Gone are the days when Australia’s craft beer industry comprised beer lovers tinkering with home-brew kits and strange ingredients in their sheds.
Today, there are more than 400 small, independent brewery businesses across Australia – doubled from 200 just six years ago, according to the Independent Brewers Association (IBA). The industry directly employs more than 2,100 people and generates an estimated $655 million in economic output.
The advantage that microbrewers have over other larger beverage companies comes down to agility. They can afford to experiment, change directions, follow new trends, and even create new trends – something bigger players can’t easily do.
So, what have they been brewing for the next year?
Here are the top 7 microbrewery trends to look out for in 2019:
Trend #1 Native ingredients
Expect a stronger focus on Australian ingredients in 2019 as consumers pick beers with a truly local provenance. A spate of local releases at the end of 2018 kicked off the trend.
Perhaps nothing is more local than Bad Shepherd Brewing Co’s ‘Victoria Pale Ale’made with 100% Victorian ingredients. With their beer label design proudly bearing the slogan “GROWN HERE MADE HERE”, the ale is brewed with Victorian grown and Geelong kilned pale and wheat malt, Vic Secret and Topaz hops from the High Country, water from Melbourne, and Melbourne No.1 pure ale yeast – a Melbourne yeast strain made by bacteriologist Auguste de Bavay in 1889 and rediscovered by beer historian Peter Symons. Released in November, this hyper-local beer is a sign of things to come.
Trend #2 Tell a story
Connected with the use of native ingredients, as Bad Shepherd has demonstrated, is the focus on telling a good story. Just as with wine and coffee, craft beer consumers seek the story. They want to know more about their product, where it came from, the experimentation fails and successes that led the microbrewery to create the beer they are about to drink. Whether they realise it or not, consumers are looking for an emotional connection with the brand.
What’s more, in 2018, the IBA launched the Independence Seal to help Australian owned independent breweries to distinguish themselves from those owned by larger, global beer companies, and help craft beer fans easily identify beers from independent breweries.
Trend #3 Sustainable packaging & processes
Look out for more sustainable practices in processing and packaging in 2019, because microbreweries are well and truly on the “green” path.
Brewing giant Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) has already announced it is discontinuing the use of plastic six-pack ring packaging on its Cascade Brewery cans, replacing them with cardboard packaging.
But Melbourne microbreweryUrban Alleyhas gone a step further: the brewer has launched what it claims is the first biodegradable can holder in the Australian market. The six-pack rings (called E6PR) are made from spent grain, which is a by-product of brewing and is edible to marine life.
While up in the Victorian High Country, a 50kW solar system covers Bright Brewery’s 600 square metres of roof in 192 solar panels. The system was installed as part of the brewery’s sustainability mission, while also providing potential savings of around $18,000 a year – a smart business move in the energy-intensive craft brewing business.
There’s no doubt sustainability is one of the brewery trends to watch.
Trend #4 Kombucha
Who says microbrewing has to produce beer? Kombucha label Scull recently launched Adelaide’s first kombucha brewhouse taproom. The brewer is using the brewhouse as a test bed to try out new flavours on tap and get consumer feedback, so they can refine the products.
Kombucha is potentially one of the hottest brewery trends for 2019. The market for Kombucha is young, but there’s huge potential for growth, as demonstrated by Coca-Cola Amatil’s recent purchase of Australian label Mojo and Lion’s purchase of a big stake in kombucha brand Remedy.
So what exactly is kombucha? Kombucha is defined by consumer advocate group Choiceas a drink traditionally made by fermenting sweetened tea with a “scoby” (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). During fermentation, the yeast converts the sugar in the tea to alcohol, and the bacteria convert the alcohol to organic acids, to create a lightly sparkling and slightly sour drink.
But it’s not that simple. Reported inconsistencies between the alcohol levelsof products sold in Australia, and a general lack of a Kombucha “standard”, means regulations may change in the coming year. In the past, Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) has said that kombucha is a traditional food and doesn’t need any special assessment required for novel foods. Watch this space.
Trend #5 Brew-pub experience
In 2019, it’s all about the experience. Expect a rise in the number of brew-pubs, or tap rooms, across Australia as microbreweries focus on engaging with customers beyond the bottle and building their brands.
As Bart Watson, chief economist for the US Brewers Association told Brews News, the Australian beer market will follow the US: “As the number of small brewers grows, creating a consumer connection becomes more important, and brew-pubs can be one way to effectively showcase your brand, your beers, and create a memorable experience that leads to loyal customers in the future.”
Brew-pubs offer other key advantages for many Australian microbrewers – they provide immediate cash flow and a consumer-facing platform that provides valuable insights for R&D.
Trend #6 Pushing the flavour boundaries
Small brewers are pushing the boundaries with techniques, flavours and ingredients to make beers that are completely different to anything that’s come before. Some breweries are even launching crowdfunding campaigns to fund their experimentation.
If you think you’ve seen it all, take a look this list of Australia’s strangest craft beer flavours, which includes mussels, oysters and lollies. Otherside Brewing Co’s latest experimental series is a great example, including recent launch of Red Creaming Sour. This sour release is said to be a nostalgic ode to a quintessential Australian soft drink that brings back fond memories for many consumers.
Trend #7: Microbrewers unite
Collaboration isn’t new for microbreweries, but it is a growing brewery trend. Eight craft brewers of Victoria’s famed High Country Brewery Trail have been working together for six years, launching a new collaborative limited release brew each year called ‘Rule 47’.
In 2019, we’ll see the thirst for collaboration continue to venture beyond the microbrewery world to include coffee roasters, gin distilleries, chocolatiers and more.
Over to you
What brewery trends do you think will take off in 2019? Tell us yourthoughts!
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For more information on any of the trends and technologies mentioned in this article, check out our resource library which is filled with free-to-download information for Australian manufacturers and suppliers.
Image credits: iStock/ BristolDen (main); iStock/ Queensbury (middle); iStock/ Maksymowicz (bottom)