web analytics

Mountain Goat: This day was always coming

September 28, 2015

Today we saw the announcement of the sale of the first of the modern breed of  small breweries that pioneered the current ‘craft’ beer movement. Asahi has purchased Mountain Goat.

First, congratulations to founders Cam Hines and Dave Bonighton. For 18 years they have battled, slogged and grafted to see their dream of Mountain Goat survive, let alone prosper. They fact that they are a national beer brand, available as a slab at national retailers and have for some time been a prime target for acquisition is a huge tribute to two terrific blokes and their team of passionate beer lovers. No further details of the sale or price have been released, but one would hope that their years of hard toil as pioneers of the present craft beer wave and champions of good beer will be well rewarded.

That said, it really was simply a question of time.

It has been clear for some time that, consciously or not, the decks have been getting cleared and the ship readied for sale. Like the activist uni student who graduated and started work, the feisty young Goat’s Doc Martins and leather jacket (I may be showing my age here) made way for more conservative suits and shoes in the form of the high volume sales that Steam Ale achieved in 2009. This showed the business that flavour pragmatism is an easier means of sustainable, or even rapid growth, than trying to convert a mainstream market to high IBUs.

This year’s highly popular AIBA success with a Barley Wine demonstrated the brewing chops were undiminished, however the real drivers for the business have been Steam Ale and Summer Ale, both brewed by Asahi at Laverton, where the majority of the business’ beer has been produced for several years.

The brewery’s famous foundation story is of a young Cam Hines who, inspired by the microbreweries of Canada during a backpacking trip, fired a postcard back to his home-brewing mate Dave Bonighton, saying “we need to start a brewery”. As popular and enjoyable as “this pale yellow passionfruit affair” is, one can only wonder whether Summer Ale, a beer that even Cam has described as ‘smashable’, would have inspired this story.

While there will likely be an outcry today over the takeover, with comments such as “Well there goes any good beer from Mountain Goat…” already appearing on the Australian Brews News’ Facebook page already, others are more sanguine. Another says “Now it’s a part of big beer. It’s definitely a good thing if you can find more Mountain Goat in regular pubs and the beers maintain their high quality.”

Arguably, Mountain Goat has been ‘big beer’ for some time. Independence of ownership aside, the growing volumes have come exclusively through their contracting arrangements with Asahi for several years, including Steam and Summer Ale and packaged Hightail, Fancy Pants and Surefoot Stout. It must be noted – Mountain Goat has been very reluctant to draw attention to these arrangements only providing vague references to “a larger plant in Laverton, Melbourne” on its website.  The contracting arrangements were only recently included on packaging after the ACCC took interest in the matter earlier this year.

As for the future, the brewery’s rapid growth into profitability over the last few years came from from light, approachable and sessionable beers such as Steam and Summer, so it seems unlikely that these will be affected. Hightail, Surefoot and Fancy Pants are already made by Asahi and the house IPA has already been phased out in favour of a more moderate American-style Pale Ale. Only time will tell whether the likes of barrel-aged rare breeds form part of Asahi’s future strategy, but – at least in volume terms – they have only been a vanity line for some time, a source of excitement for beer enthusiasts and maintained credibility for the  brewery. Their survival will no doubt be determined through an eventual calculation of their cost to produce versus their benefit to what is now another Asahi brand.

While things won’t change quickly on the beer front, at least one thing has changed rapidly. Where once asking a question of Mountain Goat was a simple matter of phoning Cam and Dave for a chat, inquiries today have been referred to Mountain Goat’s new General Manager, Matt Grix, who until recently was Asahi Premium Beverages General Manager, Victoria and Tasmania.

New to the business, Mr Grix’s LinkedIn profile describes him as:

A Sales Management professional with significant experience in the Beverage/FMCG industry incorporating roles in Brands & Trade Marketing, Logistics, Key Account Management of National Customers (Retail and On-Premise) and National & Regional Sales Management.

“Specialties: Developing new business, setting-up, leading and motivating specialist teams to consistently exceed targets.

We have approached him for comment about the sale and are awaiting a response.


Tags: , ,

6 Responses to Mountain Goat: This day was always coming

  1. Justin Trail on September 30, 2015 at 10:00 pm

    Hard work pays dividends. Dave and Cam deserve every comfort it brings.

    • Editor on October 1, 2015 at 9:47 am

      I think the article says that very clearly.

  2. Tim on September 29, 2015 at 9:48 am

    Congrats to the Mountain Goat team for achieving a successful liquidity event. I don’t understand why people are upset about acquisition in the brewing industry. In other industries the community applaud success – nobody is concerned that Atlassian is having a $4.2 billion IPO, actually the tech community are excited about it.

    Having decent beer brewed at volumes is a win for everyone, and it means that less megaswill will be produced as a result. I am sure Mountain Goat will achieve more new fans with increased availability than the beer geeks who are upset because they “sold out”.

  3. Michael on September 28, 2015 at 7:25 pm

    The core beers lost their soul once they got shipped off to Laverton; now their heart too.

  4. Michael Ziersch on September 28, 2015 at 7:03 pm

    Well written Matt. I lament the ‘loss’ of Mountain Goat to Big Beer, but I’ll temper my initial outrage and will see how they go over the couple of years. No doubt Cam and Dave should be rewarded for all their hard work and contribution to the Australian beer landscape over the years… but the inevitable death of genuine personality within the brand is regrettable.

    • Tony Smith on September 28, 2015 at 8:36 pm

      Totally agree Michael.
      Fortunately there are still many Australian family owned brewers around. Holgate, Murrays, Two Birds etc
      I suppose it comes down to where do you want profits from your beer purchases to go?

Leave a Reply