Sweet Amber Brewing Co. has expanded with its third site at Harbour Town Shopping Centre in Adelaide, highlighting a growing trend towards retail rather than wholesale in the craft industry.
The 25-seat pizza and beer café complements Sweet Amber’s existing sites, which include a beer café in the Adelaide suburb of Semaphore as well as its main brewing site at Regency Park.
Dane Adkins, founder of Sweet Amber, spoke to Brews News about the launch and growth plans for the brewery.
“We’ve had a great first week of trade, it’s got a different feel and vibe to what we’ve done before,” he said.
“In terms of why we moved into the shopping centre, it’s basically a numbers game. Harbour Town sees one million in foot traffic a year and there’s a broad demographic that comes through.
“On top of that there’s 300 employees that work in the shopping centre, you’ve got a captive audience, and they will bring that community vibe.”
Sweet Amber originally wanted to launch a brewery at the centre two years ago, but regulations prevented the manufacture of alcohol on airport-owned land.
Harbour Town’s centre management approached the team about bringing a Sweet Amber outlet to the site earlier this year and it has opened last week under a producer’s licence which allows takeaway sales.
While wholesale maybe considered in future, Adkins said retail sales were the main focus in the medium term.
“We’re still quite a small operation and because we don’t wholesale, our brand recognition is quite low – outside Semaphore we’re quite unknown.
“That’s why this move [to Harbour Town] has worked wonders. Even in the first week, people are starting to recognise the brand name and familiarise themselves with the range, so we’ve already hit the ground running in terms of wholesale if we do decide to look into it.”
Adkins said that although it is a relatively crowded market in craft beer these days, Sweet Amber’s focus on retail sales and customer service gives it an edge.
“We do things a bit differently, we don’t go down that typical path of playing the volume game. We’re all about the customer, from grain to glass essentially,” he said.
“And we’re next level with our customer service. We’ve got an amazing team on board which has helped us grow, you can’t grow without the staff guiding the ship in the right direction. Staff are everything when it comes to a business.”
He also said that for Sweet Amber, retail sales makes more sense right now.
“If you’re a production brewer you lose that control, you don’t know how long your beer is sitting on shelves in bottleshops, you get more quality control if you sell it yourselves,” he said.
“Our growth strategy is to open more of our own outlets rather than try wholesale. We’ll try to build a community around our venues, so we don’t have to invest in expanding the brewery, and don’t have to meet those volumes. Plus the margins are better on retail sales.”
In the beginning
Despite launching their third café site last week, the original plan for Sweet Amber was to start it as a bottleshop.
“That all came about through licencing issues – in South Australia, because of legislation, multinationals have a stranglehold on the retail industry basically,” Adkins said.
“Plan B was the beer café and thankfully we did it, and it was really successful in the community. We started out selling other independent beers from national and international brewers.”
At the end of 2016 Adkins undertook a round of reward-based crowdfunding to aid cash flow to invest in the 100-seater beer café, and he says rewards from that round are still being delivered.
“It builds that loyalty and keeps people coming back,” he said.
Later that year Sweet Amber launched as a brewery, at first using a contract brewer in the Barossa Valley, developing and brewing four beers which were sold through the beer café.
“We did that for 18 months, and then we decided that it was time to follow the natural progression of things and put in our own brewery,” he said.
“We couldn’t do it at the existing site due to licencing, so we picked a site in an industrial area.”
At the start of 2017 Sweet Amber opened its own brewery in Regency Park. It seats 60 people and brews 1,000-litre batches which are then sold through the beer café and latest site.
It has nine beers in rotation at the minute, including a light tropical blonde ale, an IPA and a 7.5% abv coffee stout as well as seasonal beers.
Sweet Amber Brewing Co’s brewing site is located at 21-23 Naweena Rd, Regency Park SA 5010.