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While there will always be a demand for what are considered ‘normal’ beers, a rapidly growing market segment is finding its tastes turning to the more refined and exotic, as Julie-anne Sprague reports.

BEER producers have gone back to school in the quest to better promote their product, taking a leaf from the wine industry book on consumer education.

This long-term education campaign is now bringing rewards, with a surging microbrewery and brew-on-premises market.

Beer dinners and beer tastings have become quite common, with increasing numbers of discerning beer drinkers creating a new market for publicans and liquor store owners.

The brew-on-premises market particularly is benefiting from consumers’ expanding knowledge of different beers and the brewing process.

While many people utilise a brew-on-premises service (where you purchase a beer brew kit and brew the beer at a store’s premises) due to the economic benefits, there is a growing number of people choosing to use the service to create the perfect blend.

Brews ‘R’ Us owner Craig Wilmot says there has been a huge increase in the number of brew-on-premises stores.

“There used to be only two or three outlets but in the last two to three years it has grown to 12,” he says.

While the most popular brew style is the lager, a Crown Lager or Corona style beer, beer lovers increasingly are choosing international beers including wheat beer, ales and pilseners.

“Three or four years ago most people would not know what a wheat beer was. Now they like brewing it,” Mr Wilmot says.

“People want to try different styles of beer but if they go to purchase them it’s expensive.”

Perth’s newest pub, Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group’s Belgian Beer Cafe Westende, has brought international flavour to the heart of Perth and will help expand the knowledge of beer to the everyday punter, according the Australian Hospitality Association WA executive director Bradley Woods.

“Western Australia has been a leader in the establishment of themed pubs, and the Belgian Beer Cafe builds on this,” he says.

“It shows Western Australians are becoming more sophisticated in their consumption habits.

“Hotels and pubs in WA have also responded to the challenge of meeting the demands of patrons by providing a great range of beers from around the world.”

International Beer Shop co-owner Leif Ryan has noticed the demand for more styles of beer.

Mr Ryan and his business partners opened the West Leederville store five months ago and he believes there is a gap in the liquor store market for a comprehensive beer shop.

“Liquor stores aren’t making money; you need to find a niche. We think this area [international beer] is booming and we have begun concentrating on that,” he says.

“We are adding new beers every week. We would have over 100 different beers on the shelf.”

Mr Ryan says interest from beer consumers has been good and has led to the establishment of a beer club for customers.

“They get updates on new beers and members submit articles that we circulate, for example how to rate a beer. These things also help those who are not beer connoisseurs,” he says.

BYO Microbrewery owner Alan Douglas says Western Australians like to try different styles.

“People are getting more adventurous and there is more for them to try. People were accustomed to choosing lagers, for years the beer industry pushed lagers. It’s starting to change,” he says.

Mr Ryan says the beer industry is catching up with the wine industry in terms of educating punters.

“Australians used to drink cheap cask wine and now people buy quality wine and have become quite discerning. The beer industry has been lagging but people now understand that there is more to beer than the ‘normal’,” he says.

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