Luke Nicholas – General Manager and 1st Generation Flying Brewer, Epic Brewing Company

“On returning to New Zealand in ’96 I came back and my home-brewing hobby had become a bit of an obsession. I came back and discovered that there was a little brewery that had opened up. I went and asked them for a job and they said no – they actually said no every weekend for a whole year until they employed me. But over that time, I started investigating where were the other breweries around New Zealand. At the time, people thought there was only about 10 or 12, but because there was no network or communication or industry body which we have today, I actually started building a website back in ’96 which was unheard of. People didn’t even know what the Internet was so I guess I was way too far ahead of the curve. But I built this website called the ‘New Zealand Brewers’ Network’ which you could go and look at on So I built that up over a number of years and we found that there were 60 odd breweries in New Zealand. Once I’d find a new brewery, I’d ring them up and say, “Who do you know in your local area?” and I was connecting the network together but then putting it online with their contact information, phone numbers, any other information I could gather for people to have a look at. New technologies came along like animated gifs so I was able to make that page look more interesting and exciting and have the ‘Under Construction’ logo there too. Basically I’ve grown up with the beer community and the Internet as it’s grown and as each tool has come along for the Internet, I’ve tried to build something for the community. From there, the website grew a bit. Then in ’98 I got an offer from which was a San Francisco-based company to merge with them so I left brewing – which was a bit unfortunate as I’d just won Supreme Champion of Beer of New Zealand in ’99 – and then three months later I said, “Thanks very much, I’m going to join the Internet”. So I became their Australasian Business Development Manager but, at that stage, it was still early days in New Zealand and I was trying to sell websites to breweries that didn’t even know what email was so trying to sell a website to them was a big challenge. As time went on, we built an e-commerce site, started selling beer online... and then we had the NASDQ crash. Prior to that, the company was just about to go IPO in the States so I was an Internet millionaire on paper, but very quickly I was unemployed. They are a Californian-based company, they had an office in London which my brother (who started in email, got into media design, focused on the Internet) ended up working for them but based in London. So NASDAQ crashed and they said, “We’re only keeping our Californian office. Everyone in Canada, Germany, London and me and another part-time guy in Australasia... you’re on your own”. So, needing more income, I got back into brewing, brewing under contract but still building up a website...”



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