Photo: Photographer: Nancy Ann Trieu
A hard-earned thirst may need a big cold beer. However, these days Aussie beer lovers are drinking less, but getting more adventurous in their choice of tipple as the number of craft brewers continues to soar.In the past five years, Australian craft beer production has flourished, growing by an average of 10 per cent a year, according to an industry report released by IBISWorld in March. The report also found drinkers were increasingly valuing quality beer over quantity.WA’s Matilda Bay Brewing Company paved the way back in the mid-’80s, followed later by Little Creatures, which struck gold when brewer Lion bought out its parent company for about $256 million in 2012.Matt Bebe: initially struggled to keep pace with demand. But while the major players now hold a large stake in Australia’s craft beer market (Lion has about 33 per cent market share and CUB more than 16 per cent through its ownership of Matilda Bay), smaller operators such as Leimin Duong, the founder of Zeven Lemon Beerworks, continue to bring fresh blood to the industry.AdvertisementDuong, a 27-year-old who ditched her job as an office administrator in a large investment bank to start her own beer label, is finding success with female and male drinkers through her strawberry-flavoured beer Strawberry Blonde.A long-time beer enthusiast, Duong was inspired to create her own high-end offering after reading about strawberry-flavoured beer in a travel magazine.”I was quite surprised – I’d never heard of it before,” says Duong, who was desperate to start her own business.”The nine-to-five work lifestyle – it really wasn’t the best for me and I knew that. I knew I needed to get out.”Teaching herself about brewing via websites and textbooks, Duong worked 100-plus-hour weeks for months, before releasing her first commercial batch about a year later. Strawberry Blonde has now been on the market for more than a year, and has distributors in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and the ACT.Dealing with the emotional aspects of starting a one-person business – including mixed reactions from family and friends – has been the toughest challenge, along with entering an industry in which she’d had no experience, Duong says.”I just kind of have to feel my way around, make some mistakes, adapt and then go with it,” says Duong, who is working on new beer flavours for a summer release.Matt Bebe, managing director and founder of Mornington Peninsula Brewery, is further down the craft brewing path, after first dreaming up the idea for a brewery with his next-door neighbour Malcolm while watching the Hawks win the 2008 AFL grand final – with a few beers of course.”The next day Mal went off to Glenferrie Oval and celebrated and I wrote a business plan,” Bebe says, laughing.Bebe, previously a HR manager with a biotech company, was convinced their idea could work, and by mid-2010 had left his job to concentrate on the business.The only sticking point was that it was the middle of the financial crisis of 2007/2008, and capital was proving hard to find. “The banks wouldn’t even look at it, so we had to go the path of investors,” Bebe says.Twenty-two shareholders – family, friends and friends of friends – threw their financial support behind the brewery, and have since been rewarded handsomely for the decision, with the brewery growing 40 per cent every year since.”The first few years was a bit of a ride,” Bebe says. “We couldn’t make enough beer.”After investing in a new production facility in Mornington in September last year, the brewery now has the capacity to brew about 2 million litres of beer each year.Bebe says his craft brewery is the only one in Australia to have its own canning and bottling lines, which means it can sell its beers in a way that its customers want to drink it.At last count Australia had 243 craft breweries, he says.”In the last nine months it’s become a very competitive environment. Craft beer in general has changed quite dramatically,” Bebe says.”There are a lot more breweries that are opening up, and the majors, they’re also protecting their market share.”Mornington Peninsula Brewery has three core beers – a pale ale, an IPA and a brown ale – and brings out new specialty beers every four to six weeks.Already stocked in Dan Murphy’s, and in bottle shops and pubs around the country, the brewery also exports to Singapore and Thailand and expects to be stocked in Coles-owned liquor stores including Liquorland and First Choice Liquor next year. The business is also looking at the feasibility of expanding into China, Japan and New Zealand.Bebe says there is still huge room for growth, with craft beer still comprising only about 3 per cent of Australia’s beer industry.”There’s still a lot of work to be done.”
Source: Can women brew beer?