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Australia to have a craft brewers association?

July 29, 2011

UPDATE: 4 November 2011. The Australian craft brewers association – Craft Beer Limited – has gone live. You can read about it here.

Australian Brews News has regularly reported on the many activities of the US-based Brewers Association and highlighted Australia’s lack of a similar body to champion craft beer on a national level. After a number of false starts over the years, it looks like an Australian body may finally eventuate.

A volunteer steering committee has been formed by representatives a number of leading craft breweries who have taken on the task of consulting widely across the industry to devise a practical model for the association.

The members of the committee include:

  • Brad Rogers and Jamie Cook from Stone & Wood
  • Brendan Varis from Feral Brewing
  • Dave Bonighton from Mountain Goat
  • Owen Johnston from Moo Brew
  • Adam Trippe-Smith from McLaren Vale Beer Company
  • Miles Hull from Little Creatures
  • Brewing Consultant Bruce Peachey

While details are still being discussed, the steering committee has circulated a paper that suggests the purpose of the association would be to promote, protect and grow the Australian craft beer segment, and intends to do this through:

  • Consumer awareness and education
  • Trade awareness and education
  • Develop and celebrate the quality and diversity of craft beer
  • Aid professional development within the industry
  • Government liaison and advocacy

Amongst the mooted activities of the group would be to hold an Australian Craft Brewers Conference and a Good Beer Week-style event in each capital city, events that can only benefit brewers and beer lovers.

In a move that has already sparked substantial discussion and debate in brewing circles, and some criticism, the proposed association departs from the US model by suggesting the inclusion of the two biggest craft breweries, Malt Shovel and Matilda Bay, wholly owned by Lion Nathan and CUB respectively. The US model precludes any brewery with that is more than 25 per cent owned by a business that is not themselves a craft brewer.

While there is no doubt plenty of discussion to be had around this point, craft beer has reached the point in Australia where it needs a national voice to do just what is proposed: promote, protect and grow the Australian craft beer segment for all breweries. To lose track of the wider picture in disagreements over membership would represent a lost opportunity and be a retrograde step at a critical time for beer. It is also important to note that the wider the membership, the stronger the association and the more it will reflect the aims of all members – and in turn the more it will benefit them collectively.

It is an exciting development for craft beer in this country and I look forward to bringing you future developments.

I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

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8 Responses to Australia to have a craft brewers association?

  1. John Bryant - sugar not nice! on November 20, 2011 at 11:59 am

    Should be 100% owned as it is representing “Australian” owned and made products! There is a huge wave in the retail world on Australian made ……. Why dont we ride it too? Having the big two in your association is not a smart move. As a home brewer that aspires one day to go commerical ….. I would join you if you were 100% Australian and you didn’t have the big two that stifle free beer trade on board. Doesn’t make sence but like te idea of an “Australian Association” ….. The big two already lobby Govt without consulting the rest that affect all … Look at the beer definition who does that benefit? The big two- now an alcopop can be a beer? ….. What other damage do we let them do? So let’s let them in so they can know your every move so they can counter or kill your move before you even go public as they have the money …… Yeah real smart guys….. This reeks of someone making money out of the big two joining……

    • Editor on November 21, 2011 at 8:16 am

      Hi John – I sent you a long version of this to your email, but it bounced.

      A couple of things, firstly, my support for the association seems to have somehow seen me closely associated with it. It isn’t ‘my’ association, I just think it is the way forward for good beer in Australia and have been trying to communicate that.

      Secondly, the beer definition was changed to prevent malt-based alcopops being taxed as beer, I’m not quite sure what you mean with this one.

      ‘Australian made’ is one of those sayings that sounds good, but the practice is always much more complicated. Look at the huge growth of US craft beer imports…given the market dynamics much of this would be bought by people who would also say they supported the idea of, “buy Aussie craft, not beer brewed by a Japanese-owned brewer”. The US brewery Stone has recently looked to build a brewery in Europe. Could you imagine how good it would be if they built one here? But then that would be foreign-owned and suddenly bad, if you adhere to this reasoning.

      You might not like the Fat Yaks of this world, but the simple fact is (at least in my experience) they have introduced more people to craft beer than anything that has come from the ‘real’ craft brewers. They have tremendous reach and are gateway beers for many and mark the first step in a beer journey for many people. They more people that try then, the more will have their beer horizons broadened and go on to other beers. That can only be good for craft too industry – the rising tide lifts all boats.

