In the world of Australian craft beer, there were two large announcements in the second half of 2019, which sent tongues wagging and many independent craft beer supporters into meltdown.

The first came in August, when it was announced that Asahi, a large Japanese beer company, bought 100% of Brisbane-based Green Beacon Brewing Company; the second followed a few months later when, in December, Balter Brewing announced their sale to CUB (Carlton United Brewers).

As a company that visits both breweries regularly during our craft brewery tours in Brisbane and beer tours on the Gold Coast, initially we felt stuck between a rock and a hard place. On the Gold Coast, for instance, the number of breweries remains relatively small, especially in comparison to the size of the population. From north to south, Gold Coast breweries include Madocke Brewing Company, Lost Palms, Black Hops, Burleigh Brewing and Balter, with Currumbin Valley Brewing an incredible brewing company that we currently can’t visit. With limited opening hours, confined spaces and restricted seating at some of these venues, having a range of options to select from when on tour is certainly beneficial. Cutting out one brewery, such as Balter, due to their sale to a larger corporation would have significant impact on the brewery tour offerings available to us.

In Brisbane we are fortunate enough to have a much greater selection of craft breweries to choose from, all of which produce outstanding beers. Green Beacon, however, has been one of our greatest supporters since the very first time we approached them with our fledgling brewery tour business idea. They have gone out of their way to allow our guests to taste and experience a full range of their beers, even though a tasting paddle is not technically on their menu. Our visitors have had the chance to sample not-yet-released beers, limited editions, and special creations that some punters may not have access to. Not only that, but their award-winning range hasn’t changed in flavour since the sale became final.

Do these sales surprise you? See the full list of Corporate Brewery Ownership in Australia, or read another blog of ours outlining the value of independence here.

We love what we do at Hop On Brewery Tours, and we proudly support independent breweries and understand the challenges they face, the importance of independence, and the community built around local venues. Were we disappointed when these two breweries sold to international companies? Yes, but we also understand. Business is still business, and until the end product changes, we believe people should drink what they like. Everyone has an opinion, and many people have their own agenda to follow, and that’s fine. Did we struggle with the decision to keep these breweries as part of our brewery tours? Slightly, yes. But we have guests who sign on to a Gold Coast brewery tour with the goal of visiting Mick Fanning’s brewery (aka Balter) or who have heard great things about the beer at Green Beacon, and we never want to disappoint our guests by saying these breweries have been blacklisted. Having said all that, if someone signs onto a tour and specifically requests to only visit independent craft breweries, we are more than happy (and capable) to oblige.

The future is unpredictable, and changes are inevitable. For now, Hop On Brewery Tours offer our guests quality beers that we are excited to drink and share with others. The minute that this changes, or we no longer feel welcome, or a brewery has changed beyond recognition, is when we re-evaluate and go from there. Until that time, we will not change our Brisbane brewery tour offerings or our Gold Coast brewery visits.

Cheers and beers,
Matt and Joslyn