BrewDog’s recently unveiled plan to build a brewery in either Brisbane or Newcastle drew a mixed reaction from beer industry insiders.
It is pleasing on the one hand to see that Newcastle’s economic resurgence has caught the eye of a foreign company such as BrewDog, local bar owner Corey Crooks told Brews News.
“For me, being a proud Novacastrian, it’s humbling to see them identify Newcastle as a potential location. It’s a sign of what’s happening in Newcastle,” he said.
However, Crooks – owner of specialist beer venue Grain Store – questioned the wisdom of choosing a second tier city such as Newcastle, which he believes is not large enough to accommodate BrewDog’s usual model of a brewery and multiple bars.
“We’re the seventh biggest city in Australia, but our population is nowhere near the likes of Brisbane even,” he said.
“And it is a pretty parochial town. BrewDog is a big foreign-owned company coming in, setting up shop in their backyard. They’re almost a mini-multinational, in a lot of ways.
“How many locals want to be jumping in holus-bolus spending their hard-earned in there, when they could actually go and spend it somewhere like [local brewery] Foghorn?
“I’d rather see a successful Australian company like Pirate Life or Feral or Stone & Wood look at Newcastle than Brewdog,” said Crooks.
He said BrewDog arriving in Newcastle poses no direct threat to Grain Store, but it is concerning for the many small breweries still finding their feet in the market.
“It is hyper-competitive right now to try and move your beer. I don’t know whether our market can sustain another big player right now, it is over-saturated,” he said.
“BrewDog will not be content to pick up a floating tap here and there. They’ll survive, but what will be the casualties along the way?
Bucket Boys Craft Beer Co’s Johnathan Hepner pointed out that the Scottish company would be nothing like the bit player like they are in the US, if they set up shop in Australia.
“They’re coming into a market that’s five per cent the size of the US. When they come in here and build a big-ass brewery, they’re going to be the biggest craft brewer in Australia, by far,” he told Brews News.
“They’re going to come in and make decent beers, and they’re going to offer them at a price that’s really competitive, because they can.
“The guys who lose out are the smallest guys, who can’t supply the volume needed to compete. The shelves can only get so big. It’s really hard to find taps, and that’s not going to make it any easier,” he said.
While he cautions against the “fan boy” enthusiasm that greeted the announcement, Hepner acknowledged it may offer some positives.
“If they’re putting out an awesome product at a lower price, everyone else is going to have to step up their game,” he said.
“And every time BrewDog opens a pub, it does reserve some of its taps for guest beers, so there’s things that can be positive… it’d be super cool to go to a BrewDog bar in downtown Sydney.”
Exciting for Australia
There is no point small breweries complaining about BrewDog bringing increased competition, commented Michael Conrad of Brisbane’s Newstead Brewing Company.
“It means that we’re going to have to work harder and get our act together and do a better job. It’s a free market, at the end of the day,” he told Brews News.
“It’s exciting that they think Australia is advanced enough to be building a brewery and bringing their venues into the market.”