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Hahn Brewery: Lion’s most important acquisition?

Lion in its various guises has bought numerous breweries over the last 30 years, but a new documentary suggests the Hahn Brewery deal in 1993 may have proven its most pivotal.

The special Drinks Adventures podcast documentary explores the remarkable career of Chuck Hahn, who celebrates 50 years of brewing in 2021. You can read our look back at his career, that was the cover story of our Winter 2021 magazine, here.

The podcast reveals the crucial role Chuck played in developing Coors Light at Coors Brewery in Colorado, USA, prior to relocating to Australia and ultimately founding Hahn Brewery in 1988.

Chuck and his business partners felt there was room in the market for a domestically-brewed, draught alternative to the imported European-style lagers that were popular in Australia at the time.

But the Hahn Brewery’s run as an independent would ultimately prove short-lived, with numerous factors conspiring to bring about its collapse in 1992.

“Since our cost of manufacturing was higher, we were actually paying the government more in taxes than the larger brewers, on a per litre basis,” Chuck told Drinks Adventures. “We were just barely breaking even, and we were paying the banks 17 per cent interest on our overdraft.”

Tooheys (now Lion) bought the Hahn Brewery from receivers in 1993 for an undisclosed sum that would surely be very modest in comparison to the later acquisitions of James Boag’s and Little World Beverages and currently Fermentum – the owners of Stone & Wood and other brands.

Yet the Hahn trade mark has become one of Lion’s most important assets, spawning blockbuster beers such as Hahn Premium, Hahn Premium Light, Hahn Ice, Hahn Super Dry, Hahn Super Dry 3.5 and Hahn Ultra Crisp.

“Lion did quite well buying Chuck’s business, because they got his name. And his name’s been in a lot of stuff,” former Hahn and Malt Shovel brewer Doug Donelan said in the documentary. “I’m pretty sure, that when they bought that little brewery in Camperdown, they never in a million years would have dreamed it would be such a good business decision for them.”

The documentary subsequently explores Chuck’s achievements as one of the fathers of craft beer in Australia, who created the hugely successful James Squire and Kosciuszko brands.

Also contributing insights are current Lion Beer Australia managing director James Brindley, craft beer pioneer Phil Sexton, Coopers Brewery managing director Dr Tim Cooper and many more.

You can listen in the media player below, on the Drinks Adventures website, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

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