Organic, locally brewed, on-tap, vegan beer or beer in cans—when it comes to craft beer, it’s worth leveraging it to the best of your profitability. Ben Canaider reports
One-hundred-and-sixty million dollars. That’s how much the Australian craft beer market is worth. With over 150 microbreweries now in operation around the country, innovation and entrepreneurialism have become standard industry practice. Such is the success and the popularity of craft beer, IBIS World—a leading business research and analysis company—has predicted that the craft beer sector will grow by five per cent over the next five years.
What is striking about this growth is that it comes at a time when Australian beer consumption is at a 65-year low. It’s also at a time when wine consumption—both domestically made and imported wine—continues to grow.
In the meantime, it is beer that is “boutique, unique, (and therefore ‘premium’)” that has the market research analysts developing a thirst. Whereas 40 years ago, we drank beer along parochial, state-by-state lines, and 20 years ago we ‘discovered’ European beers, today the new premium beer is a beer made around the corner from your barista-operated six-star energy-rated, zero-carbon apartment complex complete with no car parks and 58 bicycle racks.
In order to cash in on this wave of consumer sentiment and spending, you have some straightforward functions to perform, regardless of your venue’s size, clientele demographics, or your geo-location (or postcode, as we used to say).
Beer by style
The Australian Amateur Brewing Championship’s Style Guidelines recognises 109 different types of beer, across 18 stylistic categories. These categories range from Low Alcohol and Pale Lager to Belgian Ales and Specialty Beers.
Admittedly, this categorisation is at the pointy end of connoisseurbeership, but it does indicate how much beer appreciation has grown in this country over the past 20 years. Getting Australians to understand that beer was not just lager, but could also be ale, was once considered an Einsteinian achievement. Now, of course, that fundamental difference in beer styles is a given.
So your beer list should be one that plays to this stylistic diversity, as much as wine does. One could think of lager as white wine, and ale as red wine. This leads us too naturally into the science-fiction of food and beer matching, beer education, and niche beer trends. To wit.
Beer by education
Wine-focused restaurants have for many years now offered customers ‘wine-flights’. This might be represented as six 50ml serves of six different wines, from light whites to heavy reds, for example. It works on the long-held belief that if you trick a customer into learning something about wine or food then you manage to make them think they have discovered it all by themselves; they are henceforth convinced of their own intellect and ability and—by association—the brilliance and unrelenting quality of your premises.
So your beer list should be one that plays to this stylistic diversity, as much as wine does. One could think of lager as white wine, and ale as red wine. This leads us too naturally into the science-fiction of food and beer matching, beer education, and niche beer trends.
There’s no reason a beer-flight of six different beer styles could not achieve the same result. Small pours in small tasting glasses: a fresh lager, a pilsner, a wheat beer, a pale ale, a red ale, a stout… The flight comes with an A5 tasting note, guiding your customers through the key aromatics, bouquet, and flavours of the beers. It’s gotta be more fun than googling it. What’s more, if you were to link this beer-flight to a degustation menu, you could take the education to a whole new level.
Beer by trend or by niche
Gluten-free beer? If you can get rid of the barley that’s made to make beer, then you can make a beer that’s free of the gluten that affects people with coeliac disease (one in 70 Australians), not to mention the people who have decided to be gluten-free for their own dietary, health and wellbeing concerns—and that’s about 12 per cent of Australians, according to a CSIRO report in 2016.
Victoria’s Two Bay Brewing Company, on the Mornington Peninsula, makes a gluten-free pale ale, using malted rice, millet and buckwheat. It is labelled as “refreshingly gluten free”.Of course, organic has been a handy addition to many a beer bottle’s label in recent times, as has the strange phrase ‘low-carb’.
Beer by glass
If there’s one clever trick that helps beer be understood as a multi-tiered, multi-layered individual, it’s the beer glass. There’s no one glass for all beer nowadays. A tall, thin one for pilsner and lager? A low, fat one for porters and stouts? A tulip-shaped glass for Belgian beers? In this regard, beer is mirroring wine’s complexity once more.
Speaking of which, let’s look at wine’s growing consumption. Wine, by its association to a vineyard and a winemaker, tells a story. And a story turns a product into something else. And that’s what drinkers think they want. Something real—not some fake, cynically invented product that satiates base desires.
I could go on here and get all sociological but I think I’ll open a longneck of Melbourne Bitter and re-watch Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Again.