Life story

Life Story: Beer, Heritage, Travel and Family: The Life Legacy of Alasdair Cassels

OBITUARY: Leaving a legacy has always been important to Alasdair Cassels.

And he did. From its award-winning Cassels Brewing Co beer, to uplifting the Canterbury region after the earthquake, to its passion for Christchurch heritage with the redevelopment of The Tannery shopping centre, to promoting the restoration of the Cathedral , family trips and travel, Cassels has had a lasting impact.

The second son in a family of four boys – Winton, Alasdair, Ian and Ross – he was born to Colin and Alice Cassels in 1950 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The family moved to Island Bay, Wellington, in 1958.

He died on the night of Saturday April 16, surrounded by his closest family members, as he wished.

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He didn’t tell anyone but his family about his prostate cancer diagnosis in his later years.

Cassels moved to Christchurch to study engineering in the late 1960s. He immediately felt at home.

He and his then-partner Leith Graydon welcomed their son Zak into the world in 1972. The couple later separated.

He met Bridget Taylor in 1978 and spent the rest of his life with her, with more foster children – Madeleine, Pippi, Zoe and Mia.

Alasdair Cassels died on Saturday April 16, 2022 after a five-year battle with prostate cancer which he kept secret from the public eye.

Supplied/Susannah Blatchford

Alasdair Cassels died on Saturday April 16, 2022 after a five-year battle with prostate cancer which he kept secret from the public eye.

A self-described “driven person” with a flair for entrepreneurship, a young Cassels applied lessons from engineering school to start Airless Spray Painting, a contract sign painting and sandblasting business he successfully led for the next 25 years.

Branch out into beer

It was not until the early 2000s that Cassels started making its own beer.

It started as a vacation hobby with Zak and his son-in-law Joe Shanks, and quickly grew into something bigger.

“Dad was so talented in business, he was said to have the Midas touch,” Zak says.

Cassels was still building his formidable beer empire in Woolston, east of Christchurch.

ALDEN WILLIAMS / Stuff

Cassels was still building his formidable beer empire in Woolston, east of Christchurch.

From the site of its heritage shopping center The Tannery in Woolston, experimental craft beer was brewed at a relatively low level until the 2010 Canterbury earthquakes put the brakes on.

The earthquakes turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the Cassels family.

They returned the same day to find their makeshift brewery and equipment in ruins, but rather deterring Cassels, this made him more determined and passionate about making Cassels beer synonymous with Christchurch and invigorating the east end of the city. .

“He had a creative mind, always strategic, always solving puzzles, never hesitating. He could solve any problem if he put his mind to it,” says his daughter Madeleine.

He doubled his investment in beer, and soon enough it paid off.

Cassles was a popular father and grandfather.

Provided

Cassles was a popular father and grandfather.

Cassels Brewing Co beat stout giant Guinness at the World Beer Awards in 2019 and again the following year for best milk stout – the Irish brewery’s specialty.

Next, its American Pale Ale (APA) also won Best Beer in the World, making Cassels a high-quality, albeit small, brewery.

This put them on the map, and so Cassels pledged to invest more.

The brewery has grown exponentially in recent years, with plans to turn it into a tourist offering through a warehouse and beer tasting experience – much like Guinness headquarters in Dublin.

Cassels has invested millions of dollars in the redevelopment of The Tannery shopping center in Woolston, Christchurch.

KIRK HARGREAVES / Stuff

Cassels has invested millions of dollars in the redevelopment of The Tannery shopping center in Woolston, Christchurch.

A love of heritage

Cassels’ passion for restoring Christchurch’s heritage buildings after the earthquake led him to put his money where it said.

Over the years, he invested millions of dollars in the development of The Tannery shopping center and was part of the Cathedral Task Force which sought to conserve and restore Christ Church Cathedral.

Woolston’s Brewery bar provided refuge in the earthquake-stricken east side of Christchurch immediately after the disaster, and was soon one of the few bars still open at the time.

Alasdair Cassels (middle) thought he was a bit of a sailor.

Provided

Alasdair Cassels (middle) thought he was a bit of a sailor.

Many well-known business owners and decision makers visited the bar after the earthquakes to console themselves and discuss how the city could return to its former glory.

At his memorial service in May, Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel spoke about how dedicated the father-of-five was to reviving the city center after the earthquake.

He supported environmental projects and was a committed advocate for the Phillipstown community, she said.

“These things matter. Kindness matters. Generosity matters. Reciprocity makes a difference and that’s what we saw at Alasdair. He was the real deal.

Cassels, left, with partner Bridget Taylor and three of her daughters on a trip through Europe in the 1990s.

Provided

Cassels, left, with partner Bridget Taylor and three of her daughters on a trip through Europe in the 1990s.

Travel enthusiast

An avid sailor and fisherman, Cassels has taken his family on a number of sailing trips over the years across Europe, across the Pacific and New Zealand’s Marlborough Sounds, among other places.

“There were times when Dad wanted to share his gratitude for how lucky we all are. It was Christmas, a walk through the tannery, a beautiful view, a family vacation. He had a great time with his loved ones “, explains his daughter Zoe.

Galerna – the family’s 95-foot, 200-ton Norwegian boat, complete with its own engineer, Seppo – took them on unforgettable journeys through the Suez Canal, the Indian Ocean, the Tasman Sea and the Red Sea. While traveling through the latter, they were chased by pirates on a high-powered motorboat.

Cassels, pictured sailing in Fiordland, loved being on the water.

Provided

Cassels, pictured sailing in Fiordland, loved being on the water.

The family claimed they were shot down by the pirates and only escaped due to Cassels’ seafaring skills.

Her daughter Mia learned to walk on Galerna. “I’m heartbroken that he never saw me as a mom,” she says. “That was what life was for him; build your family, intertwine all your family lives with chaotic and beautiful adventures and projects, then tell stories about it.

Family first

Last, but not least, was the importance of family.

He was the pillar of the Cassels family, say his relatives, loved by all his grandchildren, for whom he devoted a lot of time.

The Cassels family has spent so much time on the water that their youngest daughter, Mia, took her first steps on the Galerna, the family sailboat.

Provided

The Cassels family has spent so much time on the water that their youngest daughter, Mia, took her first steps on the Galerna, the family sailboat.

“He was larger than life and truly the patriarch of our family. If Dad were a planet, he’d be the Sun, and we’d be orbiting him, absorbing his rays of wisdom,” Zoe says.

Despite being a successful businessman who was often busy with work, he always had time for his children and their children, who held positions in the business, and were showered with generous gifts and vacations. extravagant family.

There are countless photos of Cassels and his army of grandchildren. The family also enjoyed boating vacations to Samoa, the Cook Islands, Tahiti and New Caledonia.

Taylor, his 47-year-old partner, says he was a “presence” with a strong personality. “He loved home life…and took us on so many amazing adventures.”

The impact of his death was enormous.

“It left a big hole in the family – he was at the center of everything. But it also brought us closer.

Hundreds of people attended the Cassels memorial in the tannery atrium in May.


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