Featured Image for CBD bar brings life into inner-city Christchurch, New Zealand

CBD bar brings life into inner-city Christchurch, New Zealand

Like many, up and coming boutique brewery Cassels and Sons was hit hard by the earthquakes that rocked Christchurch in 2011. But it didn’t stop them opening CBD, a vibrant establishment that breathes life into the inner city.

Born out of a passion for quality craft beer spanning over two decades, Cassels and Sons – a three-man operation involving Zak Cassels, his father Alasdair and brother-in-law Joe Shanks – were at the forefront of Christchurch’s emerging boutique brewing scene when they formally began operations in 2009. Using a wood-fired brewing technique, they produced pilseners that were distributed to local bars around Christchurch and moved to new premises, with plans to open a brew bar in an old Woolston tannery building.

Then the earthquake happened. Well-laid plans were brought to a halt as their brewing operation, and the building that housed it, sustained major damage. The destruction and the raw emotion that came with it are captured in this video, made shortly after the earthquake in February.

Rather than wilt, the decision was quickly made to open a bar in Madras St, and in just over three months the bar opened. Zak explained how the people had banded together during the construction of the project.

‘For us it was quite positive because we were able to do something positive,’ he said.

‘We had a lot of guys – guys that were our mates, and guys that were hanging around because they simply didn’t have a job anymore – that gave us a lot of help with our construction and setting up the bar, which was great, in terms of getting something done.

‘It was quite special, and is something you wouldn’t see happen again, it wouldn’t exist ordinarily.

‘There was a nice feeling about it – guys would come down and work, and would enjoy being part of something, and working, you know – “hey, this is cool, let’s be part of it”.’

Inside, beer is brewed in a wood-fired kettle in full view of the public adjacent to a long, wooden bar. 28 taps pour a range of Cassels and Sons brews alongside other craft beers from New Zealand. With an elegant, classic design and relaxed atmosphere, the bar has a feel very reminiscent of Sydney and Melbourne’s popular James Squire venues.

CBD also offers the pick of New Zealand’s renowned wines, wood-fired pizzas and other fine cuisine for those looking for an alternative to craft beer, and the bar also regularly hosts live music. As such, it has become an integral meeting place for a community to come together.

Other establishments have begun to emerge, and will continue to do so, as Christchurch’s cultural scene continues to rebound. For now, CBD stands as the bar that grew out of the tragedy of 2011.


About the author

Chad has a penchant for music, travel and ecologically sustainable urban design. He has a particular interest in the work of Jan Gehl, and wishes more Australian cities would do the same.