Posts Tagged ‘craft brewing’

Crafty Collaborations

July 2, 2015

Over the coming weeks I intend to reacquaint you folks with what I’m been up to in terms of research over the past couple of years (yes, the blog had been moribund for that long!).

One project I commenced while overseas earlier this year looks at the nature of collaboration in the global craft beer scene.  Here’s a blog post over at a beer site where I talk through our initial findings.

beer glass

I guess this makes it a Good Beer Year

May 9, 2012

Melbourne is about to celebrate Good Beer Week – a festival of beer-related events showcasing the output of Australia’s burgeoning microbrewing industry (plus some folks across the from NZ, the US, Japan etc).

Microbrewing startups are popping up across Australia in startling numbers, introducing a much welcomed diversity of flavours, styles and business models to our decidedly bland duopolistic beer market (I find myself uttering that duop_ word far too often around here).

One considerable barrier to even more entrants (and their subsequent growth) has been some nasty excise (i.e. taxation especially reserved for such vices as alcohol) imposts that impact most severely on small brewers. Here’s a pretty comprehensive explanation of the problems faced (courtesy of RMIT student TV – head to about the 3 min point for the specifics):

Put simply, small brewers pay a huge whack of tax (in the vicinity of 25% of value) at the point of production (indeed, within 7 days of brewing) rather than sale.  This is a huge cashflow constraint on these businesses. The very small brewers have had some minor relief whereby up to $10,000 per annum would be refunded (but only to a production threshold of 30,000 litres).

Last night’s Federal Budget finally saw a move in the right direction, with that refund increased to $30,000 per annum and the eligibility threshold removed. This will make some small difference in terms of the capacity of such craft breweries to expand and achieve something like minimum efficient scale.

You may have noted that the RMIT vid is from 2007.  The battle has been a long one for these guys, and the concessions relatively minor. Last November, a national industry association was finally formed, and perhaps this helped get some movement in Canberra (it’s worth noting this change costs a paltry $2.5m per annum in government revenue).

I’d love to see the Aussie Craft Beer Industry Association become as wide-reaching and influential as their US counterpart (especially because they gather some excellent data on sales growth and relative scale that is sadly missing in Australia). This small win speaks to the import role of lobbying (case in point: small wine-makers in Australia have had much more appealing rebates for years – perhaps it helps to be in rural seats and to have no shortage of owners from the legal community?).

Most importantly, I hope this excise shift fuels even more growth in the diversity (and success) of local brewers… so this Spectapular can be even larger next year.

Want a Woollies Ale?

May 18, 2009

The strategic manoeuvring in the Australian beer market continues. Our most successful supermarket chain, Woolworths, just bought 25 percent of listed Western Australian micro-brewer Gage Roads.

Woollies own the most successful big-box alcohol retail chain in the country – Dan Murphy’s – plus several other liquor chains, and a very large pub business. Shoring up some supply in the fastest growing segment of the beer market – boutique beers – certainly makes some sense.

Owning (or at least having a very strong say in the operations of) one growing brand may give Woolworths even more bargaining power versus any other brands that establish strong recognition in this market (i.e. “look, if you won’t drop your prices to us, we’ll just stock more Gage Roads”…).

The announcement to the market about the purchase indicated that Gage Roads would “contract brew” 350,000 cases a year for Woolworths. That equates to 6.3m litres. The brewery’s website claims they currently have the capacity for “3.5 million litres per annum, scalable to 7 million”. Clearly Woolworths are buying pretty much the whole lot.

This is virtual backward integration by Woolworths. Might we consider the Gage Roads brands simply as a private label now? Will Wesfarmers reply with a similar move for Coles?  And will Woollies do the same on the East Coast (shipping all that beer across the country might cost them a bit)?

