Brewers angry at ACCC decision

Bendigo Beer chairman Trevor Birks with Brookes Beer owner Doug Brooke.
Bendigo Beer chairman Trevor Birks with Brookes Beer owner Doug Brooke.

Independent brewers are calling for venues to give the little guy a go.

Brookes Beer owner Doug Brooke and Bendigo Beer chairman Trevor Birks are unhappy with the results from an ACCC investigation into the contracts of multinational beverage companies Carlton United Breweries and Lion Pty Limited.

The ACCC examined contracts and practices at 36 venues in New South Wales and Victoria after allegations that major brewers were locking small, independent breweries out of beer taps in pubs and clubs were made.

Complaints stemmed from some Lion and CUB contracts requiring venues to set aside 80 per cent of their beer taps to big name brands.

“While some craft brewers may have been refused access to taps by certain venues, our investigation found that the venues were responding to consumer demand for certain beer brands, rather than restrictions imposed by the big brewers,” ACCC deputy chair Michael Schaper said.

Both Mr Birks and Mr Brooke said if big breweries were confident that their beer was best, it could hold its own in a free market.

“We promote whats in the bottle. It's something to drink that is full of flavour,” Mr Brooke said. “Maybe it's because the big guys don't have anything in the bottle worth talking about (that they have to lock up taps).” 

Mr Brooke said one problem with the investigation was the ACCC’s resources.

“There is 40,000 licensed venues in Australia, they investigated 36 over three years,” he said.

“Everywhere you look, the Australian industry opts out of concentrated markets. It is anti-competitive and anti-innovation if a market is monopolised.

“Participants in concentrated markets should prove they are not acting in an anti-competitive way.”

Mr Brooke said venues need to be brave and put more independent breweries on tap.

“To go from a tried and tested global brand to a Bendigo-made brand is a brave choice,” he said.

Mr Birks said one of the solutions to getting independent brewers on taps in venues was education.

“On our agenda for the next couple years is to be better at education and be a champion for the beer drinkers while supporting (small brewers),” he said.

“From a Bendigo Beer view, pub owners need more education. They need to know that they don't need those contracts to run a successful business.”