Carlton & United Breweries has confirmed its craft beer portfolio will soon be bolstered by several international brands owned by its new parent company, Anheuser-Busch InBev.
Acquired by AB InBev in 2011, Chicago’s Goose Island Brewery will be the first brand introduced to Australia, as tipped by Australian Brews News in September last year.
In recent months, Goose Island has emerged as something of a focus brand globally for AB InBev, which has unveiled plans for brewpubs in China, South Korea, Mexico, Canada and England.
But its introduction to Australia has been very much driven by local subsidiary, Carlton & United Breweries, according to marketing director Richard Oppy.
“It’s certainly not something that’s been mandated, or that we’ve been told we have to do from a global perspective,” he told Australian Brews News.
“It started with the Australian craft strategy. When we took them through that and we went through the gaps, they then presented the brands that would be best suited, of which Goose Island was one.”
Oppy said that while CUB would love to have a Goose Island brewpub in Australia at some stage, there are currently no such plans.
IPA to headline
The launch will be headlined by Goose IPA – winner of multiple awards including Gold in the 2010 World Beer Cup – which is 5.9 per cent ABV and 55 IBU.
“It’s actually very sessionable for a brand with such high alcohol,” Oppy said.
“That will be our hero brand in Australia. We don’t have an IPA in our portfolio. We’ve seen them perform extremely well in the US.
“More and more consumers in Australia are becoming educated in this craft space… we think the IPA segment will be a slower burn but it will get bigger over time,” he said.
Oppy said Goose IPA will be brewed locally, most likely at Cascade Brewery in Tasmania.
“Freshness for a product like this is imperative. We’ll be having the brewmaster from Goose Island in Australia, working with our local brewmaster,” he said.
“It’ll take a number of trials until we can nail the recipe and execution in our local market.”
Goose IPA will be available in both draught and packaged formats, with the distribution focus on premium on-premise venues.
More to come
With the return of Corona to its portfolio, and the resurgence of brands including Pure Blonde, Great Northern and Carlton Dry, Oppy said CUB is performing strongly in most market segments.
“The area where we are underperforming is craft. We obviously see that craft, albeit still only around five per cent of the beer category, is in strong growth and I think will get bigger and bigger over time,” he said.
“The Yaks are performing really well for us. We’re thrilled with the performance of Wild Yak of late – the total franchise is up 40 per cent versus prior year.
“But it needs support, and the beauty of being part of the biggest brewer in the world is we’ve got access to an international craft portfolio,” said Oppy.
Oppy said there will certainly be more AB InBev craft beer brands introduced to Australia in time.
“There’s another three or four that I’m keen to bring in over the next couple of years, but we haven’t confirmed which ones they’ll be, or the timing,” he said.
CUB’s new brand director of premium and craft is Brian Phan, a veteran of Ford Motor Company who joined as head of cider in July 2015.
“I had to work hard to get him out of Ford Motor Company, he’d been there since the graduate program 13 or 14 years ago,” Oppy said.
Oppy said Phan had developed a clear strategy for cider in his 16 months in that position.
“We’ve now got a portfolio we believe that can win in this category, and we’ve been growing share since he’s taken on that role,” he said.
Phan fills the role vacated by Tim Ovadia, who recently became head of the brewer’s classic brand portfolio.
The classic role had been vacated by Richard Scott, who departed CUB after 13 years at SABMiller.
The Beer Collective
Goose Island and the other AB InBev brands will be distributed by The Beer Collective, CUB’s specialist on-premise sales team established in May 2013 to service non-traditional beer venues.
“I think what people will see moving forward, is The Beer Collective really coming to fruition the way we originally had as our dream,” Oppy said.
“We’ve now got what we believe is a really strong and powerful premium and craft portfolio that will be well suited to that channel.”
CUB has been recruiting for “passionate beer connoisseurs”, ideally Cicerone-certified, to join The Beer Collective as business development executives.
The division is headed up by Adrian Mahieu, who Oppy said joined CUB from AB InBev’s local office, having begun his career at the company in Belgium.
Oppy said that while CUB will look at reinvigorating Matilda Bay at some stage in the future, there is nothing planned for either it or Cascade in the short-term.
And while recent weeks have seen several craft beer buyouts in Australasia, Oppy said domestic acquisitions are not currently a priority for CUB.
“All breweries would look at all opportunities to grow in this craft space. Right now we’re focusing on our portfolio internally,” he said.
Further details on the launch of Goose IPA will become available in the coming weeks.
Read more: AB InBev may craft new strategy for CUB.