This article appeared online at WA Today on 14th May. We decided to share it because it really resonated with us. We also believe consumers of so called ‘craft beer’ are unaware that what they are drinking is owned by a multinational company.
As the only brewery in the Ferguson Valley to be producing beer on site and in small batches; its imperative that those searching out truly independent beers are able to do so. When our beer is racked alongside other ‘craft beers’ in a local bottle shop, it is often impossible to tell which beer is independently owned and produced. So read on……
Beer wars come to head: Independent brewers tackle multinationals over ‘faux craft’ brews
Independent brewers are stepping up their fight against multinational giants who they say are putting out “faux craft” beers to capture a bigger stake in the $487 million market.
Small producers say drinkers intending to support local breweries are falling victim to “craft washing”, where beers produced by global giants are presented as independent operations.
A new “seal of independence” will be printed on the labels of local brews to make it easier for drinkers to pick a craft beer that hasn’t been made by a big brewer.
It marks the latest clash in the battle that is set to bubble over now small brewers have been given tax excise relief, which could make independent beers cheaper.
Smaller producers say they are already battling to get their beers stocked in pubs and bottle shops and that the big players should not be allowed to swallow their market share too.
More than 50 per cent of the craft beer industry is controlled by giants Lion and SAB, according to IBISWorld, with many brands not listing the owner on the bottle or can.
“There’s perception of choice in bottle shops in bars and clubs, rather than actual choice,” said Stomping Ground Brewing co-founder Steve Jeffares, who will put the new seal on his beers.
“A bunch of multinational breweries have in some ways co-opted the term craft.”
Mr Jeffares said the sale of some brands to the big brewers had made it even more confusing for customers. Brands bought out by major drinks companies in recent years include Little Creatures, Mountain Goat and Feral.
Other big brewer labels marketed as craft beer include James Squire, Fat Yak and Goose Island.
The new seal is open to the roughly 200 members of the Independent Brewers Association and will appear on beer labelling, as well as next to the fridges at bottle shops and on taps at pubs.
It is hoped it will appeal to consumers who increasingly want to see their money go to small local producers, whether it’s beer or other artisanal products.
A similar label appears on craft beers in Britain and US.
“We know that there is a growing sector of the community that cares about this stuff; they are seeking out independent beer,” Mr Jeffares said.
Bridge Road Brewers founder Ben Kraus said the industry had “lost some trust” with drinkers who weren’t sure who they were buying their beer from.
He said the word “independent” was used because “the word craft really has been eroded”.
“In my day-to-day job, someone will come up to me and they will present me with a beer they have found, only to have me burst their bubble and tell them which multinational owns it,” he said.
The label was about giving as much information to customers as possible, he said, and would be as easy as turning a bottle around to know they were buying something independently owned.
The industry has also welcomed the change to the excise charged on the smaller kegs used by craft brewers. But Mr Kraus said there were other challenges for independent producers to overcome.
One of these was the issue of tap contracts in bars and hotels, which Mr Kraus said were being used by the big players to lock out smaller brewers.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission recently investigated the use of tap contracts by Lion and CUB. It found that the contracts did not reduce competition.
“It puts really high pressure on the market,” Mr Kraus said. ”There will be one tap out of 10 or 20 that are available to us.
“You have got 400 small brewers fighting for that other tap.”
by Tom Cowie