Whenever I hear discussion of saturation points in Australian beer I can’t help but think of all the ways in which beer can grow.
From increased availability of independent brands to new people finding good beer, through to different sorts of breweries developing new products, there’s so much growth still left in the Australian beer market.
Mainstream bottle shops are the easiest place to start when thinking about the availability of good beer. Dan Murphy’s has a decent range. Liquorland and BWS has a bit but there could be so much more. I’m confident one day there will be.
I think we’ll reach a point where you can walk into an average suburban bottle shop and face a range of choice which is currently unimaginable.
Although comparisons with the US can sometimes be a bit “apples and oranges”, in the States you can find craft beer in gas stations, small town bottle shops, dodgy local pubs and sports bars.
We can still get to the point where there’s more good beer everywhere; in stadiums, in average pubs, and in restaurants, including fast food chains. Think of everywhere you go, whether it’s ANZ Stadium or a rural pub, where you wish you could get a decent beer.
One day you’ll be able to. There’s no guarantee on the quality or freshness but you’ll be able to get it.
New Product Development
Again, looking at the US as the most advanced market for modern craft beer, big brands like Sierra Nevada and New Belgium are pushing to keep people interested and stay relevant. Their approach to product development is now looking more like that of a supermarket or McDonald’s.
There’s constant reinvention, a conveyor belt of new products or twists on old classics, to keep the line-up fresh. Often this is done knowing each new product has a limited lifespan. It’s about keeping the brand in people’s minds and making sure they come back for something new.
This focus on reinvention hasn’t happened in Australia yet (outside of corporate beer trying to retain its share) but it can only be a matter of time.
Perhaps we’re seeing the start of this given some of the reaction against Stone & Wood Pacific Ale in the Hottest 100. There are ridiculous complaints of it being a boring or tired beer. To some extent it’s already Australia’s equivalent of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, a beer that’s defined a national flavour profile and taken on classic status.
Perhaps the time will come where breweries like Stone & Wood or 4 Pines need to refresh their core line-up to keep people coming back.
For the time being, and probably the foreseeable future, both breweries and many others do a fantastic line of seasonal releases which keep the brand fresh and beer drinkers happy.
Australian Beer: Ripe For Innovation
Australia also has great potential to be at the forefront of new developments in beer styles.
Supposedly you can’t do anything truly original but New England IPAs are causing debate around the world.
Australia, with its quality produce, its culinary flair and track record of innovation, has the perfect conditions to make advances in beer production and in developing exciting new styles. We just need to beat the Kiwis to it.Australia has the perfect conditions to make advances in beer production and in developing exciting new styles. Click To Tweet
Now that there are formalised brewing education programs, we’ll have a whole generation of talented and ambitious brewers who can move the industry forward.
There’s still growth for more hyper-local brewpubs or nano-breweries serving only their immediate community.
While the landscape for large independent brewers becomes more challenging and competition for taps and shelf space becomes extreme, there’ll still be room for small breweries that don’t have an intention to grow beyond their neighbourhood.
This country has strong local identities. Its suburbs and communities can support a great number of local businesses. Many of these will be small-scale brewpubs or cellar doors. We’re already seeing that in Sydney with the likes of Staves and BlackFont and, soon enough, Wildflower.
Sydney and other state capitals could easily accommodate this diversity of beer production. The population of major areas can sustain a vast number of breweries as long as they vary in size, product and reach.The population of major areas can sustain a vast number of breweries as long as they vary in size, product and reach. Click To Tweet
The Humble Aussie Club
Perfectly linking both a hyper-local focus with a wider availability of good beer is the humble Aussie club.
If independent breweries continues to increase in popularity, clubs will follow these consumer trends. Their members will demand it.
We’ve seen the extreme example of Petersham Bowling Club which embraced local breweries from the start, while Beach Club Collaroy is a famed craft venue on the Northern Beaches.
Elsewhere, Bankstown Sports Club open its own dedicated craft bar and even a brewery of sorts where beer is fermented on-premise. With respect, it’s not the most likely location for this to happen. It’s even more fantastic that it has.
These venues are leaders in the space and show that it’s something other clubs can do no matter where they’re located.
The club has such a unique and historic relationship with the beer industry. Rekindling ties with local independent breweries is the next chapter in that relationship.
Shake-ups Are Inevitable
A change to how we think about beer isn’t that far away.
There are people reaching legal drinking age in the US whose concept of beer isn’t Budweiser or Miller but Lagunitas or Sierra Nevada.
The same could happen here in the next five to ten years. There will be young adults whose parents didn’t keep a case of VB in the fridge. Instead they drank Wayward or Young Henrys and would spend Sunday afternoons at the brewery.
The next generation of drinkers will either embrace their parents’ choices or rebel against them, finding new beers or brewing their own. There will always be aspiring home brewers gunning to turn pro and shake up the status quo. And, as mentioned before, they can now equip themselves with the formal education to do so.The next generation of drinkers will either embrace their parents' choices or rebel against them... Click To Tweet
There’s still massive growth to be had both in Sydney and Australia-wide. We’re nowhere near saturation point and whatever you’re involvement in beer, you should be excited.