Balter Brewing Company has been acquired by Carlton and United Breweries as Australia’s big brewers engage in another wave of craft acquisitions.
The sale, announced today for an undisclosed sum, sees the Currumbin-based brewery join 4 Pines and Pirate Life in the existing CUB stable. If the Asahi acquisition of CUB is allowed to go ahead, they also join Green Beacon which was acquired by Asahi back in August.
Balter was launched in 2016 and its beers have since been the recipient of a host of awards under the stewardship of head brewer Scott Hargrave, a former brewer at Byron Bay and Stone & Wood. Balter brewed 4 million litres of beer in 2018.
Founders include Bede Durbidge, Josh Kerr, Sean Ronan, Joel Parkinson, Mick Fanning, brand director Stirling Howland and CEO Ant Macdonald, along with Hargrave. All will be remaining with the business following sale completion.
Matt Kirkegaard was joined by Stirling Howland, Ant Macdonald, Scott Hargrave and Mick Fanning for a special edition of Radio Brews News. Listen below.
Howland told Radio Brews News that it was a “monumental day” for the team at Balter.
“We’ve been the subject of so many buyout rumours since the very first day we started, and we’ve been sold probably 50 or so times already. It just turns out that the 51st time is actually true,” he said.
The team explained that the deal with CUB came about as a result of Balter’s exponential growth, and that its plans to grow further in the coming years required a capital injection.
“A number of factors came into play for us,” explained Howland.
“We’ve been going at a pretty crazy trajectory for a number of years now, It’s been a wonderful ride but it definitely a ride that hasn’t just been smooth sailing.
“We’ve got a hard-working engine in this business and if you rev the engine for a long period of time it can take its toll.”
He said that discussions had begun after the GABS Hottest 100 in January, when the Balter team were approached by CUB.
“We talked amongst ourselves about what it would mean.
“When you’re under the pressure that the team is, to be able to relieve that was an enticing opportunity for us.
“We’ve built this brand into something that Aussies really love and we’ve got a staff here that are the backbone and the underpinning of all that.
“We had to delve deep into what it meant for all those things and whether they’d be compromised or not.”
He said that the business was launched with the help of 46 friends and family, and along with securing the future of its staff at the business, paying their early supporters back was a key consideration in the decision making process.
“We’ve had friends and family invest in Balter since day one, when we were just an idea on paper. Without those 46 friends and family none of this would have got off the ground the way it has.
“For some of them, it was their life savings which was pretty nerve wracking for us.
“For us to be able to sit here today and be able to say we didn’t mess it up, it’s a pretty good feeling.”
When it comes to staff, Balter’s sales team will remain in place and its more than 60 existing staff have their jobs secured when it comes to the deal, said the team.
Macdonald said that the deal needed to be a “win-win” for everyone.
“We’ve been contacted for years from all multinationals and other independents and we never really entertained it,” he said.
“Nothing ever ticked all the boxes from an investor and employee perspective.
“A lot of people think the boys chipped in millions to start with but that didn’t happen, we’re the same as any other business.
“It takes a lot of money to continue to run a business at this pace, sometimes you’ve got to step back and really understand the risk, and we’ve taken a lot of risk on this business,” Macdonald explained.
He said that the deal with CUB was about futureproofing the business.
“The partnership we’ve formed with CUB [allows us to hold onto] our integrity.
“We talk a lot about de-risking the business, that’s a really important thing moving forward.
“There’s a lot of saturation in the market at the moment, there’s a lot of micro and macro economic pressures on the economy, our forecast for the next two years weren’t as buoyant as they were a year ago.
“If we can achieve all our goals as senior management, still brew the beer here, execute the brand we want and be able to pay back our family and friends and protect our staff it’s a win-win for everyone and we’re excited to grow Balter further in the future.”
The importance of independence
One of the biggest issues when it came to the announcement of New Belgium Brewing’s takeover by Kirin via a branch of Lion Australia last week, was independence.
Howland said that the team knew that some of its fans and industry followers would be disappointed by the decision.
