Confusion over Brew Partners' $5 million 'investment fund'

Confusion surrounds the details of a $5 million craft beer investment fund announced last week by contract-brewery-in-planning, Brisbane Brew Partners.

Last Tuesday,Brews News received a media release from Brew Partners’ director Shaun Lockwood announcing his business had launched an ‘investment fund’ that aimed to fund the growth of partner independent breweries.

When Brews News spoke with Lockwood to seek further details about the fund to report on the plan, the details outlined appeared to differ from those set out in the release. When this was pointed out and clarification about the project sought, Lockwood abruptly terminated the call.

A significantly altered version of the release was later posted on Lockwood’s LinkedIn page and to the Brew Partners Facebook page with the comment “Let loose the critics!”. Lockwood later emailed Brews News to advise he was cancelling Brew Partner’s sponsorship of this site.

The initial media release said the fund aimed “to raise $5m each year to help fund the growth of independent craft breweries”.

“The funds will be divided between selected breweries to help them grow and ‘provide the capital required to expand capacity and increase sales’.”

“Brewers that wish to be considered for funding must be independently owned and plan to use the funds ‘to invest in upscaling, packaging and distribution’,” the release said.

Despite the wording of the release, during the interview Lockwood advised he already had the moneybut funds wouldn’t be provided to breweries, instead he would provide in-kind support.

“We’ve got the funds. We are looking to use those funds to assist brewers into the market or those that are already in it to expand within the market,” he explained.

“A part of our original $15 million for our operation was spread over three years and some of that money is going to be used for that fund.

“Ultimately, what is going to result is we’ve got funds available to assist where we can pay for cans for brewers. We can pay for ingredients for brewers, so that it reduces or limits or lessens the barriers to entry.”

The amendedversion of the release posted to LinkedIn removed references to an investment fund.

“Ahead of our first facility opening in the New Year, Brew Partners is launching an investment initiative that aims to provide up to $5m worth of initiatives each year to help the growth of independent craft breweries,” the amended release states.

“The initiative that is made up of money, time, facilities and other resources will be divided between selected breweries to help them grow and provide what’s required to expand capacity and increase sales.”

However structured, Brew Partners’ $5 million initiative is an ambitious offer for a brewery that is yet to brew its first beer.

By comparison, publicly-listed brewery Gage Roads’ latest annual report revealed it had spent $13 million on “raw materials, consumables & delivery” to brew 12.8 million litres of beer in the past 12 months, across both its contract and proprietary brands.

Brisbane Brew Partners announced its plans to build a $15 million collaborative brewing hub in June, with the brewery to feature a “20BBL Brewhouse, 40BBL fermenters and 40BBL brite tanks for single and double batches, packaging capability (Kegs, Bottles and Cans), full laboratory for quality control, extra-large cool room storage”.

In August, Lockwood announced the business had acquired an additional 2,500 metre site adjacent to the brewery site that was destined to be Australia’s “Largest independent Only TapGarden” (sic) at the site, less than a kilometre from BrewDog’s planned brewery and tap room.

In the interview last week, Lockwood said that while many contract and gypsy brands typically paid from $42 to $85 per carton to have their beers produced, his facility would “probably get it under $40”, even though offering clients smaller production runs than established contract brewer Tribe, formerly BrewPack.

Despite announcing ambitious plans for his brewing venture and vigorously promoting them on social media, little information is available about Lockwood prior to the announcement of his brewery plans.

During earlier interviews with Brews NewsLockwood, 49, has outlined an expansive career that has included working in Kuwait following the first Gulf War, establishing a chain of coffee shops in the south east of England, a 30-year investment banking career, working with Richard Branson to establish a ‘couple of smaller businesses’ and establishing child care centres in Brisbane.

While little information about these past ventures is available, and Lockwood hasn’t replied to an email seeking futher details,Brews News has established through Council development records that he has successfully developed and sold a number of townhouses and childcare centres in Brisbane over the past decade. He is also recorded as the organiser of a 91-member private LinkedIn group called Queensland Property Club, which is a “Property development group created for the purpose of gathering property developers/investors together in order to create property development joint ventures”.

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