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NI-born entrepreneur of leading Kiwi beer brewery and boutique dies age 71

From Belfast Telegraph
Local hero’ Alasdair Cassels has passed away following cancer battle

A Northern Ireland-born businessman who founded the Cassels Brewing Company has died after a private battle with cancer.

Alasdair Cassels, described as a man with “big ideas and drive”, was aged 71.

Born in NI, he relocated with his parents to England as a child before settling in New Zealand.

He went on to found Cassels Brewing, a family owned and operated craft beer brewery located in Woolston, Christchurch.

The brewery has won numerous awards since launching in 2009, including World’s Best American-Style Pale Ale and two consecutive wins for World Best Milk Stout (2019-20), outshining the likes of Diageo-owned Guinness and other famous brands.

His partner of 47 years, Bridget Taylor, said: “Alasdair’s family are devastated by his death. He gave us so much in his life, so much of himself.”

Mr Cassels, who had been experimenting with brewing since his early 20s, had studied engineering and successfully ran a sandblasting and sign-painting contract business, Airless Spray Painting, for 25 years before moving into the hospitality industry.

Since 1994, Mr Cassels had operated much of The Tannery, a mixed-use shopping and dining location in Woolston. Working alongside his son, Zak Cassels, and son-in-law Joe Shanks, the trio developed Cassels Brewery on the site in 2008.

In 2011, the newly opened development suffered extensive damage in the Christchurch earthquakes. The brewery was damaged beyond repair, but within 100 days they rebuilt, seeing it as an opportunity for growth.

Mr Cassels was an avid sailor and traveller, having taken his family on many boat trips including a memorable journey from New Zealand to the Mediterranean.

Speaking to New Zealand website, his brother Ian Cassels described him as a “local hero” for his work at The Tannery and Cassels Brewery, stating: “It’s wonderful how his life turned out. He put his heart and soul into those two.

“He’s left behind a lovely and talented family. His children and grandchildren are unbelievably talented.” Ian added.

Zak Cassels confirmed his father died from prostate cancer. The family learned about his diagnosis about five years ago, but it was not made public.

His health had declined since December, although his family and close friends “had longer with him than we thought”.

“He didn’t want others to know,” Zac added.

Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel led tributes, saying Mr Cassels created a “real legacy” and was always willing to reach out and support the community.

Mr Cassels died on Sunday morning surrounded by partner Bridget, son Zak and daughters Madeleine, Mia, Pippi and Zoe.

The family will hold a private crematorium service today, followed by a public celebration of his life at The Tannery at 5.30pm on Sunday.

Alasdair Cassels from Cassels Brewing