Pabst Blue Ribbon joins the Tribe

Fresh off the back of Tribe Breweries’ merger with Mornington Peninsula Brewery this month, the multi-faceted brewing business today announced its first licensing deal in the Australian market.

Tribe has become the Australian licensed brewer and distributor of what it describes as the USA’s largest independent beer brand, Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Co-Founder and CEO of Tribe Breweries Anton Szpitalak told Brews News the deal is a great outcome for Tribe as the business continues to broaden and strengthen its portfolio.

Szpitalak said that the decision to partner with more of a commercial brand compared with the other brewery brands in Tribe’s portfolio was a conscious decision.

“What a lot of people have been asking us as we are approaching a more mature portfolio, is what we’re doing on the lager side,” Szpitalak explained.

“The challenge for us, is although Mornington and Stockade both have a fantastic lager, they can be a bit crafty.”

“So, sometimes in that sessionable category, they can find their way into the craft tap side of things, and people were pressing us for a solution that was a bit broader.”

Szpitalak said that trying to find the right balance between Tribe’s origins and craft credentials and then creating a brewery model, is a “balance beam” the company is “pretty used to walking”.

“As we grow as a business, we’re looking at where we want to play in the long run, where we want to make sure we’re exciting consumers and what access we want to give, we have to play in the areas we think best represent where the opportunities are,” Szpitalak said.

“As our tribe continues to grow, you will see us partnering with cool and interesting brands that we love for the diverse qualities they bring to the journey Tribe is on.”

PBR has been described as a “hipster” beer for young people looking for an alternative to mainstream commercial brands.

“Those guys have somehow managed to pull off a pretty retro vibe in that rather boring beer category of a US mainstream,” Szpitalak said.

“It’s probably the only brand that’s got good clout and the beer is pretty good.”

Global Marketing Director of Pabst, Matt Bruhn, said in a media release the partnership is an “excellent alignment” for both Pabst and Tribe Breweries.

“We are both considered to be the largest independents in our respective markets, and we value creating products that authentically serve our audience needs,” Bruhn said.

“We have captured the American market exponentially by living up to our brand promise that aims to provide a positive catalyst, inspire the new generation to be true to themselves, and to create a good, honest lager.”

“We plan to mirror these values via our activities in the Australian market and feel that Tribe Breweries are the perfect partner to take us there.”

The Szpitalak family formed Brewpack in 2012 when they acquired the assets of collapsed contractor Australian Independent Brewers. The business changed its name to Tribe and earlier this year when it took on investment from Melbourne-based private equity firm Advent Partners to fund its current expansion plans.

The Pabst brand has had a long history but is currently owned by entrepreneur Eugene Kashper and private equity investor TSG Consumer Partners, which also owns 23 per cent of Scottish brewery BrewDog.

The Pabst brand operates through contract brewing relationships with partner breweries in the US and internationally.

The Australian partnership comes as Pabst’ US brewing partner MillerCoors, allegedly threatened not to renew its contract with Pabst when it expires in 2020. If this eventuates, it would leave an enormous gap in the production and supply of PBR beer.

Szpitalak said that while Tribe is currently fairly focused in the Australian region, he’d be “absolutely thrilled” at the chance to brew Pabst beer for the US market.

“I think that there’s always a challenge in the US with some of these larger brands and where they find homes, but ultimately that’s a journey that I think they’re going to have to walk,” Szpitalak said.

“I doubt that we’d be playing an active role in servicing that marketplace through brewing here but look, opportunities are opportunities and if it came that way, we’d be keen to take them.”

Pabst beers will initially be available in packaged format, while Tribe looks towards a draught launch in the coming months.

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