Independent brewers call for greater government support

Due to the recent pandemic, Margaret River's Black Brewing Co has let go of around 30-35 staff. Photos Supplied.
Due to the recent pandemic, Margaret River's Black Brewing Co has let go of around 30-35 staff. Photos Supplied.

Black Brewing Co was operating in a fairly normal fashion before the COVID-19 restrictions came into effect, forcing the closure of their brew-pub and restaurant, and a significant decline in their beer production.

Located in Margaret River, the brewery relies heavily on tourism which, given their remote location, receives very little passing traffic.

"Sadly, on March 23 we had to temporarily close our restaurant, beer garden and events venue. This also meant that many couples had to postpone their upcoming weddings with us.

"The bulk of our wholesale beer suppliers are pubs, so that's resulted in a decline in our beer production," said Kristin Kestell, co-owner of Black Brewing Co.

The brewery ordinarily employs up to 50 staff during peak season and 35 in winter.

Due to the recent pandemic, the brewery has let go of around 30-35 staff.

"The one carton per customer limit on take-away has been very detrimental to business. We have a lot of excess capacity."

Using a small still, the brewery has shifted from producing gin to creating small batches of hand sanitiser for the local community.

"We are very grateful that our distillery has been able to switch from producing gin to creating hand sanitiser.

"This project has not only allowed us to keep some staff employed, but we are now able to supply the local community and donate to organisations including the Bunbury Firestation.

"We've just recently launched a new online shop and will be encouraging home deliveries, as well as teaming up with local restaurants and bottle shops to support their takeaway and home delivery initiatives.

Brewers Adam Brooke and Shannon Grigg.

Brewers Adam Brooke and Shannon Grigg.

"We're also offering kegs and growlers at cost, to take away venues, to provide another revenue stream for local hospitality businesses," said Kestell.

Black Brewing Co is just one of 650 indie breweries in need of greater government support, to ensure they both survive this pandemic and are in a position to recover.

"We'd like to see the limit on takeaway sales from bottle shops removed, as it's desperately hurting small producers," said Kestell.

"The excise rebate for small brewers should be raised to $350,000 for the 2020 financial year, to help brewers get back on their feet and payroll tax should be abolished, so when we reopen we are not penalised for re-employing people."

Indie brewers directly employ more than 3,000 Australians and indirectly more than 25,000 people in industries such as agriculture, logistics, hospitality, manufacturing and service.

Sixty five percent of independent breweries are located in regional areas, providing jobs and community hubs, as well as being key economic drivers for rural and regional Australia.

The Independent Brewers Association (IBA) has put forward a proposal to the Federal Government with suggestions to help small breweries.

"Indie brewers are at a massive competitive disadvantage to the multinational mega-brewers because our beer is hand-crafted, which means we employ 15 times the number of employees per litre of beer," said Chairman of the IBA, Peter Philip.

"Many are surprised to learn that excise makes up 45 per cent of the cost of making a beer.

"That's more than we pay our staff or the farmers who grow the barley and hops we use. This tax goes up twice a year and is the fourth highest in the industrialised world.

"Beer is our national social drink of choice and we think all Australians want to see independently owned Australian breweries survive so we can keep providing beer lovers with great products made by small, locally-owned breweries," said Philip.

The IBA have launched a campaign #KeepingLocalAlive to encourage Australians to support their local breweries during this time by shopping locally.

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This story Independent brewers call for greater government support first appeared on Augusta-Margaret River Mail.