Lion has today announced plans to close the historic West End Brewery in June 2021.
A statement released by the Kirin-owned brewer described the closure as a “sad day for the West End team, Lion and South Australia”.
“West End has been operating well below its full production capacity for some time now and unfortunately this is no longer viable,” the announcement read.
“We have come to this proposal as the best way to ensure we have a sustainable brewing network for the future.”
The facility has been under pressure for some years, with shifts being reduced in 2018 which saw the loss of 36 full-time roles.
At the time the company advised West End would continue to be brewed locally.
“West End will continue to play an important role in our network of nine breweries after we invested significantly in 2013 to build a dedicated cider-making facility at the site.”
Lion noted that the Australian beer market has been in long-term decline for the past decade as Australian drinkers choose other beverages such as wine over beer. It referenced ABS statistics that showed beer volumes have declined 20 per cent in this time.
“Our input costs have continued to rise against this backdrop of declining volume, and a further drop in draught beer sales as a result of the pandemic,” the statement said.
The move comes five years after Lion heralded an upgrade to the brewery to allow it to produce approximately 120 million litres of beer every year and make “West End one of the most flexible and versatile breweries in the Lion group.”
“West End Brewery has been part of the South Australian community since 1859 and this upgrade will ensure we can keep making the highest quality beer and ciders for many more years to come,” a spokesperson said at the time.
Lion said in today’s announcement that its priority was the wellbeing of the team at the brewery.
“This is no reflection on the dedication or capability of our team at West End and their contribution to this brewery and our brands over many years,” it said.
“We recognise this is very difficult news and it comes at a particularly challenging time for our people.”
“We will be consulting with each and every team member to support them through this proposed change.”
“Those impacted by this proposal would have access to extensive outplacement support, and a West End Re-Skilling Fund of up to $1 million, on top of any potential redundancy payments. We will work with the SA Government to optimise this support package.
“Around a third of our existing team would remain in South Australia under this proposal across sales and sponsorship roles.
“We acknowledge West End’s 160-year history. We are a proud supporter of sports at all levels – sponsoring many competitions and teams in SA including the SANFL, the Strikers and the Redbacks – and of the pubs and clubs that bring communities together.
“We are committed to doing all we can to see as many of our events and traditions continue and working alongside our customers during this difficult period as they recover from a very challenging year,” the statement concluded.
The move follows Lion’s 2012 closure of Perth’s Swan Brewery. At that time Lion flagged it would invest $70 million into the West End Brewery to increase cider and international brand capability and to accommodate the brewing of WA keg production.
Lion acquired the South Australian Brewing Company in 1993. The company was formed in 1888 through the merger of the West End Brewery (1859), Kent Town Brewery (1876) and a wine and spirits business.
The history of South Australian breweries is heavily intertwined. The existing brewery site was previously the Southwark Brewery, formerly known as the Nathan Brewery. When the original West End Brewery was closed in 1980 after 124 years, the brewing operations were transferred to the current site.