Having watched its fluctuating fortunes, changing strategies and struggles – but, happily, continued survival – I am certain that a business thesis could be written about the current craft beer resurgence that focuses solely on the case study of Western Australia’s Gage Roads Brewery.
Brewing beer since 2005, the brand was built on a 40 hectolitre brewery, large even today within the world of craft beer. Its initial offerings of a pure malt lager, a mid-strength pils and an IPA, were highly regarded for their day. While today these beers might seem a little tame for the ‘modern’ craft beer aficionado, they were still ahead of their time in 2005 – especially when the volumes needed to pay for a brewery of that size are considered. Needing a broad national distribution to support a brewery of that size, effective acheiving this always seemed to be an issue for the brewery and I recall many retailers reporting they struggled to get the beers in its early years. Over the years Gage Roads announced a number of distribution deals designed to solve that problem and get their beers into eager hands, each seemed to fall short.
A range of beer styles were tried as well. In 2007 Gage Roads launched its planned seasonal range, the World Tour, starting with a London Best and followed a few months later with an American Wheat. They never reached the third and fourth leg of of the world tour, Red Ace Kolsch and St Paddy’s Red Ale, though in early 2008 they did launch what they called a Kolsch-style beer, Wahoo, which within a year had represented 55% of Gage Roads sales.
By the end of 2008 they had also jumped on the low-carb market with Kutt but that didn’t stem the financial losses that the brewery had been suffering, losing $2 million in 2008 on top of even bigger losses in the 2006 and 2007 financial years.
However, in 2009 Woolworths acquired a 25 per cent share in the brewer and it has since seen a major turn around in its fortunes, including achieving profitability for the first time in its history and announcing expansion plans that will see the brewery capacity expanded with the installation of a new 100hL brewhouse. This success has been on the back of a line of their own beers, including Sleeping Giant IPA and Atomic Pale Ale released in 2010, as well as a line in beers brewed under licence as private label brands for Woolworths.
Diversity is important to a vital and dynamic brewing industry and it is exciting to see such a large ‘small’ brewer turn around its fortunes. The brewery has just announced that it has resurrected its London Best, last seen as part of the World Tour range, and it will join the Atomic Pale Ale and Sleeping Giant IPA in 640ml bottles.
Because of the sheer subjectivity of beer tasting I don’t like to formally review beers, but if it counts for anything, I happily shell out my own money to drink both the Sleeping Giant and London Best, which are both very drinkable and satisfying versions of their type. [MK]
Brewery Tasting Notes
ATOMIC PALE ALE
All natural. Full flavoured. No artificial additives or preservatives. Purest ingredients – water, malt, hops, yeast.
Atomic Pale Ale is a refreshing American style PaleAle, brewed with the powerful US hops – Cascade, Centennial, Chinook & Citra- to produce a beer with ‘grunt’.
The beer is dry hopped in the fermenter with Ahtanumhops which adds fruity notes to the aroma, reminiscent of passionfruit and grapefruit, typical of this style.
Four specialty malts are used in the grist which balances the beer and provides a rich maltiness on the palate.
Vibrant golden in colour, this delicious brew looksas good as it tastes.
First released in October 2010 in 330ml bottles this great beer is now available in limited release 640ml bottles
SLEEPING GIANT IPA
Don’t be fooled by the name of this brew! Sleeping Giant India Pale Ale is a classic hop driven ale showing notes of dark stone-fruit and citrus within a complex floral aroma.
This traditional English IPA has a clean palate rich with specialty malt sweetness, balanced by a fresh fusion of hop flavour from fivehops – East Kent Goldings, Cascade, Willamette, Centennial & Chinookadded to the brew kettle. Not content with this our brewers also ‘dry hop’ the beer with three of these hops added to the fermenters for that extra aroma lift.
A rewarding ale, it finishes long and dry with lingering complexity.
Having evolved from our hugely successful original Gage IPA, Sleeping Giant in 330ml bottles was released in October 2010 and is now available as a limited release in 640ml bottles
Giant flavour. Dry hopped. Enticing aroma. Knock the top of a Sleeping Giant and awaken the taste within.
LONDON BEST TASTING NOTES
Gage Roads London Best brings you all the drinkability and smoothness of a fine English style of bitter ale but which is locally brewed for freshness.
The ale shows a bright copper hue with a light floral aroma.
A trio of hops – East Kent Goldings, Mt Hood & Willamette give an earthy complexity to the bitterness. Seven different styles of malt then give a smooth, nutty, slightly sweet flavour which then subsides into a clean finish.
The secret is in the ‘dry hopping’ with even more added to the fermenters to give extra aroma.
First released as part of the Gage Roads ‘World Beer Tour’medal winning beer is back as a limited release in 640m
LONDON BEST – just like drinking a pint down your local!