25/07/2006 - 22:00

Gage Roads set to rise in the east

25/07/2006 - 22:00

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Western Australia’s largest craft brewer, Gage Roads Brewing Company, has signed an exclusive national distribution deal with wine giant Hardys Wines.

Gage Roads set to rise in the east

Western Australia’s largest craft brewer, Gage Roads Brewing Company, has signed an exclusive national distribution deal with wine giant Hardys Wines.

The agreement, effective August 1, will grant Hardys the right to sell and distribute the Gage Roads range on the national market. While the deal includes WA, where the brewer already has an entrenched position, the importance of the Hardys deal will be seen in its ability to penetrate eastern states markets.

Gage Roads managing director Peter Nolin told Gusto the deal would enable Gage to truly become a national beer.

“Gage Roads was set up with a national market in mind and we have always wanted to sell our beer nationwide,” he says.

To that end, Mr Nolin and Gage company founder Bill Hoedemaker began preparing to market and distribute their beer themselves several months ago. However, after hearing that Hardys was looking for a premium beer to complement its wine holdings, representatives of the two companies met and an agreement was quickly reached.

Hardys, the largest wine company in Australia by volume, had been on the lookout for a premium beer partner for some time. Keen to enter the pointy end of the beer market – now the fastest growing segment of the industry – it was seeking a product that would match its existing wine interests.

And it was quickly established that Gage was a solid fit. Although Gage Roads’ advertising suggests that its beer is brewed by “...fussy bastards”, in reality the brewing team is one of Australia’s most admired.

Messrs Nolin and Hoedemaker put the Sail & Anchor Pub on the map and have been awarded numerous times at domestic and international brewing competitions.

While Gage Roads will become the only beer brand in the Hardy portfolio of products, the brewer will be hoping the wine giant can emulate the success it achieved when marketing now-iconic beers Coopers and James Boags.

With the distribution deal now in place, Gage Roads Lager, Midstrength PILS and India Pale Ale will be distributed via Hardys, while the company’s existing sales manager and two sales representatives will concentrate on the company’s draught product in WA.

Echoing the sentiments of fellow brewers in recent months, Mr Nolin agreed that distribution was often the biggest hurdle to overcome for businesses like his.

“The industry has been dominated by two players for so long that it has closed down many avenues to market for smaller players,” he says.

“It is even difficult for a company the size of Gage Roads, which would be considered on the same scale as Little Creatures or James Squires.”

In describing the deal as a “strategic change” for his company, Mr Nolin confirmed that no operational or logistical changes would be made in the short term, and that the company would be staying in WA.

“Western Australia is our home territory and we are very committed to continuing to grow our brand here in the west. Although this partnership will take our product over east, we will always be focused on WA,” he says.

Gage Roads was founded in 2002.

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