Little Brewing sale testament to beer quality, if not business

The sale of Little Brewing Company will inject new business skills while retaining its brewing talent, according to the buyers of the business.

New co-owner, Lou Perri from Port Macquarie’s hatted The Stunned Mullet (supplied)

The transaction comes after the Port Macquarie company had been in voluntary administration for several months.

The new owners, established hospitality and tourism operators in the Port Macquarie region, see their investment as a vote of confidence in the quality of the Little Brewing Company beers.

“The reason I am involved is I have been a long-term fan of their beer,” new co-owner Steven Chung told Australian Brews News.

“I went into this because I want their product to stay. I think their beers are a hell of a lot better than most of the other craft beers I drink.”

Chung’s involvement in the new business is certainly a vote of confidence in its potential as he was also an investor in the failed brewery, and thus a creditor.

A local doctor, Chung adds his share of the new venture, Wicked Elf Beers Pty Ltd, to his ownership of Long Point Vineyard.

Chung joins forces with Lou Perri, owner of The Stunned Mullet in Port Macquarie, a hatted restaurant in the Fairfax Good Food Guide that has similarly been a long-time supporter of the beers.

“I think there’s a very good product there. I think Warwick Little is probably one of the best brewers I have come across,” Perri said.

“I say that as I have seen him evolve and develop over the last nine years. From the recognition that Warwick gets, it’s clear the industry respects him as a brewer.

“To take it to the next level you need some guys that are savvy enough and able to manage it and capitalise on it.”

Little Brewing sale testament to beer quality, if not business

Ahead of its time

Perri’s observations on the difficulties Little Brewing faced are applicable to many of its industry counterparts.

“There’s a lot of great talent out there that doesn’t understand the marketplace and the commercial realities associated with the marketplace,” he said.

“I think they [Little Brewing Company] were undercapitalised and operationally challenged within the community. They had a premium product in a regional area that is only now starting to understand how good that product is.

“If you have a market that doesn’t understand why a case of beer should be 90 bucks, they’re going to be buying TEDs and Carlton Extra Dry and Great Northern.

“When you’re in a community that is price driven and you’re creating the premium product that Warwick does create, it’s tough.

“We see that ourselves being a premium restaurant. Luckily the market has changed and Port Macquarie is becoming aware of how good some of the local product is.

“Pubs have had to pull back from their strong contractual obligations to the two big guys, because it’s quite clear that craft beer is an important part of the community now.

“If a local pub that was traditionally Lion or CUB is now only pouring those products, they’re going to start losing business because the consumer wants craft beer. That segment is getting bigger and bigger.

“I think there’s a really good product there [in Little Brewing] and it would be shame to lose it. We’re going to focus on our existing relationships and try and grow the business organically and look for new opportunities, particularly on tap. That’s an area that the Littles didn’t really capture.

“If we can get that momentum going, and Port Macquarie does have that momentum, I think it will be really good for the town full-stop. There are other brewers coming up, with Moore Beer; Black Duck is expanding.

“I think it’s great for the region.”

Chung agrees, saying that while the brewing skills weren’t matched by business skills, with Warwick Little staying on as brewer the new owners have a strong platform to capitalise on.

“We’ve still got the same brewing expertise, we’ve got the same recipes, the same everything, except now we have got a bit of business background and hospitality background and the financial backing that will hopefully get the place going again,” Chung said.

Media Release

Big plans for little brewer

The new owners of The Little Brewing Company have big plans for the local award-winning craft beer brewery.

Several local business owners with experience in the food, beverage and tourism industries have teamed up to give the micro-brewery a new lease on life, while staying true to the traditional brewing techniques that have made the Wicked Elf and Mad Abbot ranges popular across Australia.

The new owners have exciting plans to build the business locally and expand national distribution, while head brewer Warwick Little will stay on to ensure the continued production of quality craft beer.

Rod Barnaby, who led the transition, said the brewery had recently secured a new on-premise licence so people can come in to taste the range and chat with the brewers at the cellar door.

“A new indoor bar space and tasting room will also be opened over the coming months so locals and visitors can enjoy a beer while soaking up the atmosphere of the brewery,” Mr Barnaby said.

As well as strengthening community connections by supporting local initiatives and events, the brewery plans to renew its focus on the tourism market by offering another stop on the burgeoning Hastings food, beer and wine trail.

Visitors to the region can now sample the beers here in the Hastings where they’re made, then buy them back home through BWS and Dan Murphy’s.

The business will benefit from a number of efficiency improvements without compromising quality.

The same team of master brewers, led by Warwick Little, will continue to make the full range of premium beers, which have clocked up more than 150 national and international medals.

Warwick has been busy creating two new beers – a Winter Saison (or Belgian/French Farmhouse Ale) that will be released at the Great Australasian Beer Spectacular in Melbourne in May, and a 2016 vintage Christmas Ale soon to be bottled.

Things are already looking up for the brewery, with BWS recently adding the Fastidious Bastard India Pale Ale to the existing range, while Dan Murphy’s continues to stock a range of Wicked Elf beers throughout Australia.

The Little Brewing Company, established in 2007, brews award winning ranges include the Wicked Elf, Mad Abbot, Fastidious Bastard, Death Between The Tanks, Breaking the Cardinal Rule, and Stab In The Dark. Beer lovers can rest assured that their favourite brews will continue to be made locally using the finest quality ingredients.


The media release can also be seen here.

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