Tribe readies Goulburn brewery

After a year of construction Tribe Breweries’ new Goulburn production facility will soon be mashing in its first beers.

Located 195 kilometres south west of Sydney, the $35 million brewing and packaging facility sits on a 50,000-square-metre block, of which 20,000-square-metres is under roof.

An annual output of 70-million-litres is projected for the site.

Tribe Breweries co-founder and CEO Anton Szpitalak told Brews News that the concept behind the Goulburn facility is to grow independent beer consistently and steadily for many years to come.

“We wanted independent beer to be able to have a home far into the future and in order to make that a feasible equation we had to go big from the very beginning,” he explained.

“One of the things about brewing that has kept a lot of medium sized participants in the beer market from growing substantially is the very big barrier to entry when it comes to capital infrastructure.

“The challenge is that [breweries] have to outlay a significant amount of money in order to get into the game regardless of how they scale and I’m talking about beyond a certain number of litres.”

Szpitalak said Goulbourn was better suited for long-term expansion than staying closer to Sydney.

“The challenge around real estate where we were in Sydney was that we couldn’t actually find a site with enough growing room that our fantasies could get realised without having to reinvent again another infrastructure set,” Szpitalak said.

“We’ve got plenty of growing room for the next 20 years.”

He said that the investment is a sensible one, not only for its size but also for its infrastructure capacity.

Szpitalak explained that if Tribe had decided on a site closer to and within the scope of its current production facility in Smeaton Grange, the company would have had to invest again, several times over before it could produce anything close to 70 million litres. Smeaton Grange currently produces just over 8 million litres per annum.

While he admits that the projected numbers for the site are staggering, Szpitalak said that the outlay will guarantee the company stability and longevity, “so it doesn’t matter if reaching 70 million litres takes time”.

At its inception in 2012, the business then known as Brewpack, set itself apart from many industry operators by positioning itself as a contract or partner brewing operation.

“If you wind the clock forward five years, despite the fact that we now have four brand portfolios that are under our control, the partner brewing aspect remains the core proposition in our business and allows us to amortise those investments that would otherwise be difficult for us to achieve across a much larger literage set.”

Beer, he said, is a challenging business to get right.

“I think a lot of people misunderstand the economics of beer, even at a larger scale. The reality is, you’ve got to get a lot of things right to have a stake in the game.”

After five or so years, Szpitalak said that Tribe has managed to get the formula right.

“Typically there is a tradeoff between scale and flexibility, but for us we’ve focused the entire footprint on being the most flexible operation that we can and to be the most high tech.”

“We’ve made all of those decisions not just by making one beer across our entire production portfolio but by keeping that in mind across our flexibility set and that’s a very unique concept.”

“A much larger brewery might do say, the same number of SKUs out of one facility, but they will do that at 100 times the scale.”

Szpitalak told Brews News that Tribe’s success will be driven as much by the consumer’s decision to choose new and better products as it is the company’s commercial ability to execute.

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