Lion Beer is doubling down on its strategy of developing small and local breweries with three new regional projects being planned.
Speaking on the Beer is a Conversation podcast, managing director James Brindley discussed three breweries in planning, including one soon to be installed on Lord Howe Island.
The Lord Howe Brewery, the first to be built on the island 600 kilometres east of Port Macquarie, will see Lion install a 600-litre brewery in the same way it established a brewery in Jindabyne to launch the Kosciuszko brand.
Lion launched Kosciuszko at the Banjo Patterson Inn in Jindabyne, also with a 600-litre brewery and Chuck Hahn leading the brand development of the island brewery.
Hahn said on the podcast the idea for the Lord Howe Brewery came through the Kosciuszko brewery.
“A family there contacted us and said, ‘Look, we have some other people over at Lord Howe Island and they’re considering putting a brewery in’,” he explained.
“So they came to us as, you might say, experts in that small, craft brewery area.”
Five years in the making, the family and their associates involved with the island’s nursery will build the new brewery, supported by Lion. The project will be fully owned by the nursery, with Chuck providing his craft brewing operational and technical expertise.
The Nursery has brought this project to life – from the initial idea, to the development with Lion contributing to install the equipment and consult on beer development.
The planning approval for the brewery was obtained five years ago. It has taken considerable time to ensure all environmental and logistical considerations were met.
Chuck Hahn has a long track record in building, and nurturing craft breweries and brewers. As he has done with recent projects at Eumundi and Kosciuiszko. The Nursery and its associates fully own the brand.
Listen to Beer is a Conversation to hear more of Lion’s plans in a rapidly evolving beer market.
A rival Lord Howe Brewery brand currently exists, though Brews News understands the beer is contract brewed in Sydney.
Brindley, having holidayed on the island last year, explained it is a great location for a brewery.
“It is the most uniquely beautiful place on the planet,” he said. “It’s just stunning.”
“Lord Howe Island is famous for Kentia palms, which are very popular in Europe…and there’s a Kentia palm nursery on the site of the brewery.”
Brindley described the brewery, which has been pre-fabricated on the mainland and will be transported to the island, as one of the most sustainable in the world.
“It will be zero carbon emission, it’ll be neutral,” he said.
Going small and local
During the podcast, Brindley said that Lion would soon be announcing another project in Newcastle and was also looking to return to the northern New South Wales town of Grafton with a brewery on that city’s former Toohey’s Brewery site.
Tooheys, later to become part of the Lion group, acquired the then Grafton Brewery in 1961 running it until 1991 when it closed the facility.
Brindley said the move to local reflected changing business cycle that had previously seen the brewer look to larger, centralised breweries.
“I think it’s natural evolution of what people want in life, and it’s not just beer, you see it in a lot of things,” he said.
“People want to feel connected, they wanna be part of the local area, they want something that’s handmade, they want to know the person who owns it,” he said.
“I grew up in Bathurst. I think there are two breweries in Bathurst now, the last time there was a brewery in Bathurst was the 1800s.
“So you’re going back to that local connection thing, which is a basic human need, to feel part of something.”
He said Lion’s strategy was to establish its own local breweries.
“We’re a brewer, we can make good beer, we can market good beer, so instead of going and buying a lot of craft breweries, let’s pick some spots and let’s invest a little bit, we’ll build up a local one,” he said.
“We’ve got some great breweries and so we’ve got one in Tiny Mountain in Townsville, Chuck and I had a dream of restarting Eumundi, so we finally got that one going.
“We’re actually going to put a brewery back into the old brewery in Grafton, which will be great for that local town.”
Make small mistakes to win big
Brindley said the Kirin-owned brewery was learning from small breweries.
“You’ve got to be willing to have a go and trial things,” he explained.
“And then if you get one right, that pays for all the ones you got wrong.”
“There’s like 700 or 800 smaller brewers, right? Which makes the industry so much more vibrant and better, and they can really turn on a dime.
“Historically I feel we’ve been a bit slow, so we’re trying to get a bit faster to capitalise on these trends.
“Rather than doing a well-thought-through, highly-expensive national launch with something, hey, let’s be like one of those little craft brewers and let’s do something really quickly in one spot, and try it out, and adjust it as we go.”
Brindley, together with Chuck Hahn, discuss Lion’s strategy and much more on this week’s Beer is a Conversation podcast.