Friday, 20 December 2019

THE FALLEN

2019: The Year of Local

It's fair to say that 2019 has seen the craft beer movement continue it's rapid expansion worldwide. Victoria has had the second most breweries/beer brands launch in a year since the early days of the colony, with a staggering 26 breweries/beer brands producing their first beers this year. With 11 days left in the year & 3 breweries still potentially to open their doors before the year is out, we could break the record of 27 set in 2016.

Craft beer still makes up only approximately 7% of the Australian beer market & whilst this number is growing - it isn't growing fast enough to support all the existing breweries/brands as well as more than 20 new entrants to the market. Accordingly, there have been a few casualties as well as a few brands that I've removed from my initial list that I will outline briefly below (in alphabetical order).

Albatross Brewing Co was placed into administration in August with debts of over $400,000, they mostly produced contract brews under their De Havilland Brewing brand. Their site in Mordialloc has been taken over by Wolf of the Willows, who will open their own brewpub in early 2020. The brand I'm least confident on removing from my list is Bellarine Brewing Co. I haven't seen their beers around, there has been no social media action since 2016 & their website is down. I still see the odd Untappd check-in, but I'm assuming that it most be old stock.

Bells Brewing Co, not to be confused with Bells Beach Brewing based out of the same coastal town of Torquay, went out of business in March without much explanation - just a link to a GoFundMe. One of the stalwarts of the Victorian industry, Buckley's Beer, also went the way of the dodo with a cryptic message in March. That message indicated that there would be updates soon, however almost 9 months on they haven't eventuated.

Two breweries from my original list; Caltoria Brewing Company & Yellingbo Brewing Company, have both been removed from the list. That's because their respective owners, Lein Jenkins & Brad Merritt (formerly of Oscar's Alehouse), have joined forces to create Hard Road Brewing Company on the site that previously housed Caltoria.

Cheeky Peak Brewery is something of a misnomer in 2019. It's a large homebrew store based in Albury that hasn't produced finished beer since late-2017. They do still produce fresh wort kits, which I think is where some confusion comes from. Dolphin Brewery is another that I'm a little unsure of. They sell their beer predominantly at markets in Central Victoria & haven't been seen for a while & also aren't answering their phone. 10 years after starting I think they might be gone, however I'd be happy to be proved wrong!

Himmel/Himmel Hund Brewing haven't been heard from since announcing they were taking a break from brewing in October 2018. Given the length of time, I'd be surprised if it reappeared in its past guise. Little Smith Brewing Co are best known for their Pale Ale, Bastard Son, that could be found around Fitzroy. There hasn't been an Untappd check-in since May & only 15 for the year, whilst emails & Facebook messages go unanswered, which in this day & age would imply that they're no longer operating.

I've also knocked off Mount Duneed Brewing Co. which also used to go by Pettavel Road Brewing. It's the home brand of Mount Duneed Estate, who have currently ceased production indefinitely due to the cost of producing the beer. I mentioned the demise of Sweetwater Brewing Company earlier in the year, whilst True Brew was removed because it seems like more of a U-Brew-It style facility than a commercial brewing operation.

It'll be interesting to see how long this sort of growth is sustainable for. Their will be natural attrition in any industry & it seems like a number of these operations were not primarily motivated by financial considerations when making the decision to close or suspend their operations. Hopefully craft beer continues to grow & almost all of the breweries we have in Victoria at the end of 2019 can still be here at the end of 2020!

Remember it's always Beer O'Clock somewhere in the world!

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