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Excise rebate increase a ‘game changer’ for brewery

Earlier this year, well before the excise rebate increase was announced, Brisbane’s Helios Brewing’s co-founder Scott Shomer said to himself while perusing the spreadsheets ‘how long can I keep this up?’

With an environmental science background he was used to analysing data and there was something not quite right with the formula to their success: “I kept calculating, but the numbers weren’t lying. I thought ‘everybody else is making money on this, except us’.” Their flagship (and biggest selling) beer Poseidon – a 5.3% Pale Ale – was seeing the equivalent of 33% of its production costs disappearing as excise. At the more extreme end of the scale, Zeus “Thunderbolt” – their 9.0% Double IPA – paid an amount of excise just shy of half the price it was costing to make it. “We couldn’t pass all that on to the consumer. We were eating a lot of that excise ourselves just to be price competitive”.

But fast forward to the present, and just days out from the rebate increase taking effect on July 1, Scott now feels “growth is possible, profit is possible”.

“(The rebate increase announcement) put a bounce in my step,” Scott (pictured below) told Beer & Brewer. “We’re back and growing and we’re brewing up a storm. In this business, there’s sort of a tangible reality in that they talk about smelling success. Well, we’re now brewing far more often than we ever did before and I’m sitting here smelling the malt right now.”

Scott said Helios, that’s based in the southern Brisbane suburb of Yeerongpilly, has been “a break even endeavour” since opening in late 2017. They currently brew about 75,000 litres annually and have been up until recently predominantly servicing a “cult-like, loyal following”. Yet even before the benefits start to take effect next month, Scott is already “paying it forward” as they begin to increase their distribution, their marketing presence and look to give something back to those fiercely loyal locals “that saw (Helios) get through the worst of the effects that COVID brought on”.

“At our scale this is a complete game changer,” Scott said. “With (the rebate increase) there’s actually already been scope for us, after three years, to finally put on new sales staff and to engage with a professional marketing group – which we’ve never been able to do before. We also just secured a distributor (Lotus) in both Victoria and South Australia. And I still have scope, after all of that, to drop some of our prices a little bit. It’s a massive game changer and all of a sudden we’re looking at our product being more profitable as well. For some of the bigger breweries this is going to be a nice to have. But for us, seriously…  I can sleep at night.”

Helios have said that on July 1 they will reduce the takeaway price of all their cases of beer by $5 and all four-packs by $1. Growler and squealer fills at their taproom will also see price reductions, but these will vary based upon their respective ABV levels.

Making savings is nothing new for Helios Brewing – with Scott’s eco-friendly brewery design having decreased their costs and footprint substantially. The brewery boasts 56 photovoltaic solar panels that provide power to the brewery every day while significant excess is exported back to the grid. They also have three solar thermal water heater arrays on the roof that reduce their water heating requirements to almost nothing.

“The people that I’ve surrounded myself with at Helios are incredibly passionate about what we’re doing here,” Scott said. “They haven’t been doing it for the money. But I’ve always said ‘look, stick with me. We will make it. We are making something that is truly great, we’re trying to stand out, the product stands out and we’re doing it sustainably. So, we will, we will make it’.”

You can find Helios Brewing at 15 Palomar Rd in Yeerongpilly, QLD.

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