Brewers honing their craft as industry grows

  • Read the Independent Brewing Industry National Economic Evaluation below.

The craft beer business is booming and Victoria is leading the way.

A report from the Independent Brewers Association and Essential Economics shows that the number of craft beer brewers has increased tenfold since 2006.

Data for the Independent Brewing Industry National Economic Evaluation was collected in last year’s Independent Brewers Industry Survey.

It shows there are 379 independent breweries in Australia as off 2016 up from 30 in 2006.

Victoria accounts for 30.6 per cent of that number with 116 brewers producing beer in 2016.

Nick Horgan was one of many people swept up in the craft beer phase. 

He quit his job as a carpenter to travel the UK and learn about beer. Scottish brewer BrewDog trained him to become a cicerone.

Beer cicerones are similar to a wine sommeliers and considered experts in the field. There are less than 50 cicerones in Australia.

“There has been strong growth but it’s not particularly surprising,” Mr Horgan said.

“Craft beer became popular because people were more conscious about where things were coming from and supporting local producers.

“But Australia is still years behind the UK and the United States.”

A number of central Victorian breweries have established themselves since the popularity of craft beer has soared.

Brookes Bendigo, Tooborac Hotel and Brewery, Woodend’s Holgate Brewhouse, Castlemaine Brewing Company, Bandicoot Brewing in Echuca and Cornella Real in Heathcote have all established themselves in the industry.

“We have five or six brewers within an hours drive but Bendigo is the third or fourth biggest city in Victoria and we still only have one dedicated craft brewery. That is crazy because we are big enough to support two,” Mr Horgan said.

“If someone asks for local beer I immediately say Brookes.

“Their Mr Bendio IPA one of the best beers they have made and it competes with a lot of the beers in the fridge that have bigger budgets and branding.”

The report also showed independent brewers employed 2390 full-time employees, produced 59 million litres of beer and generated  $740 million in economic output.

Of the 379 brewers included in the report, 51.2 per cent were “nano-brewers” – small-scale independent breweries who produce less that 50,000 litres of beer each year.

Twenty per cent of brewers are “microbrewers” who produce up 300,000 litres of beer each year and 16 are regional brewers with a strong regional base capable of producing between 300,000 and 5 million litres.

Mr Horgan said it took a lot of guts and investment for people to go from home brewing in their garage to being an established brewer.

“I think where people see a problem with this growth is that not everyone is going to be the next big thing,” he said.

“A lot of brewers have heavy backing and investment which is important but people forget craft brewers do it because they love it, not to make megabucks. 

“But the smallest push and some investment can make you grow from garage setup to a larger fermenter or more.”