Battling the Big Guys – Everyone is Wrong
Articles such as this recent one in Melbourne’s Age pop up near monthly as the popularity of craft beer and microbreweries increases more and more.
For those of you who can’t be bothered to read the article, it describes how the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is “turning up the heat” on larger breweries due to concerns about tap contracts. The bigger breweries have money and resources and can be very persuasive in encouraging publicans to stock only their beer on tap. While it’s not just the bigger macrobreweries, offering rebates, discounts, or kegs and tapping equipment is quite common in the brewing and hospitality industry.
The concern from the ACCC is that this behaviour may be noncompetitive.
From the article:
For Thunder Road Brewing Company’s Philip Withers it is a nationwide issue. ”Everyone can relate to a good beer. But this case is about much more than just beer.
”It’s about giving confidence back to small business manufacturing in this country, encouraging fairness and confidence to take risks, restoring local manufacturing and encouraging local employment.
”A level playing field and a fair go isn’t a lot to expect.”
I agree with this, partially, and I’m completely in favour of the level playing field described by Withers. I’m in favour of the ACCC investigating this because I don’t like the idea of an inferior product winning just because someone is throwing money at it.
While always acknowledged in such articles, but always glanced over, is that the sales of craft beer are increasing, and they’re increasing dramatically. Let the big guys waste their money. The pubs that will take a contract option are pubs that I and other craft beer lovers generally aren’t attending anyway. Ultimately the consumers will decide with their wallets.
For those pubs who want to open a “standard” pub, all power to them. They’re catering to a certain audience while craft beer venues are catering to another audience. Even if craft beer could get into some of these venues, it probably wouldn’t sell due to the clientele anyway.
New craft beer bars are opening all the time, with or without subsidies from contracts with breweries. These bars always have a great variety from different breweries and usually have at least a few (if not all) rotating taps.
Basically, with or without the help of the ACCC to sort this mess out, craft beer is selling and it’s going to continue to sell. Sales are going to continue to increase and the big breweries are going to continue to get it wrong. That being said, there is a place for mass produced beer, there’s nothing wrong with it, but big breweries are just going to need to accept that people want a little variety.
Of course, all of this gets complicated because we’re talking about a lot of peoples personal businesses here, whether it be someone’s pub or someone’s microbrewery. And these people work hard on their business.
So ultimately, letting a product compete as a product (and not just money) will be better for everyone. So let’s see where this goes.