Brewers expecting payday could be disappointed: Feral

Craft brewers who have entered the sector thinking they will one day sell out to the multinationals may want to reconsider their exit strategy, according to Feral Brewing owner Brendan Varis.

Varis predicted there will be no more than four independent breweries bought out by the multinationals in the coming years.

“There aren’t that many suitors and they don’t need that many breweries… There’s not going to be that many more trade sales,” he told the recent Brews News Q&A in Melbourne.

“The next four would be an absolute outside number. If exit is something that’s important for you to understand, then perhaps really think about whether you’re likely to be one of those, or should you have a better exit [strategy]?” said Varis.

A browbeaten Brendan Varis (centre) with Radio Brews News' Pete Mitcham and Matt Kirkegard

A browbeaten Brendan Varis (centre) with Radio Brews News’ Pete Mitcham and Matt Kirkegaard

Under relentlessquestioning, he confirmed that Feral had been approached by interested parties in the past. “They’re quite blunt and they just say, ‘are you for sale?’” he said.

“There aren’t that many suitors, so a firm ‘no’ lasts for quite a while. We’re happy with where we are and I’m not quite sure what I’d wake up in the morning and do tomorrow if I wasn’t here and doing it – that’s about as far as a succession plan goes.”

Bullish on WA
On a recent visit to the US, Varis said he had been inspired by the role that regionality plays in its craft beer sector.

Andhe expects most of Feral’s future growth to come from its home state, as his company expands into a larger production facility that it will again share with Nail Brewing.

“We’re actually probably more bullish on WA than we are the rest of the country, because that’s where our resources are, that’s where we know and we’ve got a longer history [and] we can engage better with the community.

“We’re actually going to hunker down a bit in WA and let what happens over here be a bit more organic,” Varis said.

He said the WA consumer market may be small in size but it is more advanced than the rest of the country, and that is where Feral’s opportunity lies.

“We’ve had Matilda Bay many years back, then we had Little Creatures with good impact following that. The [WA] consumer is… broadly more aware of what craft beer is, than it is on the east coast,” Varis said.

Radio Brews News Episode 92 is available to download here.

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