Craft breweries are having a moment in Australia as drinkers look beyond legacy brew brands.
After a bruising 12 months for the hospitality industry generally, it appears as if craft brewers are still going from strength to strength on the back of booming demand.
On Thursday, inner Sydney outfit Batch Brewing revealed sales had grown 7% despite the pandemic. Having already raised $1.1 million from investors on platform Equitise in just 48 hours, the brewery has now opened the round to the public.
Co-Founder Andrew Fineran said he was “blown away” by the support as his team look to ramp up production, expand throughout New South Wales and Australia, and eventually begin opening new venues.
The story is hardly an outlier. At the same time that beer behemoths like Heineken are reporting declining sales, small brewers are enjoying their time in the sun, according to new data from payments platform Square.
“Mainstream beer brands are seeing dips in sales, and at the same time transaction data is showing that craft breweries using Square saw median growth of 202% during the third quarter in 2020, compared to the year prior,” Australia head of business development Colin Birney told Business Insider Australia.
Birney attributing it in part to “a big shift toward local-first spending habits this year”.
“To me, it’s not surprising: the craft beer community is incredibly tight-knit, and brewers do an amazing job of building close relationships with their customers,” he said.
Stone the crows
Whether it is from investors or craft beer connoisseurs, the demand is palpable.
Just ask one of the country’s newest brewers, Flamin Galah. The brewer, located on the shores of Jervis Bay, opened its doors in March last year, on the cusp of the pandemic.
“We had planned to initially just sell kegs wholesale, but almost straight away every pub and bar around us shut,” Claire Hewson, who co-founded the brewery with husband Sam.
Instead, the two were forced to quickly dropped the idea and started filling two-litre growlers and selling direct to the Huskisson locals. The ambition was to create beer for all matter of tastes, launching seven beers ranging from pale ales to those imbued with raspberry or pineapple and pear.
“Sam is our brewer, and he gets pretty creative with our recipes and tries to do something a bit outside the box,” Hewson said. “People have such different palates that we’re trying to offer something tantalising for everyone.”
It’s a strategy that is clearly working. By June, Flamin Galah had a proper canning operation and quickly found they couldn’t keep up with orders.
“We have a pretty tiny system so can only do about 6,000 litres a month,” Hewson said. “We would can that and then wholesale it to local bottle shops in Sydney and Canberra and by the time we would brew again, all of those cans would have sold out.”
As a result Flamin Galah is moving to a second premise just 12 months after it opened its first. Expected to be completed next month, the new brewery will produce almost five times as much beer to sate its growing fan base.
“The vision is to eventually become one of the biggest breweries in Australia,” Hewson said.
“It’s such a hard industry to be in but, if you’ve got the guts to do it, I feel like you can turn a brewery into something pretty amazing.”