Preparations are underway for this year’s Fremantle beer festival, set to commence on November 13. Western Australian Brewers Association president Andy Scade said the festival was a great opportunity to showcase WA beers and breweries.
The craft brewing industry has been rapidly expanding for the last decade. Mr Scade said this followed a period where the beers available were mainly just mainstream lagers. He said that while the craft area had seen good growth, there had also been challenges, but with challenges had come resilience and ingenuity.
Wedgetail Brewing director Howie Croft said: “From a licensee’s perspective you’ve always got to have an aspect to it where you’re not seen as promoting excessive drinking, while also encouraging sales.”
He explained some breweries tackled this through the promotion of food and beer together, while others promoted family-friendly areas, as a disincentive for consumers to excessively drink.
Margaret River Brewhouse director Iliya Hastings explained other legal requirements brewers had to abide by, including providing information about standard drinks on all packaging and “if you’ve got a brewpub obviously the signage and responsible service of alcohol”.
Mr Croft said because the “choice of beer was abysmal” before the introduction of craft beers, smaller brewers had been determined to push through challenges and give people more choice. He added craft brewing had brought back a lot of older styles of beers that disappeared from Australia because big beer dominated the market.
However, during the COVID-19 shutdowns, breweries were severely impacted, according to Mr Croft, as “the demand for canned products went mental” because only bottle shops were open. He said those who adjusted quickly survived.
Mr Scade agreed, adding: “Lots of breweries had to try and work out how they could do that or else they weren’t selling anything.”
Mr Croft predicted for the majority who transitioned to can packaging during the pandemic, the change was highly likely to be permanent, because “cans are so much better all around. It’s more environmental and good at keeping the product in good condition”.
Ms Hastings concurred, saying the COVID19 lockdowns: “opened up a lot of markets that we didn’t use to have access to tap into. Now that we have reopened, can sales still contribute about 40 to 45 per cent of our beer sales, whereas previously that was somewhere about 15 to 20 per cent”
According to Mr Scade, events like the Fremantle Beer Festival were “easy to organise because everybody is friendly and there’s a great culture among everyone in the brewing industry.”
As well as running masterclasses, taste testing and other leisurely activities, Scade said the WABA was about to start an awareness campaign about people stealing kegs, as it was costing brewers hundreds unnecessarily.