BrewDog Jumps into Australian Waters, Hopes it's Fine

Austin Ray

THE GIST
BrewDog just made a promise to their Australian fans: “we are heading down under to build a brewery for you.” In a statement on their company blog, they say while they don’t have a location—or a city, for that matter—locked in, they’re considering options:

“We’re after a kick-ass location for our brewhouse, and are narrowing our eyes on two areas on the east coast growing at lightning speed – Newcastle and Brisbane.”

They’ve asked fans to get on board and help them in their quest.

WHY IT MATTERS
The so-called “punks” recently opened their first Stateside brewery in Columbus, OH, and plan to open a sour brewery and destination beer hotel nearby. And now, fresh off April’s £100M private equity infusion, things down-under appear to also be moving very fast.

The newly appointed Australian “Top Dog” Zarah Prior stepped into her role this month, after spending 11 months at Australian craft heavyweight Stone & Wood as their Head of Engagement. According to her LinkedIn profile, Prior’s got her start with BrewDog in the company’s Graduate Scheme, before progressing to the role of “Gatekeeper (Head of People).”

Another upside to the move, according to BrewDog, is fresh product. The tyranny of distance is a long running problem with beer in Australia, and we’ve recently highlighted U.S. breweries struggling to get fresh beer into Australian hands. Beer makers such as Goose Island and Brooklyn are already brewing in the country, and there is growing speculation that the Australian market is reaching tipping point. James Smith, editor of Australian industry website the Crafty Pint summed it up in a recent article, saying “we have a situation in which a greater number of breweries per capita are effectively fighting over just a quarter of the pie being served up in the States.”

Already this year, Rocks Brewery was put up for sale (with speculation BrewDog may move into their Sydney brewpub) and prominent brand BrewCult closed down recently as well.

The key to this whole exercise may lie in BrewDog’s request for places with city councils looking for new investment. Given their high-profile spats with councils in the past, and the Scottish punks not being completely averse to taking investment from governments, you have to wonder if this is a longterm fishing exercise to find a favorable local body.

Even if that’s not the case, BrewDog seem intent on doing what BrewDog used to do best—getting people talking. It didn’t work in Columbus, though—the intended Equity for Punks program there proved that there’s far less fanfare outside their home market for fundraising and fan involvement, and ultimately required them to sell a substantial portion of the company to private equity to complete the project and keep going. Australia isn’t likely to be much different than Ohio in that regard, but PE money finds a way.

—Luke Robertson