Colin and Leanne Cutler, the pair behind Hokitika's Woodstock Hotel and Brewing Company, have immersed themselves in the untamed beauty of the West Coast for over a decade. Hailing from England and the North Island, respectively.
"I came to the West Coast to see the Wild Food Festival, and I loved it. The West Coast was wild, untouched, rugged, with good fishing, good hunting, and amazing scenery," says Colin. "So I came across, opened a little restaurant here serving wild food and never really looked back, never thought of going anywhere else as Hokitika is always, you know, the place of return. And it's always good once you've been away, even if it's just a trip to Christchurch to drive back in, and you get back to Hokitika and you know you're home," he adds.
Leanne, a West Coast resident since childhood, found comfort in the tight-knit farming community and the necessity for resilience in facing challenges. "That's part of what makes the West Coast what it is – people having to think outside the square, do for yourself. And when things go wrong, you just sort of get on with it because you have to," she says.
Leanne and Colin have been running the Woodstock Hotel since 2006, originally starting by helping the previous owners. Over the years, the pair have ventured into brewing their own beer and are continuing to grow this venture. "It’s not just a food place. It's not just a bar. It's not just, well, now a brewery. The people make it special; there’s a whole really different range of local people," says Leanne.
Woodstock's evolution into brewing was an unexpected twist in their narrative. Colin, having brewed in England before moving to New Zealand, rediscovered his passion during the British and Irish Lions tour. “I was trying to get some Emerson's Porter, and Lion brewers, who are the owners of Emerson's brewery, said, yes, you can have it. But unfortunately, they sent it all to the main centers, and I couldn't get any,” said Colin. "So I re-established my brewing credentials and started brewing beer again. People liked it, and it's gone from strength to strength," he shares.
As they expanded Woodstock's presence with additional locations in Greymouth and Christchurch, the couple also delved into canning and bottling, marking a significant step in their brewing journey. "It's just another step up," notes Leanne, emphasizing the continuous growth of their enterprise.
“We've just put beers on down at the treetop walkway. There are taps going in there and at the Blackball Workingmen's Club too. So we’re extending all the time, and it shouldn't be long before you get it in the bottle shops. So the brewing side's very exciting. We're enthused with it, and it's something we really enjoy,” Colin adds.
“We love the West Coast, the scenery, just the people; I mean, they're all friendly. The people are just amazing here,” Colin speaks of their love for living on the West Coast.
“There's space to think on the West Coast. So it's great for people who are looking for work-life balance… you're working in one of the most beautiful places in the world. And if you want to go and see the most pristine lake or you want to go camping out on the beach or you want to go and do a mountain hike, everything is within you, you know, literally within a half-hour's drive. And you know, if you want to just sit and ponder or whatever else, you’ve got space to do that. Which in a city is very difficult,” Leanne adds.
“If you're looking for outdoors, this is the place to be. I mean, you've got the beaches, you've got the rivers, you've got the mountains, and it's within, you know, 3 hours' drive of a main center. So if you're looking to go overseas again, you can travel easily. It's not too far from Christchurch. You've got the scenery and it's easy. It's great for the kids. We brought up five children here on the coast and we can have an afternoon where we've got a couple of hours and we can whip them down the lake. You can take them fishing, you can take them for a hike or a walk, there's so much to do outside,” Colin finishes.