Unsure if the beer you’re drinking is craft?beers on a tasting paddle

The number of independent, small craft breweries in Australia – also called micro breweries or boutique breweries – has been growing steadily in the past few years. An ever-changing ebb-and-flow of openings and closures can make it confusing to the general public if the beer they’re drinking is actually “craft”, or if it’s the craft arm of a larger company.

Brewery Ownership in Australia – Click Here

There is nothing wrong with these large craft arms, but the beer they produce may not be made in the traditional way, and the money earned will often fall in hands of large company owners that reside overseas. The popularity of craft beer isn’t a fad, it’s a way of life. There’s something to be said about going into a venue where brewers (and brewsters) are sweating away over bubbling vats of liquid goodness, or squeezed inside a tank to sweep out the remaining spent malt. When drinking these beers, consumers know the money they’re paying is going to support these hard-workers and their families, keeping money and jobs in the local communities. Not only that, but the beer is, on the whole, much much better than anything mass-produced.

Not sure why independence matters? Mark Howes, CEO of Newstead Brewing Co. in Brisbane, is a vehement supporter of independent beer and outlines his reasons in some blogs you can find here and here.

Brewery Ownership in Australia – Click Here

As of January 2020 there is a large sale in the works, with Asahi set to purchase CUB from ABInBev for the outstanding amount of $16 billion. That’s right, with a ‘b’. This merger would put roughly 50% of the Australian “craft” beer into the hands of just one company, however the sale has stalled and is currently before the ACCC as they review whether this would create a monopoly with the cider producers that would coalesce in this merger. As it stands currently, ABInBev, a Belgian company, controls CUB (Carlton United Breweries), which is roughly 46% of the Australian beer market; Kirin, a Japanese company, owns Lion (XXXX and their subsidiaries), and controls approximately 41% of the Australian beer market. This leaves Asahi (currently at 3.5% of the market) and Coca-Cola Amatil (2%), along with a smattering of other brands (Woolworth’s, Coles, Coopers, Gage Roads) filling up the gaps.

Brewery Ownership in Australia – Click Here

Credit to the Craft Beer Reviewer for his original list showing which large, inter- and multi-national companies own what many think of as craft breweries in Australia. We have recreated the chart for clarity; please feel free to share it if you’re so inclined. Please note the focus is on Australian breweries; while some of these companies (Lion, for example) own smaller breweries in other countries (Panhead in NZ, is one brewery), they are not represented here.

Brewery Ownership in Australia – Click Here

For the sake of transparency, we would like to note that our tours still visit Green Beacon (Brisbane) and Balter Brewing (Gold Coast). There are many reasons for this decision, ranging from beer quality, selection of offerings, and the support we have received from them since beginning. If you are joining a tour and would like to ensure it is strictly independent, please don’t hesitate to make notes in the Special Requirements section of your booking form, or contact us directly.