The Shaker Explainer - Gypsy Brewing
Ten years ago, a beer was a lager, and those drinking in ‘boutique bars’ might occasionally grab a hold of a European pilsner or Coopers Pale Ale.
Flash forward to 2016 and beer looks very different. The market continues to shrink – losing share to wine and as well as lower consumption of alcohol across the board.
While mass-market mid-strength beers are building a huge customer base compared to light- and full-strength varieties, it seems the ‘boutique’ market has moved to ‘craft beers’ and is more than happy to pay for it.
In 2014-15, craft brewers were filling less than 5 per cent of all beer consumed. However, the associated price premium makes this a lucrative space for both large and small brewers, despite the crowded market with new labels appearing on almost a daily basis.
A major reason for the price of craft beer is its production. Brewing equipment is expensive and, once purchased, is rarely utilised to full capacity. This availability of brewing capacity has led to the rise of the ‘Gypsy Brewer’ – essentially a team of passionate brewers and marketers who establish a brand with their own recipes.
From there, the company rents access to the equipment in established breweries to create the finished product. Much like the name suggests, they move from operation-to-operation to utilise available capacity until the business reaches the point where investing in their own equipment (and perhaps hosting other gypsy brewers) becomes viable.
Canberra has a couple of gypsy brewers of their own – Pact Beer Co. and the newest label, Capital Brewing Co. The former is the brainchild of Kevin Hingston, Marc Grainger and Tim Osborne. Capitol Brewing Co, which will appear in Canberra’s bars in the coming weeks, is a consortium of passionate locals including Tom Hertel and Laurence Kaine of Hippo Co, and Batlow Cider’s Rich and Sam Coombes.
The expansion of this market will continue to frustrate big players such as Lion and Carlton & United. While they have dipped their toes in the heavier styles preferred by crat beer drinkers, they have been largely shunned due to their association with large-scale breweries.