Co-founders of Queensland brewery Beard and Brau Farmhouse Brewery, Tanya Harlow and Chris Herring, closed the doors on the business last month after ten years on the craft beer scene.
Their first beers were released to the public in 2008, when they said they were the 18th brewery in the country and were operating at the same time as the Matilda Bay Brewing Co, as well as the likes of Mountain Goat and Little Creatures.
“How the world has changed since then,” Herring, also known as ‘Fish’, said.
“Back in those days craft beer was sitting at 0.2 per cent of the beer market. You just had basically what I call ‘cockroach beer’ on tap, basically VB , Coopers, maybe a Tooheys. The pub was a terrible place to be.”
He said that there were a number of reasons that they had exited the craft beer industry altogether, both positive and negative.
“It’s been a real big challenge. I’ve gone through 300 per cent increase in excise through that time. We’ve got the highest tax beer in the world and we had to pay excise weekly with no rebate.”
There are some other, more general issues about the craft beer industry itself, he said, that caused them to shut up shop.
“Beard and Brau isn’t a marketing company. We focused on beer, but if we were better at market entry we might have been bigger.
“But that’s what the market is today. I’ve never seen so much bad beer on the market in my whole life.
“People are making bad beer because they’re lazy. They will make a bad beer with a range of qualities that should never hit the market and they convince people it’s good to drink.
“Even if its got a hint of a fault we wouldn’t have sold it. There’s also lots of average beer on the market, it’s so ‘samey’.”
He said one of the reasons they closed down Beard and Brau was that the focus was more on market or “eyes and ears” than on the taste of beer.
“That’s what Beard and Brau always focused on, but we should have been better at the ‘eyes and ears’ bit of the game,” he said.
However, the fact that the growth of James Squires forced a major brewer to expand also says a lot about the growth and popularity of beer, he said.
“A big brewery had to change because of how the market is growing – that’s one of the best things craft beer has generated.”
Another more positive aspect of today’s craft beer industry is a focus on sustainability. Herring said one of the things he was most proud about when looking back at the ten years of Beard and Brau was their focus on sustainability.
He said the team managed to get their water consumption to near zero litres per litre of beer produced, and as an engineer, he had been able to rework and increase the efficiency of the brewery’s electrical systems. They won in the Environmental Sustainability category at the Scenic Rim Business Excellence Awards in 2014 and 2015, and got involved in the Ecobiz initiative from the Queensland Chamber of Commerce.
“Our philosophy was ‘from the land back to the land’,” he explained.
Herring is now back working as a project automation engineer, while Harlow has returned to work as a business analyst.
“It feels good to have regular money coming in,” said Herring.
“Basically, we’ve had our time in the sun. We’re both closer to 50 and we’re getting on a bit, it’s a young person’s industry, specifically at the moment.
“We had a business review and decided it’s time to hand in the mash paddle and go back to the corporate world and build up the superannuation.
“You never go broke if you run it right but you’ll never end up that rich either.”