The Craft Beer Industry Association has begun the difficult process of orchestrating the departure of big brewers from its membership base, in response to pressure from their small, independent counterparts.
Seventy five per cent of brewers recently surveyed by the CBIA called for its membership structure to be reformed.
The overhaul would exclude companies such as Asahi’s Mountain Goat, Lion’s Little Creatures and Malt Shovel, as well as Coca-Cola Amatil joint venture, Australian Beer Company. All four are currently members.
“As the industry has evolved, it’s probably not surprising that we now find ourselves being asked to consider the structure of the CBIA moving forward,” CBIA chair Peta Fielding told Australian Brews News.
“Our goal is to address the challenge via positive, constructive debate and to land, cooperatively, in a place that genuinely sets things up for the good of the industry and those within it.
“We are hearing a variety of views and suggestions and will work diligently towards a proposed outcome for CBIA members to consider,” she said.
Subsequent to the survey, the association’s future membership structure was thrashed out at its recent AGM, attended by both independents and majors.
One scenario would involve the excluded companies – whose brewing staff wanted to retain links their independent colleagues – transitioning to become associate members. This would still allow them to attend general meetings of the association, albeit without the right to vote.
But it is not as simple as an overnight exclusion for the brewers concerned. As existing members, their current rights are protected under the Corporations Act, so any changes have to occur in a consultative manner.
Drawing a line that has the desired effect of excluding the aforementioned companies, while not restricting small brewers from taking on reasonable investment, will not be straightforward either.
The CBIA Board has set up a committee that will consider its future membership structure, with advice from law firm Minter Ellison on best practice from a corporate governance and constitutional perspective.
Any changes will not become effective until the beginning of the new membership year, July 1, 2017.
Welcome news: 4 Pines
One of the country’s biggest independent brewers, 4 Pines Beer, has resisted joining the CBIA membership while the big brewers are part of its structure.
4 Pines would “absolutely” join the CBIA it it moves to exclude brewers that are not independent, founder Jaron Mitchell told Australian Brews News.
“The US industry have done such a good job… They managed to put some definition around who a ‘craft brewer’ was,” he said.
“The spirit of who is a craft brewer, that’s something that I think definitely has consumer equity that I think has really been lost, so far here [in Australia].”