Give that they may brew

February 10, 2009

As many of you may be aware, my home state of Victoria has been ravaged by some brutal fires in the past week which have killed hundreds and destroyed the livelihoods of thousands more. It is a truly tragic and heartbreaking state of affairs. Australians are being very generous with donations and efforts to help rebuild people’s lives. I thought I would take this opportunity to highlight a particular instance of loss.

Hargreaves Hill beer fire ravaged donate pleaseOne young business devastated was a microbrewery dear to my heart at Hargreaves Hill just north of Melbourne. This business had recently expanded into a full-blown offsite brewing facility that has now been totally wiped out by the fire. Such growth was no doubt a very large financial risk and to see it destroyed must be heartbreaking.

The founder of the firm has been a leader of the microbrewing community in Victoria through his role as president of the Victorian Association of Microbrewers, and lobbied hard for more sensible taxation of these start-up businesses.

A Melbourne beer bar, The Local Taphouse, is running a fundraising effort to try and kickstart Hargreave’s recovery effort (as well contributing to the broader post-fire effort).

As any of my past students know, I am not a particularly generous fellow :), but I have handed over some cash to help them out and hope other beer (and small business)-lovers amongst you will do similar. More information at this blog.

Other agencies helping out in these difficult times, and also well worth donating to include the Red Cross and the RSPCA.

Please do not see this post as belittling or trivialising the losses of any others in these fires.  Rather this is an effort to target some small percentage of the generosity towards a particular entrepreneurial effort.

The International BS Book Club IV – Brewing up a Business

February 4, 2009

You may have noted a more than passing interest in beer around here. I do tend to drink a bit of the stuff, but I am also intrigued by the emergence of smaller, craft brewers in recent years.

While in Copenhagen back in 2007, I stumbled across this book at an excellent microbrewery that I frequented on more than one chilly afternoon. I raced through the front half over a couple of visits, and subsequently ordered my own copy on my return to Oz. And finally I got back around to finishing last week.

brewing-up-a-business-sam-calagione-dog-fishThe book is an autobiographical account from Sam Calagione, founder of one of the US’s most successful small-scale breweries, Dogfish Head. This brewery (motto: off-centered beer for off-centred people) was, at one point, the smallest commercial brewery in America. It has subsequently expanded considerably, with a strong focus on extreme beers (which can mean high alcohol, lots of hops, odd flavours or all of the above). Such a story is certainly worth hearing.

Calagione is a one-time college lit major, and clearly has an inquisitive mind, an ability to digest and apply ideas, and a strong capacity to weave a coherent tale. This book thus becomes much more insightful than the typical business bio one sees on airport bookstore shelves.

I’m not usually one for motivational stories of entrepreneurship, simply because I find such works tend to lean towards mis-attribution of cause and effect (especially through the lens of hindsight e.g. I did this and I think it worked, so you should do the same) and often showcase highly idiosyncratic experiences.

dogfish head ales logoThis book falls for few of those traps and instead offers strong analysis and a clear message for budding brewers and niche businesses more generally. Calagione integrates a lot of pretty mainstream strategic management concepts (environmental analysis, the importance of unique resources, value chain decisions, specialisation, diversification) and explains them in a non-academic, non-technical fashion, fleshed out with fascinating (and often outlandish) tales from the brewing coalface.

Calagione has a pretty neat take on his experience, and the lessons for entrepreneurs. He considers what he does alt.commerce (as in alternative, like alt.country music). His business is all about expanding a niche. The firm succeeds by delivering a truthful and resonant product and experience (i.e. customers become fans and advocates). By the end of the book, Dogfish Head is still fielding more orders than they can supply (despite considerable expansion), and has certainly become a cult producer of beer, rum and soap(!), as well as running three restaurant/brewpubs. Offering $20 beers becomes viable!!

I can highly recommend this book to budding entrepreneurs, strategic management professors and beer-nuts (the aficionados, not the snacks). For more on Dogfish Head’s extreme brewing see this excellent article from the New Yorker magazine, and this video interview: