Lion Set To Close Malt Shovel Brewery

June 6, 2024, by Will Ziebell

Lion Set To Close Malt Shovel Brewery

Lion is set to close the Malt Shovel Brewery in August, spelling the end of close to four decades of brewing history on the site.

Lion's managing director, James Brindley, called it a difficult decision to make and said it came amid declining beer sales and the increasing cost of making and selling beer.

“This week we've informed our valued team members at Malt Shovel Brewery of the difficult decision we have taken – which is that we are proposing to close the site at the end of August 2024," James said in an email statement sent to The Crafty Pint.   

“It’s been a tough time for all players in the Australian beer industry – with overall volumes declining by 100 million litres since 2019, continuing a long-term decline in consumption of beer.  

"There have also been ongoing cost of living pressures reducing discretionary spending, and continuing increases in costs like energy, labour and ingredients, as well as government excise, which is now the third-highest in the world."

The inner-west site in Camperdown has been operating as a brewery since 1988, when Chuck Hahn established the Hahn Brewery, which he later sold to Lion in 1993 while staying on as chief brewer. Under Chuck's stewardship, the space was rebranded as the Malt Shovel Brewery in 1998 and became the home of the James Squire range that introduced many drinkers to their first taste of more flavour-forward beers.

In more recent years, the brewery has also produced various craft brands under the Lion banner, such as those from Little Creatures, New Belgium and Eumundi Brewery, as well as the Malt Shovel Brewers range. James said any beers made in Camperdown would be transferred to other sites. 

“Lion has a diverse network of breweries, including our Fermentum breweries in the Northern Rivers, and Little Creatures Breweries in Geelong and Fremantle, which will remain our craft centres of excellence into the future,” he said.   

 

A glimpse inside the Squire brewhouse, with the plaque on the left revealing the brewhouse's long history before it went on to forge history.

 

Malt Shovel's head brewer, Alli Macdonald, said in a statement that the brewery left an incredible history and lineage of beers and brewers, of which she was proud to be a part.

“A unique practice we’ve maintained at Malt Shovel is an Honour Roll of all the brewers who have worked here from the beginning," Alli said. "Our brewers have always been front and centre of this brewery. 

“Chuck Hahn was brewer #1, I’m privileged to have been #59 and in total, we’ve had some 65 brewers who have worked here – many of whom have gone on to do wonderful things both in Lion and the wider industry." 

The news comes a year after Lion announced it would close Australia's first women-owned brewery, Two Birds, which the major brewer bought alongside Stone & Wood, Fixation and other Fermentum brands in 2021. 

Lion aren't alone when it comes to closing the homes of craft brands in recent times: Asahi closed the Matilda Bay brewpub in Healesville last month after reviving the effectively dormant brand in 2019 alongside Phil Sexton who, like Chuck, was one of craft beer's earliest advocates and a pioneer who helped change the face of beer in Australia. 

Lion's decision comes during a time of ongoing change in the local beer landscape with many breweries closing, downsizing, or entering voluntary administration, while others expand their footprint. Despite the challenges, new breweries continue to open, including the Inner West's newest kid on the block, Chuck & Son's Brewing, founded by Chuck Hahn and his son Scott, which opened just weeks ago.

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