Australia: Goings On, Assorted Whinges &c

Another brewery is sucked into the gaping maw of AB-InBev: Pirate Life. Apparently everyone is pumped, one way or another.

So that’s quite a few in recent times and it’s already noticeable on the shelves. Pirate Life, Feral, 4 Pines, Mountain Goat and a few others have been bought. A bunch of faux craft labels such as J Squire, J Boston, 3 Pub Circus are also taking up shelf space. And some international names are pressing too. Anything to worry about? IMHO those who want to stay independent will want a venue.

A whinge: too many high priced fancy new beers from newcomers like Dollar Bill and fairly established people like Boatrocker. I’m happy to try something from pretty much any Australian brewery but releasing several beers at $20+ is discouraging. I’ve bought special beers from Boatrocker before and not felt ripped off, but again, they’ve released half a dozen new beers in the $18-$30 range. And they mostly sound like novelty beers. I’m going to wait until these have a few ratings from people whose ratings I know. And where these beers are hoppy I’m already thinking it’s too late for me to bother.

Sorry to hear about this trend in Australia. Australia was the Country that brought Craftbeer in to my mind. Coming from Germany in 2014 I was surprised how many small breweries were doing styles I have never heard of before. Pricing is a Problem but as alcohol is expensive in comparison to Germany for example bottle Prices for Special stuff priced around 15$ still seems okay for me but anything above is critical.

The Pirate Life sale has been making the rounds in UK craft beer circles today as well, as we’ve only really just started getting Pirate Life distributed here since the summer or so, and they’d been pretty well received until now. People are pretty angry about this and the vast majority of us most likely won’t be buying their beer any more.

Only other Aussie craft we got here in the UK has been Prancing Pony and Kaiju, hopefully these guys don’t go as well. Are Aussie brewers under pressure to sell to companies like ABI because making a profit is more difficult there? Geographic isolation causing a much smaller export market compared to say basically any European country? Do NZ breweries have similar problems? We only get 8 Wired and Yeastie Boys from NZ, yet I haven’t heard of ANY breweries there selling to ABI or similar, only in Aus.

I count ten NV breweries on RB that are owned by larger entities, Heineken being the largest owner. I don’t know any details, that’s just from a quick scan of NZ breweries listed here.

But I think it matters WHO is doing the buying, since not all large companies are bad actors. Some are evil, but not all.

Am surprised by the Pirate Life sale, but then again they need money to expand
This article from October sums it up pretty well:

Not a huge issue, and certainly not with ABI. Actual craft breweries have been bought solely by the two big local players (who themselves are owned by global conglomerates), along with both trying to create their own faux-craft brands. They were bought to get craft taps into Lion / DB tied bars, as the faux-craft they set up wasn’t fooling anybody. Tuatara (who are exported all over) are owned by DB, who are owned by Heineken. Panhead and Emerson’s are owned by Lion, who I think are owned by Asahi. Only outrage was about Emerson’s, partly because they were first, and partly because they have a long and illustrious history as an independent brewery in a small city with a lot of local pride. The outrage was less for the latter two, because the Emerson’s deal has actually been pretty good. The same people are making the same beers but they’ve got a bunch more capital to do so. They’ve had a big new brewery paid for, increasing their production by orders of magnitude, and with that extra production seem to have dramatically increased the number of seasonal specials and experimental one offs. There’s also stories of them using their new money to help small breweries. There is of course a minority who have significant issues with these breweries solely from an independence matters perspective.

TLDR: Yes, NZ has the same sort of problem, but with local macros who don’t seem to have the same evil in them.

Getting back to the Australia thing, I’ve never particularly enjoyed Pirate Life anyway, never understood the hype, so I’ll just carry on trying them occasionally when there’s nothing else I want. I was sad about 4 Pines, because I’ve enjoyed the few beers from them I’ve had. Feral do make fantastic beers, but with their sale I’ll wait and see. Coca-Cola certainly have a chequered past in the soft drinks industry, but I don’t know what they bring to the beer industry. If it’s increased production and funds for Feral to produce the same beers with more marketing opportunities (perhaps some exports to nearby countries…) I don’t think it’s the end of the world.

As for Boatrocker making expensive beers. If they want to send those 6 $30 beers to NZ I will buy all of them. Ramjet is the best straight barrel aged stout I’ve ever drunk.

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Coca-Cola Amital launched and owns Yenda, a terrible faux-craft label. Now they have Feral.

@hawthorne00---- Am with you on Boatrocker. Generally good beers but at such a high price tag for smaller volume. Have the same issue with La Sierne. Why pay near $30 for a saison when I can buy Saison Dupont and come out better and can buy another beer as well.


A few months ago, La Sirene Saison 375mL (98 RB score) launched on Boozebud for just $4!
That price is long gone now.

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So naturally Boatrocker has released a fortified Riesling BA saison that’s reasonably priced in 330ml bottle.

