Asahi To Close Matilda Bay Brewpub; Brand To Continue

May 2, 2024, by Will Ziebell

Asahi To Close Matilda Bay Brewpub; Brand To Continue

Asahi Beverages has announced it will be closing Matilda Bay's brewpub in Healesville on May 19, less than five years after the pioneering brewery was revived by the major brewer and its founder, Phil Sexton. 

Ryan Saundry, general manager of Fire & Earth Ventures (the craft arm of Asahi/CUB), said in an emailed statement that, while they had enjoyed some success with innovation at the Matilda Bay brewpub, they'd made the "difficult decision" to close the doors and cease manufacturing there.

"We want to express our thanks and gratitude to our Matilda Bay team who have helped us expand the brand over the last few years, including through the very challenging COVID-19 period when we first launched the brewpub," Ryan said. 

"The team really embodies the pioneering spirit of Matilda Bay, and we thank them for their contributions over the past few years."

Asahi said the closure would impact existing team members but they were supporting those impacted and actively exploring other roles within the business. They added that, while the venue would close, Matilda Bay beers will continue to be brewed at other CUB sites, including Pirate Life in Port Adelaide.

"This will help us simplify our operations and ensure Matilda Bay products are available to our customers, as well as enabling an enhanced focus on the growth of our other premium local breweries," Ryan said.


Phil at the Matilda Bay brewpub.

The Healesville brewpub has served as the brewery's spiritual home since the final days of 2019 after CUB and Matilda Bay's founder, Phil Sexton, jointly announced they were bringing the band back together. They went on to convert the home of Phil's Yarra Valley winery, Giant Steps, into the Matilda Bay brewpub. 

Matilda Bay is considered one of craft beer's very first brands, having been founded by Phil and a group of mates in WA in the early 80s. Over the years, the likes of Redback, Dogbolter and one of Australia's earliest hop-forward pales, Alpha Pale Ale, have become part of the country's beer folklore. CUB bought Matilda Bay in its entirety in 1990 after buying a minor stake a few years earlier. The following decade saw Phil move to America to help pioneer the rise of the modern American IPA at BridgePort in Portland before returning to Australia to launch Little Creatures.

In the years before Phil's return, Matilda Bay was considered adrift within the wider CUB craft portfolio and had primarily been connected with Fat Yak, the Yak Ales spinoffs and Frothy. You can read more about Phil and his relationship with CUB and hopes for the revived Matilda Bay in this story we ran when his return to brewing was revealed.


A glimpse of Matilda Bay's lineup, both old and new.

In an emailed statement, Phil thanked the local community for their support and said they had received remarkable backing and appreciation since the brewpub relaunched. 

"It’s always tough when a venture like this comes to an end," he said.

"However, our partnership has been guided by a commitment to positive outcomes since the start. We've enjoyed several successes, though not without challenges, including navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m really proud of what we've accomplished together."

A number of the original Matilda Bay beers have returned since the brewery reopened, although most prominent among the lineup has been Hazy Lager, which the brewery promoted through a significant campaign last year as the "second favourite beer" for drinkers. 

The Matilda Bay news comes just a day after Asahi bought South Australia’s Never Never Distilling, with the purchase of the premium gin maker signalling a further move into a multi-beverage approach for the Japanese drinks company.

The final day of trade at Matilda Bay Healesville will be May 19. 

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