And then there were … 180-odd.
But whether that is the number of members in the Independent Brewers Association by the end of the year is debatable.
Another significant pillar of the revamped craft beer body, which is still feeling the impact of its revolution in May, has departed.
The Sip is willing to bet its yearly revenue that another of equal footing in the brewing community will follow before Christmas.
It seems it is okay not to have the craft breweries owned by Big Beer in Australia’s former craft brewing industry body until the multi-nationals open their chequebook and make an offer.
Sydney’s 4 Pines is the latest to follow the world trend of being a relatively small family-owned brewery to sell to AB InBev.
Good on them. The 4 Pines team had spent a decade creating great beers and a solid craft brewing identity. And let’s face it, breweries are businesses. Companies need to make money. People need to be rewarded for their toil.
Just like in the US there will be the usual gripes about a sell-out to Big Beer and how the brews from 4 Pines won’t taste the same or have street cred any more.
What bull toss.
It is ironic that the centrepiece whinge from the Independent Brewers Association is that Big Beer is blocking paths to business for the minor players through tap contracts and distribution platforms yet when one gets the opportunity to spread its brand message it is immediately ostracised.
Whether the Australian brewing community likes it or not, craft beer is a thing - although some in its community now want to disown the term. The public certainly thinks it is relevant even if it took a while for some to catch on. The sector is deemed to be about 11 per cent of all Australian beer sales.
So that leaves tank loads of drinkers who don’t give a coaster that they’re downing fizzy lagers owned by Big Beer. Tens of thousands couldn’t give a fat rat’s toss bag the craft beer in their mouth was made with CUB (AB InBev), Lion, Asahi, Kirin or Coca Cola backing.
Sure the recent Beer Cartel survey indicated craft brew lovers overwhelmingly favoured drinking independently-produced beverages. And 17,000 respondents is a big sample. But they are already members of the choir. They're established passionate craft beer lovers, those more likely to participate in the survey, and would be expected to act that way. Many more aren’t interested in reading the small print on the label.
Again, what about the hundreds of thousands who are happy to drink a James Squire 150 Lashes blissfully unaware they are imbibing on a Lion product.
In the future there are going to be buckets of those people with a 4 Pines Kolsch in their hands because the AB InBev deal will put the beer into more venues. Is that really a bad thing? Doesn’t it make a brewery more viable for staff and contributors? Doesn’t the beer drinker get a better choice of good brews?
Oh, that’s right. The 4 Pines’ beers don’t taste the same now because they’re from AB InBev.
On releasing an economic statement on its membership – remember that doesn’t include Mountain Goat, James Squire, Matilda Bay, Little Creatures and White Rabbit et al – the IBA stated in July it represented just 3% of Australia’s beer production.
Aztec Australia last year recently reported that 4 Pines was 2.5% of the entire craft beer market. Now that includes all the those brands the IBA shuns. James Squire is 30% of that sector.
So it is obvious that the IBA’s position has been diluted by 4 Pines’ exit. The Sip is convinced the IBA share will fall further with at least one more big sale imminent.
It should also be remembered that Pirate Life, now a flagship for Australian craft brewing, voted against the move to ban Big Beer-owned brands from the association.
This IBA has also opted not to have its annual awards in Perth, preferring Sydney again. Every other mainland State has had the chance. It is disappointing attitude towards a State that invented independent beer in this country and is the cradle of Australian craft brewing. And, significantly, WA is the only State without a macro brewery. Independence must carry more weight on the east coast.
Independence might conjure a warm fuzzy feeling for those trapped in a craft beer bubble. But it doesn’t necessarily foster progress for a brewing business and hold any appeal whatsoever to the vast majority of drinkers.
In the end it didn’t matter to 4 Pines either.
FROM THE 4 PINES NEWS DESK
What you really want to know...
Yes. Some people will think our beer tastes different. No. It doesn’t.
Yes. 4 Pines will continue to operate all existing venues. Yes. 4 Pines employees will keep their jobs.
Yes. 4 Pines is now 100% owned by AB InBev.
Yes. The Brookvale brewery will be expanding its capacity in the very near future. Yes. 4 Pines has already started developing plans for national and global expansion.
Yes. 4 Pines did treat themselves to a case of Crownies to celebrate.
THE BANNED LIST
Breweries the IBA don’t want in their group.
Little Creatures – Lion
White Rabbit – Lion
Malt Shovel – Lion
Kosciuszko - Lion
Legendary Brewing Company - Lion
Byron Bay – Lion
Eumundi – Lion
Knappstein – Lion
Furphy - Lion
Coopers - Coopers
Matilda Bay – CUB
Yak Ales – CUB
4 Pines – CUB
Cascade – CUB
Cricketers Arms – Asahi
Mountain Goat – Asahi
Yenda – Coca Cola
Steamrail Ale – Coles
Sail and Anchor – Woolworths
John Boston - Woolworths