Good beer is ‘no longer enough’

2 Brothers’ AIBA trophy winners

Marketing and branding are increasingly coming to the fore as the Australian beer landscape becomes evermore crowded, says 2 Brothers Brewing co-founder Andrew Ong.

2 Brothers picked up two trophies at the Australian International Beer Awards 2017, which Ong said was pleasing recognition of the company’s emphasis on beer quality.

“Like all brewers, we enter our beers [and] we hope for the best. I reckon with that sort of thing, as well as having good beer you have to have a lot of good luck… it’s terrific when you get acknowledged, particularly from others in the industry,” Ong told Radio Brews News.

He said the brewery has always put quality first, even if it means dumping a batch that doesn’t quite meet its specifications.

“We have things go wrong from time to time. Sometimes people make mistakes, sometimes equipment doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to,” he said.

2 Brothers’ Andrew Ong

“Invariably, the occasional batch is not really the way that we want it to be and we just suck it up and… we let beer go, rather than putting out something that we’re not really happy with.”

Ong said this is also why the company, founded in 2007 in Moorabbin, still limits its distribution to the Melbourne market.

“We’re very conservative in terms of where we send our beer and how far we send it, just because we’re anxious to make sure that when someone does get it in their hands and finally drink it, that it’s still in good shape,” he said.

Marketing is crucial

However, Ong said that in 2017, beer quality alone will not ensure a brewery’s success.

“What we’ve always lacked… is a marketing proficiency within the company. Neither [brother] Dave or I are marketers. We sort of went into it with the idea that we would make beer and good beer would sell,” he said.

“Our plan was to bring [in] styles that weren’t available, but you look at the beer landscape now and for any one defined style… you’ll find three or four people producing that style of beer.

“With the huge number of craft brands that are currently here, and the many more that we can see are going to follow… there just isn’t any space any more, I don’t think, to come in with the idea that just providing good beer is enough.

“I think these days, it’s definitely going to be more about how you market the beer,” said Ong.

The rebranded 2 Brothers range – picture credit Simon Shiff

He said 2 Brothers had completely rebranded its range earlier this year, ahead of its tenth birthday celebrations in September.

“We ended up with a series of brands that were not really well connected visually, so with the help of an agency we managed to pull them back into line and we’re really excited about the new look and feel of our products,” he said.

Consolidation is coming
Ong said 2 Brothers had been fortunate to have gotten a foothold in the market prior to the last wave of brewery openings.

“I probably wouldn’t enter the sector at this stage… I would say in the two to four year mark from now, we’ll probably see some consolidation of the number of brewery master brands and also SKU brands,” said Ong.

2 Brothers Beer Hall in Moorabbin, which was refurbished last year – picture credit Simon Shiff

“Not to say that new entrants won’t succeed, but I think as a total there will probably be some consolidation.

“I think brewpubs are probably a much safer option. Definitely in the wholesale area it’s probably going to be challenging for a good number of brands, and I can see price pressures developing in that area as people struggle to differentiate their offer from others,” he said.

Episode 128 of Radio Brews News is available to download here.

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