It was signalled by fanned feathers of a Little Dove that flew into the market three months ago.
And now WA’s largest brewer, Gage Roads, has confirmed its back to craft beer message by buying out a Big Beer boss.
In a deal that returns the original ethos to the Palmyra-based operation, Gage Roads will buy out the 25 per cent share in the business held by one of the quieter of the large chains, Woolworths.
So Gage Roads will soon stand alone – albeit still answerable to a raft of shareholders – re-adopting the craft beer policy which was the genesis of the business 15 years ago, well before the boutique sector’s explosion.
In announcing the buy-out via the Australian Stock Exchange Gage Roads managing director John Hoedemaker said this was a chance to “buy back the brewery”.
“We launched the new five-year operational strategy earlier this year, underpinned by the rapidly growing demand for high quality craft beer in Australia,” Hoedemaker said.
“The final piece in rolling-out the strategy was achieving independence and the proposed transaction, we announced today, gives Gage Roads that flexibility and capacity.”
The Woolworths shares won’t come cheap. It will cost $10 million and involve paying out debt that was guaranteed by Woolworths.
Gage Roads will see out a three-year deal producing Woolworths brands, including Dry Dock.
However, the brewer now has the opportunity to delve deeper into the craft beer space.
While its products Single Fin Summer Ale, Sleeping Giant India Pale Ale, Narrow Neck Session Ale and Atomic Pale Ale have a strong foothold in sales, Gage Roads has been unable to apply the needed focus on the boutique-style brews.
Little Dove, a silky smooth American Pale Ale with New World hop goodness, was a departure from the norm for Gage Roads. And it had an immediate effect, winning trophy for the Australian International Beer Awards champion brew.
Now Gage Roads can continue along that path and with so many brewers on their books, another Little Dove could soon land on craft beer shelves.
Under its “Returning To Craft” policy Gage Roads wants to have a Strong focus on training and industry-specific skills and contribution to the wider brewing community.