Australia’s only listed brewer is rolling out its new national craft beer on-premise focus, after reducing its commitment to brew for Woolworths and winning the AIBA top award.

Based in Western Australia, the ASX-listed Gage Roads Brewing (GRB) has brewed big success making high-volume beers under contract for Pinnacle Liquor Group P/L – a subsidiary of the recently re-named Endeavour Drinks Group, formerly Woolworths Liquor Group.

Recently the company announced it would be scaling back its commitment to Pinnacle, to focus more on its own craft brands, and building a strong on-premise channel throughout Australia.

Gage Roads win 2016 AIBA_web_crpThis announcement came just days before GRB snatched an incredible 14 awards for its in-house beers at the prestigious Australian International Beer Awards (AIBA).

Most significantly, its brand new brew Little Dove was awarded the Trophy and Gold medal for Best New World Style Pale Ale, and top honour, overall Champion Australian Beer.

Little Dove was a collaboration between all GRB’s brewers, involving “the best bits of all our favourite beers” – according to head brewer, Aaron Heary. It was created just six weeks prior to AIBA.

The timing couldn’t be better for the company or venues tapping into craft beer, as Little Dove will form part of the line-up slated to see far greater on-premise supply and distribution, particularly on the East Coast.

“It is further proof that we are currently producing Australia’s best quality beer, and gives us confidence that our strategy to focus on our proprietary craft beer brands is the right strategy at the right time,” says managing director, John Hoedemaker.

This new strategic direction for GRB comes amid pronouncement by the big-volume contract brewer of “a shift in the market away from mainstream beer consumption” and recognition that the macro environment of the Australian beer sector supports a shift back to its beginnings, brewing quality craft beers.

GRB reports sales of its craft beers have increased over 86 per cent in the past year, to represent 28 per cent of total year-to-date sales, compared with 13 per cent in FY15. It hopes to grow this to 70 per cent by 2021.

Hoedemaker suggests this comes as “Australians’ tastes evolve” to be more accepting of artisanal beers, and the changes with its agreement with Pinnacle will offset ramping up the company’s presence in pubs across Australia.

“A key pillar of our strategy to successfully make that transition is a big focus on building national awareness of our brands.

“We are currently in the process of expanding our sales team on the Eastern seaboard and opening up more opportunities for consumers to trial our products and engage with the Gage Roads brand values and ethos.”

The new Pinnacle agreement will see GRB reduce minimum production from 7.9 million litres for FY17 to 6.7 million litres in FY19, allowing it to prioritise the supply and distribution of higher-margin proprietary craft beers.

The AIBA is conducted by the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria (RASV) and is the Southern Hemisphere’s largest annual beer competition. The 24th AIBA involved 63 beer experts, judging nearly 1800 entries from 326 Australian and international breweries.

Here is the full list of GRB’s accolades at AIBA 2016:

  • Champion Australian Beer (Draught): Little Dove
  • Best New World Style Pale Ale (Draught) – Trophy: Little Dove
  • Best New World Style Pale Ale (Draught) – Gold: Little Dove
  • Best Australian Style Pale Ale (Bottled) – Silver: Breakwater
  • Best British Style Pale Ale (Draught) – Silver: Back Yard to Bottleshop ESB
  • Best IPA (Draught) – Silver: Sleeping Giant IPA
  • Best IPA (Bottled) – Silver: Sleeping Giant IPA
  • Best IPA (Draught) – Silver: Narrow Neck
  • Best New World Style Pale Ale (Bottled) – Silver: Single Fin Summer Ale
  • Best IPA (Bottled) – Bronze: Narrow Neck
  • Best New World Style Pale Ale (Draught) – Bronze: Single Fin Summer Ale
  • Best New World Style Pale Ale (Draught) – Bronze: Atomic Pale Ale
  • Best Reduced or Low Alcohol (Draught) – Bronze: Pils 3.5%
  • Best Specialty Beer (Draught) – Bronze: Blackwood Wet Hop Pale Ale

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