Australia: CUB converts a winery into a brewery

Carlton & United Breweries (CUB), Australia’s beer market leader which AB InBev sold in July for USD 11.3 bn to Asahi Group Holdings (, 19.7.2019), is going to convert a winery in Victoria's Yarra Valley into a brewery, the The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The beer giant is partnering with Phil Sexton, one of the founding fathers of Australia's craft brewing industry, who founded and sold several breweries in Australia, including Matilda Bay Brewery and Little Creatures brewery and is also the mastermind behind Giant Steps winery and restaurant in Healesville, a town in Victoria, Australia, 52 km north-east from Melbourne's central business district.

Sexton opened Giant Steps in 2003 and turned the winery together with chief winemaker Steve Flamsteed into one of the major tourist attractions in town.

The new 3,000 hl boutique brewery will be built at the current location of the winery and restaurant and could be operational by the end of this year.

The brewery will be run by Sexton and bear the name of the Matilda Bay brewery, the first new brewery opened in Australia since World War II and Australia's first craft brewery. The original Matilda Bay brewery was  established and by Sexton in 1983 in Freemantle, Western Australia, and operated by him until 1990, when it was fully sold to CUB for AUD 23 million.

According to CUB’s CEO Peter Filipovic, Sexton will be central to the entire Matilda Bay project. "Phil will oversee everything from brewery construction to brewing and marketing,'' Filipovic said.

The craft beer veteran plans to brew a new range of Matilda Bay products at the former winery along with traditional offerings including Redback, a German style wheat beer named after the infamous Australian spider and Dogbolter, a Munich style dark lager."It needs more than a facelift. It's lost its focus,'' Sexton said about his former company as quoted by the Financial Review. "It's not going to be easy but I'm up for the challenge,'' he said.

"I was involved in the start of the story of craft brewing around the world, and I think there's some unfinished business with Matilda Bay because it's got such a place in the history of it," Sexton said.

Sexton was a brewer for the Swan Brewery in Perth, Western Australia before he formed in 1983 with three partners Brewtech Pty Ltd to brew commercial boutique beers. In the following years the company installed and operated several microbreweries which were later consolidated under the Matilda Bay Brewing Company banner. In 1990, Matilda Bay Brewing was fully sold to CUB after CUB already acquired a minority stake earlier. In 2000, Sexton founded together with two other partners Little Creatures microbrewery, again in Fremantle in Western Australia. Ten years later in 2010, this brewery was again sold. Japanese Brewer Kirin, that one year earlier took control of Lion, the second largest brewing group in Australia, paid AUD 362 million for the business.

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