CBCo Brewing is celebrating its 20th year of operation, and Beer & Brewer spoke to CEO Lawrence Dowd about the quality beer and conscious business planning that has been keen to the brewery’s success.

CBCo Brewing started in 2004 as a microbrewery in Margaret River, of which Dowd was a small investor from the beginning. In 2008, the original owners came up against some economic difficulties, at which time Dowd took financial control of the brewery.

“Starting as a microbrewery, we’ve seen it all. In the beginning, if we sold 10 kegs in a week, we thought it was great. Eventually, you set your expectations higher, and you put a bit more pressure on yourself to grow and expand. We’ve gone from selling a couple 100,000 litres of beer to peaking a couple years ago at 4.6 million litres,” he said.

The quality of the beer CBCo Brewing was producing encouraged Dowd to grow the business.

“The core foundation of the brewery is making really excellent beer. We started winning a whole host of awards pretty early on, which put our brewery on the map,” he said.

However, it was not just a constant path of expansion. There were equally important periods of planning and consolidation to reach a point of economic stability.

“Getting the business into the position of being sustainable and profitable was a milestone for us. It’s an extremely tough industry, so that was a big moment,” Dowd said.

Once CBCo Brewing reached that point of stability, Dowd was able to build the business, expanding to the East Coast.

“In 2015, we bought a larger facility in Port Melbourne from CUB, which was previously the home of Matilda Bay. That acquisition was a big moment for us and gave us the foundation to build a much bigger brewing facility. From there, we had really big expectations and aspirations for the brand,” he said.

For Dowd, consistency has been one of the major factors in CBCo Brewing’s success.

“Having a really defined position for our brand has been important for us. It’s a very busy market and there’s so many different brands out there that are all trying to get everyone’s attention. For us, we’ve had to stick to our positioning and make sure that we’re consistent with it. That’s required some discipline,” he said.

One aspect of the CBCo Brewing positioning is a preference for more approachable, entry level styles.

“We did pivot a little bit away from doing heavy, strong ales or styles that were somewhat niche. We have an approach of creating gateway craft beers that are sessionable. That might seem basic, but that’s where we’ve grown in the market. Some styles have their moments and then they go through a cycle. That’s always been the challenge of working in this market. People are always looking for the next new thing.

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