“There’s going to be people out there that are disappointed and if they hold independence in high regard that will be the outcome and we fully respect that,” he said.
“We never stood on the soapbox of independence, and even though independence is a great thing, it’s never been the thing we’ve used to tell our story.
“Our story has purely been about good beer. The free market will always decide whether you’re full of shit or not. And were very thankful that our community believes in us and hopefully from tomorrow onwards they will continue.”
Howling said that Balter’s main focus would always be on creating good beer.
“Since we started this, we had a simple mission of good beer is for everyone.
“I think we’ve done the very best we can to deliver on that promise.
“We’ve got that amazing community that rally around us and us around them. It’s quite amazing.”
Head brewer Scott Hargrave doubled down on the sentiment, saying that the Balter team would be remaining as a separate entity from CUB in all the ways that count.
“It’s enshrined in the sale contract, we wouldn’t be talking to you right now if that wasn’t the case,” Hargrave said.
“From any point of view that you look at, when people are attracted to Balter, it’s about the beer, the brand and the culture, everything that encapsulates what Balter is.
“If you change those elements you don’t really have Balter anymore. It would be utter madness to try and mess with that.”
He said that this extended to his beers, and was his major stipulation when it came to agreeing to the deal.
“I had to feel secure in that, that my beers, my babies, were not going to be played with, and that’s not the case. If anything it means we push forward and can make more of the beer were known and loved for.
“I have no intention of changing ingredients, our relationships with our suppliers are massively important to what we do.”
Howland said that he wanted to set peoples’ minds at ease.
“In a few months time…they’ll taste the Balter beer and it will be the same delicious little morsel that they trust us to make.
“We can talk until we’re blue in the face but people will ultimately decide. It’s how they’ve decided on Balter to this point in time and we respect their decision making.
“We built our trust in our brand around the promise of delivering good beer…hopefully the proof will be in the tinny.
“It’s a pretty emotional thing for us but we’re going to show up tomorrow and show that we’re the same as we were yesterday.”
Articles published under the media release byline are news produced by the relevant business and remain unedited by Brews News.
Balter partners with Carlton & United Breweries as its extraordinary journey continues
Balter Brewing Company’s journey from small Gold Coast start-up to one of Australia’s favourite craft brewers has taken another turn, with the company set to join the CUB family.
Balter was founded in 2016 by a group of childhood friends including professional surfers Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson. Guided by a belief that good beer’s for everyone, they wanted to create a world-class beer supported by a brand that didn’t take itself too seriously.
Since then, the business has experienced strong growth and won major awards including the number 1 spot for the last two years straight in the GABS Hottest 100, Australia’s most prestigious craft beer awards.
Balter CEO and co-founder Ant Macdonald said: “We’re proud to have grown the business to this point and we see the benefits this new partnership will bring as Balter enters its next growth phase.
“This deal will help us achieve our sustainability goals, upgrade capacity and hospitality at our Gold Coast brewery and create new jobs.
“We refused to compromise on our culture or our beer as part of this deal. It’s a testament to CUB that they didn’t want us to. They have an amazing track record of allowing craft brands to thrive while keeping their identity and we’re thrilled to join the CUB stable.”
Co-founder Mick Fanning said: “From day 1 we’ve tried to not only brew the most delicious beer but create a brand that was fun and inclusive – something the Aussie public would be proud to call its own. We’re stoked Balter has connected so well with Aussies and we can’t wait to continue our journey with CUB and get good beer into the hands of more beer lovers.”
CUB CEO Peter Filipovic said: “In a few short years Balter has become a craft leader through its commitment to quality and by building a brand that appeals to all beer lovers.
“We will help manage Balter’s strong growth through our willingness to invest, our world-class beer expertise and our customer relationships. And the terms of the deal mean the Balter team is not changing and management is staying on, which will ensure the business retains its identity and everything else that helped drive its success.
“The deal also means we’re expanding our presence in Queensland, where we already have a significant economic footprint with our Yatala brewery employing more than 250 people.”