Australian brewing legend and Matilda Bay founder Phil Sexton has been announced as the keynote speaker at the IBD Asia Pacific Biennial Convention in Perth next month.
Sexton has been a major player in the Australian and worldwide brewing scenes for decades. He has seen the beer sector grow from its infancy with a handful of disparate brewers to the industry it is today, with more than 600 breweries in operation in Australia alone.
He recently made waves in the industry after announcing his return to the Matilda Bay brand after a 30-year hiatus, and will now be taking to the stage as keynote speaker at the IBD Asia Pacific Biennial Convention, 16th March to 20th March 2020.
Sexton is taking over from previously-announced keynote speaker Rebecca Newman, director of quality at Lagunitas Brewing Company in California, who was due to travel over from the US until scheduling clashes prevented her attendance.
Sexton told Brews News he would use his speech to discuss the importance of communication within the industry.
“It’s an interesting time to be talking about connectivity in brewing. It’s a very different industry from what I remember, even setting up at Little Creatures. I want to reflect on that and where it’s going,” he said.
“I was around in the early 90s when the craft industry collapsed and disappeared, brewers may have gone broke or someone took them over.
“It took 10 years to revitalise the craft beer industry. Are we getting to the same place now where everyone is getting acquired or amalgamating?
“And do we risk making ourselves irrelevant with that or are we way past that?”
Sexton explained breweries should be thinking about themselves as businesses, with the aim of making them sustainable in the long run to future-proof the industry.
“I think they are really interesting conversations. But we’re also brewers. Beer is our world and it’s the centre of everything we do, but what does the consumer think?
“I’d like to challenge everyone a little bit. At the end of the day one of the most important things we do is make money, because if we’re not making money, we’re not here for the long haul. Is it a bad thing to make money in craft brewing? It makes us honest and not just an artistic pursuit. It motivates people, I think.
“I don’t have all the answers, but these are conversations that shouldn’t be taboo.”
Sexton joined the brewing industry in 1975 after completing a BSc at the University of Western Australia, before heading to the UK to study a Masters in Brewing and Fermentation Science at the University of Birmingham in 1981.
He returned to Australia and co-founded Matilda Bay Brewing Company in 1983.
After selling Matilda Bay to CUB and dabbling in wine with Devils Lair, Sexton moved to Portland, Oregon, in the 1990s before returning to Australia, selling Devils Lair and moving to the Yarra Valley.
He then launched Little Creatures and later White Rabbit with some former colleagues from Matilda Bay, before it was acquired by Lion in 2013.
His latest project, announced last year, is to open a Matilda Bay brewpub in Healesville, Victoria, in partnership with CUB. Sexton explained that while he had a birds-eye view of the changes happening in the industry over the past three decades, some things had stayed the same.
“It was a wildly different industry back then, when there was basically only one big brewery in every state,” he said.
“We’re still focused on good beer, and brewers are still motivated by how people react to beer.
“But consumers are getting more excited, they will travel for beer rather than going to the same pub every week.
“So let’s talk about the craft, how to refine and perfect and make proper beer, instead of pulling stunts and tricks.
“Making beautiful beer is exciting and exhilarating, and there are still so many beers out there that do that.”