Just Wines Buys Beer Cartel And Brewquets

July 8, 2024, by Will Ziebell

Just Wines Buys Beer Cartel And Brewquets

Beer Cartel and sibling business Brewquets have been bought by fellow online booze retailer Just Wines. The e-commerce platform, which launched in 2012, also owns Sans Drinks and Liquor Loot, both of which they purchased from administrators in the last 12 months as those businesses faced collapse. 

Just Wines founder Nitesh Bhati said in a media statement: “We started Just Wines in 2012 to support small wineries and provide an accessible platform for sellers and wine aficionados to connect. 

"We’ve seen significant growth within the business and have built out further capability through the acquisition of Sans Drinks and Liquor Loot. This most recent acquisition means the group covers all main liquor categories in Australia, further strengthening our competitive position."

Richard Kelsey, who launched Beer Cartel in 2009 with Geoff Huens, said current economic conditions meant they had been looking at the future of the business since earlier in the year. 

"We thought it was appropriate to explore a sale," Richard told The Crafty Pint. 

"So we went out to market to see if there was any interest, and we found a very interested party in Just Wines. We thought it was somebody who could take the business and continue to see it go forward, grow and take shape from there."

Nitesh told The Crafty Pint that for Just Wines, this represented their first move into craft beer, adding they are eager to explore the category further. 

"[The] margins are lower but Beer Cartel has built up a solid brand for itself along with Brewquets in alcohol gifting," Nitesh said.

Nitesh added they will keep the Beer Cartel brand rather than try and create an overall alcohol brand, saying Richard and Geoff had already built a strong brand. 

Beer Cartel's sale follows just days after two of Australia's other craft beer pioneers, Brewski and The Dutch Trading Co, announced they would be closing their doors. Over the weekend, Brew Barons, a Brisbane brewery that opened on the site of the former Parched Brewery in West End, also announced it was to close.

Richard says the challenges of operating a business aren't specific to craft beer but are instead widespread at the moment. 

"The whole of the Australian economy is finding it tough at the moment, it's not just beer or craft beer," he says. "It's right across the board and it's probably going to be like this for a while. I think, generally, everyone's trying to make the best of it that they can and just keep going until there's rosier times when the economy rebounds a bit."

Richard and Geoff are to remain with the business for the time being. 

"We want to see the business continue to go from strength to strength, so we're going to be doing everything we can to make sure the values, service and appearance to ranging that we have had continues," Richard says.

Beer Cartel started as an online beer club before the founders opened a physical store in Sydney's North Shore. However, the online arm of the business has long been a major focus for the retailer, one of the country's pioneers in the space, with their business including monthly beer subscriptions, beer advent calendars, and the gift business Brewquets.

After moving to a new warehouse in 2022, Richard and Geoff made the decision to close their physical store, citing significant growth in their online sales. 

In the media statement accompanying the announcement, Nitesh said they recognised the success Beer Cartel had enoyed within craft beer over the past decade-and-a-half. 

“It has been an industry leader, as evident from winning Beer and Brewers’ Best Online Retailer award five times, and the numerous other awards the business picked up. We’re excited to be the new custodian of the brand and see the success of the business going forward. We’ll be welcoming its diverse craft beer product range including its very popular Beer Advent Calendar.”

The Beer Cartel team has been a frequent collaborator, creating the Australian Craft Beer Survey in 2016 in an attempt to better understand local drinking trends, while also helping launch HPA's newest hop, Eclipse, via curated beer packs.

In July 2021, they closed out a crowdfunding campaign in which they raised close to $1.5 million from around a thousand investors. Richard says those crowdfunders would continue to be able to access their benefits and, once the sale is complete, will receive some of the funds from the acquisition.

"If they go to the Beer Cartel website, it will be the same: they'll get their purchase discounts and shipping bonuses. All of that continues going forward," he says.

"Once the sale's complete, there will be a disbursement of the funds and shareholders will get some of those."

Given their long history in craft beer retail, Richard says he and Geoff have always strived to expand people's understanding of how broad beer can be. 

"Our aim has always been to get more people interested in craft beer and I think we've been able to connect with quite a few people along the way. We've served over 100,000 customers and sold over a million beers," he says.

The full media release announcing the sale is below. 


Media Release: Just Wines Acquires Beer Cartel and Brewquets 

Beer Cartel's founders, Geoff Huens and Richard Kelsey.

Following on from successful acquisitions of San Drinks and Liquor Loot, Just Wines has added Beer Cartel and Brewquets to its growing ecommerce liquor portfolio for an undisclosed sum. 

Speaking about the purchase, Founder of Just Wines, Nitesh Bhatia, said it was a move that helps continue to deliver on the ambitions of the business to have a greater share of the off-premise alcohol market in Australia. 

“We started Just Wines in 2012 to support small wineries and provide an accessible platform for sellers and wine aficionados to connect. We’ve seen significant growth within the business and have built out further capability through the acquisition of Sans Drinks and Liquor Loot. This most recent acquisition, means the group covers all main liquor categories in Australia, further strengthening our competitive position,” he said. 

“We recognise the success Beer Cartel has had within the online craft beer space, over the past 15 years. It has been an industry leader, as evident from winning Beer and Brewers’ Best Online Retailer award five times, and the numerous other awards the business picked up. We’re excited to be the new custodian of the brand and see the success of the business going forward. We’ll be welcoming its diverse craft beer product range including its very popular Beer Advent Calendar.” 

“For Brewquets we see significant synergies across the entire portfolio of the group. We now have beer, wine, spirits and non-alcoholic drinks that we can offer as gifts to both consumers and businesses alike. Brewquets can be a one-stop gifting shop for all occasions, whether it be a birthday, Christmas or client gift. Utilising our range from each business unit we are excited by the depth of product range we will be able to offer.” 

For Just Wines, Mr Bhatia said that as part of the acquisition he expects to maintain the key strengths of both Beer Cartel and Brewquets. “We don’t want to revolutionise these two highly successful businesses. We’ll simply be looking at how we can integrate our key capabilities into these great organisations to grow the customer base for each. We want to acknowledge the founders, Geoff and Richard, as well as the fantastic suppliers and customers that have been with the two businesses over the past 15 years. We look forward to deepening these relationships over the coming years,” he said. 

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