Tales from the Trail
Tales of Bush & Beer With Shortjaw Brewery

Words: Luke Robertson – Shortjaw Brewery

My memories of growing up in Westport are filled with the outdoors. Swimming in tide-pools and oceans, surfing, riding bikes through the bush, floating down the Buller River, and jumping off things we probably shouldn’t have jumped off.

However these things were always a bit (a lot) “do it yourself.” Unless you knew the trail leading to the spot in the river where you could swim out to that one log, you would never find the best swimming spot in town. Forget about riding bikes through peaceful farms and native bush. Where would you even begin to find that as a casual tourist?

The Kawatiri Coastal Trail is a perfect example of how the region taps into these experiences. It was a key driver for me in moving back to Westport.

Photo: Shortjaw’s Luke Robertson, and partner Emma Bemrose 

Of course, buying the brewery was the biggest reason to move home, but knowing we could enjoy a more outdoor lifestyle was a huge part. Now I use the trail regularly to ride into work. After two years of COVID lockdowns in Melbourne, and 15 years relying on crowded trams and trains to get to work, being able to ride almost entirely on an off-road trail, along the coast, over streams and the Buller River, is an absolute joy.

I’m trying to learn more about the trees and plants along the way. Keeping an eye out for the blooms of basket fungus just past Carter’s Beach, and stopping at the bridges to watch the birdlife. It’s a lot more fun than breathing stale air on busy public transport and avoiding eye contact with strangers.

Photo: (Pūwaha Section) – The Martins Creek suspension bridge offers elevated views of the wetlands and wildlife

Shortjaw Brewing has always had community engagement as a core tenant of its business plan. It is also something we thought had been lost with previous brewery owners. In recent years there’s been a lot of take from the people of Westport, but not a lot of give.

Now when the opportunity comes to work with community groups we are immediately in. The first step, with the Trail, has been our Trail Hopper beer. It’s a version of our Pilsner with a special label that highlights the trail and each sale gives a small donation to the trail. It’s a great conversation starter in the brewery and hopefully a great marketing tool. Already there are plans in place to extend our relationship, so watch this space. We can’t wait to do something exciting.

Photo: Shortjaw’s Trail Hopper Pilsner 

It’s not limited to the trail either. We sponsored the Old Ghost Road Ultra Marathon, with beers for the competitors, and we will be supporting the Okarito Gorse Busters this year, in their inland waterway clearing efforts.

All of these small things make up our community, and help our region stand out. We don’t limit ourselves to outdoor activities: we’ve done a fundraiser for local artist Lance Kerr, and recently donated beer to the Karamea Cheese Night, and vouchers and prizes to a growing number of raffles and fundraisers.

For us, it’s just being part of a wider network of groups and people. We see nothing but positive value, especially in small towns and regions, of making sure we are all connected. The trail couldn’t be a better, and more literal, example.

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