Pirate Life’s John Phinney joins Newstead

John Phinney, formerly chief executive of Pirate Life, has joined Brisbane’s Newstead Brewing Co.

Phinney was CEO of Pirate Life for three years, starting in 2017, spanning the period both before and after the SA brewery’s acquisition by Carlton and United Breweries.

Prior to that, he worked at Sundrop Farms, a developer, owner and operator of high tech greenhouse facilities. Before Sundrop, John built branded beverage businesses in Brazil and helped manage a manufacturing business in the USA.

“I’m very excited to be joining Newstead as their first externally hired CEO,”said Phinney.

“The Howes family have put a lot of faith in me to help guide Newstead into its next chapter, and I’m very grateful to be given that opportunity.

“They have some really fantastic brand assets and they have a unique platform with the Newstead venues, having also just opened up at the airport, so I’m keen to double down on establishing that connection to Brisbane.”

“[I want] to use those venues as a platform to deepen the connection with the city, the spiritual home of the brand, and use it as a launchpad to go more broadly in the state and then wider.”

Phinney left Pirate Life after its parent company Carlton & United Breweries was taken over by Asahi Beverages and undertook a restructure.

“They did an extensive restructuring when they took over CUB, and their future plans for Pirate Life didn’t include a CEO,”explained Phinney.

“A number of senior folks are still there, mainly the original founder group, and I was a unique one in that for all of the CUB craft brands, I was the only non-founder CEO.”

Following his departure from Pirate Life, contacts in the industry suggested that Newstead was considering bolstering its management team.

“I’ve had a unique perspective having joined Private Life when it was much smaller than it is now, when it was still independent but looking to make that leap.

“The acquisition by CUB – everyone will have their own opinion on that from the outside – but it was the fastest way to reach that leap in reach, and a way of getting beer in the hands of more people around the country.”

Newstead resembles a young Pirate Life in certain ways, Phinney said.

“It’s a brewery not dissimilar in size to Pirate Life but very different in character. with bigger hospitality opportunities. It’s family-owned and run, being one of the sort of early craft breweries on the scene in Brisbane and the brand has shown great resilience and is in a unique position to make a big jump to something bigger.

“So I’m super excited that the opportunity with Newstead came along.”

Phinney will concentrate on the operational structure and processes of the business.

“I’m not knee-deep in yet but [I will be] establishing growth and corporate structure. That’s where my passion is, helping the team to grow as individuals and the team itself, there’s a whole heap of work to be done there.”

Peter Howes co-founded Newstead with Michael Conrad, who left the business last year, and his son Mark who previously held the role of CEO.

Peter said Mark will now be concentrating on brewing operations and new ventures, including newly-launched Working Title Brew Co., whilst Peter will take a step back from the day-today-running of the business to concentrate on his other ventures and retirement.

“Having John onboard will facilitate the growth of the company in an increasingly challenging environment,” Mark said.

“I am confident this will allow us to realise the full potential of both our people and facilities in an incredibly exciting new direction for Newstead.”

Find out more about Newstead Brewing Co. on the Beer is a Conversation podcast.

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