It's time to sign off

You know when it’s time. And the time has come for me.

After nearly twenty years of writing about beer and the brewing industry, it’s time to find new challenges and, unfortunately, that also means the end of Brews News.

I started writing about beer to share my personal interest and enthusiasm for something that I felt was such an important part of our society, but was deeply under-appreciated and very misunderstood.

Twenty years ago, trying to convince newspapers and magazines to treat beer as a topic that was worthy of serious writing was a hard task.

The emerging craft brewing industry was filled with more stories than anyone was willing to publish. Fortunately for me, WordPress had just been created and so I found a way to tell those stories myself.

Initially it was to myself.

What is now Brews News grew out of that personal blog. It was eclectic and opinionated, but grounded in my love of beer and my excitement and growing interest in the business of making it and the possibilities that craft brewing was creating.

There is a saying in journalism “Be truthful, not neutral” and that is the way I always tried to cover what I saw; honestly, but also with an insight that came from living and breathing beer.

The approach seemed to resonate with the people who worked in brewing, as the coverage always sought to reflect the nuanced and varied discussions that they themselves were having.

Readership grew, and that readership heavily skewed towards people in, and of, the industry.

By 2010 readership had grown to the point that it was no longer really a personal blog but more an industry journal. I renamed it Australian Brews News to more accurately reflect the vague notions that I had for what it was.

I never expected it to be a commercial undertaking, but it evolved as a number of businesses central to the brewing industry chose to nurture and support it, and me.

Tim Lord (and more recently Owen and Grace) at HPA, Peter, Phil and Dale Meddings at Bintani and David Cryer and Cryer Malt were amongst the very early and long-standing patrons of the site.

Not only did they embrace the sometimes punchy and controversial coverage, they also demanded nothing in the way of editorial coverage for themselves. To their credit, and my eternal gratitude, they saw value in supporting robust journalism and wanted to support a site that discussed the industry they were part of.

They have since been joined by many more industry-minded people in breweries both large and small and businesses that supply the industry.

However, it was always necessarily a passion project. Thanks to some talented and passionate staff, Brews News became a sustainable little business. However, it has never been able to grow to the scale that I can fully step away when I needed to recharge. That’s a challenge that many other small brewers and business owners will recognise.

Over the last few years I have been looking at how to grow the business so that it doesn’t depend on any one person while still maintaining the independent voice and the robust, serious and – sometimes confronting – analysis of the industry that has set the site apart.

The reality is that to grow would be to change what made it what it is.

While, at its present scale, Brews News could continue indefinitely, I can’t. After 20 years, it’s time for me to find my next thing and my new challenges.

In a bigger business, that would be easier. In a business as small as Brews News, it means that the business will close too.

It’s been a hard decision, but – for me – it’s the right one at the right time. I have been privileged to be a small part of an amazing industry, one that makes a product that brings people together like no other.

Working in this industry has given me more satisfaction and reward than I can ever describe. Befitting the product we celebrate, it is an industry of amazing people. Brewers large and small, industry suppliers, sales reps, marketers and passionate consumers.

I have also worked with and employed some talented young journalists to help tell the stories of the Australian brewing industry and add their own insights and perspectives. Brews News could not have lasted so long without them, their talents and their passions.

I would like to thank the people without who Brews News would have only ever been Matt’s Beer Blog, particularly Sam Heathwood who, more than anyone, has ensured Brews News ran almost like a business, despite me.

Pete Mitcham who was there at the start and always inspired me with his passion and support. James Atkinson, who will be – if he’s not already – the drinks industry’s leading voice. Sabrina Kunz, one of the most energetic, insightful, dynamic, passionate and exhausting minds the industry has. Clare Burnett, Vivien Topalovic, Emelyn Kirkegaard, Jess Laven and Megan Sahli, talented journalists all, for bringing new voices and ideas, not only to this business, but to an industry.

There will be a lot of personal and private Thank Yous to come. But for now, I extend a very broad and general thank you to everyone who has supported Brews News and encouraged me in my journey and my adventure.

I look forward to having a beer with all of you very soon, for pleasure, knowing that everything that we say from here is definitely off the record…

Matt Kirkegaard

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