160 years, 10 brewers,
6 generations.

Joseph R. Dodson 1812-1890 (Brewing 1854 - 1890)

Joseph Dodson arrived in Nelson in 1854 and within days bought a share of Hooper & Co, beginning the brewing story that continues today. Quickly becoming a cornerstone in the community, Dodson was elected Mayor of Nelson in 1874 and again in 1877. His achievements didn’t stop there however, in 1881 Dodson created his first Porter, which was then awarded medical endorsements by the Royal College of Surgeons, London.

Henry R. Dodson 1852 - 1895 (Brewing 1879 - 1895)

In 1879 Hooper & Co became J.R Dodson and Son when Henry Dodson joined his father in brewing. During this time the company grew to include malting, hop growing, bottling & coke burning. Together they made a great team, with their expanding beer portfolio winning medals at the Colonial and Indian Exhibition London.

Henry R. Duncan 1866 - 1942 (Brewing 1902 - 1942)

The tradition continued when Henry Duncan, the son of Joseph Dodson’s daughter Mary-Ann joined his uncle and grandfather in 1888. In 1890 he decided to further his skills over the other side of the world, studying brewing first in England and Denmark in 1890, then Germany in 1893. Henry gained an honors certificate in brewing and malting from London City and Guilds Institute, the only one in Australasia at the time. His involvement in the family business stayed strong however, with his Grandfathers death leaving the brewery in the hands of the two Henrys.

Harry R. Dodson 1882 - 1942 (Brewing 1902 - 1945)

In 1901 Henry Duncan bought the entire company and took on his cousin Harry Dodson. Possible prohibition lead to the diversification of their products and they expanded their range to include water, cordials and non-alcoholic beer. Along with new products they also began to export beer to Auckland and introduced an innovative new system by which beer was chilled, carbonated, filtered and bottled.

Richard S. Duncan 1911 - 1984 (Brewing 1937 - 1969)

In 1937, Henry’s sons Richard and Sholto became partners, along with Harry Dodson. At this point the family shifted their focus to the malting process and began to supply to malt to breweries all over New Zealand. Both left for military service a few years later however and were still absent when their father passed away in 1942.

Sholto. R Duncan 1912 - 1953 (Brewing 1937 - 1953)

Sholto and his brother joined during a difficult time in the business. Rising costs of the war and regulations required the lowering of alcohol strength in ales and stouts. This led to the near bankruptcy and eventual closure of the Duncan family brewery. This wasn’t the end of their time in industry however, as they merged with the Harley family’s Raglan brewery, renaming the new business Nelson Breweries Ltd. Another setback struck in 1953 when Sholto was tragically killed in an air crash, but again refusing to give up, his brother Richard continued to run the business.

Nick S. Duncan 1947 (Brewing 1969 - 2004)

Sholto’s sons Nick and John both worked with their uncle after school and during the holidays. Upon leaving school, Nick completed a food technology degree and then returned to the brewery. When it was sold in 1969, Nick continued to work as a brewer, first in Auckland then eventually in Mangatainoka, Greymouth and Timaru.

John R. Duncan 1953 (Brewing 1987 - Present)

John studied microbiology and worked as a technician at Penfolds Wines before returning to brew beer in Nelson in 1986. It was during the next 12 years John’s desire grew to revive the family tradition and he and his wife set out to establish a new Duncan Family brewery. The Council had taken control of Founders Heritage Park and were looking for small businesses that fitted the theme. With the family home already on site and his mother’s family represented by the Nelson Mail building it seemed the perfect location for the new brewery. They seized the opportunity and Founders Organic Brewery was established in 1999.

Callum R. Duncan 1983 (Brewing 2000 - Present)

Like their father, Matt and Callum Duncan began working in the brewery after school and during the holidays. Upon leaving school, Callum began work in the brewery full-time. A joint project between John Duncan and Crop & Food Research in Christchurch saw the introduction of a modern brewing apprenticeship scheme, with Matt and Callum Duncan becoming the first graduates and the sixth generation of family brewers in Nelson.

Matt J. Duncan 1980 (Brewing 2002 - Present)

After his initial time as a schoolboy helping out at the brewery, Matt completed a history degree before returning to Nelson to work full-time alongside his brother and father.

Founders Brewery