      In the end, I genuinely think you and I want exactly the same thing – the growth of small independent breweries in Australia. People are passionate about this, but I think that the anti-big brewery mindset can stop people seeing the bigger picture that Australian small brewers really lose nothing from this and have much to benefit.

      • John Bryant - sugar not nice! on December 16, 2011 at 1:36 am

        Beg your pardon Matt, my email had a typo, it was missing the ‘m’ from hotmail!

        Matt we agree on the growth of small independent breweries and great real craft beer. I accept your position on associations after all freedom choice is alive and well here.. We will have to agree to disagree on the others though. I am a passionate proud Australian that believes in Australian owned products.


        John Bryant
        Melbourne Vic

        • Editor on December 16, 2011 at 7:23 am

          Thanks John, good to have you back.

          The thing that confuses me about this is that I have never said anything against Australian owned products. I choose to use craft beers from small, independent and Australian owned breweries in my appreciation lunches and that’s what I tend to drink myself. I almost always point out the ownership of breweries when I write articles for Australian Brews News. If Brews News has any bias at all it is in towards small craft brewers, because that is the beer that I like and drink and its the beer that most of the contributors like and drink. My questioning of the artificial and inconsistent definition of craft beer being used to create an alternative association isn’t anti-Australian or anti-craft. I just don’t think that splitting the breweries making better beer into two camps over arbitrary definitions is the way to get more people drinking beer from small breweries. But the thing I find funniest about this is that this time last year I was hammered in the same way as I have been over this issue when I called for people to stop drinking grey imports of US craft beer. I suggested that instead of buying shockingly overpriced Stone beer that Stone themselves don’t want exported to us, we should be supporting Australian craft. An army of beer geeks descended on chat rooms to rubbish me and that suggestion. I just wonder how many of them are flying the 100% Australian-owned flag this year because it sounds good and makes them feel good, without looking at at their own buying behaviour.

          I don’t want to see an Australian craft beer association turning itself into the Occupy Craft Beer movement. I just want more people drinking better beer. Once that happens and all craft beer becomes better quality and easier to obtain across Australia, consumers will seek out information about provenance and ownership themselves. When more than 95% of the market is for beers other than VB, Corona and Summer Bright Lager (the market for Corona is bigger than the entire market for craft beer), the key first is to show them better beer. Right now, when people are deciding whether to drink Coopers Clear or Pure Blonde, I think the focus should be on getting them to try Fat Yak and Coopers Pale. Once that happens more will seek out beers from Redhill and Redoak. We can worry about arbitrary definitions for craft beer when there is a realistic market for craft beer. Is it really worth having a war now over whether Stone & Wood is ‘real’ craft beer just because it is 20% owned by Little World Beverages which is in turn 40% owned by Lion?

  2. Jason on July 31, 2011 at 9:22 am

    I’d defiantly support a Craft Brewers Association in Australia and would become a member myself. I think you summed it up well when you said the purpose would be to

    promote, protect and grow the Australian craft beer segment for all breweries

    As an aspiring craft brewer and brew pub owner, I wholeheartedly support the formation of such an association and was only thinking the other day that we need something like this.

    One suggestion though: should NZ be considered as well? I don’t think are big enough to warrant an association of their own (though they do have SOBA). We are, after all, brothers in arms.

    Let me know how I can help.

  3. scotty on July 30, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    The need for an association for all brewers – yes. The need for a divided industry – absolutely not!

  4. bitterNtwisted on July 29, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    It is awesome news that we’ll have a craft brewers association! It should be a great step forward for Australian beer habits, and I look forward to the conference & good beer week as well.

    As for including Malt Shovel and Matilda Bay: no thanks. There are three possible reasons why any brewery would want to be part of the association, I wonder which is their motivation:
    1. to recieve help – nope, Malt Shovel and Matilda Bay already get all the support they need from Lion Nathan and CUB.
    2. to give help to others – nope, no big brewer in their right mind will deliberately give away market share to the small growing breweries.
    3. to get some control of the association – ah, that must be it.
    Please, keep Malt Shovel and Matilda Bay out. The Americans were right.

    • Editor on July 29, 2011 at 3:07 pm

      It would be good news, wouldn’t it.

      So far as Malt Shovel and Matilda Bay wanting to be in to take control, I don’t know that that is fair. I gather they were approached by the working committee rather than the other way around and I don’t know whether they intend to join – they would just be eligible. Secondly, with one member-one vote, there are over 100 potential small breweries who can join and only the two big ones. The more breweries that join the greater their influence. The bigger the association, the stronger it is and potentially the better for all craft brewers.

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