COVID-19 might have been the catalyst that shifted people’s drinking habits from mainstream to independent craft, but it will be the quality of the beer that will keep them for the long-term.
That’s the view of the Independent Brewers Association’s (IBA) chair Pete Philip as the industry prepares to celebrate an outstanding year of achievement after a year from hell at The Indies tonight.
Despite Pete calling 2020 the IBA’s “lost year”, he’s upbeat about how the last six months or so has panned out – “generally” – and that the industry finds itself in a “largely strong” position heading in to Summer as it looks to build on the trends that have emerged since the pandemic broke out.
“I’m convinced this shift from mainstream or international beer to independent Australian craft beer is not some anomaly because of COVID affecting people’s buying habits or attitudes to supporting local businesses,” he said in reference to what breweries had experienced this year but also the recent Beer Cartel’s survey results that showed a shift in people’s buying habits towards local craft.
“Indie or craft beer is not a short-term fad. It’s a long-term trend. We’re on track to secure our objective of claiming 15 per cent of market share by 2025. In many ways we’re wondering whether that is too conservative now.”
Pete said the independent brewing industry “fared better than some” this year thanks in part to the outpouring of community support for their local breweries. He said: “once you teach people good habits, they find it hard to go back”.
“The lockdown period was massive for raising awareness around supporting local businesses, not just in the brewing industry.
“I think we’ve converted people that used to be mainstream beer drinkers but who have now said ‘no, I want to support my local brewery’. They’ve gone and tried the indie craft beers and gone ‘these are fantastic. Why haven’t I been doing this all along?’.
“I think we’re going to retain a fair amount of those people even if things ever do return to quote-unquote normal. I’m certainly hopeful that we’ve converted a lot of people over to independent beer.
“The message we’ve been sending is ‘there’s an indie beer for everybody’. As an example, if you’re a mainstream beer drinker and all you want is just a really clean lager, then there are lots of indie beers that are just nice, clean well made lagers. You don’t need to be supporting the multi-nationals to drink a basic lager.”
‘SOME OF THE BEST BEERS IN THE WORLD’
Looking to tonight’s virtual running of The Indies – the awards that recognise a year of achievement for independent breweries – Pete said he was delighted they were still going ahead as they were a critical tool in benchmarking what he considers a world class industry.
Normally a night when the industry gets together from far and wide to rub shoulders, this year’s Indies will be held online and viewed in people’s homes or at viewing parties in venues across the country.
“The opportunity to benchmark ourselves is super important. Australian independent breweries are making some of the best beers in the world so I truly believe that anyone who medals in The Indies can hold their head up that they’re brewing world class beers,” Pete said.
“To me that’s why The Indies are so important because we’ve got to keep on benchmarking ourselves and we’ve got to keep on improving the quality.”
He said the online awards would “gobsmack” people.
“When the guys pitched it to me I was like ‘whoa, that’s a bit ambitious’. I think there’s something like 300 crosses on the night to different locations around the country.
“It’s a massive, massive undertaking. I think people are going to be really surprised that we can pull something like this off. So hopefully it all goes well!”
The Indies start tonight at 8PM AEDT. Head here to tune in and to find out where your local hosting party is. The Sydney and Melbourne events at Philter and Fixation are booked out while it appears spaces are still available at the Hobart (Fox Friday), South Australia (Prancing Pony), Perth (Besk) and Brisbane (Sea Legs) events.