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Australian indie beer brewers urged to focus less on craft, more on knowledge – Craft Beer Online Australia
Ken Grossman, who started California’s Sierra Nevada brewery more than three decades ago, says the Australian industry is in danger of following some of the US industry’s costly mistakes.
Having watched the US craft beer market boom to the point of oversaturation, Mr Grossman says Australia should take heed.
“We knew there was going to be a reckoning,” says Mr Grossman.
When he founded Sierra Nevada out of his garage in 1980, there were around 40 other breweries in the entire United States. Now there are more than 5,000.
A similar pattern is emerging in Australia. In the past five years alone, the number of Australian independent breweries has jumped from 200 to 400.
Mr Grossman has no doubts the so-called craft phenomenon is here to stay, but he cautions those looking to dive into the market and make it big quick.
“If you want to enter with the aspirations of being a national brand, I’d think long and hard about that, because it’s going to take a huge amount of resources,” he says.
“Anybody can buy a brewing kit for a few thousand dollars, install it and become a brewer, but what really needs to go along with that is a keen understanding of the science of brewing. People are skipping those steps.
“It’s much easier today to be a knowledgeable, sharp brewer, but I see a lot of entry brewers not availing themselves of that knowledge, not doing the hard work, not investing in the facilities that will allow them to have consistent quality beer going forward.”
He says aspiring brewers’ enthusiasm is too rarely matched by an understanding of the scale and resources required.
“There’s quite a jump between making 5 to 10-gallon batches of beer, to commercially producing beer day in, day out that meets the customer’s needs.
“The pitfalls I see are the lack of attention to detail, the lack of that hard-learned experience that some of the early brewers had to do.”
Brands, peak bodies shrug off ‘craft beer’ label
Australian brewer Jamie Cook echoes Mr Grossman’s concerns.
“This marketplace at the moment is getting pretty cluttered,” says Mr Cook, the co-founder of Stone and Wood Brewery, “so you need to have a strong brand that can cut through that, which drinkers want to engage with.”
Mr Cook started the Byron Bay brewery with Brad Rogers and Ross Jurisich in 2008. All three men were veterans of the mainstream beer industry.
While they wanted to develop something distinct from their former Fosters and Carlton and United masters, they were wary of the “craft” label.
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