The Ekka has local craft brewers including some from Michael McGovern from Black Hops in the middle is Matt Kirkegaard (Beer Educator) and Scott Hargrave from Balter Brewery.
The Ekka has local craft brewers including some from Michael McGovern from Black Hops in the middle is Matt Kirkegaard (Beer Educator) and Scott Hargrave from Balter Brewery.

A crafty little earner for Queensland tourism

QUEENSLAND'S craft beer scene is brewing into a thriving economic powerhouse, with industry leaders predicting it could lead to a tourism boost.

The Sunshine State's craft brew industry is estimated to be worth $62 million per year and climbing, with 17 new craft beers brands launching in the past year, taking the total past 80.

Despite steadily falling rates of annual alcohol consumption among Aussie drinkers, craft beer has bucked the trend, with an IBISWorld industry report finding consumers were moving on from "traditional" beers such as XXXX, Victoria Bitter and Carlton Draught to craft drops.

Queensland boasts a number of award-winning craft brewers from Teneriffe's Green Beacon, which took home 12 awards at the Australian International Beer Awards earlier this year, to Gold Coast's Balter Brewing, co-founded by champion surfer Mick Fanning.

Surfer Mick Fanning with a beer at his Balter brewery at Currumbin. Picture: Nigel Hallett
Surfer Mick Fanning with a beer at his Balter brewery at Currumbin. Picture: Nigel Hallett

Independent Brewers Association chief Alexis Roitman said southeast Queensland was establishing itself as a "hot spot" for emerging craft brewers and potential economic benefits to the state were strong.

"I really think that beer tourism is going to be as big as wine tourism, and we know that Queensland does tourism very well," she said.

"We're seeing very strong growth, particularly in southeast Queensland.

"The great thing about beer is it's urban, it's gritty - it can be down little laneways and in pockets of the city.

"But it's also in the lush Currumbin Valley, from the Gold Coast to the Sunshine Coast and up to Cairns."

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In March the State Government announced plans to develop a strategy to support the industry's expansion, while in May a working group of Queensland brewers was also created.

In July, accounting and consulting firm KPMG was contracted to develop the strategy, expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Minister for State Development and Manufacturing Cameron Dick said the strategy would guide the development of the emerging sector, and it had the potential to position the state as a national leader in the industry.

"The development of this strategy is a strong answer to the industry's call for support to reach its full potential and is part of our Government's commitment to building Queensland's valuable manufacturing industry," Mr Dick said. "The rapid growth of Queensland's new but small-scale craft brewing industry is challenged by several issues, which include increased promotion of the sector, regulations, and workforce and skill shortages."

A number of brewers are unhappy with the level of broader government support, and in particular the level of excise rebate they are eligible to claim compared to other industries, such as winemakers.

Green Beacon Brewing Company owners Marc Chrismas and Adrian Slaughter. Picture: Josh Woning
Green Beacon Brewing Company owners Marc Chrismas and Adrian Slaughter. Picture: Josh Woning

And some continue to be critical of the spruiking from Treasurer Scott Morrison that the Federal Government's excise duty refund increase, from $30,000 to $100,000, announced in the May Budget, offered "the likelihood of cheaper craft beer".

Co-founder and chief executive of Bundaberg's Bargara Brewing Co Jack Milbank said it was a misleading claim.

"It's completely undermined and put more pressure on craft beer brewers because customers expect the beer to be cheaper," he said. "This rebate doesn't even kick in until next July, so it's actually done more harm than good in the short term."

But Mr Milbank said by selling Queensland's craft brew scene on the international stage, the sector could continue to grow and thrive.

"We don't have the budget to build global brand awareness. As a sector made up of small, independent craft brewers, one of the things which can make a real difference is collective awareness through tourism.

"As a strategy, every State Government function should be serving Queensland-brewed beers that are independently owned - that's an easy place to start."

The Ekka has local craft brewers including some from Michael McGovern from Black Hops in the middle is Matt Kirkegaard (Beer Educator) and Scott Hargrave from Balter Brewery.
The Ekka has local craft brewers including some from Michael McGovern from Black Hops in the middle is Matt Kirkegaard (Beer Educator) and Scott Hargrave from Balter Brewery.

Though the craft beer market is regularly associated with small, independent brewers and companies, many customers are not aware some of the best known craft brews are owned by global giants.

Lion, which produces XXXX, Boag's, Hahn and Tooheys, operates arguably the country's most well-recognised craft beer brand James Squire, along with Little Creatures, Byron Bay Brewing Co and White Rabbit. Belgium giant AB InBev, also known as SAB Beverage in Australia and owner of Carlton and United Breweries, controls Yak Ales, 4 Pines Brewing and Pirate Life.

But IBISWorld senior industry analyst Nathan Cloutman said while they accounted for more than 50 per cent of craft beer consumption, the big players were increasingly losing market share, as customers sought out independent operators.

"Although Lion and SAB Beverage dominate the industry, industry enterprise numbers have continued to grow strongly over the past five years, with small niche brewers thriving," he said. "Consumers are anticipated to continue opting for premium and craft beers, particularly small, seasonal batches with a local or regional focus. Similar to the premiumisation trends in food consumption, the importance of a product's origin is becoming more important in the beer market."

Other new brewers are experimenting in what is known as "gypsy brewing", hiring another venue's equipment to create an original drop. Rather than forking out about $1 million to establish a large-scale craft brew set-up, it means more potential brewers can enter the market with lower costs and risks.

Brant, Jarrett and Tysen Bravo of Bravo Brewing. Picture: AAP/Josh Woning
Brant, Jarrett and Tysen Bravo of Bravo Brewing. Picture: AAP/Josh Woning

For brothers Brant, Jarrett and Tysen Bravo, the launching of their own craft beer brand earlier this year was a long-term dream brought to life, made possible by gypsy brewing at fellow independent brewer Newstead Brewing Co.

Jarrett, who is also a senior brewer at Newstead Brewing Co, said the Brisbane craft brew scene was very tight knit and very supportive of each other's success.



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