Brisbane’s Catchment Brewing Co. has purchased fellow South East Queensland brewery Fortitude Brewing for an undisclosed sum.
The acquisition includes the Fortitude brands and lease of its brewery, restaurant and functions business on Mount Tamborine.
Catchment Brewing CEO and major shareholder Matt Newberry said the business was “delighted and excited to acquire the Fortitude Brewing Co. business and brands.”
“Our West End brewery is running well over its capacity and this brewing facility gives us the ability to bring all our contract brewing back in-house,” he said.
“With our acquisition plans to acquire up to 10 more venues, the additional capacity is needed to service our growing on and off-premise business.”
The capacity of the existing West End brewery is 80,000 litres per annum Newberry advised Brews News.
Founded in 2012, Fortitude was an early entrant to the now increasingly crowded South East Queensland market.
The business was founded with the acquisition of the then-closed five hectolitre Eagle Heights Brewery in the Gold Coast Hinterland, before moving up the road to take over the larger MT Brewery in 2014.
Fortitude developed a strong following in the nascent Brisbane craft beer scene with its core range of beers, as well as its edgier Noisy Minor sub-brand.
However, as the local market developed, the Mount Tamborine-based brewery appeared to lose traction, including facing brand confusion with breweries opening in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley.
A 2018 brand refresh failed to re-invigorate the brand while committing the business to bottles at a time that the industry moved heavily to cans.
The brewery enjoyed lingering success with its 2.8% abv Pacer, a perceptive early entrant in the craft beer mid-strength market. Pacer and the Roots & Leaves Ginger Beer brand are the only Fortitude products currently available at major retailers.
The Fortitude business had been quietly for sale for some time. Brews News understands that the aging 24hL system, the original Bluetongue Brewery, was regarded as being in need of significant refurbishment by potential purchasers.
Catchment was founded as a West End-based brewpub in 2015 with investment from a number of Brisbane business identities.
Despite launching with a stylish fit-out and high-quality food menu that set it apart from its local peers, the venue struggled to establish itself on the local beer scene.
General manager Matthew Newberry joined the business in 2020, bringing with him a resume that included extensive hospitality experience, as well as being director of ASX-listed Broo and set about implementing a hospitality-based strategy.
In June 2021 Catchment Brewing Co celebrated its inclusion in the planned Urban House development of Brews in Sydney’s Newtown that Newberry described as a “great platform to showcase [its] brand and beers in NSW”.
However, by October that project appeared to have been discontinued with The Hotel Conversation reporting that following a due diligence process by the developer, the site was available for ‘new investor interest’.
In October last year Catchment took over the leasehold of the former Australian Venue Co site Darling & Co, adjacent to Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.
In a media release announcing the purchase, Newberry outlined an ambitious plan for a “growth strategy to be a leading independent business in the Australian Brewing Industry”.
“We are delighted & excited to acquire the Fortitude Brewing Co business and brands,” the release said.
“Our West End brewery is running well over its capacity and this brewing facility gives us the ability to bring all our contract brewing back in-housed.
“With our acquisition plans to acquire up to 10 more venues the additional capacity is needed to service our growing on and off premise business.”
He was quoted in media reports as flagging a potential stock market listing.
“Ultimately, he says, the aim is ‘to get to the point where we list it on the market and provide a really good return for shareholders’,” The Crafty Pint reported this week.
In an email to Brews News, Newberry said the purchase complemented the Catchment business, though the Mount Tamborine venue would remain under the Fortitude brand.
“The brand is important to us,” he wrote.
“We were attracted to the Fortitude brands as there are complimentary [sic] brands to our existing portfolio including Fortitude Pacer, a premium light craft beer, Roots & Leaves – a popular alcoholic ginger beer and their Noisy Minor seasonal range.
“The business is also a thriving tourist destination that has a great taphouse, food, bar and function facilities.”
Newberry said Catchment intended to invest in the aging Fortitude brewhouse.
“We will need to invest some money into bringing the production facility back to its full working capacity but mainly in ancillary equipment – the stainless tanks and brewery equipment are all in good working condition & are currently being used,” he said.
Newberry declined to comment on similarities between Catchment’s current strategy and that of Broo, where he served as a director between March 2018 and December last year and remains a top 20 shareholder.
In 2017, before Newberry joined the business, Broo purchased Mildura Brewery following listing on the ASX, then announced plans to bring its contracted volume in-house.
The business also acquired a number of leasehold hospitality venues before exiting the businesses. The Mildura Brewery was placed in liquidation in May this year, and the sale of the publicly-listed company’s shares is currently suspended from trade on the ASX.
Newberry stepped down as a director of Broo late last year.