If you want to support local breweries, it is about to become much easier to distinguish genuine Australian-owned craft beer from foreign-owned brands masquerading as independent brewers.
The Independent Brewers Association (IBA) has launched a new certification seal – granting authentic beers confirmed as independent and locally-owned the tick of approval.
These will be displayed on beer packaging, bottles and tap points as well as on signs at pubs and other venues that support certified local craft beer.
The IBA told The New Daily that a number of brewers have already signed up, including Burleigh Brewing, Stone and Wood, Stomping Ground, Bright Brewery, Bridge Road Brewers, Wheaty Brewing, Cheeky Monkey and Hobart Brewing.
You can expect to see the ‘Indie Beer’ seals appear on beers at your local bottle shop within the “next few months”.
Similar seals of independence have already launched overseas, with the US Brewers Association introducing its own certification last month.
“The trend towards locally brewed, hand-crafted beer made by small independent breweries is not a fad, it is a fundamental shift on a global scale that is bigger than just beer and more so about the stories behind the product,” IBA’s Will Tatchell said.
Fight for authenticity amid rise of corporate craft beer
Japanese-owned Kirin (Lion) and Belgium-owned AB InBev (Carlton and United) control almost 60 per cent of the Australian beer market.
While overall beer consumption in Australia is at a 65-year low, Australians’ appetite for craft beer is growing at 10 per cent every year, generating $500 million in annual revenue.
So these large corporations are increasingly branching out to cash in on the craft beer segment, buying out previously independent brewers.
Some examples include White Rabbit and Little Creatures.
Retail expert Dr Gary Mortimer, of Queensland University of Technology, said this has made it confusing for consumers to know if they’re getting what they’re paying for when they opt for a craft beer – traditionally sold at a premium price.
“There has been a clear shift in the market towards craft beer and there is a general perception that craft beer is made by a micro brewer,” he said,
“But this is not necessarily the case.”
Does it matter who owns your favourite beer?
A survey of more than 17,000 Australians in August 2017 found that 82 per cent of beer drinkers believed an independent brewers seal would have a great impact on the craft beer they chose to buy.
“Some people might not care who owns the beer they like drinking but there are consumers who want to be more informed so they can make ethical choices to support small business, the local economy and local jobs,” Dr Mortimer said.
“I think this new seal will further segment the market into mass craft beer and true micro craft beer.
“This will allow consumers to clearly identify beers made by truly independent micro-breweries as opposed to global corporate giants, supermarkets or soft drink manufacturers like Coca-Cola.”
André Sammartino, associate professor in international business at the University of Melbourne, said there is evidence consumers are concerned about the “market power or overt profit motives” of the multinational players in the beer industry.
“Big beer can makes claims to the nebulous ‘craft’ label, but they will struggle to claim independence,” he said.
“If [the introduction of the seal] were to somehow boost sales of any independent brewery, that may – down the track – lower the prices of that beer, if the brewery is able to ramp up production efficiencies and lower their costs.
“But, that’s not an immediate or guaranteed effect. It should benefit the local independent breweries in terms of highlighting a ‘point of difference’ from the Fat Yaks, Pirate Lifes and Goose Islands.”
Here is a full list of independent, locally-owned craft breweries in each state.