It’s a new year and therefore time to make some predictions for the next 12 months. This year’s are tinged with a sense of realism.
Around the world, independent beer is evolving rapidly but particularly here in Sydney. The city is cementing itself as an important market.
We’re seeing more breweries pop up and more enter from interstate and overseas. It’s getting competitive. The increased friction in the market is a thread running through most of this year’s predictions. They’re not necessarily big calls but they seem appropriate to where we are right now.
Jump in with your predictions in the comments below. It’s always good to get a diversity of opinions on these things. I’ll check back in at the end of the year to see how things unfolded.
Another Brewery Buyout
2017 saw a number of acquisitions happen overseas and then it all kicked off here when AB InBev bought 4 Pines. That was closely followed by Coca-Cola Amatil buying Feral, and the subsequent sale of Vale Brewing. On 30 November, Pirate Life Brewing was bought by Carlton United / AB InBev. All of a sudden it seemed like a big year for consolidation.
Rumours of further buyouts just won’t die. The most frequently occurring rumour among beer enthusiasts connects Young Henrys with Asahi. It’s the one that’s been touted as most likely to happen but the Newtown operation recently posted on social media that the brewery is not for sale.
Outside of Sydney there have been a few breweries undergoing large expansions or gearing up for accelerated growth. The Queensland market is on a steep growth curve but there are still plenty of larger independents in Victoria and New South Wales that might be targeted by larger companies.
I predict we’ll see at least one Australian brewery acquired by a larger company in 2018.
A Brewery Closing
This feels like an awful thing to predict but Australia’s independent beer scene has done pretty well to avoid any major closures over the last few years. Competition is tougher than ever and we’ve started to see a stratification of breweries with some old favourites slipping down the pecking order as new local and interstate breweries overtake them in terms of capacity, popularity and reach.
With acquisitions, overseas competitors and established breweries getting bigger, it’ll be tough for small breweries to survive. Particularly if their beer isn’t up to scratch.
It should go without saying that I don’t want it to happen but I predict we’ll see at least one recognisable brewery (or gypsy brewer) cease trading.
Pressure From International Brands
Goose Island went hard into Australia last year. There’ll be other American brands watching very carefully and trying to learn a few lessons.
It’s no secret that Brewdog are planning a brewery in Australia. I predict that we’ll see an international “craft” brand push their products in a big way and it’s most likely going to be Brewdog.
Token Tax Gesture
I predict we’ll see some token gesture towards tax relief for independent breweries.
It won’t be a lot of relief but it’ll probably help out a few small breweries. There’ll be debate about it artificially boosting the market and the end-consumer won’t notice much difference. Many won’t even be aware anything has changed.
Perhaps 2018 will be the year people stop trotting out the line that “craft beer people are good people”.
Yes, most of the people I’ve come across are of excellent character but as with any industry there are unsavoury aspects.
It started gradually in 2017 but hopefully 2018 is the year where people call out sexism, harassment, sub-standard working and employment conditions, copyright infringement, and underhand business tactics.
There’s some friction in the industry and the increased competition will only make issues boil up.
Cut price kegs and fighting over taps are one thing but sexism and harassment is another. It’s about time it was stamped out and I think we’ll see progress in that regard. At least I hope so.
We’ll see at least one high profile instance of these issues being called out and addressed with consequences for individuals or a brand.
The Craft Beverage Sector
We’ll see closer ties between craft beverage producers and increased discussion of it existing as its own sector in Australia.
We’ve already seen collaborations between brewers, distillers and coffee roasters. The inclusion of breweries at Rootstock and the increased links between craft beer and natural wine mean Australia is forming a more close-knit craft beverage sector.
These producers, along with people in the small food movement have more in common with each other than with the corporate manufacturers of similar products. We’ll see a deeper recognition of this in the minds of consumers and people in the industry.
What A Time To Be Alive
Despite the depressing realism of these predictions, come December 2018 we’ll still be certain that it’s one of the best times ever to be a beer drinker in Australia.
The quality of breweries, venues and readily available beer will be better than ever and more people will be exposed to good, independent beer.
Other Predictions For Beer in 2018
The haze train will keep chugging along. One Australian brewery will nail it and we’ll see a significant amount of hype around a special release of a New England style IPA.
Another good beer venue will open in the western suburbs, continuing the gradual spread of beer around the city.
What do you think? Leave a comment below and share your predictions for beer in 2018. Or enter your email address in the box below to sign up for the weekly newsletter and keep up to date with local beer news over the next year.