International author and journalist Dr. Ina Verstl, says that Australian independent brewers need to develop a specific label or seal to help identify their beers to the public. Verstl is the editor of Brauwelt Internation and the co-author of the book The Beer Monopoly, which charts the globalisation of the International Beer Industry, and addressed the Australian Craft Brewers Industry Australia (ACBA) at the recent conference in Adelaide.
Dr. Verstl suggests that independent brewers develop a seal and emblazon it on their products, allowing consumers to easily identify their beers from those brewed by the ‘Big beer’ mainstream breweries. This approach is already underway over in the U.S. with the U.S. Brewers Association developing their own indie seal. Dr. Verstl said the decision by independents to abandon the term craft in favour of independent reflected that the term ‘craft’ had evolved to become a market category, alongside to domestic and imports, rather than a description of independent brewers.
Dr. Verstl said, “My recommendation to Australian independent brewers is that they devise an “indie” seal of their own and emblazon it on their products to make their identity known, while at the same time engaging the public in a conversation about Big Beer versus independents.”
Earlier this year, the ACBA made a decision to redraft its rules so that membership depended on ownership and size. Verstl believes this signalled an end to the independents involvement with corporate craft brewers. The changes also saw the ACBA also change its name to Independent Brewers Association (IBA).
With the changes in effect, no brewing company that is more than 20 percent owned by a large brewery or other business such as a private equity firm, or had significant brewery holdings in Australia or overseas is eligible for membership.
This heralded the likes of craft brewers such as Mountain Goat (Asahi) and Matilda Bay (CUB/AB-Inbev) as no longer eligible members. This also applies to Little Creatures, Malt Shovel (James Squire) and White Rabbit (Lion/Kirin).
A cap size was also placed on members, set at 400,000 hectolitres (40 million litres) per year, meaning that Coopers Brewery, although family owned and operated, cannot become a member due to its size.