Australia: Independent brewers expel brewing giants from industry association

At an extraordinary general meeting held in Melbourne on Thursday, Australia’s small and independent brewers voted overwhelmingly in favor of removing large brewers from the membership of their trade body and renaming it the Independent Brewers Association (IBA).

Under new rules for what was the Craft Beer Industry Association (CIBA), membership will be prohibited for brewers that are more than 20% owned by large brewers or other businesses that hold significant brewery holdings in Australia or overseas. Previously the association had allowed membership by companies such as Little Creatures, Malt Shovel and Mountain Goat, all of which are 100% owned by global brewing concerns. Little Creatures and Malt Shovel are wholly owned subsidiaries of Lion, which itself is since 2009 a wholly owned subsidiary of Kirin, Mountain Goat was purchased by Asahi in September 2015.

The general assembly voted 134 to 2 in favor of the new resolution, which will become effective on the 18th of June. According to the association, it is a move designed to create a body for the 159 remaining members that is better placed to address the challenges faced by small brewers in Australia.

“Our members face challenges in their businesses with issues such as taxation, market access and licensing that don’t align with those of larger global organizations,” said Independent Brewers Association chair, Peta Fielding. “These changes allow us to narrow our focus on addressing the needs of the businesses that need it most.”

The breweries, which will be excluded, are not happy about the vote, although they were not surprised by the move. Mick Bentley, spokesman for Mountain Goat, said that “we still believe our industry can best address the challenges we face together with a united front that makes us stronger as a whole.” And he added: "Who owned the brewery was less important than the quality of the beer, the education of the customer and the professional development of the brewers in Australia."

The IBA responded, it recognizes that camaraderie between participants is one of the great strengths of the industry and that it will continue to foster those personal links between small brewers and their colleagues in the larger organizations.

The other major issue, the members decided upon, was the name change from Craft Beer Industry Association (CIBA) to Independent Brewers Association (IBA).

The reason for this is, according to IBA’s Executive Officer Chris McNamara, that “craft has become such a nebulous term to be able to describe.” The term independent seems much better suited to define the distinctive nature of the members. “The big guys have been using craft as well, so independent is something that we can define and something that we can own,” McNamara said.

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