And I did buy one of the new pricey La Sirene beers (the Chardonnay BA saison, I passed on the coffee one).

Does that make me full of it? I guess with La Sirene they are producing beers that are in a predictable zone and I kind of trust that it’s going to be the sort of thing I like. Whereas with Boatrocker they’ve produced beers I really like and beers I not thought much of, so I can’t tell whether a novel beer is going to be fun or stupid. I’ll get Fat Santa if I see it though.

Brit on holiday in Aus here. My brothers place where I’m staying happens to be close to Boatrocker so we took a trip over to the taproom.

Firstly it’s a great space - taproom, barrel store and still under one roof - and I’d encourage anyone to visit if in the area.

Secondly, I loved the beers I tried.

Time Lord - a lambic
Lord Raspberry - the above aged on raspberries

Both of the above were on tap and bought a bottle of each ($34), plus a bottle of Wildecherry ($28) after trying the beers on tap. Bottles are 500ml btw. Now perhaps I don’t have a full grasp of whether that is value or not but I’m on holiday so I though ‘fuck it’ and bought them anyway. I’ll be taking them home to the UK to share with mates at a bottleshare.

A general note on my trip so far. It could be ‘death by pale ale’ as pales & IPAs seem ubiquitous here. Some pales are downright dull but I have more time for others. Beers from around 30 breweries sampled so far. 10 days to go!

You’ve been getting around.

The Boatrocker barrel room is cool and their “lambic” seems pretty impressive. I’ve only had the still one, so it’s good to hear that you loved the newer ones.

There are huge numbers of new pales and IPAs (particular attempts at NEIPA) at the movement, to go alongside the huge numbers that arrived in the last decade. I still find quite a few I like but I know other people are tired. But prising people away from macro lager is still the way to sell “craft” here (partly because hardly anybody is good enough to make good lager).

Hope the rest of your trip goes well.

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Now that My 2017 in Beer is up (and what a fine thing it is) I’m doing the GABS hottest 100 vote. I tend to go with

  • only things I tried for the first time in the year;
  • only 1 beer per brewer; and
  • make sure the styles vary a fair bit.

With that in mind, I went:

Mornington Peninsula Brewery: Old Pumping Station
La Sirène Brewing: Foret Sauvage
Modus Operandi Brewing: Cascadian Howl
Bruny Island Beer Co: Stoutfast
Wildflower Brewing & Blending: Gold

The last was a little lucky in that BentSpoke Cluster 8 didn’t appear on the list even after a reminder. And there were a Imperial Stouts (Fat Santa, Black Lung VII) that got trimmed.

Now it doesn’t say I can’t vote in the Kiwi one too, so I think I will. Unhappily the best NZ beer I had last year (Tuatara XV) was brewed in 2016 and seems to be therefore ineligible. 8 Wired Lord of the Atlas isn’t there either. Nor Garage Project Bastard Rye.

So it’s:

Emerson’s Brewery: Bird Dog IPA
Liberty Brewing Company: The Kush
Epic Brewing Company: Hysteria
Garage Project: Party & Bullshit
Behemoth Brewing Company: In Ya Face

I had to drop the different styles idea or I would have had to select outside by top 50 for the year.

Hottest 100 rolls up again. Didn’t check what had been left off the list until now, so it’s too late. Some things might have been brewed in 2017 and some just too narrowly distributed. So I’ve had to go down my list a bit. I broke the tie between Boatrocker, Bruny Island and La Sirène by noting that the first two would have featured earlier with other beers had they been listed.

Moon Dog Big Truffle in Little Porter
Wildflower the International
Bridge Road Bling de Wilde (Giaconda) (not on list)

Bridge Road Mayday Hills Honey (not on list)
Two Meter Tall Lacto Black (not on list)
Little Creatures Single Batch Extra Pale Ale
Bruny Island Second Breakfast (not on list)
Boatrocker Otter’s Blend (not on list)
Bridge Road Mayday Hills Yuzu (not on list)

Hargreaves Hill / Sailors Grave The Bramble (not on list)
Two Metre Tall Blended Raspberry Wild Ale (not on list)
Bruny Island Cloudy Bay IPA
Stomping Ground Archnemisis (Ineligible due to GABS’ self-declared conflict)
Boatrocker Alpha Queen 9th Anniversary IIPA
La Sirène Avant Garde Reserve Saison

really just logged on as thought about Hop Dog beerwork brett beers,
and google to find Tim closed down and now runs a restaurant.

surprised someone didnt buy it,
with all the new breweries opening up.

G’day mate. What piss are you drinking these days? Cheers!


Aussie cricketers are doing Aussie cricket things –

It’s a shame - their better beers were good and interesting. IIRC HopDog was on the market for some time (~18 months?) before they decided just to close. Doesn’t mean that the kit didn’t find a new home of course.