New owners for gluten-reduced brand Sick Puppy

Gluten-reduced beer brand Sick Puppy Brewery has new owners after the business was put up for sale last year.

Founded in 2017 by Terry Absolon, the contract brewing brand has been acquired by WA-based David Cattach and Ben Mooney, who have big plans for the brand.

The new owners met in their previous careers as financial planners, but decided that they both needed a change of scenery.

“I had my own financial advice business, separate to David, and we knew each other through that industry. I didn’t like what I was seeing in that industry though, and wanted to join a friendlier one,” explained Mooney.

“We’re both beer lovers, and I was found to be gluten intolerant which is how I discovered gluten-reduced beers,” said Cattach.

“We knew Sick Puppy and we loved the beer, we thought it was going to disappear and we didn’t want that to happen. Being gluten intolerant, I felt I’d missed out on the craft beer thing and it would have been a shame to see it go.”

Mooney said that he felt Sick Puppy would be a strong brand to invest in after tasting its beer.

“We were at David’s house, he handed me a can and said ‘try this, what do you think?’”

“I thought, ‘this is really good beer, it stands up on its own’.”

Having experience in the small business sector and 30 years between them in the financial planning industry, they were looking for a new opportunity in a growing sector.

“When we looked into it and we saw that Sick Puppy was available, we also looked into craft beer and the industry,” explained Cattach.

“We thought it was a great opportunity and one we wanted to be involved in. Everyone helps each other which is not what I’m used to – everyone from the brewers to customers, labellers, canners, distributors, everyone just wants people to drink more and better beer. It was great to stumble across it.”

Both of the business partners offloaded their previous businesses prior to the acquisition and plan to concentrate full time on Sick Puppy, which will have an ongoing focus on gluten-reduced beer.

“[In the wider market] we’re used to things like gluten-reduced and gluten-free, which are obviously different and we see [our role in developing the category] as educating the consumers,” said Cattach.

Sick Puppy beers use Brewer’s Clarex, an enzyme which, when added at the fermentation stage, breaks down the gluten protein that can cause health issues in people with gluten intolerances.

However, whilst Sick Puppy beers have been tested and shown to have undetectable traces of gluten, because they are made with raw materials which contain gluten they cannot be classified as gluten-free under Australian regulations.

Find out more about gluten-free and gluten-reduced beers on the Radio Brews News BreweryPro conversation with Professor Michelle Colgrave, who leads the Food and Agricultural Proteomics teams at Edith Cowan University and CSIRO.

Sick Puppy’s new owners will begin where its previous ownership left off, and are hoping to soon ramp up production, which is undertaken at Heroes & Villains in Perth primarily.

“We’re excited to announce our first production run will start in mid-February and we expect it to be on the shelves by March.

“Our contract brewing will be under the same relationship as before, we want to keep everything the same in the business,” said Cattach.

“We don’t think the business was broken, it did everything right; the beer recipes, the branding – we’re not changing anything, we’re just going to run it as a great business,” he said.

In terms of future plans, in the short term, ensuring consistency and continuity is key.

“One of our main things will be to do more regular brews,” said Mooney. “Previously they didn’t keep the continuity of brews going.”

“And one thing we’re conscious of is that the beer was born out of Queensland and [while it] has strong links to WA and has now been brought back to WA, we want to get back to Queensland as soon as we can – our followers there are very loyal,” said Cattach.

Sick Puppy’s return to the market has been met with positivity, they said.

“We’ve gone into the bottle shops [where Sick Puppy was stocked before] and they were happy to hear we’re back and can’t wait to get it on the shelves, the customers are asking for it. We’ve even been to some bottle shops that haven’t distributed our beers before and they’re willing to give us a try so we’ve already increased distribution ever-so-slightly in WA.”

In the longer term, the team are hedging their bets when it comes to getting their own brewery or venue.

“Other than [distribution], we’re a blank piece of paper,” said Cattach. “We’re going to see where that goes, we’ll get this brew done and get people drinking our beer, but we’re open to anything and we’re so excited working out which way to go.”

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