Pirate Life Brewing has this week established its own distribution company, following a partial acquisition of its former partner Palais Distributing Co.
The Pirate Cartel is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Pirate Life that will ultimately have an international portfolio of brands, Pirate Life’s Michael Cameron told Australian Brews News.
He said it was a mutual decision to separate from Palais and take on all its eight employees, aside from owners Craig Jessup and Phillip Chehade.
“If you think about where Palais started they were an import business – their love is that side of things. They want to grow in that world and we want to grow as a fantastic Australian craft beer brand,” he said.
“Understanding where Pirate Life has come from in the last 16 months, we’ve grown pretty quickly and I think in any brewery, you need to have full control of your destiny.”
Palais told customers the deal follows “the most fulfilling and successful” period of the company’s history.
“The natural progression that follows from the phenomenal growth and success of the brand, has resulted in Pirate Life establishing its own distribution division,” Palais said in a statement.
“It has been a pleasure and a privilege to be part of the Pirate Life journey to this point, and we are very proud of the success shared by both companies. We have immense respect for Red, Jack and Mick and their inspired creation.”
Pirates on lookout
Cameron said The Pirate Cartel is currently setting up its own warehousing and will be recruiting for additional sales representatives in Victoria and Western Australia.
“Once we’ve done that we can have a look and say, ‘is there an opportunity to have a look at some really rock star Australian brands, New Zealand brands, UK and US brands?’,” he said.
Cameron is well experienced in the distribution game, having previously worked as national sales manager for Coopers and Brewdog in the US.
“We had distribution in 42 states and we had 87 distributors we worked with, so every year I had to sit down and do 87 new contracts,” he said.
But he said that distribution in Australia brings its own unique challenges. “It’s really hard because the distances are hard, the costs are hard, it’s a pretty tough gig.”
In contrast to other craft breweries, Cameron said Pirate Life has prioritised the packaged side of its business.
“Because of the contract structure that exists in Australia where a lot of the taps are owned by the bigger breweries, we’ve actually focused on looking after bottleshops,” he said.
“Our business is 82 per cent packaged, 18 per cent keg. If you understand the drinking habits in Australia right now, a lot of it’s done at home because of the drink driving laws and other things.”
Cameron said off-premise distribution is therefore more productive than entering into the “age old conversations” with publicans about paying for taps and five-plus-one deals.
“If I can have one bottleshop selling five or six cases of our beer once a week, that relates to maybe a keg,” he said.
Cameron revealed that Pirate Life has been brewing 24 hours a day for the last three months ahead of additional brewing capacity coming online soon.
“We’ve got four new fermenters arriving next week and we’ve got six new fermenters arriving in September,” he said.
“We’ve just taken over the shed next door so we can build our own packaging facility.”
Palais to focus on imports
Palais said it will now be directing its focus to driving its great imported brands including Dieu du Ciel, Le Trou du Diable, and Hitachino.
“Our Canadian shipments are also about to become even more interesting with the pending addition of an exciting new brewery from Ontario, which will be announced later this month,” Palais said.
National supply of Pirate Life beers will continue through Palais for at least the next two weeks, with a transition date of August 1.