Asahi's shopping spree in the Australian beer world continues apace with today's news that they've acquired Green Beacon. The move comes hot on the heels of last month's announcement of their intention to purchase CUB plus craft brands 4 Pines and Pirate Life from AB InBev.
Rumours have swirled for months around a potential Asahi acquisition of the top-rated Brisbane brewery; indeed, back in April, The Crafty Pint was assured by a reliable source the sale was a done deal. However, many in the local beer world suggested the Japanese giant's $16 billion acquisition of CUB – a move set to be finalised early in 2020 – meant the rumoured deal may be off.
However, that wasn't to be the case. Green Beacon join Mountain Goat and Cricketers Arms in the Asahi stable, with the acquisition of the former the first sales in recent times to send shockwaves through the industry back in September 2015. Since then, 4 Pines and Pirate Life were bought in quick succession by CUB / AB InBev in late 2017; Feral was acquired by Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA) in October 2017; and twin brands Vale Brewing and Fox Hat became part of SA beverage company Bickford's at the same time.
Peter Margin, executive chairman of Asahi, said in statement: “This is a very exciting time for our business, as we add this great brand and great business to the Asahi Beverages family. We are looking forward to working with Marc and Adrian to help grow the Green Beacon business, and bring their great tasting beer to more consumers.”
Adrian Slaughter, co-founder and on-going general manager at Green Beacon (pictured above holding the AIBA trophy), said: “Green Beacon has grown from just myself and Marc to 40-plus team members across the nation in just eight years. We want to continue growing and maintaining the quality and integrity of our beers, whilst ensuring all Australians are kept amply supplied in great beer!
"Partnering with Asahi to deliver this is truly exciting and provides security and opportunity for our customers, consumers and wider Green Beacon family. Our goal has always been to make the best beer and to get it into as many people’s hands as possible. In Asahi, we have a partner who shares this commitment and can support us in achieving this goal.”
Green Beacon's rise to prominence in recent years made them a likely target. Founders Adrian Slaughter and Marc Chrismas first opened the doors of their Teneriffe brewpub in January 2013, the first of a new wave of Brisbane-based breweries. Once they hit their straps on the beer front, with Johann van der Walt leading the way as head brewer, they began snapping up major trophies for fun.
Their most recent – pictured above – was in May when they collected Champion Medium Australian Brewery, the third Champion Brewery trophy they'd won at the Australian International Beer Awards in three years. Interspersed were Champion Brewery trophies at the Indies (formerly the Craft Beer Awards).
Their success was built upon consistently high quality across the range; as Johann pointed out to this site in May, they've never won a trophy for an individual beer but as a whole they've been nailing whatever style they turn their hands to.
The timing of the announcement is sure to lead to plenty of discussion at next month's BrewCon in Melbourne, as the Independent Brewers Association (IBA) gathers for its annual conference and awards with one less leading brewery eligible for membership.
However, IBA chair Jamie Cook believes this acquisition will have little impact on the country's independent beer section.
"Firstly, congratulations to Adrian and Marc for the business they've built," he said. "They've created a very strong business and brand with a very solid reputation for quality beers.
"But I think in terms of the impact it has on the independent beer movement – not a lot really. One sale every couple of years pales into significance when we've got new breweries opening weekly."
Jamie pointed to the continuing decline of mainstream beer brands in Australia and recent figures published by the IBA showing 25 percent year on year growth for the independent sector.
"I can understand Asahi's strategy with mainstream beer going backwards, so they've got to slow that loss somehow," he said. "It just reinforces that the independents and entrepreneurship of startup breweries are creating value, and that value is being recognised by drinkers, retailers, suppliers and big breweries who are prepared to pay big money for that value."
As for how today's sale might affect the IBA itself as the association prepares to ramp up its campaigning around the country, Jamie says: "We're pretty resolved in the direction we're heading. One brewery out of 600 isn't going to make a difference.
"I can't see the country's two biggest breweries buying the lion's share – forgive the expression – of the breweries in Australia. I can't see them making massive inroads into independent beer, which is continuing to grow at 25 percent year on year; they'd have to buy a lot of businesses to stop that growth rate."
More to follow...