Malt Shovel brewmaster and Craft Beer Industry Association (CBIA) co-founder, Chuck Hahn, today announced that Lion’s craft beer subsidiaries had decided to resign their membership from the association.
The move comes amid ongoing internal discussions about the CBIA’s future structure. Here is Hahn’s statement in full:
Malt Shovel Brewery (James Squire brewers) and the Little Creatures and White Rabbit breweries last night decided to resign their memberships of the Craft Brewers Industry Association (CBIA). We have great respect for the CBIA and have supported it since its beginning – however, we believe the current internal focus on ‘big vs. small’ is divisive and a distraction from more important issues and opportunities facing the brewing industry.
There is a part of the industry that seems intent on defining itself not in terms of what’s great about craft – the quality beers, the passionate brewers and the characters behind them – but in terms of who owns what.
No matter who you are, you have to raise the funds to brew from somewhere, whether it be your bank, wealthy private investors, shareholders or otherwise. I don’t see how that should make any real difference to beer drinkers who generally only care about the quality and variety of the beer they are drinking. And if we measure brewers by their scale, and they need investment to achieve that scale, what message are we sending them – if drinkers love your beer and you grow as a result you are no longer a legitimate brewer?
I’ve been brewing with the support of Lion for over 20 years now and they have let me get on with what I do best. When my team and I first created James Squire we did so working for Lion, but we chose to grow the brand outside Lion’s distribution system at the outset. Once we grew to scale working with Lion then allowed us to get James Squire out to more beer lovers than we would have been able to reach on our own.
We have consistently brewed some of the most authentic, diverse, often challenging and always high quality brews available in Australia. In doing so, we, along with Matilda Bay, Hahn and Little Creatures, essentially launched the craft segment in Australia. Coopers was certainly one of the original craft brewers.
Ironically our Little Creatures Pilsner was only last year named Champion Australian Craft Beer at the CBIA’s 2016 Craft Beer Awards – the result of a blind taste test by expert judges, who were unable to pay attention to the beer’s ultimate owner. We were the only Australian brewer to win a Gold Medal in the World Beer Cup last year with James Squire Swindler. This is what we care deeply about – the quality of our beers.
On that basis we believe it is short-sighted for the craft sector to be squabbling amongst ourselves. We should be working together to build craft in Australia – feeding off one another’s success as we always have done – rather than confusing beer drinkers into thinking ownership structure has any impact on the quality of what they’re drinking.
Brewing is currently facing a number of challenges. Chief among them are the widespread misinformation about beer among consumers, and an increasingly hostile regulatory environment that threatens to undermine a vibrant beer culture for the responsible majority. Only by working together can we address these issues.
For Lion’s part, we will continue to brew great craft beers and nurture talented brewers. We will continue to innovate. We will continue to invest in and lead the Brewers Association of Australia and New Zealand and the Institute of Brewing and Distilling. We will keep investing in growing the entire beer category.
We wish CBIA every success and hope the industry will find a way to unite and collaborate on important issues into the future.