Ownership has long been a much-discussed and often contentious topic within the craft beer world, and it has frequently been in the spotlight again over the past year.
The tightening of economic conditions combined with rising costs across the board for brewers have proven to be something of a perfect storm, one that has left a trail of administrations, closures, sales, and changes of ownership in its wake.
Many of those changes have impacted our infographic guide to Who Owns Your Beer? While there hasn't been a shockwave-inducing takeover anything like Kirin-owned Lion's acquisition of the Fermentum Group in September 2021, there has been movement at the bigger end of beer – not least at Lion.
Since buying the Fermentum brands, two have ceased to operate – Forest For The Trees and Two Birds Brewing – while Lion have also shuttered a couple of the brewpub-based operations they'd created themselves: Tiny Mountain and Bevy.
Arguably the biggest moves in the world of ownership since our last major update of the infographic, however, have come elsewhere within the space we christened Indie Families when we first wrote about it in 2019. Back then, we were referring to those groups of beer and other drinks brands amassed by Stone & Wood (as Fermentum), Gage Roads (under the Good Drinks banner), Mighty Craft (formerly Founders First), Tribe Breweries, and Bickford's.
In the period since then, as well as Fermentum selling to Lion, Mighty Craft have invested in Better Beer but are no longer involved in others; in the past month, they've announced plans to sell Jetty Road and FogHorn while stating they're open to offers for their share in Better Beer. Earlier in 2023, Tribe Breweries went into and out of administration.
Add to that the arrival of two other members of the Indie Families, well, family. Catchment Brewing Co took on sibling brands Fortitude Brewing and Noisy Minor in the middle of 2022 and then played a lead role in bringing Ballistic Beer Co back out of administration earlier this year. And, as of October last year, fellow Inner West Sydney brewers Wayward and Batch have combined their brands, teams, and venues under the name Local Drinks Collective. Meanwhile, Adelaide brewery Little Bang was bought by an SA pub group in June 2022, although they don't appear on the graphic as they're currently the only beer brand in the group.
As such, we've redesigned the Indie Families section of the infographic so we can update it instantly every time there's a change within any of those groups. Or when a new one appears, something that can't be counted out given the challenges still facing business owners.
Of course, this is without even referring to the crafty brands created by the supermarket giants. With Coles (Vintage Cellars, First Choice and Liquorland) – their main play is centred around the Tinnies range, which has included "collaborations" with actual breweries in the past. As for the Endeavour Group – for whom Dan Murphy's and BWS are the bricks and mortar outlets – they continue to keep recipe designers, contract brewers and brand designers busy creating new beers under the Pinnacle Drinks banner.
All in all, it makes the world of ownership in beer as complex and fascinating as ever. We hope our updated graphic helps you make sense of it all.