The sale of Little Brewing Company will inject new business skills while retaining its brewing talent, according to the buyers of the business.
The transaction comes after the Port Macquarie company had been in voluntary administration for several months.
The new owners, established hospitality and tourism operators in the Port Macquarie region, see their investment as a vote of confidence in the quality of the Little Brewing Company beers.
“The reason I am involved is I have been a long-term fan of their beer,” new co-owner Steven Chung told Australian Brews News.
“I went into this because I want their product to stay. I think their beers are a hell of a lot better than most of the other craft beers I drink.”
Chung’s involvement in the new business is certainly a vote of confidence in its potential as he was also an investor in the failed brewery, and thus a creditor.
A local doctor, Chung adds his share of the new venture, Wicked Elf Beers Pty Ltd, to his ownership of Long Point Vineyard.
Chung joins forces with Lou Perri, owner of The Stunned Mullet in Port Macquarie, a hatted restaurant in the Fairfax Good Food Guide that has similarly been a long-time supporter of the beers.
“I think there’s a very good product there. I think Warwick Little is probably one of the best brewers I have come across,” Perri said.
“I say that as I have seen him evolve and develop over the last nine years. From the recognition that Warwick gets, it’s clear the industry respects him as a brewer.
“To take it to the next level you need some guys that are savvy enough and able to manage it and capitalise on it.”
Ahead of its time
Perri’s observations on the difficulties Little Brewing faced are applicable to many of its industry counterparts.
“There’s a lot of great talent out there that doesn’t understand the marketplace and the commercial realities associated with the marketplace,” he said.
“I think they [Little Brewing Company] were undercapitalised and operationally challenged within the community. They had a premium product in a regional area that is only now starting to understand how good that product is.
“If you have a market that doesn’t understand why a case of beer should be 90 bucks, they’re going to be buying TEDs and Carlton Extra Dry and Great Northern.
“When you’re in a community that is price driven and you’re creating the premium product that Warwick does create, it’s tough.
“We see that ourselves being a premium restaurant. Luckily the market has changed and Port Macquarie is becoming aware of how good some of the local product is.
“Pubs have had to pull back from their strong contractual obligations to the two big guys, because it’s quite clear that craft beer is an important part of the community now.
“If a local pub that was traditionally Lion or CUB is now only pouring those products, they’re going to start losing business because the consumer wants craft beer. That segment is getting bigger and bigger.
“I think there’s a really good product there [in Little Brewing] and it would be shame to lose it. We’re going to focus on our existing relationships and try and grow the business organically and look for new opportunities, particularly on tap. That’s an area that the Littles didn’t really capture.
“If we can get that momentum going, and Port Macquarie does have that momentum, I think it will be really good for the town full-stop. There are other brewers coming up, with Moore Beer; Black Duck is expanding.
“I think it’s great for the region.”
Chung agrees, saying that while the brewing skills weren’t matched by business skills, with Warwick Little staying on as brewer the new owners have a strong platform to capitalise on.
“We’ve still got the same brewing expertise, we’ve got the same recipes, the same everything, except now we have got a bit of business background and hospitality background and the financial backing that will hopefully get the place going again,” Chung said.
The official media release can be seen here.