For the last couple of years, the Australian Craft Beer Survey has aimed to take a snapshot of the nation’s beer landscape.
At the end of August, Sydney-based bottle shop, Beer Cartel, announced the results of the 2017 Australian Craft Beer Survey. Here’s a look at the results, with a particular focus on what it means for Sydney.
The top five craft breweries featured some predictable names. However, it’s slightly disappointing not to see a Sydney based brewery in there. The top five nationally were:
- Pirate Life
- Stone & Wood
- Bridge Road Brewers
What stands out there is the spread from across the country. Each of the top five is from a different state.
The top breweries according the Sydney respondents were:
- Pirate Life
- Batch Brewing
- Modus Operandi
- 4 Pines
The skew towards local breweries is obvious, with three of Sydney’s top five being from the harbour city. The other two, Feral and Pirate Life, were evidently highly rated across the country.
This is a positive result for beer in Sydney, showing that there’s still significant support for local breweries. This is reflected in the fact that Akasha, Young Henrys and Wayward all finished close to the top five among responses from Sydneysiders. All were favoured significantly more by locals than by people from interstate.
Most Popular Styles
Hoppy beers continue to reign supreme. Pale ales came out top as the most consumed style but IPAs are people’s favourite.
This preference was the same both on a national level and among Sydneysiders. Although, compared to national results, Sydney locals did seem to express a preference for lighter styles such as lagers, wheat bears, goses (perhaps the influence of Nomad), and sour beers in general.
Venues & Events
The most popular beer-focused pub/bar in New South Wales was, somewhat predictably but completely deservedly, Bitter Phew. Meanwhile, the Wayward cellar door took the popular vote for best brewery venue in the state. Again, there’s not much surprise there.
As in last year’s survey, Sydney (Craft) Beer Week came in second to Melbourne’s Good Beer Week as the most popular beer week celebration by attendance. It’ll be interesting to see whether this changes in next year’s survey as the newly rebranded Sydney Beer Week is now under the management of Dave’s Travel & Events Group and will see more events across a wider area, including western Sydney.
While it should go without saying, Sydney Beer Week was by far the most popular beer celebration among Sydneysiders.
Attitudes To Beer
One of the most interesting parts of the Australian Craft Beer Survey is getting a glimpse at people’s attitudes to beer. While changes have been minor and slow moving, if the survey continues, I’m sure we’ll see an interesting evolution over the next few years.
For now, in 2017, the following points can be noted:
- Nationwide, 95% of people believe the quality of craft beer is improving.
- 94% of respondents say they are on the lookout for new and interesting beers to try.
- 87% of total responses were in favour of learning more about beer.
- 84% of respondents nationally were in favour of going on paid beer tours. The popularity of Sydney-based Dave’s Brewery Tours may have had an impact on this score.
While 73% could be considered a favourable response to any question, that number seems surprisingly low for those in agreement that beer tastes better from a glass.
That level of knowledge is perhaps something that’s taken for granted by those in beer circles. It seems thought that there’s still a significant section of the beer drinking population (or at least those that are inclined to respond to a beer survey) that aren’t fully aware of the benefits of a proper drinking vessel.
It’s also interesting that this number is down from 82% in 2016. A possible explanation could be that there were respondents this year who aren’t yet aware of how good glassware can improve the beer drinking experience.
Attitudes to cans and bottles have changed ever so slightly. This year 24% of people said cans were better (23% in 2016), 29% said bottles were better (37% in 2016), while 46% were on the fence (40% in 2016). In cans vs bottles it seems to be edging slowly towards cans but there are still many people who are undecided.
Hot Topic: Independence
2017 has been the year that many people suggested that the term “craft beer” was dead, with the former CBIA dropping the term in favour of “independent”. But in the 2017 Australian Craft Beer Survey, 72% suggested it was a good label to use to describe beer made by small breweries.
Independence is clearly a hot topic in the beer world and 64% of people who responded to the survey said that knowing who owns the beer they drink is important.Independence is clearly a hot topic... 64% of people said that knowing who owns the beer they drink is important. Click To Tweet
An increasing awareness of the different types of beer producers is reflected in the responses. It seems important to people that there’s authenticity or genuine ownership behind their beer, rather than it belonging to a large corporate or simply being a beer brand.
The caveat is that results here are taken from respondents who are already engaged in “craft beer”. Step outside that community of people and I suspect many people wouldn’t be aware of these different brewery models.
It’s likely that many of the people outside beer circles also wouldn’t care. Their willingness to buy certain brands will be driven more by price than the ownership structure of the brewery.
Nevertheless, the preference for independent Australian breweries is an encouraging result for the future of beer in Australia.
The most significant difference to these results among respondents from Sydney was that 87% were willing to buy beer from gypsy brewers. This could be explained by the strength of local gypsy brewers such as Shenanigans and Doctor’s Orders who both have loyal followings within the city.
Unsurprisingly the average craft beer drinker (at least according to the survey) is a middle aged man on the eastern seaboard. 30% of respondents were from New South Wales, with 79% male (80% in Sydney). The beer world still needs to do a lot to welcome and encourage women.
What It Means For Sydney
Overall the attitudes of Sydney’s craft beer drinkers seem consistent with that of beer drinkers nationally. The level of response to the Beer Cartel survey suggests that there’s a significant number of people engaged in and reacting positively to the growth of independent beer, particularly on a local level.There's a significant number of people engaged in and reacting positively to the growth of independent beer... Click To Tweet
This preference for local beer is something I expect to see continue over the next few years.
Congratulations to Beer Cartel on another successful survey and a big thank you to them for providing the Sydney segment of data for this analysis.
If you responded to the survey, or if you have thoughts on the results, leave a comment below.