WellingtonEat & Drink
Four people sharing pints of craft beer and some appetizers at Garage Project Taproom.

Garage Project

Since it began in 2011, Garage Project has produced over 640 different beers. Its initial brews were so small, owners Pete Gillespie, Jos Ruffell, and Ian Gillespie joked about calling it a “nano-brewery” instead of a micro-brewery. Now, the brewery has grown much bigger and distributes to Australia, Norway, Sweden, and America.

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Based in quirky Aro Valley, Garage Project remains proudly in Wellington. Its original site is now much expanded to meet demand but still retains its quirk. You can still see the old petrol station canopy shielding pallets and crates. There you will find the Aro Cellar Door. The bottle shop and tasting room enable you to get freshly crafted beer straight from the source. There are eight rotating beer taps available. You can sit and have a taste and then buy to take home with you.

Garage Project is known for its wild and wonderful beer can labels. The artwork is supplied by an ever-growing list of illustrators and street artists. Co-owner Jos Ruffell said the idea to adorn cans with colourful art came from the brewery’s surroundings. “The old garage had graffiti on it when we moved in. The landlord at the time said we could go wild, so we encouraged street artists to keep adding to the walls.” After befriending the artists, it was logical to make them part of the brand. It also created a point of difference. “The beer scene at the time had a branded house approach — all beer labels within a brand had a similar look about them so our labels stood out,” says Jos. Commissioning is a great way to support artists and now many of the designs feature on posters, t-shirts, and other merchandise at their on-site store.

The exterior of Garage Project Aro Cellar Door, a micro-brewery in Te Aro, Wellington.

Garage Project was established in a former petrol station garage in Aro Valley.

It’s not just artists Garage Project likes to collaborate with — it has a rich history of pairing up with local businesses to create new brews. People’s Coffee is a regular collaborator. A cold extract of specially roasted coffee beans has created several dark chocolaty beers over the years. Speaking of chocolate, local chocolate giant Whittaker’s supplies nibs to Garage Project and several creamy stouts have resulted. There have also been some ‘left field’ collaborations. When the boys discovered The Royal New Zealand Ballet had a beer-themed dance planned, they contacted them. The champagne pilsner ‘Hops on Pointe’ is still available in bars. Resene Paints provided the inspiration for a sour beer based on ‘Scrumptious’ — a hot pink colour available on its colour charts.

“New people mean new opportunities for creativity. We learn something, they learn something, and the public get a great new beer to drink.”

Jos Ruffell, Garage Project

Garage Project’s continued popularity and growth has seen brewing spread to three sites. The big-volume export brews are processed in Napier. The original site in Aro Valley gets the jobs experimenting with traditional fermentation. In central Wellington, the Wild Workshop produces specialist-style beers like lambic and gueuze (fermented using wild Belgium yeasts), along with barrel-aged beers and natural wines.