The Craft Beer Industry Association has paid tribute to its co-founder Chuck Hahn and the exiting Lion brands, while Mountain Goat and Australian Beer Company say they remain committed to the association for now.
The CBIA today said further industry consultation had supported membership reforms that would re-focus the organisation to represent independent brewers.
“In response to the CBIA’s plans, Ash Cranston has offered his resignation from his position as National Craft Brewer representative on the board and all Lion breweries (Malt Shovel Brewery, Little Creatures, White Rabbit and Byron Bay Brewery) have resigned as CBIA members,” the CBIA said.
“The CBIA acknowledges and thanks Ash for his commitment to the association, not just in his relatively short time as a director, but across a number of years.
“We would also like to acknowledge the very generous support that Lion has afforded the CBIA since its inception.
”Chuck Hahn is an undisputed pioneer of the craft beer movement in Australia and his contribution to the industry and to the CBIA’s creation and development over the years cannot be overstated.
“We owe Chuck a debt of gratitude and know that he will continue to be a much loved and celebrated member of our industry,” the association said.
Independent not ‘craft’
The CBIA said it will re-define membership eligibility based on independent (privately held) brewers “without relying on an arbitrary definition of ‘craft beer’”.
“It is proposed that the board structure and the name of the association will both be changed to reflect the new direction,” it said.
“The CBIA’s proposed new direction will allow a renewed focus on independent Australian brewers, ensuring its time and resources are directed towards supporting those businesses as a collective.”
The CBIA said its focus is on ensuring it is an industry association that supports the brewing businesses that need it.
“It would be unexpected if Lion believed they needed our help. Of course the multinational brewers continue to be represented by their own Brewers Association of Australia,” the CBIA said.
Goat and ABCo respond
However, CBIA members Mountain Goat and Australian Beer Company – which are owned respectively by Asahi and Coca-Cola Amatil/Casella – are likely to be ineligible to join the Brewers Association, because of their multi-beverage interests or ownership.
The CBIA’s definition of independence will surely exclude both these brewers, though neither company seemed to view their departure as a foregone conclusion when contacted earlier today.
“I agree with Chuck’s sentiments however Mountain Goat will not be withdrawing our membership,” general manager Mick Bentley told Australian Brews News.
“[Goat co-founder] Dave Bonighton was a CBIA founding member and at Mountain Goat we celebrate the same ethos that the Association was originally built on… The CBIA was established around inclusion within the Australian craft beer industry, no matter if you were big, small or contract brewed.
“While the proposals are still under consideration, we will await the CBIA’s final decision,” Bentley said.
The Australian Beer Company meanwhile is unwavering on its “simple goal of helping more Australians explore and enjoy craft beer”, boss Tony Scanlan told Australian Brews News.
“We’re still committed to producing quality beers, working with quality brewers, and showcasing quality local ingredients. Like Chuck, we believe this is what is important to beer drinkers.
“We still believe that [the] CBIA plays an important role in this journey so, for the time being at least, Australian Beer Company will continue to work with others within the industry who share our passion.”
EGM in Good Beer Week
The CBIA Board is now progressing more detailed development of the proposal, with a view to taking its recommendations to an Extraordinary General Meeting of members in Melbourne during Good Beer Week.
The details of the necessary constitutional changes are being prepared by the CBIA’s lawyers, Minter Ellison.
In the lead up to the EGM, forums will be held in each state, providing an opportunity for interested parties to ask questions and obtain more information. The first forum is planned for March 20 in Hobart.
“The craft brewing landscape has evolved considerably from the early days of the CBIA just four years ago,” the association said.
“There are now more than 400 independent brewers in Australia, facing many challenges unique to the small, independent end of the market.
“The CBIA looks forward to advocating further for the interests of our members as a clear and focused voice for independent brewers and, where our interests align, working alongside the nation’s multi-national brewers.”