The formation of the Inner West Brewers Association could be a landmark moment in the evolution of beer in Sydney.
The intention of this site is to document and celebrate what happens around the Sydney beer scene so it would be remiss not to take a moment and reflect on this announcement.
Looking at the breweries and individuals involved in the IWBA, I think we can be very positive about the future of beer in the region.
Sydney’s Inner West has been a craft beer hotspot for a few years now and it looks to be going from strength to strength.
It also follows the recent rebranding of the CBIA to the Independent Brewers Association, with the focus moving away from an arbitrary definition of “craft” to the notion of independence.
This is pivotal in the growth of good, independent beer.
Independent beer is becoming less niche and it’s important that it becomes a normal and expected part of the food, beverage and tourism fabric of our cities.
As Pete Phillips, founder of Wayward Brewing, says in The Crafty Pint piece (linked above), “everybody should be walking into their local pubs and asking why they don’t have four local beers on tap.”
I don’t often include a call to action in what I write here but this is an exception. I’d echo Pete Phillips’ sentiments and encourage people to get out and demand local beer.
Support your local breweries and discuss the issues they face with local MPs.Support your local breweries and discuss the issues they face with local MPs. Click To Tweet
Just in case you need justification, here’s why you should.
Understanding The Business Model
One of the main issues facing independent brewers is that authorities just don’t know what to do with them. There hasn’t been a benchmark or reference point before. Sometimes, it’s as if the authorities are making it up as they go along.
We need a level playing field for new and existing brewers. The IWBA should be in a position to open government eyes to the challenges they face when starting out and then trying to sustain their particular business model.
It’s about time the authorities got their act together and recognise the positive impact these business can have on local economies. Supporting the growth of small businesses should be a no-brainer. It’s time they did something about it but we need to demand it.
Excise And 50 Litre Kegs
Another big talking point for small brewers is the prohibitive excise on kegs under 50 litres. The necessity for 50 litre kegs seems counter-intuitive and restrictive for small brewers, putting them at a competitive disadvantage when compared to large brewers. It’s also, as Pete Phillips says, “the stupidest way of getting fresh beer around”.
From a work health and safety perspective, shifting huge kegs around isn’t good for anyone’s joints or back.
That said, lower tax doesn’t necessarily mean lower prices for the consumer.
During the recent “Crystal Balls” Q&A at GABS in which I appeared alongside Mark Fethers of Rocks Brewing, Mark said he’d be surprised if many brewers passed on savings to customers if lower excise rates came into effect.
Customers have grown accustomed to paying a certain price for a premium, local and independently produced product.
What lower rates could mean for brewers though is higher margins. And that can lead to growth, or at least sustainability in an industry where some are just scraping by.
The IWBA certainly have the support of Anthony Albanese MP in the push to change this [PDF]. It feels like there’s enough talk around the topic that it could happen in the future. We have a role as supporters of the industry to keep the politicians on track with this.
Creating Jobs For Positive Economic Growth
Lower excise rates will afford small breweries the opportunity to invest in a number of ways, including in people.
Again from The Crafty Pint piece, Pete Phillips says, “if you give brewers some excise relief, they are going to hire more people. Every dollar we get goes into paying people. With more profit we hire more people so we can grow.”
Phillips estimates that small breweries are employing 20 times as many people per dollar of revenue compared to large breweries. The economic impact of hiring people in small businesses within a local community has been well researched and the benefits are great.
Already Inner West breweries are said to generate an estimated $20 million in federal income tax each year. Hundreds of people are currently employed by breweries in the area and they support other local initiatives and events.
This has to be a compelling argument for government officials at state and federal level. It’s one that the IWBA and everyone in the craft beer community should continue to hammer home, ensuring we’re heard.
Inner West: A Tourist Hotspot
Perhaps the most exciting ambition of the Inner West Brewers Association is turning the area into a tourist hotspot.Perhaps the most exciting ambition of the Inner West Brewers Association is turning the area into a tourist hotspot. Click To Tweet
The Inner West is already arguably Sydney’s craft beer epicentre. With the introduction of the festival that’s mooted for 2018, it could attract people from all over Sydney to spend their dollars in the Inner West. In time, we could begin to attract beer tourists from around the country and overseas.
At the very least it’ll be an opportunity to showcase what the area has to offer, particularly the increasingly important part small breweries are playing in the fabric of our communities.
There are beer lovers around the world who seek out local beer when overseas (it’s a niche group but I consider myself one of them). Wouldn’t it be great if Sydney’s Inner West was the first place on their list?
Dave Phillips and Jamie Carlyon of Dave’s Brewery Tours have talked before about the surprising number of international guests they have on their tours. Australia is famed for its beer and pub culture so it’s no surprise that people would want to experience it while travelling here.
Australia has a strong tourism industry. The colourful tapestry of breweries, eateries, arts and events should be what attracts people to Sydney’s Inner West. We should support anything which attempts to make that a reality.The colourful tapestry of breweries, eateries, arts and events should be what attracts people to Sydney's Inner West. Click To Tweet
An Exciting Future
Compared to these breweries and the MPs involved, my voice is relatively small. But I’m happy to commit it to the cause.
I hope you will do the same and continue to extol the virtues of independent beer and the positive impact it can have for our communities and our economy.
Even if you’re not based in the Inner West, success in this endeavour will show that it can be replicated around the country. This is a local, grassroots start to tackling a national issue.
There are three easy ways to support this initiative:
- Visit your local brewery, buy their beer and ask how you can support their drive for sustainable growth.
- Ask your local pub or bottle shop to offer local beer.
- Raise these issue with your local MP or candidates, explain the challenges and potential economic benefits.
More than anything I’d like to see sustainable growth for independent beer, and for people to recognise how great it is.
The formation of the IWBA feels like a positive and exciting step in achieving that.