Congratulations and goodbye: Indies to 4 Pines

The 4 Pines range at its Newport Public House venue

Moves to terminate 4 Pines’ membership of the Independent Brewers Association will commence at the industry body’s next meeting, less than three months after the company joined.

The IBA congratulated the 4 Pines founders on the sale of their business to AB InBev, announced by the Sydney-based brewery on Friday morning.

“They have done a great deal of work in developing the good beer scene in Sydney and beyond and we wish them well in the future,” IBA executive officer Chris McNamara said.

“From an industry perspective it is disappointing to lose a key player but it does open up more opportunities for breweries who choose to remain independent.

“The recent Beer Cartel survey showed that beer drinkers overwhelmingly preferred to support independent breweries over those owned by the large corporates.

“The purchase underscores the impact the independent brewing industry is having on the traditional beer market in Australia and overseas.

“The sale to AB InBev will mean that 4 Pines is no longer eligible to be a member of the Independent Brewers Association and we will begin the process of terminating their membership at the next board meeting,” McNamara said.

Independent in spirit: 4 Pines

4 Pines was never a member of the IBA in its previous guise, the Craft Beer Industry Association, for the very reason that multinational-owned breweries were permitted as members.

The brewery joined for what has turned out to be a very brief period, once the association reformed its membership structure and identity in July.

But the decision to sell to AB InBev has not changed founder Jaron Mitchell’s view that independence should be the key issue that the IBA’s members rally around, he told Radio Brews News on Friday.

“I think independence is great and I still do, and I think the Independent Brewers Association is a very, very good and noble thing and I believe in it… [independence is] very important to consumers,” he said.

The 4 Pines Beer team at the company’s Brookvale brewery

However, Mitchell said he had reconsidered his own views on independence over 12 months of talks with AB InBev.

“For sure, we’re no longer independently owned but I thought about this and I thought, ‘what does independence represent to me?’,” he said.

“Turns out it means a lot of things. It means, ‘do you have the ability to be free spirited and talk the way you wish to talk?’

“As you guys have seen from the press release… the fact is we can still talk the way we want to talk. We wouldn’t be here otherwise.

“Do we still get to wear jeans and sneakers to work? Yes.

“Do we still get to make audacious business decisions? Well with [AB InBev subsidiary] ZX Ventures we’re going to be able to make more.

“Do we get to randomly make beers with absolute freedom? Well of course, because that’s part of the identity that is 4 Pines.

“Over many, many months of conversations with these guys, they’re all the things that I was absolutely adamant was really part of 4 Pines DNA,” Mitchell said.

A worthwhile trade-off
He said the buyout will enable 4 Pines to fast-track plans that would have otherwise have been five or ten year goals.

“They’re going to be right in front of us in the next two years and that’s not just domestically, that’s also globally,” he said.

“We’re going to be able to do stuff that we never thought we’d be able to do and that is, if you like for us, a very, very reasonable trade-off for being independently owned.”

He said it has long been part of 4 Pines’ purpose to “forever challenge what the world imagines business should be”.

“If you’re going to forever challenge what the world imagines business should be, you have to continually challenge yourself,” Mitchell said.

“It was over many, many conversations that I began to challenge my own paradigm.”

Lofty target dealt a blow
The Independent Brewers Association in July targeted a 15 per cent beer market share for the sector by 2025.

Today’s news highlights the biggest threat to this goal: Maintaining among its number those breweries that are by far the biggest contributors to the sector’s volume.

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