“How many breweries are there in Australia?” is one of the most frequently asked questions we get at Brews News.
The Brews News Brewery Database, powered by Konvoy, aims to be the most comprehensive listing of physical breweries in Australia to answer that question.
A variety of online directories purport to provide a meaningful number of breweries and these figures are often quoted by industry and the media. However, when we dug a little deeper, a significant number of these businesses seemed a little ethereal. Many were effectively zombies, existing as a social media presence – and maybe a website – but in many cases these had not been updated for an extended period of time. Importantly, beer from the entity did not appear to be available, and it was not clear whether the business still operated.
As we dug into some of the lists, almost 300 of the 750 ‘breweries’ did not have physical premises or own stainless steel. Almost two-thirds of the former did not appear to be still operating in any meaningful way.
This database did initially set out to include ‘nomad’ and ‘contract’ brands. These business structures are legitimate and valuable beer businesses adding vibrancy, innovation and interest to the beer landscape.
However, when you step away from physical production venues, the differences between brands can be harder to distinguish.
Private label brands are produced under contract for retailers, white label beers produced for publicans and ‘vanity brews’ with little business intent or commercial investment in the brewing industry all inhabit the marketplace. Finally, there are also major beer brands produced by multinational brewers coming out of just one or two large production breweries.
We came to ask ‘How can a brand such as the Great Northern Brewing Company be distinguished from Coles’ Tinnies Brand and in turn be distinguished from a brand owned by “three mates who conceived an idea for a beer” and found someone to brew it for them?
We could not come up with a satisfactory answer that wasn’t arbitrary or saw every beer brand on the shelf included in the count.
Finding meaningful distinctions between businesses that describe themselves as nomad and contract brands and other beer marketing companies is difficult, as is determining when these businesses cease to operate.
Counting physical breweries provides a meaningful and robust datapoint that still indicates the health of the brewing industry as well as its size and capacity and level of investment.
Most importantly openings and closings of physical breweries is a much more meaningful dataset than brand concepts.
Not all may agree and we are open to the discussion about how this database can be broadened.
To provide feedback on the database, update and amend listings, or as a brewery owner to get a fuller listing, contact [email protected].