When I was in Australia a few years ago, I discovered the wonderfulness of Feral Brewing Co. stumbling around the Circular Quay port in Sydney Harbor. I drank Hog Hop IPA the rest of the trip, and life was good. Apparently, I share the same opinion with a lot of Australians. Last year, I wrote a piece on how Perth’s Feral Brewing is Australia’s best craft brewery, according to a survey of over 6,500 craft beer drinkers by craft beer retailer Beer Cartel. I then begged for an American distributor to pick up this delicious Aussie nectar to no avail.
But that may soon change. Last week, Feral Brewing announced it had agreed to sell 100 percent of the brewery to Coca-Cola Amatil, one of the largest Coke bottlers and non-alcoholic beverage distributors in the Asia-Pacific region. It’s also one of the biggest alcohol distributors in Australia and owners of the Australian Beer Co. So now there’s a much better chance that Feral Brewing will travel the world, but only because it’s owned by a giant beverage distributor and manufacturer with close ties to SABMiller (and thus new owner Anheuser-Busch InBev). From the Feral Facebook page:
Some Questions you might want answered….
Why did you sell?
We had a lot of future plans for the business which, if Feral needed to rely on my personal balance sheet to fund, would have taken years to execute. The initial conversations were around taking on an equity partner to clean up some debt within the business to allow us to commence on a few new initiatives. As discussions progressed it became clear that full a sale would deliver the best outcome for all.
The beer business at Amatil is still relatively young. Due to that, their focus is very much about building brands, which is exactly what Feral needs currently. After lots of conversations I became comfortable that Amatil understood exactly what they would be buying when it came to the Feral business. They realize that our values of innovation, beer quality and community are fundamental to who we are and our future success, and they’re as invested in that as we are.
Craft brewing has a sizable movement in the Land Down Under. On the 4th of July, the Independent Brewers Association (Australia’s craft trade organization) celebrates Australian Independent Brewers Day to highlight its National Economic Evaluation report. That report showed that there are now more breweries operating than at any other time in Australia’s history, generating $740 million in economic output. Some 65 percent of the businesses are located outside of the capital cities, which means jobs and investment for regional and rural areas. From the research we could dig up, right now there are 500 plus craft breweries in Australia.
With such success, just like in America, these independent craft breweries are now targets for acquisition for large beverage companies looking to grow. Consolidation in the industry seems to be heating up, according to one of our favorite Australian beer news outlets, The Crafty Pint:
The announcement of the 100 percent acquisition follows hot on the heels of AB InBev’s purchase of Sydney’s 4 Pines and will shock many Australian beer drinkers, even if it comes after weeks of increasingly heightened speculation in and around the industry.
Whatever the reasons, Feral’s sale to CCA brings the rapidly changing realities of the local and global beer world into sharper focus than ever before and is likely to elicit reactions from many akin to the sale of Mountain Goat to Asahi in 2015. However you look at it, the operation that launched in the Swan Valley in 2002 is one that has helped define what beer can be in Australia.
So it goes in the beer world.
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