With the recent release of the Australian Independent Beer logo in May 2018, now is a good time to revisit craft beer ownership in Australia.
At Hop On Brewery Tours, we want to state that ownership does not necessarily affect quality or the taste of the beer in question. Some “beer evangelists” will shout until they’re blue in the face about their decision to no longer support breweries after they sell out (the likes of 4 Pines, Feral and Pirate Life are examples that have sold in the past 12 months), however “there have been no other changes to these three breweries other than their ownership; the brewery itself and the people that run the brewery are both unchanged.”** Simply put, their beer will now be more widely available which will hopefully lead to the outcome of seeing more mainstream beer drinkers foray into new styles and flavours, thus beginning their beer journey.
No matter your stance on the issue, it’s interesting to note that the term “independence” is gaining strength and value, overtaking the widely used term “craft”, which has been usurped by larger “faux” craft like James Squire, John Boston, Sail & Anchor and others. This has led to the creation of an Independent Beer seal by the IBA (Independent Brewers Association) of Australia, following the success of a similar logo released in the USA. This label can be used by full members of the IBA, which, to gain membership, breweries must not have more than 20% ownership by an outside entity*.
What does this mean for consumers? Simply put, it clarifies who owns your beer; whether it’s a large, multi-national company (like Coca-Cola Amatil, AB-Inbev or Kirrin), or, well, not. Independent breweries can still be large, like Stone & Wood or Coopers, so in this sense size doesn’t matter. Make of that what you will.
The lovely folks at Beer Cartel have run a Craft Beer Survey over the past few years, with fascinating results. According to their statistics from 2017:
Overwhelmingly people are happy to buy beer from Australian independent breweries (99%), as well as gypsy brewers (those who brew their beers at someone else’s brewery, 85%).
However, when it comes to craft beer brands produced for large supermarket owned bottleshops (Dan Murphys, First Choice, Aldi etc) just one-third (32%) are happy to buy these. Similarly for ‘craft beers’ produced by Australia’s multi-national breweries (Lion, Carlton United, Ashai etc) few (23%) were happy to buy ‘craft beer’ made by these corporations.^
For ‘craft beer’ that is produced solely as a brand most are either reluctant or will look to avoid purchasing (79%).
Furthermore, they continued by saying that “82% think an independent brewers seal or mark would have a medium to large impact on their choice of craft beer. This reiterates drinkers willingness to buy beer from an ‘Australian independent brewery’ and a reluctance to buy beer from a supermarket brand or large corporation that is sold as ‘craft beer’.”^
In the 2018 survey results, released after the launch of the Independent Beer seal, it was noted that roughly 1/3 of consumers were aware of the existence of the seal after just 5 months. The conclusion reached by Beer Cartel was that “[t]he seal has huge potential to dramatically change the beers consumers buy; 83% of consumers aware of the seal said it was likely to have a medium to large impact on their beer purchases.”**
In reality, all we’re trying to share is a bit of education. Make your own purchasing decisions, whether that’s from independent Australian breweries or not. Take the time to research ownership and independence if you find it valuable to you, but don’t judge others on their decisions. Try not to be hypocritical in espousing the virtues of supporting independent breweries when you’re drinking your Monster that you purchased from Coles or Woolies. We all have our own battles that we choose to fight; just because someone isn’t on your side this time, maybe they will be in the future. Really, just drink what you love.
Cheers and beers,
Hop On Brewery Tours