Peta Fielding Burleigh Brewing

Burleigh Brewing Co first entered the market 18 years ago, launching two lagers and an ale that were well received by Queensland’s beer lovers and beyond. The impetus for starting the brewery was to offer an alternative to the big brands that were dominating the market, and it was this same ethos that led them to break into the no carb segment.

Offering a no carb experience that doesn’t compromise on flavour, the brewery quickly became a pioneer in the better-for-you market. But before the brewery cast its sights on lower carb beers, it established its reputation as a producer of slow brewed, premium beers.

“It was all just about brewing, and being another choice in beer that wasn’t a global industrial player,” says Co-Founder Peta Fielding, explaining how Burleigh Brewing first came to be.

“We wanted to offer a genuine other option, because there wasn’t really anything else other than the big brewers. […] At the time, people almost couldn’t believe that if you weren’t a massive manufacturing plant you could make beer. One of the questions that we got a lot, was ‘do you have a low carb?’.”

Fielding recalls that Pure Blonde was one of few low carb beers at the time, and after being asked often enough, the team decided to venture into a new market segment.

“We thought, if we genuinely want to provide an alternative for people, we need to figure out if we can do a low carb, but brewed the way that we brew.

“We set about to take on this challenge because customers were asking for it, so Brennan started doing some trials. We knew it would be possible to make a low carb beer, but we wanted to make sure that we could stick to our brewing values.”

Having a limited lab set up, Co-Founder and Head Brewer Brennan Fielding began to send off samples to be tested and over time he balanced the flavour profile while lowering the carb content. Eventually Burleigh Bighead No Carb Lager was born, and since nailing the process, it has never changed.

While the shift to brewing no carb beers didn’t present many technical challenges, the focus for the team at Burleigh Brewing was to stay committed to their ethics.

“There will be other ways of doing it with shortcuts, but we were adamant we weren’t going to take shortcuts. Our challenge was to make sure that we could do it with all malted barley and to do it with the flavour profile that we wanted,” says Fielding.

“In our range, it is the beer that requires the most time and attention to get it right, but for us it was about more than ticking boxes. Having it taste great and be brewed genuinely the way that we brew. We like to say our beer is ‘no shit, no shortcuts’, and we wanted to make sure that we could do that with this beer as well.”

“We didn’t know how it would go in the market, but the combination of demand for low and no carb product, and its real taste because of how its brewed, means every year it has gained awareness. It’s a long, slow slog for a small brand to get broad awareness, but every year it builds.”

Over the last decade, we have seen a cultural shift towards health consciousness, which has led to considerable expansion in the no- and low-carb beer category. As the segment expands and sees floods of new entrants, premium quality remains the focus for Burleigh Brewing.

“No matter what happens in the market and the segment around it, we are absolutely committed to making sure that Bighead is the best version it can be and ticks all of the flavour boxes. We’re not the cheapest beer that’s for sure, but certainly for what you get in the bottle it’s great value. Given the type of ingredients that go into it, the time it takes to brew, and the love that goes into every bottle or can of Bighead,” she said.

In a similar way to the no carb beer segment, the better-for-you trend has fueled growth in the mid-strength beer category. Since the release of its first three beers, which included one mid-strength lager, Burleigh Brewing has expanded its presence in the mid-strength category and most recently released a mid-strength version of the much-loved Burleigh Bighead No Carb Lager.

Fielding says this is an indication that the brewery sees more growth in the better-for-you market, which is also mirrored in market data.

Globally, Australia is one of the leading markets for no- and low-alcohol beer, primarily driven by a sustained shift from full-strength to mid-strength over the last decade. But as an observer of consumer behaviour, Fielding says the better-for-you trend runs much deeper than the beer category.  

“There is a certain portion of the market who are just more interested about everything that goes into their mouths to the extent that there needs to be better choices available, whether that be the ingredients, calories, it means different things to different people.

“For us, it has always been our thing. We only put malted barley hops and water in our beer. We target lower alcohol, lower calorie and lower carb, we’re putting options out there. But for many, just the fact that it’s brewed from three very clean, very simple ingredients is also considered better for you.

“The other big thing that we do with all of our beers is to brew, ferment and mature them slowly. They ferment at their natural pace, and at a temperature that protects the yeast and what it produces. It produces the purest form of alcohol, so even knowing that it is brewed slowly and calmly appeals to a lot of people.”

As consumers become better educated and the demand for healthier alternatives grows, Fielding says that Burleigh Brewing will continue to offer a genuine alternative for health-conscious consumers who love beer, with more exciting products in the works.

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