breweries who sell local and remove freight and distribution costs, or large scale enterprises.
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Between the two is "really scary middle ground", where a brewery won't reach production capacity to sustainably put out a $20 six-pack - something of a magic number.
Because of this, Stevens says the "absolute torrent" won't reach their level of manufacturing scale and won't last.
"There are some pretty thin margins going on, as more and more breweries come in. And I guess you just need that production ability to continue to play the game."
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