While craft beer is sometimes derided as an inner-city movement, the Australian Brewery is showing that craft beer is finding footholds further afield.
Rouse Hill, about 45 minutes north-west of Sydney’s CBD, is firmly outside the inner-city craft bubble but according to sales and marketing manager David Ward, there has been a tangible shift in what the locals are drinking.
“During my time at the brewery I have noticed plenty of changes,” Ward told Brews News.
“I think it was a matter of playing catch up for a bit.”
Ward said that eight years ago sales were driven by macro-style lagers.
“Our volumes have gone up heaps in the pub with people carrying our beer out in the suburbs and what people are asking for is much more aligned with what people are drinking in the inner-west and places like Surrey Hills,” he explained.
“A long time ago, Australian went through a bit of a cultural change with coffee and wine and beer was just the last to change.
“I thought we were trending 10 years behind the US but I think we’re starting to catch up now and it’s not necessarily a niche thing anymore – people drinking craft beers.
“Ordering a pale or a craft lager is now pretty standard but more so than that, people are coming in and ordering the NEIPAs, the sour beers.
“We’ve been ranging a whole range of single-keg beers at the brewery and we’ve been turning over one every two or three days.”
A sprawling suburban area, Ward said that Sydney’s north-west has lots of consumers that are increasingly looking for craft beer.
“We’re selling dozens of cases at the venue every week takeaway, people coming in and taking away beer from us directly,” he explained.
“It’s definitely because things are changing.
“We’ve always been a large brewpub… sometimes we may even have been more known for our big bistro than necessarily our beer but as people are coming more and more for the beer it’s been awesome.”
Ward said that there aren’t any other similarly scaled breweries in the area.
“I’ve always been a massive advocate for pubs being pillars of their community and they have traditionally throughout time been places for people to meet, eat and drink,” he said.
Ward said that the Australian Brewery has an advantage because it has got a craft brewery on site, which acts as a drawcard bringing people through the doors.
“It’s obvious, fish where the fish are, and if you go to the inner-west of Sydney or around Fitzroy in Melbourne I’m sure your brewery will go well,” he said.
“But there’s also something to be said for going to places where there’s not a traditional craft-beer heartland and there’s a lot of people out there who want it,” he said.
Over the past two or three years, Ward said that he sees the same people visiting bars and pubs in the inner-west on a Friday after work, craft-beer hubs like Surrey Hills on a Saturday and then venturing to the Australian Brewery on a Sunday because it’s where they live.
It’s a similar situation for Melbourne’s 2 Brothers Brewery. Located about 30 minutes south-east of Melbourne’s CBD in Moorabbin, 2 Brothers also sits outside the inner-city ring.
Co-founder David Ong said that the Australian craft beer industry was still in its infancy when he started the brewery in 2008.
“Back then when we opened we actually had to have a fairly limited range and a range of beers that the locals could drink,” Ong told Brews News.
“We had to brew [a pilsner style of beer] because a lot of the people that were coming into our brewery doors were coming straight off the back of drinking Corona or VB or Hahn Light.
“We had to brew a craft beer that was fairly unchallenging.”
Ong said that it wasn’t until about 2012 that things started to change.
He said that while Moorabbin is probably less-progressive than Fitzroy or north of the city, he too believes that beer preferences are changing, especially over the past two years.
“Around 2012 we were pushed towards making more interesting products, having products like IPAs in our core range for the inner-city market,” Ong explained.
“It’s probably only in the last couple of years that we’ve started having demand from local bottle shops for those same products.”
Ong said that he’s seen suburban bars along the coastline from St Kilda down to Seaford starting to have an IPA on tap.
“Two or three years ago you’d be lucky if you saw that in a bottle but now these bars and small venues and pubs can commit to having an IPA because they can turn over a keg a week.”
Ong believes that the 2 Brothers Brewery has been a great eye-opener for people in the surrounding suburbs.
“We have now 18 or 19 tap points, we not only have our own beers on tap but we’ve got beers from the States so when people come to 2 Brothers we try to give them a complete, all-round beer journey,” he said.
“And that’s part of opening their eyes up and helping them next time they’re in the bottle shop saying.
“I think we’ve been helpful in that regard to our local community and those surrounding suburbs in terms of helping educate people about craft beer, as have the other local breweries around us as well.”