Business News spoke to three new WA breweries to learn about the message behind the brand.
The reasons why Western Australia’s growing legion of craft brewers get into the business are as many and varied as the beers they produce. Behind it all, however, is a passion for WA and the process of brewing.
Market research firm IBIS World calculated the Australian craft beer industry grew an average 4.4 per cent from 2016 to the end of 2020 and estimated a further 4.5 per cent growth in 2021.
This accounted for a slight fall in market size due to COVID-19 and the closure of hospitality venues in some parts of the country for a majority of the year.
IBIS World expects craft beer revenues nationally to reach $842.6 million in 2021, almost matching 2019 figures.
While the pandemic meant people could not enjoy a beer at the pub, online beer store Beer Cartel’s 2020 Australian Craft Beer Survey found people were buying less mainstream Australian and international beer and more local (and Australian) craft beer.
The survey found the COVID-19 pandemic had made people more aware of the need to back Australian producers, with 93 per cent of respondents agreeing local breweries needed more support than ever.
The pandemic has not stopped some WA brewers’ plans to open hospitality venues.
Bremer Bay Brewing opened its venue in March, Swan Valley’s Bailey Brewing Company and Busselton-based Shelter Brewing Company started serving beers in November, while Running with Thieves launched its brewery and distillery in December.
Asahi (CUB)-owned Pirate Life’s brewery in the Perth CBD is due to open this summer, and ASX-listed Good Drinks announced plans to open its Gage Roads hospitality venue at A Shed for summer 2021.
Business News spoke to some of the new players to find out how (and why) they got started.
Shelter Brewing Company
Shelter Brewing Company’s hospitality venue, which opened on the Busselton foreshore in November, took eight years of planning.
Matt Credaro, who is operations manager at his family’s vineyard, Credaro Family Estate, and his brother, Jason, who used to brew for Little Creatures and founded Blue Mile Brewery (now closed), began planning a brewery on the foreshore site in 2012.
“Our thought was to try and create a legacy business and bring all of the family members in, but we can also add to the business,” Matt Credaro told Business News.
“Brewing was Jas’s passion, even though he did his winemaking degree, he went towards brewing; so that was the intent of us looking at it.
“We always thought the foreshore was a site with a lot of potential, even though back then there wasn’t much there.”
Matt Credaro said the process was drawn out by council approvals.
As the plans progressed, the project became bigger and the Credaro brothers decided to bring in partners.
Another set of brothers from the South West, Zeb and Asher Packard-Hair, became involved in the project in 2019.
The Packard-Hair brothers already manage several properties in the South West, including The Par 3 golf course, a residential estate, and wedding venue Old Broadwater Farm.
After years of planning, the 650-seat venue opened last year to large crowds of South West holiday makers and locals.
“The projections when we opened, compared to where we have actually got, are significantly different,” Zeb Packard-Hair told Business News.
“We have come out swinging and I think the timing with the whole COVID thing ended up being really good.
“We have a lot of people in WA who are coming south instead of going east or to Bali like they normally would.”
While some hospitality businesses in the regions had struggled to secure staff, Shelter hadn’t found it a problem.
“We were fortunate to be the ‘new business’,” Matt Credaro said.
“You always have your honeymoon period … but there’s definitely constraints with the current situation and staffing.
“At the end of the day, we still managed to build a team of around 140, quite a strong team.”
Dingo Brewing Company began with the acquisition of the rights to the popular Dingo Flour sign.
Farmers Mathew Walker, Mike Shields and Spinner Brennan negotiated for the use of the sign and decided they wanted to create a beer.
Brewing was Jas’s passion, even though he did his winemaking degree, he went towards brewing - Matt Credaro
The trio recruited beer judge and writer Ross Lewis to help them set up the brewery.
“We had a great idea and a great identity, but we needed a brewery,” Mr Lewis told Business News.
“That’s when we worked with the team at Whitelakes in Baldivis, who were already established as a microbrewery down there.”
“It seemed to make sense that if we wanted to make a lager, Sean was our guy,” Mr Lewis said.
He said the Dingo Brewing Co founders wanted to make a lager instead of a craft beer to tap into WA’s roots.
“Even while a lot of people have been drinking heavy IPAs or barrel-infused stouts, there’s still been a critical mass of people who have been drinking lagers; they like the lager taste,” Mr Lewis said.
Dingo’s beer has been well received, winning gold for its Dingo Lager in the lager-draught Australian-style lager category at the Perth Royal Beer Awards.
After launching its beers in March, a week before pubs were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dingo Brewing Co was put on pause for a few months before starting to can in July.
Its beer is now available in more than 200 bars and retail locations across WA.
Mr Lewis said it was challenging to find tap points, but Mr Gastev’s hospitality connections helped open doors.
“It’s been a steady process, but I think we have been pretty successful in getting around to a fair few [tap] points in the state,” he said.
“In a little more than six months since we have been in full operation, it’s been a pretty good reach.
“He’s roaming a bit of territory, the old Dingo.”
Spinifex Brewing Co has used its unique points of difference to find space in a crowded market.
The brewery uses native Australian ingredients, contracts Aboriginal businesses in its supply chain, and donates 50 per cent of profits raised from its F88 lager to veterans’ charities.
Yamatji man and managing director Michael Little, master brewer John Gibbs, and director Steve Jansen began brewing in 2017, while chief executive Adam Barnard brought capital into the business in April 2019.
The brewery was launched in late 2019 and sold its first beers in February 2020.
COVID-19 forced the team to pivot from beer to hand sanitiser in a joint venture with Limestone Coast Brewing in Malaga.
“We are now the largest manufacturer of finished product [hand sanitiser] in WA in a separate company,” Mr Barnard said.
The company now supplies WA Police and big businesses, including Crown Perth.
Spinifex began producing beer again in September.
Mr Barnard said the company’s gypsy brewing business model (it doesn’t own its equipment) had worked well at the beginning.
“It’s allowed us to focus on building the brand, rather than the mechanics behind it of actually making the beer,” he said.
However, as Spinifex beers began to take off, the gypsy brewing model meant it was hard to keep up with demand.
“Our greatest challenge was really trying to predict how quickly this would take off,” Mr Barnard said.
“I think we were always chasing our tails; we were running out of beer continuously, we underestimated how quickly this beer would take off.”
Spinifex has recently completed a $750,000 capital raising and welcomed several high-profile investors to the team: lawyer Dan Mossenson, sports commentator Karl Langdon, and managing director of Elevate Accounting, Shane Crommelin.
Mr Barnard said Spinifex was planning to focus on the events space, after purchasing a mini truck that would be converted to have beer taps.
It is also planning its first hospitality venue, which will be opened in 2021.
One of the main goals for Spinifex was export, given its use of native Australian ingredients and Aboriginal businesses in its supply chain, Mr Barnard said.
“Australia hasn’t had a really successful beer export since Foster’s and we think we have the right brand, the right story, [and] the right product to become a major player in the international space,” he said.